Winning a national title is no easy feat for any dancer. However, doing it while planning a wedding and finishing a school? Amazing! So who are these dancers who have juggled so much all at one time?
Erik and Shelly Linder were in a long distance relationship for 3 years before deciding to dance with one another. Shelly explains “We started from a dating relationship. We met at a dance camp and started to talk that way. We were dating for about 3 years, he was in Seattle and I was in Boston. Then one day, we just had the idea, like ‘Why don’t we dance with each other?’ because we enjoy being with each other, we want this as our future, and we have the same goals. So that’s what brought us together.” Erik added “The funny thing is that we competed against each other. We were dating each other for 3 years, so we were kind of rivals. So we said ‘Why not just dance with one another?’ It also ended up taking away the long distance part as well, because I was also on the other side of the country, so to make that work is kind of difficult. So, becoming partners got rid of the distance and then that was that.”
However, things have not always been smooth sailing for the couple. Erik says “For me personally, in my previous partnership, I was pretty successful with how our results were. A lot of people told me it’s not a very smart decision to change what I’m doing because I’m on a good track. Shelly, at the time, wasn’t as experienced, so people were telling me ‘It’s not a smart decision. You won’t succeed in that and it’ll ruin it for you.’ However, I didn’t really care and I wanted to do it, so I did it and it ended up working better than anything I could have wished for. To me, I’m happy that I chose what I wanted to do and we made it work.” Shelly added that, “For me, winning Nationals in ballroom was a big thing to me because I never ever was a champion of anything. I was always more of the underdog in dancing and also when we started, people didn’t really believe in me. Everyone was saying that we would never succeed, that I’m too weak, and when we won Nationals, it was like ‘I did it!’ It was a super happy moment because not only did I achieve my goal, but I also showed people that I made things possible. I worked hard and got myself there. I now use it as a motivation to work harder and harder.”
As a very hard working couple, they use their results to motivate them to work even harder towards their goals. This applies even when their results are not where they want them to be. Erik elaborates, “If you get a bad result, it really depends on how you approach it. For me, if I get a result I’m not happy with, I think ‘Ok, what am I not doing enough?” So, it sounds weird, but I’m ok with not getting the good results because for me it’s like a wake up call to change something or re-assess what I’m doing. I think it’s important to understand that as a dancer, if you’re competing consistently, if you get a bad result, it’s not the end of the world. You have another 5000 competitions in your future, so what is one competition going to affect the grand scheme of things. So for me, it’s how you can move on from it and how you can use it to benefit you instead of making yourself feel bad.” Shelly continues, “We try to look at it as we’re just going to have to work harder, see what didn’t work for us, and we’ll see how it goes next competition. Also, it could depend on many things. Maybe it wasn’t your day or maybe the atmosphere was super draining. There are a few competitions every year, it’s consistently the same weird energy in the atmosphere and every time we dance, we have a weird vibe. So going into those, we know that, but there are other competitions where everything goes exactly right. We’ve had instances where we’ve had a few competitions in a row and each competition felt completely different feeling wise. There was one where we felt so powerful, so energetic, and like the whole floor was ours. Then the next competition, literally a weekend later, felt kind of like ‘what the heck, what’s going on.’ So each time is different. You have to just come with a new attitude each time. I think for dancers, positivity is most important. The more we beat ourselves up, the worse it’s going to get, and you’re not going to see any progress.”
Their positive attitude has definitely helped them during this difficult time of social distancing. Erik talks about the impact, “Our life has changed in a way, my main job is to teach, as do most competitors and dancers in our realm. When the studios close, it takes away the main thing that you do all of the time. It’s our life. So I feel the whole dance world has shifted to Facetime and Zoom videos. It’s almost like an alien experience because I’ve never done it in that way because I’m used to being like ‘oh this is wrong, this is how you fix it,’ and physically showing them how to fix it. On the screen, it takes away the person to person way, but we’re all adapting to it.” Shelly followed-up “We’re trying to use this moment as a time to kind of re-coup, do things that we usually can’t do because of dancing, like spend time with family, relax, go outside. Just do things that we don’t usually have time to do or prioritize because we say ‘ok we have to go to the studio, we have to practice, we have to teach, we don’t have time for everything. A big thing for us is that the amount we compete, we don’t really get time to recover. The past three months have been just non-stop competition, camp, competition, camp, no breaks, no rest days, so right now it’s nice to kind of like let your body get what it deserves for a little bit until we can compete again. We don’t know when, but we’ll see.”Besides being accomplished dancers, Erik and Shelly got married this past August in Hawaii. They managed to simultaneously compete at a high level, graduate from school and plan a wedding all at the same time. Shelley says “We were just talking about this the other day. It honestly went by in a blink of an eye. All of the planning was in between our competing and training and all of that stuff. So it kind of just flew right by. There would be nights where we would stay until 2 in the morning, looking at the menu, being like ‘Should we have the fish tacos or the rice dish?’ We were fortunate to also have a wedding planner, so she made things easier. SHe knew all of the good companies and caterers, so we just had to tell her we want this color for this and all of the other little details. It went by super fast, it didn’t even feel like it was really happening.Honestly, the day couldn’t have gone any better. The day leading up to the wedding, normally in movies you see so much stress and everyone is running around, but I was tanning in the pool in the morning. I was making smoothies for everyone, it was so chill. I got ready by myself in the bathroom, it was so nice and peaceful.” Erik added on saying “It was the complete opposite of what we’re doing right now. Right now, it’s like you’re sitting and saying ‘Ok, what should I do?’ because we can’t really do anything right now. Before, we had so many things to do, that we barely had time to rest.”
So how do Erik and Shelley make it work so well on and off the dance floor? Erik states “Honestly, I think it’s not letting things stick. A lot of the time, if someone says something and you listen to it and hold onto that, believe me, it’s not going to work out. So you have to realize that two people have strong opinions and you’re trying to make something, one person is going to say something that they don’t necessarily mean. It’s just in the moment you’re really trying to feel your direction out. If she says something mean to me, for example, for maybe a minute I’ll be bothered by it, but you just have to let it go because you know they don’t necessarily mean it. It’s more of you both trying to do something and someone is frustrated. What we do is we argue and then we realize ‘What are we even fighting about?’" Shelley echoed the sentiment, “It’s like word vomit. You’re just angry and you just say something that completely doesn’t mean anything. With us, we’ll have a little fight or something and then we’ll both look at each other and just start smiling or laughing. We have a switch and we forget everything. They’re such small little issues that we’re so hands on with.Of course, we have our relationship so we have our inside jokes, but some people who don’t have a relationship, it might be a little bit different for them because they don’t have that, so they may just stay mad at each other. For us, we can switch off really easily.” Both of them agree, “It’s the same as competitions. Let it go. Don’t be stuck on the same thing, move forward. You need to find something else to talk about or have something in between.”
Interested in taking lessons with Erik and Shelly? Make sure to select them on the Aida Champions Academy intake form > here.