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December 13, 2012 / The Loop

Rick quick-steps between career and passion

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by Josie Camarillo, ’14

Though he first began dancing as a child, it wasn’t until he was in college that Rick Davis, ’03, really caught the “dance fever.” Now, Davis, a native of Tigard, Ore., keeps in step in Portland, Ore., working as a technician by day and teaching dance nights and weekends.

As a competitive dancer, he won second place with his partner at the 2010 USA Dance National DanceSports Championships in the Adult Silver International Standard Division (Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep). Since July 2012, Davis has also been ranked as an Intermediate level competitor in West Coast Swing through the World Swing Dance Council. We caught up with him to learn more about his passion for dance and where that has taken him in life.

Can you tell us a little bit about your time at Whitworth?

I majored in computer science information systems following the networks track, and my minor was in theatre.  I was also in the Whitworth and jazz choirs.  I was the first swing dance team leader for Jubilation, and I participated in many of the other Jubilation dance groups, too.  The most influential classes for me were all of those ballroom dance courses I took over and over and over again with Janie Edwards.  Janie’s spark for life, people, and a love for dancing inspired me to pursue a future with dance.  My senior year, I had a really great time serving as an RA in Stewart Hall, and also acting as president of the newly formed Ballroom Dance Club.

How did Whitworth play a role in your love for dance? How long have you had a passion for dance?

People ask me all the time how I became so good at ballroom dancing, and I tell them it’s because I spent four years practicing the same basic patterns two to three times a week in college.  It was fast and easy for me to learn because I had previous jazz, tap, and ballet experience from my childhood.  During my first two years though, I was terribly embarrassed to label myself as a dancer.  With so many gender biases about dance, I was scared that my masculinity and sexuality would perhaps be unfairly questioned by others.  Eventually, I was able to fully embrace my love for dancing and decided that it was my true calling, and therefore had no reason to feel any shame.  I believe it was my junior year at Whitworth when I attended my first dance competition.  After that I had “the fever,” and it never went away.

Rick and his partner performing the tango.

Rick and a partner performing the tango.

Can you tell us a little bit about your jobs as a technician and as a dance instructor? Have you always wanted to teach dance?

I work as a technician at David C. Smith and Associates, which is an aerial photography and digital mapping small business in Portland, Ore.  I specialize in scanning high resolution digital color images of aerial photos, and I also use software for making seamless orthophoto maps.  It’s a very specialized business. This past summer, I mapped a large section of the Columbia River Gorge, which spanned an area covering both The Dalles and Multnomah Falls in one seamless high resolution image.

For a long time I did not want to teach dancing, because I thought that if it became my work, I would no longer enjoy it.  That has not been the case for me, as my passion for dance has skyrocketed ever since it has become my secondary profession, and I will always consider myself a student of dance.  Currently, I teach ballroom, swing, and Latin dancing in Beaverton, Ore. at Tatyana’s Ballroom.  I teach group classes, private lessons, and also host dance parties there as an independent instructor with Linda Springstead, a well-known master teacher and owner of DanceWell Ballroom.  Additionally, I volunteer to teach West Coast Swing for the Portland Swing Dance Club.

What is it like leading a “double life” working as both a technician and a dancer/dance instructor?

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, but ultimately I love what I do.  Both of my jobs have a lot of flexibility in hours now, so I can spend as much or little time as I want focusing on training and promoting my dance activities.  Usually I am very calculated in how I proportion my time between lessons and other work.  One of the best things about dance is that it is one of the most natural ways in life to release stress, socialize, improve memory, and exercise all at once, which is fantastic for overall health.

Rick and a partner competing in the Northwest Regional dance competition.

Rick and a partner competing in the Northwest Regional dance competition.

What would you suggest to people who are interested in taking dance classes?

Don’t have high expectations.  Instead, have fun.  Never compare yourself to others.  Only compare your progress to your own previous abilities.  Frustration and negativity is the number one obstacle to learning anything.  I don’t believe there is such thing as a natural born dancer.  There are those who frequently train and practice, and those who don’t.  Another piece of advice I would say it to not get hung up on mistakes or perfection.  Everybody makes mistakes.  It’s how well the dancer recovers from mistakes, and the attitude the dancer puts forth that makes the difference between mediocre and excellent.

What advice do you have for other young college graduates who are pursuing their passions?

This is the social media age, which is the evolution of social networking.  Be active and diligent in constantly promoting your goals everywhere.  Don’t be afraid to dream big, and share those dreams with the entire world.  I’m amazed when I find out sometimes years later that somebody I met at a dance has been reading my online posts all along.  Often times, opportunities come up simply because somebody saw a picture or a video I posted on Facebook. Everyone I meet in my life wants me to succeed, and often times they are willing to help me reach those goals as if I just put the word out.

If you would like to learn more about Rick’s dance classes, please, visit his website at www.abandonedadventures.com/rickdavis

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