Surviving Your First Group Dance Class
Like private lessons, group dance classes can be scary for first-time dancers. Thoughts of ‘making a fool of myself’, can keep many of us from ever taking the plunge. But, whether it’s scaling a mountain or attending a salsa class, confidence comes with knowledge. Here’s everything you need to know to feel a little less nervous, while getting the most for your money.
Pick a class at your level
You know what’s scarier then going to your first group class? Going to your class thinking it’s a good level for you, then realizing everyone else moved beyond the basics months ago. Even if you’ve had plenty of social dance experience, ask the studio – or even better, the teacher himself – how much experience you need, and when the new term starts.
Especially on your first time, give yourself a solid 15 minutes to arrive and get a feel for the place before the lesson. Most studios require you to sign in before joining the class, and some ask that you fill out a registration form as well. Save yourself the added embarrassment of walking into the class halfway through explaining the pattern.
Say no to BO
Bad body odour is probably the biggest destroyer of first impressions world wide. The worst part is EVERYONE knows who it is, but NO ONE feels comfortable telling them about it (but they are going to act very uncomfortable around you). At a bare minimum, freshen up with deodorant, and consider breath mints before joining the class – no dance partner wants to smell your last two meals, mixed together.
Ask questions… After you’ve listened
There are no stupid questions… Unless the answer was just explained. Don’t be the girl who proves she wasn’t really listening with her questions – be the one who asks the intelligent question a lot of the class probably wanted to know anyway. Incidentally, it’s okay to ask for a reminder or two during the class, but avoid repeated disruptions of the class.
Leave teaching to the teacher
Few things are more obnoxious then the student who becomes teacher-of-the-moment for each of her dance partners. Even if they are having trouble with the step, hold your tongue, and if you’re the follower, don’t back-lead! If you gave advice in a scuba-diving class, and they have a terrible accident following your advice, who’s to blame? (Hint: you) If they are clearly having difficulty, suggest they ask the teacher and let them shoulder the responsibility – it’s what they’re trained for, after all.
Record what you learned!
Here’s a sad truth: the vast majority of dancers who take group dance classes have forgotten most of what they’ve learned by the next class. Give your brain something to latch on to by taking notes, practicing after class, or filming yourself. Then, practice! Consider that you have 167 hours to forget a step between a class without practice, but only 83 1/2 hours if you review just once in between. Keep it fresh in your mind, and you’ll carry your new dance skills for life, instead of loosing them a week after the class has ended.
About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for almost 20 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance and his endless seeking for ways to reach new audiences eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.