Arizona Ballroom Champions: John Holzworth and Natalie Crandall

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This week we caught up with studio owner John Holzworth and Pro-Am Rhythm Champion, Natalie Crandall. Here's what they had to say about dancing, friendship, and goals for the future. 


How and when did you start dancing? 
Natalie: When I was about 2 or 3 years old I did ballet, tap, and jazz. The first time I went to a ballroom studio, when I was 7 years old. I started dancing ballroom at East town ballroom, in Milwaukee Wisconsin. The WYDE foundation was a non-profit. It was a huge group of kids, ages 8-18. We mainly did latin, every Saturday for 4-5 hours. Pretty quickly I started doing Pro-Am and then also working with the youth formation group
John: I started dancing at the same age as Natalie. I went to a performing arts academy. I didn’t start ballroom until I was 20 years old. I moved out to California on a whim. One day I picked up a newspaper and saw Arthur Murray was auditioning for teachers. I made it through the teacher training program, and was in a Fred Astaire for 4-5 years. About 2 and a half years ago, I left Fred Astaire and opened up my own ballroom studio.

John, what is it like owning your own dance studio? 
John: I love it, actually. It’s a lot of work. We are opening up our second location next week. It’s really fun being a business owner of a business in general. I remember when I was little, it was my biggest dream to own my own dance studio. I never thought it would happen so quickly. Sometimes we will go into the studio on a Sunday, and it’s quiet, all the lights are out, and its my ballroom. I also really enjoy watching all the students and staff grow. It’s really rewarding watching how many people are touched, as people’s goals and dreams are being coming true because of the studio.

We heard you are opening up a new studio soon. Can you tell us more?
John: We are opening up the second location in North Phoenix. It used to be an old Fred Astaire studio. They relocated and we took over the location. It is about 1800 square feet smaller than Arizona Ballroom Champions.

Favorite dance memory? 
Natalie: I use to watch America’s Ballroom Challenge on PBS. It would air every year and I would always make sure to watch it. In 2013, I was asked with my teacher, Decho to do a pro-am honor dance for the same show on PBS. It was truly a childhood dream come true and a huge moment in my career.
John: I used to be on a competitive dance team as a kid. I was 11 or 12 and we would travel to LA. Our team made a final call back for the kids stage at Disneyland. I remember thinking, “Omg we made it!”!  We were hired to dance at Disney for a month and a half.

What is your vision for AZ Ballroom Champions? 
John: To go national. I want the studio to turn into American Ballroom Champions. We will teach you the ABC’s and 123’s of ballroom dancing. The dream one day is to turn it into a gigantic. I want this to explode!

What is it like to have Bree and Decho at your studio? 
John: Another dream come true! It was really crazy how that happened. We left Fred Astaire and had no idea where to go. There was a tiny ballroom that was 1200 square feet called Stars Ballroom where we all started. Decho, Bree, and I have created such a unique friendship and business partnership. Their knowledge in dance and their love for other people’s growth is so infectious, it fills up our huge ballroom. You don’t get that kind of partnership often.

Natalie, what is your favorite Miari piece?
Natalie: The Olivia top. I kinda wear it all the time. I help out with the kids, it’s my favorite piece. Not only for practicing, but it’s a perfect transition piece. It goes with pants, skirts, anything. I also love the Natalia dress.

Natalie, we heard you auditioned for “So You Think You Can Dance”. What inspired you to audition and what was the experience like?  
Natalie: I have watched the show since I was a kid, and always wanted to try out. The experience was incredible. It was super intense, but also super rewarding, and both mentally and emotionally challenging. I was able to do it with Decho. One of the days was 17 hours, and the next day was 20 hours. There was so many people there from all walks of life. It made me appreciate ballroom and the industry we are in, and what a career we can make out of teaching ballroom dance. The work isn’t steady with other types of dancing, but in our industry there are so many opportunities… coaches, studio owners, dress designers.

(SYTYCD new season airs May 30th.)

What is your favorite and least favorite dance?
Natalie: I love rhythm. That’s has always been my love. I love mambo because it’s so different from the other styles. Least favorite is probably a standard waltz.
John: Favorite style is smooth, and foxtrot is my favorite dance. If anyone knows me well enough, they would agree I have the personality of a foxtrot: a little sassy, a little out there. I’m not super soft like Waltz or aggressive like Tango. It’s a pull from my jazzy background. Also I love the music. I love a good ol’ Foxtrot twinkle!
My least favorite is cha cha… there’s no time to dance in it! Damn, its so hard.
Seems like you both get along quite well! What is your favorite quality in each other? Anything you dislike? 
Natalie: I have a secret. I actually did not like John when I first met him. The first time we met each other, I saw John at a shoe store. I looked him up and down and was annoyed by how happy and sweet he was. I thought he was being fake. The next week he showed up in our ballroom. I was so annoyed he was there! Wasn’t long before we became super close…(laughs). My favorite quality is how genuine he is. I’m not a very trusting person, and John is the most genuine person. He’s 100% himself. He understands everyone has their own story. Our industry is very driven by looks. When you dance you are literally being judged on your appearance. John has a way of making me feel even more comfortable in my own skin.
John: My favorite quality of Natalie is that once you have her friendship, she will always have your back, no matter what, through thick and thin. Her loyalty is really rare quality to find in a friend. There is definitely a protector in her.

What are your goals for the future? 
Natalie: I am going to be transitioning from an amateur to a professional. I feel like I have reached the most success that I can as a student. It will be different levels, pressure and expectations. If I could win it a national championship as a professional all over again, that would be the ultimate goal.  
John: I want to be able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I want to be able to travel the world one day. Pack up and go, and take off. I want to one day not be tied down and feel obligated. Trying to create a life right now, that allows me to do that in the future.

If you could do anything else besides dancing/ teaching, what would you do? 
John: I would be a flight attendant. I would get what I want to do: make money and meet all kinds of people.
Natalie: I was raised in Wisconsin, and grew up riding horses. I would probably enjoy having my own horse farm. A totally different lifestyle.  

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