Bill Jacobson – the name resonates with Arthur Murray Staff internationally as he has been with the company for almost 4 decades. Bill is the Franchisee of the Edmonton Arthur Murray Dance School and also sits on the panel of Judges for Arthur Murray International. Bill travels around the world yearly to work with staff and students in bettering their dancing. Here’s a few questions we asked Bill when he was in town with us last week so that you can get to know him better!
When did you discover that you wanted to teach dancing as a career?
I think I sort of fell into it. I’ve always been a dancer for a very, very long time and teaching dancing was a method for me to continue dancing myself. When I went through that phase of my career – I discovered that teaching dancing was more rewarding. BUT – I’ve always loved teaching, so quite frankly, I’ve always been a teaching. I taught swimming so that I could pay for my ballet classes and to pay for other things so teaching people how to dance was just a natural thing for me. So – a long, long time ago.
What inspires your dancing?
I don’t get to dance that much anymore – so my inspiration comes from teaching people how to dance. What inspires me whether they’re a brand-new person or a championship level dancer, when I see the light in their eyes and they understand the concept that I’m trying get and they can make it their own, that’s very inspiring to me.
What’s your favorite thing to teach students?
I teach them how to move and how to dance. I’m not a big believer in teaching them a bunch of steps all though those are certain my road map, which is what our syllabus is designed to be. I still have to teach them how to drive the car and that’s what I like to do. I like to teach them how everything is very, very similar. I’m trying to make it fun and easy and I try to teach in one syllable words so that everyone understands. I don’t have a favorite thing to teach, but seeing my students move to music, that’s my favorite thing when they get that, when get to feel that.
What would you like to see more of on the pro/am comp floor?
pro am competitions are big – I’ve been lucky enough to judge some competitions that are unbelievably high level; the best I’ve ever seen. What is consistently missing that I see most of the time is good, basic fundamentals. The fundamentals of movement, the fundamentals of leading and following. I find that if we spend more time in that we wouldn’t be teaching so many patterns and tricks and dipsy doodle steps – so I’m always for seeing more fundamentals. I’d like to be able to look across the floor and if the music stops I’d know exactly what dance everyone is dancing.
What do you feel is your teaching strength?
I’ve been teaching a very, very long time and I’ve learned over the years of teaching, I think if I were to say I was good at anything, it’s the fact that I’ve learned to teach the person, and not the dance. I pride myself on focusing on what the person needs to learn, and not whether or not what the step is going to be. I teach the person first, and then the dance.
What’s the biggest challenge that you encounter as a coach?
Although it gets better every day, the biggest challenge for me is to get instructors to believe that they must teach what needs to be taught next and not the finished product. To get them to understand that there are no shortcuts – the longest distance between two points is a shortcut. You can’t take shortcuts with your students or their own dancing. You have to go through the fundamentals of movement in order to create whatever it is that you’re trying to create. Each section is important and you can’t learn step 10 until you learn step 6. So far that’s the biggest challenge, but it’s getting better though!
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
The fact that I get to work with people who are excited to see me all the time, haha. One time I thought years ago that I wanted to go to Medical School or become a lawyer, or do something like that. And I thought – wow, everyone hate’s doctors, everyone hate’s lawyers, nobody ever wants to go see them. Since I’ve danced my whole life, I was always happy to see my dance teacher, and so spending time with people who are happy to see you is the best part of my job. At least I’m teaching dancing and not giving people bad news. 🙂
What new dances are trending right now?
Dancing’s kinda like fashion, it comes and goes. What’s popular right now could be anything from zouk to whatever. Depending on geographically where you live. Good dancing is good dancing, fundamental movement is fundamental movement. I’ve been teaching dancing a long time so styles will change, fashion changes, everything changes, but good fundamentals have never changed in the 40 years that I’ve been teaching dance.
What the most important thing to learn to be a good dancer?
The most important thing to learn is the fact that talent isn’t everything. You can have all the talents in the world, but if you don’t have tenacity you are not going to become a good dancer. Work, study, develop your skill sets – develop your own sense of what you need to do; that’s the most important thing. Your understanding of what good dancing is is going to change over years and years of development. The whole idea of just getting better and understanding that yes, talent does open the door, but tenacity and work ethic is what keeps you there and keeps you growing.