Arthur Murray professionals have interesting stories. Like so many of their students, they come from all walks of life, have a variety of interests, and all can appreciate a beautiful box step.
Lania Berger is no different, but her journey is truly one of a kind. It sounds like something out of a movie, but given her area of expertise, she's probably already in pre-production on that.
In addition to her accomplishments as a dancer, teacher, and franchisee, Lania is also the mastermind behind a successful TV show, "On the Ballroom Beat", where she interviews influencers in the world of dancing, in addition to shining the spotlight on the wonderful benefits of what dance lessons can do for people.
Lania Berger: Arthur Murray Media Star
AML: Is it true that you used to work at Disney?
LB: Yes, it is true that I used to work for Disney. I spent two years working in Tokyo Disneyland, and several years at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
AML: Can you share with us what you did there, or are you sworn to Disney secrecy?
LB: How can I say this without destroying any magic? I was “very good friends” with the princesses - Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel, Belle, Aurora, Mary Poppins, Snow Queen, and even Jasmine if you can imagine. I danced in the shows and parades, and visited with guests. It was a delightful job that gave me memories to treasure.
AML: So how did you end up getting started with Arthur Murray?
LB: I was doing a study-abroad program in Italy when I met Sal Marino. Sal first started working for the company back in the 1950’s. He spent his life in the ballroom dance industry, and it showed. Sal was happy, agile, and enthusiastic, even at 72! He learned of my dance background, and invited me to help teach the weekly ballroom class at the University. I used to meet with him one hour before each class for training, and then I would team-teach with him. He kept saying, “I know you want to be an English professor, but you really belong in Ballroom Dancing!” It was Sal who introduced me to AM, and connected me with Kimberley at the AM Dance studio in Orlando, FL.
AML: So how did you get started with the "On the Ballroom Beat" show? Was it a spur of the moment decision, a long build up, or something more random?
LB: It was truly an example of preparation meets opportunity. When I was approached by WeBeamTV about the idea of hosting a ballroom dance show I was quick to say yes, because it was something that had been in my mind for a while. Also, it tapped into other passions that I have - television and reporting. I have enjoyed working in television and film in the past, and I am also the dance critic correspondent for the Orlando Sentinel Newspaper.
AML: Who are some really exciting guests you've had on the show?
LB: Well, of course you were the most exciting guest, but I have also had the pleasure of interviewing some dance celebrities such as Tony Dovolani - DWTS, Chelsie Hightower - DWTS & SYTYCD, Ryan Di Lello - SYTYCD, and Amy Yakima - SYTYCD. Some of our AM celebrities have made it on the show as well, Patty Contenta, Stephen Smyth, Sarah Mollison & Jonny Olen to name a few.
AML: How do you feel the show has evolved since you started up until now?
LB: I’ve gotten much better at producing segments at the dance studio, and so I’m pleased to say that we are able to invite our viewers inside AM Palm Harbor more frequently for some great tips and dance steps!
AML: What has been your favorite show so far of On The Ballroom Beat?
LB: I think the most rewarding show I’ve done was our Thanksgiving episode. I took five of the student testimonials from our coffee table book that Margie Masters put together for the studios. I contacted those studios/students and was able to share their stories On the Ballroom Beat. To me, this is the heart of what we do at Arthur Murray - change people’s lives through dance. I loved making this episode, and the feedback that I received from viewers afterward was heartwarming.
AML: I know you recently named an Assistant Area Director, which is a pretty prestigious title. Can you elaborate on what it means to you?
LB: I am so honored to have been selected as the Assistant Area Chairperson for Area III. It is a responsibility I do not take lightly. It’s exciting to be in a role that brings me closer to the heart of our organization, and also gives me the opportunity to reach out to fellow franchisees to work together to make Area III the best it can be!
LB: Love this question. Is this a living or dead question? Because if so, I think it would be truly delightful to teach Oscar Wilde to ballroom dance. He is so quick, clever, and witty, and I think that the lesson time together would be a hoot! Oh - or maybe King Ludwig II of Bavaria! Are you familiar with the Venus Grotto he had built at Linderhof Palace? It’s an artificial stalactite cave with a hidden lake based on the Blue Grotto in Capri, Italy. Ludwig would have himself rowed around in his golden cockleshell boat while colored lights illuminated the cave. And this is back in the late 1800’s! Can you imagine the Showcase piece you could put together with “The Fairy Tale King?”
AML: Who are some people that have been instrumental to your success?
LB: Sal Marino, of course. Were it not for him, I would be a college English professor. He encouraged my love of dance, opened my eyes to the possibilities ballroom dance offered as a career, and connected me with the right people to get involved with the Arthur Murray organization. Kimberley Carroll & Emily Bergman were the franchisees of the Orlando studio where I worked, and they were both wonderful mentors to me. These women were very inspirational, and helped to shape the franchisee I have become. And, of course, my family. I come from a very tight-knit family, and we are always there to support each other. My parents’ guidance has proven invaluable. My husband has made my ballroom dreams realities. I am blessed to have the people who surround me.
AML: Where can people find out more about what you're doing online?
Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/
Check out our Youtube Channel: On the Ballroom Beat
Watch episodes On Demand: OnTheBallroomBeat.com
And, of course, everything is through AM Palm Harbor: DanceLessonsPalmHarbor.com.com