Amateur Dancers, July/August 2004

Looking for a Partner?

Amateur Dancers Editor, Michael Fitzmaurice

Far too few people are provided the opportunity to do what they love. Instead, more often than not, a person works a job to pay the bills, enjoy some disposable income, and put a little money in the bank for a rainy day. Life, unfortunately, is not exactly fair and not everyone has the luxury of pursuing gainful employment that includes passion for the subject matter.

Ken Greer & Katarzyna Firosz
City Lights Ball, San Francisco

Ken Greer is on the far side of the love/hate my job spectrum. He is doubly blessed because his employment revolves around two things that he is passionate about: engineering software and dancing.

Greer is the president and founder of Dancesoft Inc., his most recent entrepreneurial venture. Back in the early days of Silicon Valley, Greer helped found a software company that became very successful. Eventually that company was sold. Although a healthy profit was earned through the sale, Greer now found himself “retired” and a couple of decades shy of social security.

Retirement with sufficient economic cushion is not a terrible way to go through life. One day (sooner rather than later), I hope to be in such a position. Sometimes, however, retirement comes prematurely. Such was the case with Greer. “I got bored,” he said.

Boredom finally got the best of him and a couple of years ago, Greer decided to abandon retirement. “I knew I wanted to get back into technology,” remembered Greer. “If possible, I wanted to devote my engineering knowledge to dance. Dancing is my first love.”

Fourteen years ago, Greer had recently broken up with his girlfriend and was having trouble meeting new people. He saw a dance studio offering lessons and began to get comfortable with the idea that dancing might be a way to meet new people, particularly single and available members of the opposite sex.

His first foray into dance instruction ended abruptly. Greer never quite made it out of the parking lot and into the studio. The hex of second thoughts crept into his head and the leap of faith that fun awaited inside a dance studio could not be made.

His second foray proved more successful, but only marginally so. Greer took an introductory waltz class from 8 pm to 9 pm. “By 9:05,” he recollected, “I forgot all the steps. Still, I went back the next week.”

Greer has not stopped dancing ever since. Currently he is a board member of the USABDA (or should I say USA Dance) NorCal chapter, host of the 2006 DanceSport national championships in San Jose. He competes at the pre-Championship level in International Standard. On a social level he also enjoys the dance scene spawned by aficionados of hustle, Argentine tango, east coast swing, salsa, and west coast swing.

When the thought of ending retirement entered his head, Greer also gave thought to how he might combine his love of dance with his professional engineering expertise and still turn a profit. “I wanted to devote my knowledge to dance,” Greer recalled.

Every great business, Greer knew, begins by fulfilling a fundamental consumer need. Greer focused his attention on the dance world and began to contemplate unsatisfied consumer needs in that arena. One glaring need stuck out above all others: how to solve the problem of finding a dance partner?

To those with knowledge of this problem, Greer had taken on a task that in certain ways rivaled splitting an atom or rewriting the laws of physics and finding the secret to perpetual motion.

Greer understood that people did not walk around with a sign hanging from their neck declaring: dance partner wanted. He also understood how the search for a dance partner took on all of the angst and pain of a job search, putting your self out there and facing rejection.

Greer also knew that the dancing world had lost many a person who loved to dance because they couldn’t find a partner. If he could find a solution to this problem, then Greer knew he would have made a lasting contribution to the growth of dance around the world.

When seeking the solution to any problem, the natural inclination of the engineer is to consider how modern technology is best equipped to tackle the conundrum. In this particular case, Greer believed that the internet, his own area of expertise, offered the potential solution, or at least part of a solution.

The solution that Greer came up with is called dancepartner.com. In many ways, it is not all together different from a “dating” website like match.com. The website helps put together two people who might not otherwise meet or discover their common interests.

Over the past fifteen months since the website took up residence in cyberspace, over 9,000 [now over 58,952 - Editor] people have signed up as members. The website is very well designed, easy to navigate, and offers a wide range of features.

There are two ways to enjoy the benefits of the website. There is free membership and full membership. Both memberships allow for the posting of a detailed profile including photos. The profile may be updated at anytime without cost. Free and full members both receive e-mails from interested parties.

Free and full members are both allowed to browse profiles until their heart is content. Browsing the profiles is easy to do thanks to a robust database that allows for search by a variety of criteria such as location, height, or dance style. The sole difference between the memberships is that only full members can initiate contact with other members via the website.
The popularity of the website has grown very quickly. Each month dancepartner.com receives more than 50,000 unique visitors, servicing the needs of both competitive and social dancers around the world.

“Dancers are the nicest people,” exclaimed Greer. “You never think about that when you start an activity, but it’s true.” That’s one reason why he thought the internet would make a terrific medium for putting people together and having them enjoy the experience.

“Anyone using the internet,” Greer observed, “must use it with caution and not throw their common sense out the window. But it can be a great way to make a connection.”

While Greer may not have solved the age old dilemma of finding a dance partner, he certainly has put his best foot forward in finding a solution. In the meanwhile, Greer and his company have broadened their horizons and developed a variety of websites aimed at making the life of dancers better. Take for example dancespots.net. This website helps dancers locate places to dance and teachers throughout the United States and Canada.

I, for one, am glad Ken Greer found the energy to come out of retirement. When in need of a dance partner, I now know where to look.

Copyright © 2004 The United States Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association, Inc. Reprinted by permission.