About Us Coming soon
      

Great Dancing comes

from Great Music!

 

About Us

Ray Johnson

  • Prince George - Out of high school I worked at McDonalds nights for $1.50 p/h.  I worked the back room and would take unsold food home.   (McDonalds wanted that food thrown in the dumpster)  As I don't drive I'd hitch hike to the local pulp mill M-W-F and wait for day work because they paid $3.84 p/h.  Eventually the Personnel Manager got tired of coming into work and seeing me sitting there and hired me full time!  I worked for them for a full 2 years saving $5,000 and used that money for a 2 year Business Administration/Computer Programming designation.  After high school I was a professional musician for the next 15 years playing keyboards, guitar & bass.   Kamloops 1976-1986 - Got my Grade 10 Conservatory of Music in Piano (practicing 6-8 hours a day for 2 years), and got a diploma in TV and Audio Repair.  I loved swimming so at age 33 I re-did all my swim levels and got my Bronze Medallion in swimming.  I was an audio salesman for much of my earlier career.   In Kamloops I was manager of the largest record store and later manager of the largest Stereo store.  I also taught night courses in audio at the local college.  Got married in 1981 but in 1986 my ex left us, so my sons (3 & 5 yrs) and I moved to Richmond.  Richmond 1986-1991 - A&B Sounds top salesman (I was the 2nd person ever to sell over $100,000.00 of audio gear in one month, so there was a plaque at the Marine Drive store enrolling me in the $100,000.00 Club).  Using credits from 1973 I jumped into the Certified General Accountants program and got within 2 courses of getting my diploma.  Later at A&B I was in their accounting department in an assistant Controller position.  I became a Lotus Master (spreadsheet - before Excel) taught myself Lotus macro programming and wrote programs they were still using when they went bankrupt.  I also became a WordPerfect guru rebuilding all their forms.  About 1989 my ex came back and we moved to Maple Ridge and purchased a broke down house I've been renovating ever since.  Maple Ridge 1991 on - I was actively involved in Scouting for 11 years as a leader (Beavers, Cubs, and Scouts - both my sons have their Chief Scouts awards).  I was heavily involved in Scouts as Registrar, Quartermaster, leader and organizer.  I pushed leaders to get their training as I'd done all of mine and loved the program and within a few years I'd gotten our membership from 50 to 140.  In our heyday we had 2 Beaver groups, 2 Cub groups a Scout and a Ventures group.  At the Kub Kar rallies we walked off with more than half the awards plus various Scouting awards.  After I left that Scouting group went into decline within 2 years.  After A&B Sound I became the Controller for Bridgeport Carpets and reorganized their accounting and computer system.  (11 stores) U was there for 2 1/2 years till I was laid off in favor of a long time employee who had no training, no accounting experience and while she'd hired me was demoted back into my position.  Unknown to her, I had just saved her job because she and the Accounts Payable lady were disrespectful to the owners mother who was 80, the Accounts Receivable person-and my friend.  She helped take Bridgeport into bankruptcy.  Getting canned in favor of her hurt but years later they called up and apologized!  After that I became a self-employed accountant (still have 2 clients from those days - 22+ years) and for 2 1/2 years was a laborer at $10 an hour planting trees at Swan-e-set Golf Course 9-10 hours a day-it paid the bills.  I quit that in 1995 when I was hired by London Drugs Computers and am now a Computer Tech fixing up to 1,000 computers a year.  I'd started servicing computers at A&B in 1988 when I joined their accounting department. 
  • My ex left in Jan 2002 when our youngest was finishing high school.  We're on great terms now, she's happily married.  She did me big favor because in 1997 we took some lessons from Robyn but I struggled with Waltz and she refused to take more lessons.  If she hadn't left....
  • In Sept 2002 I started taking lots of dance lessons with Robyn Picard.  Intending to be a world traveler and Cruise Ship Dance Host I also took a fair number of private lessons.  As a testament to loving to dance, I'd practice in the school hallways between lessons and by myself at home for the next couple of years until I met Bertha Dec 13, 2003.
  • Up to 2016 I typically spend 30-35 hours a month involved with dancing (not including lessons)  This includes:  website updates, planning everything, send out weekly emails to over 1,300 dancers, finding new music for each dance, and preparing all the music in advance.  (Each one of our dances takes 14 hours for myself and Bertha on the Saturday, plus food shopping the days before, and cleanup the next day)

Bertha Mortimer

  • When I met Bertha in December 2003 she only did freestyle dancing.  She's manager for Curves for Women (which I own) and worked for over 40 years as a professional Floral designer.   She also had a business decorating weddings with her friend Lynn Nelles.
  • Bertha handles all the food (she has Food Safe 2) and decorations for each dance, and her and Lynn are the brains behind the decoration at each New Years dance - I tell them my vision and they find a way to implement it and simply make it better!

About our Dances:

Intro - Prior to 2005 the only place "Jack of all Trades" dancers could dance (other than Ballrooms) was Bill McKinnon's dance (gone), and Maggie Bretton's Friday dances.  I didn't mind going to the ballrooms, but I wanted to DANCE, not watch other people dancing and I wasn't a fan of the uninspiring music they often played.  Also, we attended 3 New Years dances that left a lot to be desired.   We also attended a couple of Christmas dances where the floor was dismally small for the number of people - OK, maybe WCS people get used to that and accept it as fact, but I wanted to dance PROPERLY and to better music.

I started our dances as "An Upscale Dance Experience", and in the first several years hosted 2 dances a month.  I took the best aspects of Bill's, Robyn's & Maggies dances that I liked and created our own version with these features:

1 - Great music I'd love to dance to, music that inspires me to dance better.
2 - Large spacious floor
3 - Top quality food, Brand Name beverages

From the movie "Field of Dreams" I've never forgotten the line "If you build it, they will come".   I hope that the value we offer will be so compelling you'll want to come back because it's simply the best place to come and dance.

Any realtor will tell you "location, location, location".  This is the reason we try to make every dance the best we can.   We know that a lot of dancers wouldn't take a chance on a dance where they have to drive for more than 20-30 minutes.   By offering the first dance free we try to overcome that objection so they can experience our unique dance.

When I started my dances and website, they were oriented towards my and Robyn's dances but quickly it became clear that a majority of my dancers are from outside Maple Ridge.  I realized that I was in a unique position to offer services - through my website and emails - to dancers that dance teachers wouldn't.  

So over the years we tried a number of things to cater to the dance world:

  • Success - Lighting our room was a problem so in Dec 2006 I bought a $3,000 chandelier for $1,100 putting in half myself and the rest donations from dancers, and dance friend Zale installed it.   The seniors center now uses it for all their activities and maintains it for us.
  • Somewhat successful - I love live music (as I was a musician), so we hired bands occasionally from 2006-2009.  Bands are expensive, and in the end dancers commented about low attendance saying "occasionally is fine, but we prefer the variety of your DJ music".
  • Success- I started the annual "Battle of the DJ's" in 2011, as an attempt to build attendance.  I chose Maggie because she comes to my dances, has an extensive music repertoire (different from mine), and a huge dancer/email base, and I thought it would be nice to expose more of her dancers to my dances..
  •  Failure  - In early 2008 someone suggested Sunday Tea Dances, and so I offered three $10 dances.  I lost money on every dance.  These dances had a lot more Latin content.
  •  Failure  - In mid 2010 after having people in the WCS/Country community complain about lack of their dances I offered 2 dances - Despite a huge floor, the best music they'd ever danced to, I got 87 dancers for my first $5 dance and 27 for my second $8 dance.  Between these 2 dances I lost $600.  Disappointing because I'll never be able to play all of the great country music I have.
  • Success / Failure - From June 2010 to Nov 2013 Robyn and I hosted dances at Cascades Casino's.  Food, pretty good, dance lesson Beg/Int, we had a lot of fun.  The failure part was that Cascades double booked dates on top of my dances.   An interesting thing happened that made us revisit having two dances a month - that is the dance crowd got their "DANCE FIX" in at Cascades and stopped coming to my regular dances.  I set up the music and my son Michael ran the Cascades Dances.  For the last half of 2010 I lost money on all the conflicting dances.   Despite attendance of 90-120 Cascades shut these dances down, never to return
  • Success - In late 2010 while mulling over how Cascades had affected our dances, a dancer made the comment "you're giving dancers too much of a good thing".  Cascades I couldn't do anything about, but there was no need for US to continue having 2 dances a month, when our own dances affected our own attendance, so we cut back to one dance per month.
  • Mixed - In 2013 we gave out a lot of free passes to our dances.   You might expect that if you give out 100 free passes to "just come and try it - eat our food, drink our coffee, dance all night" there would be a lot of takers - there weren't.  One thing is for certain - EVERY person who came out LOVED it.
  • Failure  - Our food has always been a major feature of our dances.   Not because i say so, but because of DANCERS overwhelming positive comments, so in 2014 I thought we'd capitalize on that and make it bigger promoting it as "better than a dinner".   At the same time I wanted to build my email list, so I started offereing "If you've never been to our dances, give me your email and your first dance is FREE".  If indeed people went to Cascades
  • Failure  - In the 70's I studied economics.   Theory says that when price drops, demand increases.  you might expect that if I dropped my price from $20 to $10 attendance would increase - it doesn't.   With the different pricing I've tried over the years it simply DOESN'T apply to dancing.  Moreover half of my dances have made not enough money to make them feasible given that on dance days we put in 14 hours each.  That doesn't include the hours I put in each month looking for new music each month.
  • Failure  - Halloween and December Xmas dances.   Simply put EVERY other Halloween dance and EVERY other Xmas dance (held in December) takes dancers away - the numbers prove it, so we don't offer a Halloween dance anymore and that's why our Xmas dance is the last Saturday in November.
  • Mixed - New Years Dances.  Up to and including 2010 (when we had the last of our huge Cruise Ship themed dances) my NY dances were exceptionally well attended.  The next three dances were pretty good, and Dec 31, 2015 dance was less than half of what it used to be.  Themed dances are way too much work at our age and we ran out of monster themes.  But then again the abundance of NY dances simply waters down our attendance - despite incredible food, incredible dance floor space and incredible music.  I don't understand it, but it is what it is.  As a ballroom dancer we try to offer a dance that WE'D want to be at if we had a chance, because simply put, no one offers the same fun and quality as we do.
  • Mixed - Web page to serve ALL dancers in the lower mainland.  I've gotten a lot of emails over the years originating form my webpage, so I know it works.  People ARE using it.   But I'm not a programmer and changing things and updating takes me a lot of time. 
  • Failure - Country Triple 2 - this is a dance danced all over the US and Canada although it's danced a little different in the Southern US.  It's typically danced to music that be kind of a Country Rumba.  I've always liked it and the only teacher who's ever taught it was Myles Monroe at Byron's lessons years ago.  Myles put it "teachers don't teach it because it's simply a reversal of how you'd dance Country 2-step".   Simple in concept for a teacher maybe, but taking Country 2-step and using the elements of a set of moves with a different rhythm is not a familiar concept for dancers.  Over the years I've suggested Robyn teach it, so she did in 2014.  Her lessons were successful and I followed it up with a 6:30-7:00 lesson at my dances.   I even offered all those students a free dance to see if I could build support for Country Triple 2, further I offered a free dance to the Country community because I have a lot of great Country Triple 2 music.  A few came out for the free dance never to return.
  • Failure - 6:30-7:00 lessons before my dances.  I tried all sorts of things, nothing got people out enough to continue.
  • Failure - Argentine Tango people said they wanted more AT music, so I thought, well, I have a ton of great AT music (Tango Nouveaux which I love), so I offered AT music 6:30-7:00 before my dances.   I set it up just like a regular dance format AT dance Bobbi and Patricia would use.  Total failure.
  • Success - Interactive DJ - My term to describe how I DJ.   Very few DJ's talk to the crowd or introduce songs, but I like to entertain.  I also go out as much as I can and dance with available ladies.  Most DJ's play their music on the fly with no plan in mind.   Each month I'll spend at least 4 hours looking for new music for each dance and then pre-program the music to make sure everyone's happy.  The last 1 1/2 hours of each dance I take requests and unlike other DJ's can play requests almost immediately.
  • Success  - How many dances do you go to where you had such a great time you sincerely thank the hosts?   It happens every dance for us.  We're very proud of that. 
  • Failure - Dance Quickies - From 7:50-8:00 I had Robyn teach a very quick move, like a simple dip and show how it could be used in different dances.