Choosing the Best Wedding Venue is Easier than You Think

bride questions
Choosing Your Wedding Venue

 

Of all the endless choices you’ll make when you plan your wedding, probably one of the most important (short of choosing the right person to marry) is picking the right venue.

It’s seems simple, but the ripple effect from a good space impacts nearly everything: The right lighting means you look your best as you’re reciting your vows; good acoustics help the DJ sound better at the reception; and a convenient location means no one is annoyed because they got lost on their way to the party.

Plus, unlike the food or the best man’s toast, which you’ll likely forget not long after the honeymoon, the ceremony and reception venues will live on in every portrait and candid snapshot taken throughout the day. You’re literally going to be looking at these places for the rest of your life.

Of course, this item on your wedding planning checklist is also one of the pricier ones, so the pressure is on to choose wisely. Believe it or not, snagging a great venue is not only possible but also within your budget.

 

Get yourself prepared

Patio Seating, Fern
Photo credit: Catch Light Photography

The first step? Get yourself organized. I always say there are two types of people in the world: spreadsheet people and everyone else. This is one of those times you need to be a spreadsheet person. Create one and include all of the venue aspects that are important to you, like capacity, location, layout, type of facility, etc. You’re going to need an easily accessible document to keep track of the deluge of details you’re about to collect. And for those non-spreadsheet people, here’s a template you can use, courtesy of A Practical Wedding.

Next, get big-picture for a second and think about what kind of vibe you’re going for. I’ve been to black-tie weddings in ivory mansions and hipster-chic ceremonies in converted warehouses. Both equally elegant but very different tones. Kate Levy elaborates in this recent article:

“It’s usually a gut feeling and completely depends on the type of wedding you’re hoping to have. If you’re looking for a casual barbecue wedding, a historic, marble-laden hall isn’t the best fit. Or a black-tie barn wedding might not make those guests in stilettos and gowns very happy.”

Nailing down these choices from a high level is imperative before you start getting down into the details.

 

 

Don’t break the budget

Now you’re organized, but how do you keep your costs down? We host a lot of different kinds of weddings at our event space, so I’ve seen more than my fair share. Here are a few tips that may help:

  1. Make it a combo deal – Consider hosting the ceremony in the same venue as your reception. Not only will that automatically eliminate one of those to-do items, but you may be able to save some of your budget by eliminating an extra rental charge. We allow both weddings and receptions in our event space, and I can tell you that guests love the convenience of not having to drive to another location after the ceremony. Plus, the wedding party has all-day access to the facility, which includes the bride’s room and – soon to come – a special groom’s bus! We’re in the process of remodeling an airport shuttle bus to make a special hangout just for the guys.
  2. BYOF (Bring your own food) – See if the venue you’re considering allows you to bring in your own caterers and food for your guests (instead of being restricted to the venue’s choices). We allow our guests to choose their own (or we’re happy to help with our suggestions), which means you can shop around for the best deal for the type of meal you want to serve.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask about discounts – Many venues will negotiate better rates for certain scenarios, guests counts, days of the week, etc. For example, we offer a discounted rental rate if the bridal party uses our in-house food and beverage services.

Whatever facility you choose, just be sure to provide as much detail as you can when securing your rental. That will allow the owner/operator to serve you the best—to make sure your wedding day is as stress-free and enjoyable as it possibly can be.

As for that DJ you picked, let’s just hope someone told him “no” on the Chicken Dance.

 

Venue2
The Overland Park Ballroom offers a wide array of options for weddings of all sizes!

 

As a professional dance instructor and owner of Overland Park Ballroom, Amy Castro is proud to offer a unique venue for your upcoming wedding ceremony and reception. A 6,800-square foot venue with a romantic and modern style, and conveniently located in the heart of Johnson County, her talented event team is here to guide you through the planning process and make your dream wedding a reality that you and your guests will remember for a lifetime. Let her know your thoughts by tweeting @OP_Ballroom or by commenting on the Facebook page.

Cash Bar or Open Bar?

Cash Bar or Open Bar?

With Engagement Season just around the corner, we thought it would be fitting to talk about one of the largest wedding expenses, and quite honestly, sometimes the hardest decision a couple must make in the planning of their wedding reception – the bar! More specifically, whether or not it is appropriate to have a cash bar at the reception.

selection of liquors
Photo credit: epagaFOTO photography

Here’s a quick description of the terms being used:

  • cash bar is when your guests are required to pay for their own drinks. Couples usually lean towards cash bars to reduce the cost of the reception, however this is not proper etiquette.
  • An open bar is when the couple pays for all costs associated with the bar at their wedding, including staffing and gratuity. With an open bar, the host pays for all drinksbased on consumption at the end of the event (also called a “Hosted Bar”), or by pre-selecting a bar package that the caterer or venue offers.

 

Here’s the biggest question, is it rude or tacky to have a cash bar at your Wedding?

 

Traditionally, having guests pay for anything is a big NO. They are being invited to watch one of the most exciting days of a person’s life. The reception is a party to say “thank you” to your guests for celebrating with you. And as such, your guests should not be expected to pay for anything at the reception.

 

But let’s talk if you’re on a budget. That is the biggest thing we hear from Brides. Reading an article from Glamour, they asked their readers what they thought of cash bars. “It’s not tacky—it’s practical.” The reader Carrie goes on to talk about how excited she was when she got engaged but didn’t realize how much the cost of alcohol was. Her first choice was to have an open bar but then felt, “it’s OK to offer up a cash bar”. This is a major challenge when brides and grooms first start their journey on planning their wedding. You start hearing all these massive numbers, and panic.

 

champagne toast
Photo by Zavier

A couple of other readers from the same article go on to say “It’s not tacky—as long as you give your guests the heads-up.” And, “It’s not tacky—because your guests aren’t there for the alcohol.” Glamour did have some readers with opposing views, such as Mila stating, “It’s tacky—if you wouldn’t do it any other time.” She talks about how it can create a different atmosphere for her guests.

 

Your best option when being on a tight budget is to first decide which type of reception you want to have for your guests, a wedding with alcohol or without? If you can’t afford to have the top shelf bar package, how about just offering a beer and wine package? If you do decide a cash bar is your choice, you should consider notifying your guests ahead of time so they are aware and they can come prepared to purchase drinks. However, if there are financial or even personal factors that prevent alcohol from being served, we recommend you have coffee, tea, soda, and water available for your guests.

groom with liquor
Photo credit: Mojica Photography

Mainstream etiquette says a cash bar can be somewhat insulting to your guests. Put yourself in your guests’ shoes. They are planning on coming to your wedding to celebrate with you. They may also be bringing you a gift that you picked out on your registry, or think about the parents that are paying their babysitter $60-$80, to come out and have a good evening. In our opinion, at the Overland Park Ballroom, we stick with the etiquette of gifting your guests with a fun experience on the house! So when deciding what to do for your bar, consider hosting an open bar or a limited bar package to be sure that your guests are entertained throughout the night and that they feel appreciated. If a cash bar is a must for your reception, be sure to include a short note on the wedding invitations so your guests can come prepared. And always provide non-alcoholic beverages as a courtesy!

 

 

 

 

 

The OP Ballroom Event Team

 

First Dates and Dancing: Do or Don’t?

The first date.

I shudder to think about it. The awkwardness, the nervousness, the uncertainty. And sometimes the activity involved only makes it worse. I had one friend who took his date to McDonald’s for their first encounter, another suggested camping (yes, camping), and a girlfriend whose date drove her to a dinner at his mom’s house.

first date
Cringe-worthy, for sure. And while, thankfully, most of us have never suffered through those types of first dates, the clichéd ones are not much better. (I mean, c’mon, you can do better than dinner and a movie.)

So, I get it. Guys (and girls) in charge of coming up with a unique yet fun first date have their hands full. I see a lot of new couples come to the studio for dance classes, and while I applaud their ability to break away from the typical, I feel it’s time for a word of caution: Give it plenty of thought first.

Don’t make missteps

It’s easy to see how dance might be a good option for a first date—that romantic embrace, moving across the dance floor as one. I think I’ve seen that in a movie somewhere.

Unfortunately, reality is not always as picture-perfect. I recently observed a couple visit the ballroom for a first date. The woman was a little uncoordinated and quickly took on the role of the helpless, “I don’t know what to do” damsel in distress. The guy was struggling as well and was feeling especially powerless to help her because, after all, he was also learning (and having an especially hard time).

After class, he commented to me that he’d seen the dance on YouTube and wanted to try it on his date. How hard could it be, right? Turns out the dance he saw was a West Coast Swing, so he signed up for our swing class. Yes, it’s one of the coolest and sexiest dances, but it’s also one of the most difficult to learn for a beginner.

One user on Girls Ask Guys summed up what happened with her response to the question, “Is going dancing a good first date?”

“If it is something the girl has never done, I would wait to do that on a later date. While it is different and sets you apart, it can also feel intimidating to a first-timer.”

Choose the right dance

So, is dance a poor choice for a first date? Not necessarily. In fact, you can find many articles and blogs that espouse many of the positive benefits—learning about your date’s musical tastes, the ability to interact, the chance to express yourself. One site even equates your date’s dancing skills to his or her bedroom skills (but I’m not going there).

Dancing is actually a great way to learn about your partner: Learning new steps requires patience, listening skills and the ability to be a good sport. These are qualities you can only observe through actions, not words.

Yes, I’m all for date night at a dance studio, but consider a private lesson or a group class that’s learning an easier dance. Better yet, let the dance instructor know you’ll be on a date – especially if it’s a first date – so he or she can help you make the best decision. A different class might be a better option, and keep you from looking foolish.

Whatever you do, don’t get caught up in a YouTube fantasy or bring unrealistic expectations to the dance floor. You WILL feel awkward when you’re learning a new dance, so keep that in mind if you decide to venture to the ballroom with someone you’ve just met.

With some simple communication with the instructor, you can ensure your first date is a rousing success (assuming, of course, you’re not headed to your mom’s house for dinner afterward.)

As a professional dance instructor and owner of Overland Park Ballroom, Amy Castro has been teaching ballroom dance for more than 25 years. Let her know about your best (or worst) first date by tweeting @OP_Ballroom or by commenting on the Facebook page.

A Vietnamese Wedding Experience

The moment we met Cuong and Le, we knew the ballroom would be the perfect event space for their celebration. The couple had several special details they wanted to have at their event and we were very happy to see it all come together so nicely. They had a perfect combination of colors; red, pink, white, maroon, and hints of gold, which looked stunning in our neutral and grayscale facility.

bride and groom at Nguyen wedding
Photo credit: Paper People Photography

Since we opened, The Overland Park Ballroom & Social Club has had two other ethnic weddings before we met the future Mr. and Mrs. Nguyen. One was a Bulgarian wedding reception and the other was an Indian wedding. With each ethnic wedding event we are privileged to witness special cultural traditions. Cuong and Le also brought with them some Vietnamese wedding customs and it was exciting to be a part of their celebration!

In the morning, Cuong and Le had a traditional ceremony at their home. Later in the evening they held their reception at the ballroom with over 170 family and friends!

Reception guests were served a delectable 8-course meal provided by Princess Garden Restaurant. After dinner concluded, Le used our luxurious dressing room suite to change out of her white dress for a traditional Vietnamese dress called an Áo dài. After she changed, the newly married couple proceeded to go around to each table.

Nguyen wedding reception

Photo credit: Paper People Photography

At the table, an elected speaker would give all the blessings and advice that the table had discussed throughout the evening, then proceeded to toast to the happy couple.

The Overland Park Event Staff loved watching the two families come together with such joy, while the bride and groom took the time to acknowledge each guest at the reception. It’s a wonderful tradition and one we’d like to see more of!

bride and groom first dance at Nguyen wedding
Photo credit: Paper People Photography

After the blessing, Le changed back into her white dress and they carried on with the rest of their reception. The reception included a first dance as husband and wife. A photo booth to entertain guests, and one our favorites, Karaoke! All in all, the Overland Park Ballroom and Social Club wants to thank Cuong and Le for sharing their cultural traditions with us and wish them a very happy life together!

 

 

The OP Ballroom Event Team

What’s a Theme and Why it’s Important for Your Wedding Planning

Everyone knows one of the first things you do when you think about your wedding is ask yourself “what colors do I want to use?” With all the thought to colors you may have overlooked selecting a theme for your wedding. What’s a theme you ask? A theme is essentially the overall look and feel of your wedding. The theme goes way beyond the color palette and is incorporated in every little detail from the invitations, to the venue, even the filters your photographer might use for your photos.

Why is a theme important?

A theme helps you decide on which items you should purchase on the wedding swap online Facebook page and which ones you should definitely skip! Even if there are 100 cute little votive candle holders for only $20! Remember those 20 dollar bills can add up! And instead, you can put it towards another aspect of the wedding you really hold near and dear to your heart – like photography! Besides, who wants a room full of second-hand unused stuff you need to go through after your honeymoon because you went crazy buying anything and everything that “might” work?

Just don’t do it – instead, pick your colors and theme and do your best to stick to it! Listed below are top 5 trending wedding themes mentioned on the most popular online wedding sites, such as The Knot, Wedding Wire and Bridal Guide. We are sure you will see these themes for 2018. Take a look and tell use which theme tugs at the heartstrings for your big day! We’d love to know what you think.

Vintage (or Urban Vintage)

The vintage wedding trend is still going strong! It’s no surprise — there’s just something that feels so romantic and sentimental about adding old-fashioned items and antiques to your wedding decor. Many couples choose to add family heirlooms to their décor, giving a personal touch to their vintage wedding.

If vintage just isn’t doing it for you, but you love the idea, an urban vintage theme may be exactly what you’re looking for. This look is achieved by combining two bold aesthetics — one being “urban industrialism” (think concrete, steel, wood, straight lines, smooth textures) and the other being softer (soft textures like lace, softer flowers like petal flowers, hand-painted details like stationary, china, menu cards embossed or done with calligraphy).

vintage wedding style - reception table decor

Photo by Elizabeth Messina

High Drama – Lots of Dramatic Flair

If you have “over-the-top taste”, this “high drama” theme is the one for you! This trend has gorgeous, eye-catching and unexpected dramatic details that are sure to wow your guests and make you the envy of all your friends!

This is not your average church or backyard wedding. High Drama means dripping in crystals, beads, flowing drapery, feathers, candles, and the like. Giant floral arrangements and hanging elements like crystals, lighting & draping, will really elevate the ambiance. A bunch of candles, hanging chandeliers, and colored LED lighting will enhance the scene as well.

The nice thing about this theme is that you can adjust the level of dramatic flair to work with your personal style & taste, making it a truly versatile theme, plus it works year-round!

high drama wedding style - wedding ceremony

Photo Credit: John Labbe/Created by Preston Bailey

Romance

According to BridalGuide.com, another popular theme, probably pinned on your Pinterest boards, is simple and pure romance. From ceremonies softly lit by candlelight to receptions with astonishing crystal chandeliers, this beautiful trend will melt your heart. Romance is a theme we don’t ever see going out of style. It’s for the true lovers of the world.

pure romance - wedding reception

Photo Credit: KT Merry

Whimsical

The definition of whimsical, according to the Webster Dictionary, is resulting from or characterized by whim or caprice; lightly fanciful.

Now, how do you design a whimsical wedding? That’s easy – be creative and don’t be afraid to be edgy. Do you have a favorite childhood cartoon? Think of elements that would tie into that. Create your own rendition of a perfect Cinderella wedding, or if you’re a little quirky go for Alice in Wonderland inspired décor. Maybe you want a circus wedding complete with a real performers exotic animals. There’s no right or wrong way to do this so just have fun with it!

whimsical wedding style - showing real camel during wedding ceremony

Photo by YELLOW FEATHER PHOTOGRAPHY

Classic

Why fix what isn’t broken? We learned this trend is here to stay from The Knot Pro Workshop this year. Skip trendy for timeless and your special day will look perfectly put together and you’ll never worry about looking back at your wedding pictures and immediately knowing what decade your wedding took place! Think light sheer fabrics, tall centerpieces with lush floral arrangements, chair ties and seat covers, rose petals or garland draped across the head table.

Classic weddings are made unique by thoughtful touches, so don’t be afraid to think about which small-but-meaningful items are worthy expressions of you and your partner’s personalities.

classic wedding style - reception table decor

Photo by epagaFOTO

So now that you know what a wedding theme is, all you need to do is pick one, stick to it, and relax knowing you didn’t waste money on décor you really didn’t need. And enjoy incorporating your chosen theme into your wedding celebrations!

The OP Ballroom Event Team

Wedding Guests Should be Dancers, Not Downers

Please choose your wedding reception seat - our only request is you get up and dance a song or twoI was absorbed in Pinterest the other day when I spotted this clever homemade sign from an Etsy seller. As the owner of not only a ballroom but a wedding event venue, I definitely see the need for this sign. In fact, I see it a lot: Wedding guests…just…sitting.

It’s kind of sad, really. Weddings are happy occasions, and dancing – even if you’re freestyling it – is a great way to celebrate! Who cares what you look like?

But I get it. For many people, overcoming that insecurity is a big hurdle. I can tell them over and over that all anyone remembers from a wedding reception is how much fun it was (or wasn’t). No one is thinking about your dancing skills. I can tell them that as long as you’re remaining upright, you can call that a success. (Heck, even if you fall down, it just adds to the overall memory of a fun, crazy, night!)

Unfortunately, those reassurances alone probably won’t nudge everyone out of their chairs. But as we approach the fall wedding season, you need to ask yourself: Do you plan on joining the fun, or will you stay tethered to your chair next to your half-eaten plate of cake?

Don’t let fear ruin your good time

For those planning a wedding, the details seem endless. The color of the bridesmaid dresses, the flavor of cake, how close Grandma should be seated to the bathroom…and of course, what songs to play at the reception. So much goes into planning for the big day, including a lot of expense. The least you can do is play your part in the celebration.

Except that’s hard to do when fear is getting the best of you. User “Jeff” posted this comment on a social anxiety forum, and his comments are indicative of the way many people feel:

“Wedding receptions scare the crap out of me … I can count on one hand the number of times in my life that I’ve tried to dance in public (if you could call it dancing). Ugh. I could probably overcome this fear if I had someone to teach me and go out in public with me and show me what to do and what not to do.”

If you’re not someone like Jeff yourself, then you can easily spot them at the reception. They’re not happy about staying behind, but they also can’t bear to expose themselves in front of a crowd.

Invest in some prep

Jeff really nails the solution to conquering his fears at the end of his post: He just needs someone to teach him. Yes! Confidence comes when you feel prepared! It doesn’t matter if you’re taking a test in school, presenting to your boss at work, or taking your first steps on the dance floor—if you’ve put in the effort to learn the material, you feel confident in your abilities. (Plus, you just might have a little fun while you’re at it.)

That preparation means at least a few dance lessons to teach you some basic steps. I know what you’re thinking, but a small investment of your time now will pay dividends in the years to come. I actually just read an article recently that espoused the common-sense advantages of splurging to buy a basic yet timeless tuxedo. After using it just a few times, you’re already saving money over rental fees (not to mention avoiding the hassle and hygiene issues of wearing another man’s tux every time you’re invited to a formal event).

Dance is no different. By learning some basic steps, you’ll be able to show off your skills at countless weddings and celebrations the rest of your life. Imagine not carrying around that fear and insecurity anymore, and walking into that reception hall ready to party!

So, whether you want to learn a few standard dance moves you can do with a partner, or some basic steps for a little solo freestyle, we can help keep you in the middle of the celebration, and not just on the sidelines.

As a professional dance instructor and owner of Overland Park Ballroom, Amy Castro has been teaching ballroom dance for more than 25 years. When she attends a wedding reception, you’ll either find her in the middle of the dance floor or encouraging someone to come join her. Let her know your thoughts by tweeting @OP_Ballroom or by commenting on the Facebook page.

Think Value Not Price for your Event Space

So, you’re engaged… Congratulations! Now it’s time to start planning your dream wedding. You’re on your laptop researching the perfect venue and mesmerized by the gorgeous ring on your finger! Try not to become overwhelmed with finding the best “deal” on your venue, and instead, focus on finding the best value for your money.

I said yes wedding engagement

Photo credit: Dallin’s Paperie

Ask About Amenities included in your Venue Rental

It is easy to pick an event space offering a rental price you can’t pass up, but keep in mind you may be passing up on important amenities that ensure a stress-free wedding day for you, your partner and your wedding party. Amenities such as set up & tear down for example; Who wants to spend their wedding day rolling out five-foot tables and placing hundreds of chairs when you should be getting pampered and relaxing before you say “I do?” And no, your best friend, cousin and mom shouldn’t be doing it either! What about table linens? Linens can easily cost an additional $500 just to rent. And you would be responsible for damage, shipping and making sure they arrive on time. What do you do when the “too good to pass up” event space doesn’t provide on-site staff the day of your event to ensure the facilities are maintained? Oh, yea, toilet paper eventually runs out, and heaven forbid a bathroom incident that needs immediate clean up! These are just a few things to consider when booking your venue.

Compare Venue Quotes

Unless you have some awesome connections in the wedding industry, I recommend searching for an event space that provides as many amenities as possible at a fair price! Keep in mind, price means very little until you actually compare what you are buying to other offers. When you get a quote make sure you know what it includes and what it doesn’t – if you aren’t sure, ask! And if you still aren’t sure, ask again! Any good event space staff won’t mind explaining what you’re purchasing. Even though it takes some time to compare quotes, getting the lowest price and then finding out it wasn’t what you thought or you could have had more value for just a little more money isn’t a very good feeling for anyone!

It’s your day, it’s once in a lifetime, and you should feel your hard earned money was well spent, and you received a good value. Ask for complete quotes and take the time to really know what you are buying so you can make a decision based on value rather than a low price.

P.S. love the ring 😉

 

The OP Ballroom Event Team

To Sleeve or Not to Sleeve, That is the Sweaty Question

The savory smoke from a barbecue grill, the fresh perfume of newly cut grass, the salty whiff of the morning beach—and the pungent stink of body odor. Like it or not, these are all familiar smells of summer. You take the good with the bad, I suppose, and I’ve always loved this time of year.

As we have all realized, body odor and slick, slippery skin soaked in the sweat of summer is best shared only with someone you love. But when it’s summertime on the dance floor, things can get a little intimate—and not in always the best way.

So, the debate rages on: Sleeveless dance wear in summer, yes or no?

Pick your side

This time of year – especially during heat waves like we’ve already had in Kansas City this year – you can break a sweat just by brushing your teeth in the morning. On those days, a vigorous dance like swing or a cha cha can really get you dripping.

Sweaty arm pit

Photo courtesy of giphy.com

So, then, is it appropriate to wear sleeveless shirts on the dance floor? I say, absolutely not. I realize I may be in the minority, but no one wants to wrap their arm around their partner and be rubbing up to bare skin slick with sweat. In fact, I’ve witnessed many male dance teachers washing off their forearms because they smelled of a pungent combination of body odor and competing deodorants.

For many dance instructors like me, it’s a matter of manners. The Toronto Swing Dance Society has a list of items they’ve dubbed “Social Dance Etiquette,” and they address this particular topic:

“Leaders (and at times ladies) should not wear sleeveless shirts and other tops that would force a dance partner to rest their forearm on a sweaty, slippery arm. If you become excessively sweaty while dancing, bring changes of shirts (ladies included). Maybe consider an undershirt to absorb perspiration or bring a small hand towel to dry off in between dances.”

There are two sides to every story, of course, and you’ll no doubt encounter plenty of dancers and instructors who see no problem with sleeveless dance attire. Whether it’s a matter of personal comfort or personal expression, you’ll see a lot of support for sleeveless on some of the dance forums:

  • “Do guys really have a problem with that? I think you get a lot sweatier when you wear something more covered up. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to dance with me.”
  • “I think you should wear whatever makes you comfortable for social dancing. As long as you take care of the daily hygiene…”
  • “You feel cooler, more comfortable when you’re not wearing much because it’s easier to move … Sleeveless is the way to go!”

Hmm, maybe I’m getting outnumbered here, but I still think it comes down to basic courtesy!

Tips to manage your sweat

Because we have to agree to disagree on this one – or at least concede that everyone has a different opinion on the topic – the more helpful idea may be to share some tips about how to cut down on the sweating and stinking on the dance floor. After all, no one wants to smell you or see giant pit stains, so here are just a few tips I’ve picked up over the years:

  • Just like good dance shoes are a wise investment, spend a few extra bucks on dancewear that wicks sweat away from your body.
  • Drink water! It’s so important to stay hydrated both before and during class.
  • Always keep a small towel with you at class to wipe sweat from your arms and hands.
  • Stay away from spicy and pungent foods like jalapenos, onions and garlic on the day of class and the night before, which can make your sweat smell even worse.
  • If you’re wearing sleeves, look for darker colors or patterned tops, which hide sweat stains more effectively.

We all have our own opinion on the sleeves vs. sleeveless debate, but the important thing to remember is the same thing that applies to all aspects of dance: Be mindful of your partner, respect their boundaries and communicate with each other. That way you’re sure to always start out on the right foot.

As a professional dance instructor and owner of Overland Park Ballroom, Amy Castro has been teaching ballroom dance for more than 25 years. You won’t find her in sleeveless dancewear this summer, but she’s happy to help find the right outfit for you. Let her know your thoughts by tweeting @OP_Ballroom or by commenting on the Facebook page.

Don’t Let ‘Kansas City Nice’ Stifle Success

I left the studio the other day during rush hour and was delighted (yet not surprised) to witness some everyday acts of courtesy: drivers letting other drivers go first when they needed to merge, waves of thank-you, and a refreshing lack of horn honking (especially as compared to other cities).

Call it Midwestern hospitality or “Kansas City nice,” but we’ve cultivated a real culture of politeness, humility and friendliness here. Many of us were raised to value respect and modesty, and we show it through an aversion to confrontation and plenty of self-deprecation. I love hearing people from other geographic areas remark, “Everyone is so nice here!” And I love that what little traffic I hit on my drive home is relatively stress – and conflict-free.

But there’s maybe a downside to this mentality. As dancers, we’re often too humble to consider that our skill level could ever reach that of dancers from the coasts. And the value we put on modesty keeps us from celebrating one of our own who excels and then celebrates that success.

Middle of the country, not the pack

In an interview with KCUR 89.3, Kansas City native Rashaan Gilmore shared some of the key characteristics of the “Kansas City nice” culture:

  1. Polite friendliness
  2. An aversion to confrontation
  3. A tendency toward understatement
  4. A disinclination to make a fuss or stand out
  5. Emotional restraint
  6. Self-deprecation
  7. Envying people behind their backs
  8. Resistance to change
  9. Passive aggressiveness

The station also talked to a sociologist who highlighted some of the specifics of how this mindset manifests itself:

“KC etiquette favors being in the middle of the pack. Being first to do something new is risky, from a politeness standpoint … Being nice is part of our self-concept. It’s something we aspire to, as a community.”

We can do itBut when you combine that middle-of-the-pack mentality with a little splash of envy, you end up feeling resentful of others, without the self-confidence to become better yourself. Soon after I began dancing ballroom, I decided I needed to leave the Midwest to ever have a chance at a successful career. But I made it back here in the hopes of developing future generations of dancers to be better than those of us in the past. We have to combat this pervasive attitude of disgruntlement about those who succeed. “You think too highly of yourself,” I hear people say. And all I want to say back is, “No, you think too little of yourself.”

After all, regardless of where you live, our bodies and minds are all capable of the same skills. Gone are the days of lugging heavy video cameras on our shoulders to capture choreography and counts. Technology has leveled the playing field in many ways, including the dancing world.

The balance and the dance

Dancers face self-doubt around every corner, regardless of what city you call home. And the very competitive nature of many types of dance can only make the issue worse. Dr. Brian Goonan explains this phenomenon in Pointe magazine:

“Early in their careers, dancers don’t have a fully developed sense of self yet. They form their view of themselves based on the perception and feedback of others. And they can end up taking in a lot of negativity.”

But developing a healthy dose of self-confidence can have tremendous benefits to your dance development. The trick is to combine that self-confidence with some of the best traits from the list above—those quintessential Midwestern qualities we all hold so dear. Achieving that balance is, well, sort of a dance, but attaining it allows you to stay true to who you are without holding yourself back at the same time.

And there’s no reason to hold yourself back! No reason to hold others back either. After all, as we propel Midwestern dancers into the spotlight, we pave an easier path to greater success for the rest of us.

It’s like the old adage, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Because, after all, even in the Heartland with no ocean in sight, we all could use a little boost.

As a professional dance instructor and owner of Overland Park Ballroom, Amy Castro has been teaching ballroom dance for more than 25 years. While she has a bit of a lead foot, like a true Midwesterner she always lets another waiting driver go in front of her. Let her know your thoughts by tweeting @OP_Ballroom or by commenting on the Facebook page