You may have had a lesson with Bob Long, but it never should have happened.
The dance legend, the Arthur Murray consultant extraordinaire, the guy who seems to be ballroom dancing's version of Macguyver nearly didn't make it. Here's his story.
Bob Long Shares His Story, And How It Almost Ended
AML: Let’s pretend I’m writing your biography. Under “notable achievements” what should we include?
BL: Certifying Chris Lynam in Full Bronze (laughs). Also, I won some pretty prestigious awards as a teacher and, in my dancing, being a United States American Smooth Finalist.
BL: I saw Saturday Night Fever and my buddy saw an ad that Arthur Murray was hiring. So we figured we could learn the Hustle for free.
AML: There are all sorts of legendary tales about you. One of them was how you nearly got cut from your training program for not knowing the Cha-Cha. Can you set the record straight?
BL: In my training class everyone already knew how to dance. I was the only one who had to start from scratch. The ladies who ran the class told the franchisee that they wanted to cut me because they thought I'd never learn how to dance.
AML: So what happened?
BL: My franchisee took me aside and said, “You have something, I don’t know what it is, but it’s something”. Then he explained that if I wanted to teach, I’d have to go to the new school he was going to open in New Haven.
AML: How did you respond to that?
BL: Since I was too dumb to quit, I told him I would go.
AML: What happened to those ladies running your training program?
BL: I told my boss that I would still be here when they’re gone. And I am.
BL: Oversee the dance board, which consists of traveling consultants and key franchisees. The board creates the ground rules for the Dance-O-Ramas®, the professional competition rules, and we also are in charge of how any new Arthur Murray syllabus is rolled out.
AML: Speaking of the syllabus, how long does it usually take to develop a new Arthur Murray level?
BL: About 3 years from development to recording the training material.
AML: OK, if it were up to you (and it might be), what dance would you love to see added to the silver and gold syllabus?
BL: Hustle. The students seem to like dancing it
BL: The collaboration with Antonio Carlos Jobim & Frank Sinatra. Best song is “Agua de Beber” (Give the Flower Water).
AML: You’ve judged about a million Dance-O-Ramas®, what would you say to students who are considering it for the first time?
BL: At some point in every student's dance career, be it in Bronze, Silver, or Gold, a student must attend a Dance-O-Rama®. It is the crown jewel to any medalist program. A student will see they are a piece of a big puzzle and they will see everything in the Arthur Murray world. In all my years I have never seen a student regret it or not have a good time.
7 Rapid Fire Questions For Bob Long
1. Favorite non-dance activity?
BL: Fly fishing
2. Celebrity lookalike?
BL: A young Robert Deniro
3. A song that should be removed from every studio playlist?
BL: “The Masochism Tango” by Dr. Demento
4. Shall We Dance or Dirty Dancing?
BL: Shall We Dance. Japanese Version.
5. Antonio Carlos Jobim or Stan Getz?
BL: There’s no comparison: Antonio Carlos Jobim
6. The technique that people stress way too much about?
BL: CBM & CBMP. It's just walking but everyone makes it so complicated.
7. What’s your bold prediction about Arthur Murray?
BL: Much like Cher and cockroaches, we will be here even after a nuclear explosion.
If this interview indicates one thing, it should be this: Bob can connect with anyone. Anyone who operates as an expert in any field runs a great risk of disconnecting from their audience.
Maybe it's his sense of humor, or perhaps his working knowledge of how the entire world works... or could it be that the kid from Connecticut, who nearly lost this opportunity, has never forgotten that story?
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