Frequently Asked Questions

Recommending Places to Dance

The quality of dance instructors and dance venues varies across an incredible spectrum. Unfortunately we cannot shop for dance instruction in the same way that we shop for other goods and services. When you're looking for a handyman, you ask for recommendations, but with dancing, recommendations don't always work.

For one thing, it is easy for most of us to tell after a handyman's visit if a repaired plumbing still leaks, but most beginners cannot objectively measure the quality of the dance instruction they are receiving. But there's even more to it than that. Studios and instructors are selling a very complicated product that is one part dance instruction and three parts making you feel good about yourself. Many studios get repeat business by pampering the students' egos, telling them what wonderful, fun, beautiful, good dancers they are. Some other studios concentrate on providing more of a social structure rather than dance environment for their students, which is just fine, but it may not be what you are looking for.

As a result of all that, when you talk to any studio's students, you will often hear that they are happy. Naturally the ones you get to see are happy, because the ones who were not happy have already left, so you most always end up getting positive feedback. The problem is, that does not help you find out if the studio fits your needs, to separate good from bad instruction.

So, what are you to do? First, you have to be honest with yourself and know your priorities: do you really want to learn dancing as a skill that you will enjoy for the rest of your life, or do you just want to spend a few hours and have some fun? If you just want to have fun, go anywhere that fits within your budget and matches your mood. You don't really need to read on. If you wish to really learn to dance, then there are some things that can help you spot a good instructor and a good studio.

Qualities of a Good Instructor:

A good instructor:
  • Makes it fun to learn dancing. Good instructors put students at ease, and entertain as well as teach. This is especially important in group lessons.

  • Rotates the class frequently, so everyone meets their classmates, and those without partner don't remain so for too long.

  • Has a working knowledge of both the leading and following aspects of patterns, and spends equal amount of time on each.

  • Explains not only the footwork, but the underlying mechanics of patterns (explains what makes them work and points out possible pitfalls).

  • Teaches technique; maintains a suitable teaching balance between technique and new steps (especially difficult in beginner classes).

  • Breaks the patterns into small digestible pieces, allowing students to practice and master each separately, and then puts them together. If necessary, comes up with simple drills to aid the learning of patterns.

  • Is attentive and adapts to the students and how they are following the material.

  • Does not talk too much, allowing students to practice a fair bit during class (learning by doing). Allows students to learn material by first practicing without and then with the music.

  • Encourages students to practice and dance socially. Teaches elements of dance etiquette.

Qualities of a Good Studio or Dance School:

A good dance school:
  • Hires only teachers with extensive experience and training.

  • Does not encourage students to take private lessons when group lessons serve them equaly well (especially true for beginners).

  • Does not pressure students into long-term contracts.

  • Attempts to balance leaders and followers in group classes.

  • Makes partner rotation a studio policy.

  • Makes dance practices open to the public (including students of other studios), and encourages students to attend dance events outside the studio.

Last Modified July 2006

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