We had the good fortune of connecting with Nancy Hays and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nancy, putting aside the decision to work for yourself, what other decisions were critical to your success?
The most important decision I ever made was to marry my husband, Sean. Marrying Sean gave me the security of knowing that not only had I married a man who would be a wonderful, faithful husband and fantastic father, but also someone that would talk to me about other things besides my performing career and business pursuits. The right life partner also gave me the freedom personally and emotionally to take other risks with my career.
Sean had a steady job throughout the years that provided income to pay our mortgage and bills, as well as good health insurance for our four kids and also for me. That security was a constant in my life. So if I had an up year or a down year professionally, I knew our family would still be alright.
I think having that balance was critical and allowed me to take risks I wouldn’t have otherwise. Many people in the arts are drawn to others in the same field and while they have lots in common, I think it makes life more challenging. If you have a steady source of support and a person to lean on outside your business as well as the knowledge that your life does not depend on factors you can not ultimately control, it gives you an anchor to weather career storms that are bound to come and go in any creative business.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have a series of music and dance products that teach people how to entertain themselves in the comfort of their own homes. All of the dances we teach at DanceWithNancy.com can be learned and performed with no prior dance experience. Dances include; line, country, wedding and party dances through eras (hustle, boogie, bump, electric slide, twist, hand jive, etc.), and classic ballroom styles; fox trot, swing, lindy hop, tango, waltz, cha cha, rumba, salsa and more. The music we offer is arranged and recorded to perfectly complement the steps taught and learned in the series.
So dancers have the right music to go along with their movements. I developed my dance instruction tapes after talking some of my friends into taking classes and designing products based on their feedback. I have always been a performer myself, but realized that what people really want is to perform themselves; for family, friends, social gatherings, exercise and fun. There really is nothing more magical than being an artist that performs along with the audience, watching people dance to your music.
Encouraging people to move actively themselves creates two way communication and is more powerful than being a performer entertaining a passive audience. I want people to know that my dance series, DanceWithNancy.com, proves that “anyone can dance”. If people learn the dances we feature on our website, they will realize that dancing is a form of exercise that is good for their overall health and at the same time, is really fun! They will also be delighted to learn that these dances never go out of style (a swing is always a swing, a tango is always a tango, etc.) so they can keep enjoying dance for the rest of their lives!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, we are in the middle of a pandemic, so I would not advise that they go out much, if at all. I would instead advise them to gather at home with immediate family, a romantic interest or close friends in the group they have been sheltering with and have “theme” nights where they dress up and learn the dances that fit the themes of my series and then dance to them.
For example, “Latin Nights” featuring Latin food and drink where everyone comes to the living room after a themed meal, dressed in Latin attire to learn the rumba, cha cha or salsa. Or a 1970s party night where family members put on bell bottoms and flashy disco clothes and learn the electric slide, the bump and dance the hustle to the soundtrack of “Saturday Night Fever”. Or design an all country BBQ night and line dance to “Achy Breaky Heart” or “Cotton Eyed Joe” or “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”. Those are just a few ideas on how to use DanceWithNancy.com to entertain safely at home, having fun, being creative, eating great food, mixing themed drinks and learning a new skill!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I mentioned my husband earlier in the interview, so definitely him. My four young adult children have also been super supportive and perform with me on some of my recordings. In addition to my family, there is one dance instructor in particular that I owe a debt of gratitude to for the rest of my life, Jo Thompson Szymanski. Jo has changed the course of my career probably more than anyone else in the last twenty years.
I recorded an original song in Nashville with my long time producer, Randy Gardner, that appeared on my very first CD, “Come Dance With Me”. Jo choreographed a line dance to “Come Dance With Me” and then began teaching the dance to instructors and dance enthusiasts all over the world.
As a result, the song and dance spread like wildfire and “Come Dance With Me” became a “classic” line dance that is now an international hit. The song’s visibility continues to increase the demand for my music and has also led to live tours in the UK and elsewhere. Jo also introduced me to many other line dance choreographers that have put steps to my music. Jo continues to work with me today and our collaboration has been an incredible blessing in my life.