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Meet Kati Arikoski-Johnson and Jessica Kim of Triple Step Studios in Buckhead, Midtown, Decatur, and Marietta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Triple Step Studios’ crew: Kati Arikoski-Johnson, Jessica Kim, Grant Nunn and Andrew Petillo.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kati and Jessica. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Since opening in April 2019, Triple Step Studios (TSS) operates as an educational and community resource to the Atlanta metro area. TSS hosts weekly lessons – a progressive series, a stand-alone class in a jazz genre, and a beginner swing class. Following these, there is a social dance for participants to practice dancing, network with other dancers, and enjoy the evening, sometimes with a live band!

Each month, there are special events during the social dance. Since opening, TSS has hosted two cabaret nights, featuring live performances of swing era classics by talented singers from the Atlanta community, a fundraiser for a local dancer in need of a kidney donation, and a remembrance for the late Norma Miller, one of the founders of lindy hop.

In addition to the regular weekly events, TSS hosts monthly jazz dance workshops on Sunday’s. These are intensive-style courses that range on the beginner-intermediate levels. Following these workshops, there is time to practice one-on-one with instructors and receive personalized feedback. Specific dance styles that are taught within the swing genre are lindy hop, balboa, collegiate shag, St. Louis shag, charleston, and vernacular jazz.

Outside of its educational purpose, TSS also seeks to build the swing dance community in Atlanta. Since opening, TSS has engaged community members through activities like organizing a swing flash mob at Ponce City Market, hosting community dinners, and encouraging students to attend local events, like the Atlanta Jazz Festival. In addition, TSS hosts community forums for direct feedback, which strongly influences future event planning.

This upcoming October, TSS has partnered with the Scandinavian American Foundation of Georgia to host a lesson and live band swing dance at Wild Heaven Brewery in its new West End location. In November, TSS moves to its new studio location at the Garden Hills Community Center for weekly lessons and dances, while spearheading its new progressive lindy hop series program.

In addition to dance education, TSS developed an extensive teacher and dj training program. Conducted quarterly, potential teachers and DJs complete a weekend workshop before beginning an apprenticeship. During this time, interested participants can shadow and then assist in current teaching and dj staff.

To help welcome new students, TSS also shot a welcome video on their opening night with interviews of local dancers explaining what a dance community means to them. This video is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZDO9jY9JgE.

Has it been a smooth road?
Opening Triple Step Studios allowed a new outlet for creativity and sharing a passion for dance with the community. Altogether, the experience has been refreshing and fun, but there were definitely struggles along the way. Within a week of opening, one of the crew members resigned from the company, so we had a bit of a scramble filling that position and covering responsibilities before opening night.

Obtaining our nonprofit status also involved stacks and stacks of paperwork and IRS correspondence, which took hours of work. In addition, finding donors and grants for our first year was a challenge, since both Kati and Jess moved to Atlanta only a few years prior.

Finally, just getting the word out about the new dances, lessons, and class scholarship program was an obstacle while balancing our workload. Despite these challenges, we’ve learned new things about ourselves and our city, and the overwhelming support of local dancers and community members has been surprising and more than welcome.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Triple Step Studios story. Tell us more about the business.
Triple Step Studios specializes in teaching six different dance styles in the swing genre. In addition, TSS offers a scholarship program for students to volunteer at events in exchange for classes and workshops. Finally, TSS will begin our new progressive lindy hop series, which has a clear path for novice dancers to feel comfortable on the dance floor!

We’re known for our spirit of fun and our penchant for conducting silly dance games during band and dj breaks during our social dance nights. We are most proud of our growing reputation in the city for a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere where people can safely learn without judgment.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Nationally, swing dancing has made a rapid rebound since it’s revolution in Scandinavia in the 1980s. The revival of Lindy Hop started actually already in 1982 in Sweden, so the revolution really happened 1980s. We anticipate that the communities will continue to grow and connect through national and international dances, competitions, and workshops. It’s our hope that swing dancing will also increase education about the origins of the dance and bring back some of the classic improvisation and fun spirit that filled the original dancers. Many people equate swing dancing with lindy hop, but the swing genre includes an assortment of dance styles, so we hope to produce more well-rounded dancers who have a set of skills in each dance style.

In Atlanta specifically, which used to have a much larger swing dance community, we predict that the number of swing dancers will continue to increase, and the city will again become a host for national workshops and dance exchanges in the next few years. One of the main goals of TSS is to connect to local musicians and jazz community. Because of this, we host live bands or performers as often as possible to facilitate this connection between the music and the dance.

Pricing:

  • Social Dances: Pay-What-You-Can
  • Class Series: General: $72, Student: $60
  • Workshops: General: $25, Student: $18
  • Drop-In Classes: General: $10, Student, $8

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Logo: Darien Arikoski-Johnson, Red Skirt Photo: Sara Pista

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1 Comment

  1. Cari

    September 26, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    I am really excited that TSS is bringing more Swing Dance learning opportunities to Atlanta! However, I am really frustrated that this article emphasizes the Scandinavian “revival” of Lindy Hop, which is misleading in a number of ways. The article never mentions the Black historical roots of Swing Dancing (though it’s unclear if that’s the fault of the author or TSS), which shows a disregard of Black American culture. I hope that TSS continues to offer excellent resources for the ATL dance scene, but I also ask for more care towards recognizing and appreciating the roots of the dance.

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