Duluth instructor falls for dance all over again
In the long walk across the dark floor of the dance studio were two chairs. It was time to talk, only HeeJu Won wasn't sure how much. After it was over, she reflected with surprise, "I didn't know I was going to say so much." The 22-year-old was ...
In the long walk across the dark floor of the dance studio were two chairs. It was time to talk, only HeeJu Won wasn't sure how much.
After it was over, she reflected with surprise, "I didn't know I was going to say so much."
The 22-year-old was proud to call herself a go-getter and a "young entrepreneur in Duluth" before unfurling the story of drive and determination that brought her to the interviewee's chair she set for herself at 201 W. First St.
"The thing about a dancer," she said, "is when they fall in love with dance it is always hard for her to just quit. She always finds the way back to dance."
Won acknowledged her return to the dance floor with the unveiling earlier this month of Universal Dance - a corner store studio with big windows to let the sun shine in and even bigger mirrors for her dancers "to find the beauty inside themselves," she said.
Universal Dance opened to Won teaching ballroom and Latin dance. She kicked off her arrival with a festive masquerade ball, and on Friday will host an Easter costume dance party from 7-10 p.m.
Won, who went 15 months without dancing, rattled off her specialties: "international dances - rumba, chacha, salsa, paso doble, jive. ..."
She talked about her first look at Duluth, having journeyed from her home in Seoul, South Korea to the United States during a relationship that didn't last: "Four years ago, when I saw (Lake Superior) for the first time I had a very weird zing and felt very connected to this place," she said.
Previously a dance instructor with another studio in town and currently an assistant store manager at Ragstock in downtown Duluth, the impeccably fashionable Won strives to stay busy with her family more than 6,000 miles away. Growing up, she said, she was lucky to have parents - publishers in a hypercompetitive city of nearly 10 million people - who supported her forays with the arts. She took dance seriously - first ballet, then other disciplines. She was a professional by age 12, she said, competing and doing shows in a world that forced her to keep up lest she lose out to the endless arrival of up-and-comers. Dispirited with the grind, she found the path to love and later found that it can end in peril, too. She confessed to dark moments following her breakup, but even brighter discoveries, including a faith that finally clicked with what had been her Christian upbringing.
"What I really admire is her confidence," said Jessa Swift, 43. "I was impressed when I saw her teaching; she has a commanding presence that captures everybody's interest. The class I witnessed was structured and everybody caught on right away. She made it fun."
Swift and Won both attend Hope Community Church in Superior. A martial arts instructor, Swift opened Swift Leadership Martial Arts in Superior in January. She sees in Won a kindred spirit.
"We're both starting new adventures," Swift said.
For Won, the adventure has so far included the launch of some classes - 7 p.m. Mondays for beginners' ballroom dance and the same time Fridays for her social dance class designed to prepare people for important engagements that will require them to move their hips. She also gives lessons by appointment.
"Have you ever seen a person dancing with a frowny face?" Won asked. "They're usually smiling and having a great time."
Her guests will note that about Won. She's often smiling, too. Since landing in a home far away from home she has accepted all challenges and been rewarded with the "self-confidence, joy and happiness," she said are the attributes she tries to impart in her dancers.
"She gives 100 percent in her commitments," Swift said. "To have that confidence to go for it is really cool."