Know Your Neighbor: Wendy Windsor

There’s a lot of math in choreography. Basically, you’re just trying to solve a puzzle. You’ve got six or eight dancers, and you’ve got this much music to deal with, and this much space to deal with, and what do you want to do with it? Unlike the math where at the end of the day you have to make a decision and send in the answers — actuarial stuff, underwriting stuff, it is sort of an art form. It’s not like accounting where there’s a right answer and a wrong answer and it’s all black and white — there’s a lot of gray in underwriting and a lot of gray in actuarial stuff, so with regards to dancing, it’s the same thing.”
— Wendy Windsor

     The average Joe just got lost in the middle of that first paragraph. “Actuarial” would refer to the work done by an actuary, and an actuary analyzes risk, as in risk for businesses. For instance, an insurance company needs to calculate how much it can charge consumers versus how much it can afford to pay out in claims. Such calculations extend to other businesses too.
     “It depends on what kind of risk you’re looking to price,” Wendy Windsor, your local risk analyst and Irish dancing instructor, says. “Whether you’re trying to price pension and retirement risk, or health care risk, yeah, you could do property and casualty kind of risk. I’ve just been in health care so long that I’m probably going to work with a consulting firm eventually.”
     This field of endeavor would extend to any business that has to reckon how much can go out based on how much is likely to come in. This prognostication is what an actuary does. And of course, it goes hand in hand with Irish folk dancing. Sure it does.
     Windsor sits at a table at The Family Wash, long hair past her shoulders. It should be noted that she’s not a full-fledged actuary yet; she has two exams yet to take and pass, and they’re muther-humpin’ exams — comparable to passing the bar. She works in the health care industry doing underwriting in the daytime, and divides the rest of her time between studying for her exams and, as mentioned, teaching Irish folk dancing on Sundays at DancEast on Woodland.
     Windsor was a math major with a music minor in college (probably the only person in her class with that cobination) and fell in love with Irish dancing around the age of 30. “I saw my first Irish step dancer back in ’86 or ’87, here at TPAC, and I said, ah — that’s what I want to do,” she recalls. “And there wasn’t anyone teaching, so I ended up doing Scottish Highland dancing for seven or eight years, and then I started doing Irish step dancing; I just really loved it and loved the music. I haven’t done much with the hammered dulcimer because these actuary exams require so many hours of study, and when you add in the full-time job, the teaching kids, you have to kind of run a tight ship, not much time for a lot of other stuff.”
     Performances for the public come here and there, for schools, nursing homes, etc.; but the major activity for Windsor and other dancers kicks in during the St. Patrick’s Day season, when they often gig several times a day for green beer-drinking revelers. They’ve invaded Bongo Java annually at 9 a.m., completely unannounced, and dance for all the hipsters and regular folks all sipping their wake-up joe, rubbing their bleary eyes and wondering if they’re really seeing what they’re seeing. “That’s always fun,” Windsor says.
     A Monroe, La., native, Windsor came to Nashville for Vanderbilt undergrad studies in 1983, fell in love with the town, and has been a resident of the East Side ever since. So what does she do for fun? “I like to bake,” she says, “and I love going to shows and supporting the local music scene.” Perhaps she could maybe someday turn her actuarial services toward musicians, and we can all figure out how to not lose any more money than we already do.