How Dance and Competing Helped this Mother and Daughter ‘Start Feeling Good Again’

In the spring of 2014, Deb Crane lost her husband, sister and niece in the span of less than a month. As she and her daughter, Leslie, struggled with their grief, FADS Menomonee Falls, WI became a surprising source of happiness, purpose and community. Their dance journey started in summer 2014, when a friend invited them to a guest party at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Menomonee Falls, WI. Deb said, “My daughter Leslie loved it, but I wasn’t ready.” Leslie offered, “I first thought, I’ll just go to help out my friend, but I was hooked right away!” Deb added, “a year later, one of Leslie’s instructors, Juan Garcia,  needed an additional lesson to win a contest, so I said I’d go, and afterwards Juan said, ‘I know how you feel about this, but I really think it might be good for you.’ Since I knew I needed something to make me feel good again, I decided to try it.”

Leslie says that dance has been the greatest form of therapy. “It gave me something positive to do, and challenged my brain in a way it hadn’t been before. (FADS Dance Instructor) Tim Brooks has become very much a father figure for me,” she adds with a tear in her eye. “To have that support, and to be in this supportive place is such a comforting feeling. It’s family. Everyone here has been at their own personal rock bottom at some point, so these people have shared share how they’ve been there, and they know how to lift us up.” Leslie adds, “I struggle with body image issues, but when I’m out there and I dance well, I don’t care because I am so focused on the dancing – it gives me a whole new confidence level. I am also very hard on myself, and the best piece of advice Tim gave me at a competition was to stop competing; stop worrying about who’s on the floor, where I think I am going to place. ‘Just dance for me and don’t worry,’ he said. That was one of my biggest light bulb moments in dancing.”

For Deb, lessons are all about stress relief and increased confidence. “I can go there in a tizzy – angry, frazzled, stressed from work, but within 5 minutes I am a totally different person; I’ve learned that I need to do things that make me feel good. I’ve also learned that I can trust the teachers at the studio with what is best for me, trust their opinion and take to heart that they really care.”

When asked what’s been most surprising about dance lessons, Deb’s response is “that I can look halfway decent on the dance floor! I also have some body image issues, but when I look at videos from the beginning to now – it feels great that I can see improvement!” Leslie says she’s surprised that she enjoys dancing so much. “I am not afraid to admit that I didn’t think I would like it when I first started. It’s such a big part of my life is right now, and I didn’t anticipate it would go that way. I can’t thank Juan, Tim, and the rest of the staff enough.”

Deb says she’d encourage everyone who hasn’t taken ballroom dancing lessons to give it a try. “I feel like I am part of something bigger, something that I never thought I’d experience. I tell others they should try it because it’s a wonderful thing. Being part of this world is a positive facet of my new life that I never would have expected.”  Get started on YOUR dance journey – contact us at Fred Astaire Dance Studios.

PICTURE: Leslie and Deb Crane enjoy the banquet party at the 2017 Fred Astaire World Championships (FAWC) in Las Vegas.