Ansley and Paul have been dancing together since meeting on Halloween night in 1998 at The Handlebar’s original location, where Paul had started teaching swing dance there in August. (Full disclosure: This writer’s an owner of The Handlebar.)
“I came out to one of the lessons at the old Handlebar at Mills Mill,” she says, “and Paul pulled me out of the crowd to teach one of the lessons, and a year later, we were married.”
The partnership has since expanded with two children—Hudson, 8, and Hadley, 6—and incorporated as Upstate Swing LLC in 2012. Along the way, Ansley and Paul have danced for a cameo appearance in the 2004 film The Notebook; the CBS miniseries Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story in 1999; and the Super Bowl XXXIV pre-game show in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome in 2000. They also taught the cast of Lifetime’s Army Wives how to swing dance.
“It’s a good hobby that turned into a business,” Ansley says of her nocturnal work as ticket-seller, company accountant, and occasional teacher, or as Paul says, “She’s the pretty face of customer service.” Both have marketing backgrounds, she says, “but, honestly, we can’t believe it’s still going strong.” (Full disclosure No. 2: Just a few months after the Hokes launched their soon-to- be dance empire in the old mill, the writer, in a prediction that Paul loves to repeat, proclaimed: “Swing is dead.”)
You’d think that so much work would kill anyone. After all, Ansley is a corporate executive, wife, mother, and business partner, and Paul is a lecturer and dance coordinator at Clemson University. But, she says, “When you’re passionate about anything, it’s easy. I love to teach. Even with my job in the corporate world, my most favorite part is teaching others how to sell, how to write business plans, even the technology.”
Besides, weekly dancing has a lot of benefits, she says, never mind that both Hokes are in great physical condition. “It’s very social. A lot of what I do in the corporate world is relationship-building, and that’s what I do at the swing dances: build relationships, have fun, and enjoy life.”
So…uh…Upstate Swing isn’t dead?
“If it’s not fun, we’re doing too much of it,” she says. “That’s what’s kept it successful—we haven’t gone overboard as a business. We’ve kept it fun all these years.”
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