Volume 12, Issue 4 - July/August 2010

life beyond the auto glass business

Put on Your Dancing Shoes—and Shag
Mike Paley, Freedom Glass

Name: Mike Paley
Day Job: Owner, Freedom Glass
Location: Richmond, Va.
Alter Ego: Shag Dancer

If someone had told Freedom Glass owner Mike Paley that he would be dancing someday, he would not have believed them.

When the former football and rugby player was first invited to take lessons to learn to shag—a type of swing dance that originated in Myrtle Beach, S.C.—in October 2008, he adamantly refused.

“My friend Cathy was persistent,” he recalled. She advised him lessons were free and assured him it would be fun, but Paley repeatedly gave her a firm “no.”

Meanwhile, though, work in his small, Richmond, Va.-based business kept piling up. “My life was dedicated to work,” he recalls.
“I needed a break.”

In March 2009, Paley began the free beginner courses offered at the Richmond Shag Club.

“I stumbled my way through the first month,” he said. “I had never danced before and have a bad knee. I was worried the dance movements would be too much.”

After attending one class, his worries were put to rest. Upon completion of the beginner lessons, he joined the club and continued classes at the intermediate level. Classes met Tuesday and Thursday night, but the end of class did not mean Paley was done dancing for the night.

“After the lessons, I would come home, close the blinds and practice my dance steps,” he said.

Today, Paley continues to attend regular meetings, along with about 100 other local shaggers.

“It gives me a chance to get my mind off of the glass industry,” he said.

Besides allowing him to separate himself from work, Paley finds other benefits in shag dancing. “I find it to be good exercise,” he says.

He’s also found another benefit—getting to know others through the club.

“Most shaggers are very social. If you walk into a shag club, and if you have any interest in learning, anyone there will take the time and effort to teach you,” he said.

It’s also a very relaxed environment, he says.

“At the shag club, there is an understanding you can dance with anyone,” he said. “You can go with a date and still dance with anyone you like. There is an understanding that everyone there just wants to have fun and dance.”

Although Paley has been dancing shag for more than a year, he is still considered a newbie to some shaggers.

“My primary dance partner has been dancing for 11 years and some members have been dancing for about 25 years,” he says.

This past September, Paley attended a shagging event called “Migration,” held twice a year in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where the dance was born. The 10-day event is filled with both social and competitive dancing. And though Paley has not participated in any shag competitions, he has not ruled out the possibility.

“I can see myself in the future doing a competition,” he says.

In 2009, Paley, 51, was voted “Most Improved Male Dancer.”

Paley founded Freedom Glass in 2004. Previously, he was a service manager for an automotive firm.


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