Life is the Event – Dancing is the Introduction

Article by Melinda Gipson

Photography by Gabriel and Leigh Gamboa

Originally published in Leesburg Lifestyle

Gabriel and Leigh Gamboa celebrate the sheer joy of living every day they go to work. They are not just dance instructors and owners of two Arthur Murray Dance Studios; they met through Arthur Murray dance classes! They’ve been married now for 18 years and are raising four kids – Kai, 16; Natasha, 12; Katja, 9 and Wren, 7 – and are juggling all the usual things working parents and business owners do. They just do it with a kind of contagious enthusiasm.

Dance for them involves both artistry and athleticism. Being proficient opens up countless opportunities to meet new people, have fun and, yes, maybe show off a bit. But dancing, as they earnestly explain, is much, much more.

Says Leigh, “Dancing does so much. Of course, there’s the social and the physical exercise, but it’s also a learned skill, so it exercises your brain. You're remembering things and learning things and connecting all these synapses. There are medical studies and countless articles on how it prevents Alzheimer's and dementia. But that's just one of the benefits. I also think it allows you to enjoy life more because life has so many opportunities, if you would just be there and be aware of them.’

“We all love music and celebration and socializing. If there’s an opportunity to dance, that makes it that much more enjoyable – that much more memorable. We have lots of students who are getting ready for events such as weddings, or cruises or holiday parties and business functions, but really, I mean life is the event. And if you know how to dance it's a whole lot more fun!”

Gabriel has been a dance instructor for 30 years, and opened his own studio in Ashburn in 2007. Just last year, the couple expanded to Gainesville and group both studios under the URL As they put it, “With two Northern Virginia locations, the music never stops!” That often means they don’t see each other for much of the day. Arthur Murray teaches individualized instruction geared to each person’s interests and abilities, so they’re each in high demand as instructors. But every instructor is certified as an Arthur Murray instructor meaning they’re “enthusiastic, patient and fearless... They can’t just be incredibly talented they must be positive and encouraging. With their support – and lots of laughter – we know that anyone can learn to dance,” Gabriel asserts.

He explains, “So, what we do is we offer a complimentary lesson for students to get acquainted with the studio, and see if the studio is a good fit. Then they can sign up for an introductory, short-term course that lasts anywhere from two to six weeks, depending on their schedule. It’s comprised of maybe four to six private lessons, as well as group classes. And then we have dance parties!” Moving from private instruction to group classes gives each student the confidence to dance not just with a pro, but with anyone. “What ends up happening is that the next time they go out to any particular venue where there are no instructors, they're better prepared to dance in public.”

It's a process that sometimes involves retraining your body to relax and enjoy the music, while also performing learned motions. Gabriel recommends that, particularly for a wedding party, people sign up and come at least two to three months prior to the wedding. “Sometimes they come in a week before or two weeks before and I always tell them, ‘Do you have a sleeping bag?’ Especially if you've never danced before, it could be very, very challenging!” he laughs.

The syllabus contains more than 30 dances, mainly focused on American Style Ballroom dancing, including Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, Rumba, Cha Cha and Swing. Also increasing in popularity are Bachata and Salsa because of the rising popularity of Latin dance halls, or restaurants that popularize weeknights where there is Latin dance music.

Because there are seven Arthur Murray Dance Centers in the DC area (see, students have an opportunity to grow far beyond rudimentary dance skills and many take the floor in competitions. Each center plans four local events each year ranging from competitions to showcases and recitals. Preparing for either gives students both the kind of focus and satisfaction of accomplishment that so enhances their dance experience. The big event, the “Holiday Ball Dance O Rama” occurs this month from December 7-10 at the Washington Hilton, but is only open to Arthur Murray students and professionals.

Those aren’t the only places to dance locally, Gabriel hastens to add. He and his students recommend:

  • · Loudoun Kitchen and Bar, Leesburg for line dance, country
  • · Nectar Bar and Lounge, Sterling for Latin dance/Salsa/Bachata
  • · Colvin Run, Great Falls for Ballroom/Swing
  • · The Salsa Room, Tysons Corner for Latin dance/Salsa/Bachata/Zouk, and
  • · Calypsos, Reston for Latin Dance/Salsa/Bachata

And, in March, the Gamboas will host their third fundraising dance gala where proceeds will fund Loudoun Hunger Relief.

Leigh says, “People are forever saying, ‘I’ll do it when...’. It’s like an article I was reading said, ‘Don’t wait for the occasion – just wear the dress!’ I read that and thought, yes! That is dancing. Just dance. Life is the event; it’s happening all around us. It’s so short and so unpredictable! Why not enjoy it and make the most of it!”

Being busy is no excuse, she adds. “We have students that are traveling for work; they have young kids; they have shift work; they are working on their masters or their PhD. We will work around your schedule and your availability and your circumstances. If you want to learn how to dance, we are going to teach you how to dance. We just make it work.”

Call 703-729-7055 to book your first free class in Ashburn or 703-740-3695 in Gainesville.

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