A historical black-and-white photo hangs just inside the office of Arthur Murray Dance Studio Director Tina Marie’s office.
It shows a man and woman perfectly performing a style of dancing from the 1950s called rock and roll. Though it is a style of dancing few know and studios don’t teach anymore, Marie and the teachers at the Federal Way studio have a rock and roll instruction sheet and can teach anyone who requests it.
“Few people know what that is because it’s a style that few people do or even know how to teach anymore,” Marie said, gazing at the photo.
Marie and the Arthur Murray staff are celebrating 25 years of teaching Federal Wayans to dance. A Sept. 8 gala will feature a reception, open-floor dancing, a choreographed performance and a champagne toast.
“Celebrating something like this is just incredible,” said Marie, who took over as director 11 years ago. “It feels good to highlight and celebrate students who have been here longer than I have.”
The Arthur Murray brand has been in existence for over 100 years. Owner Russ Clark opened the first-ever Washington state Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Federal Way in 1992.
After discovering an outpouring of interest and support from the Federal Way community, Clark opened five more locations around the Puget Sound.
The Arthur Murray slogan is, “Changing people’s lives through dancing.”
Marie and the dance staff did just that for Federal Way resident Fred Whiteman.
After retiring a number of years ago, Whiteman struggled to adjust to retired living. He found the motivation to stay active difficult.
He longed for something to do. So, he decided to give Arthur Murray and the world of dancing a try.
“I needed something to stay fit to some extent,” Whiteman said. “Because of the dancers and teachers here, I have really enjoyed myself.”
Whiteman started at the Federal Way dance studio in 2002, four years before Marie came on as its studio director.
When Whiteman arrived 15 years ago, he had no dance knowledge or background. He was terrified on his first day.
All Whiteman was asked to stand tall, muster all the confidence he could, and simply walk from one end of the dance floor to the other.
Whiteman, who is currently the studio’s longest-enrolled student, will be one focal point of the September gala’s elegant dance performance for its spectators.
“Fred really is a bright spot of this building and this business,” Marie said. “He is the ultimate student. He not only wants to learn everything, he wants to teach our newest dancers what he has learned, and that is the essence of dancing.”
Marie said she is certain the studio is the busiest place in the city at 8 p.m. every Friday night. The studio gets all dancers together, from the beginners to the veterans like Whiteman, and, for roughly the next three hours, Arthur Murray students and staff dance the night away.
The anniversary gala will be no different.
“The nature of learning to dance is to fail a lot,” Whiteman said. “I failed a lot when I first started as a beginner, but it’s the people and teachers here that not only show you how to fix mistakes. They embrace you and teach you that a dance ‘failure’ is just as beautiful as the perfect dance.”