Ballroom Dance > It seems I improve way too slow considering how much I spend? (teacher problem)

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by StartedLateButCompetitive, Jan 27, 2017.

  1. Please bear with me, a bit long story and English isn't my native language. But really need some suggestion and inputs. Thanks!

    I'm in the UK. I'm male lead, 33 yrs old, but there's my partners thought I was 24, 25 zzzzzzzzzzz

    So I started ballroom and latin from a completely beginner in October 2015, taking both private lessons at least twice a week (1 hour/per lesson) and university group lessons. I competed in university circus from Nov 2015 to Feb 2016 at beginner level. Then my partner left UK because she was an exchange student. I kept taking private lessons at least twice a week all the time, and did IDTA bronze medal test.

    Fast forward to Nov 2016, I tried university competition at novice level with a new partner. It didn't work out at all because 1) we were competing against 2nd and 3rd year novice and 2) we were both not good enough which was understandable. So I decided to not continue with university competitions because 1) I'm finishing with my research degree, 2) my partner was not mentally on board as she wouldn't or was embaressed to train techniques with me as she did competitions only thought in this way she could do more social dancing (I know it didn't make sense but that's her words), and 3) I was paying all the lessons (which I didn't mind) so obviously at this point I was not gonna spend £££ to fix her problem (with this said I do appreciate she kept up the times to practise with me it's just she really needed to decide what she wanted). Now I was fine with all this, as lesson was learned and experience was gained although it might be a bit costly.

    So in Dec 2016, I decided to do medal competition as the school said I could dance with my teacher and if qualified for the national I could go find a partner and dance in the blackpool just like in the university circus. (I had a bit of luck in the blackpool as a university beginner and got a medal home woohoo.) Now I am realistic and am aware of how much hard work I need to put into to just get into the 2nd round outside of uni.

    There are a couple of reasons that I still definitely want to do competitions.

    Firstly, I think only doing the medal test won't help improve because literally everyone passes this is their business model and I see so many people just dance to the routine, not trying hard enough to dance to the power and beauty and obviously not really focused on small detailed techniques (but yup they pass).

    Secondly, Competition is something really push you to dance better. My understanding is that ballroom and latin is a needy and flashy dancing. If you wanna do more social dancing, there is salsa etc etc. So it will only be natural if one wanna do competition.

    Then here comes my teacher. She's the only teacher since I started dancing. She's a very nice person in general, we got along well. She helped me and my partner(s) a lot during university competitions. However, yesterday I wonder if she is the right teacher for me (based on how much I spend on lessons).

    So in Nov 2016, when I told her (and the school) I wanted to do medal competition, they were happy and encouraging, and said there would be a competitioin in Feb/March. (Well, I don't think they need my money that badly because there are always wedding couples.) But since it's close to Christmas, she told me let's start thinking about it after new year because she had already been in holiday mood. Sure thing, I really didn't mind. She even told me let's chill only having 2 lessons a week instead of 3 in Dec, because it's near Christmas.

    Then after New year, I have been having 3 lessons a week since. I always thought the feb/March competition would be the medal competition. I mentioned a couple of times but didn't go into details till yesterday, because well I was just followinig the british rule of being moderate not being too keen lol. Then yesterday I asked in details and she was like oh, she needed to check because they might do tango instead of the silver level (WQF) I'm doing now. So we checked, and actually instead of checking herself she kept asking the other teacher to check it for us.

    In the end we found out that it was a fun competition, they only do tango and jive (and sequence which I loath, sorry lol). I was very disappointed but the other teacher (the school principle) encouraged me to go as it would be a great experience. OK sure, let me think about it (although I knew I wasn't keen on this one). Then my teacher and I went to practise cha cha, and I was like hmmmm should I go then suddenly she bluntly told me she wouldn't go with me giving me some reasons like she's gonna stay there for a whole day and it's a sunday she needs to teach. The latter excuse is quite BS as I checked the real blackpool national qualifier in oct is also on Sunday. To be honest, I was in a bit shock and couldn't concentrate on dancing at all and just completely forgot the routine and she definitely noticed it. She did try to talk to me after the lesson, and it's clear she wanted to pivot the concern.

    I didn't say anything the whole time because I wanted to think about it and evaluate the situation, so I don't end up saying unnecessary things without gaining anything or hurting anyone.

    Now, thinking about it I'm also to be blamed that I didn't check it out myself about the competitions. I now found out that the Feb one is indeed a fun competition, which to be honest I am not keen on going. Then the national qualifer for blackpool is in Oct 2016, and blackpool is always in the next April. I understand I'm responsible for my own shiiit.

    But still, I felt that she was very irresponsible because as my teacher she would be the one dancing with me and it showed me that she didn't really care or at least put some thoughts into it. Then the bluntly saying not going with me was something I considered not nice at all. It showed that she didn't really wanna solve the problem or even discuss it to have a talk with me, given she knew how keen I was into competition in general.

    Now, I must say I don't think she purposely set me up. Not knowing the Feb competition date and dance category, it can be she's not really having students doing competitions and she could be a bit lazy and gave up a bit in herself (hard to describe this but I felt this way). Then the bluntly telling me not going is almost like a move of hiding her head in the sand as she might think this was the quickest and easiest way to put this thing behind us. As I could tell she wasn't confident when she said it.

    I understand this might just be a single incident as shiiit and mis-communication happens in life, and I don't want to over-read into it. But it leads to my evaluation of my lessons in general. (I do understand that it's my own responsibility to help myself to improve, because others can't force you improve. and i do admit sometimes I got lazy myself and just danced to the routine.)

    I now doubt if I am just throwing my money away by taking 3 private lessons a week and only dance with my teacher. During the three lessons, almost all the time we were either learning a routine or practise the routine. When training technique, it's just me going through the routine on my own and if there's obvious mistake (e.g. toe instead of heel) she would point out.

    As a rather beginner, I still don't really know how to train myself yet. We had only a bit technique training back quite a while ago, not at all recently. At this stage, I still have difficulty to train techniques alone as it sometimes creates extra mistakes when I'm not doing it properly. And usually I will have to raise questions myself then she will answer it or show me or correct it. She seems only correct very obvious mistakes (e.g. toe instead of heel, or feet not close together). There's no slight pressure or demand from her side at all. And sometimes I felt she just followed me saything things or saying those things won't put herself into extra effort (I don't have evidence on this thought). Also, as I'm doing medal test with her, she seems always need to ask other teachers the exact routine, and other teachers seem always know.

    And I've seen some ballroom technique workshop videos promoted by other dancing schools, it seems they train techniques quite extensively. OK those guys maybe are aiming for amature or pro, but still I don't have any technique training at all now. And I recall every time (very rare occasions) when the school owners saw me dancing they can always pick me on very basic things, and once one of them danced with me and was a bit surprised even asked me why I danced like this.


    So what do you guys think? You can comment on anything and ask me extra information. And please point out if it's my faults and anything I could've done better or differently including my current lesson plan etc etc. Many thanks!
    carlosyabrudy likes this.
  2. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    Welcome! :)
    A couple of questions:
    1. I assume you have your routines memorized and maybe even on paper. So that means someone else could also danced with you and help you improve the technique, yes?
    2. Are there other teachers in your area that you could try out as well? Remember you are the buyer here.
    3. Have you considered also getting some help from a male teacher? Sometimes it can be good to hear from both sexes.
  3. Dr Dance

    Dr Dance Well-Known Member

    To summarize your view: You are dissatisfied with your (slow) rate of improvement. This begs a few questions:

    1. How do you practice between lessons? Three hours of (focused) practice for every hour of private instruction is good. (I've also heard a 5:1 ratio. But that seems extreme to me.) Do you limit distractions during your practice? How is your paired practice with your partner vs solo practice.

    2. Do you "work out" at least three times during the week doing cardio, muscle resistance, yoga, or other different, but related physical regimens to your dancing? The better physical shape that you are, the easier it will be to learn dance technique.

    3. Do you observe better, proven dancers to gain insight for your own dancing skills? Watching dance shows or competitions is not only entertaining; but, it can be informative as well.

    4. How good are your rest and eating habits? Do you get consistent sleep each night? Are you eating from the basic food groups or indulging too much on sugar, grease, fat, and salt?

    5. How is your spiritual health? Are you satisfied with your place in life? Or are you at odds with your own spiritual well being?

    6. What goals do you set with your instructors? Long and short term goals are necessary to spur satisfactory improvement. Are you demanding the "right amount" from yourself? Or are you asking too much? "Right amounts" can be successfully gleaned from feedback by the people who know you best.

    "Slumps" and "surges" in improvement must be considered to be normal. But if your "slump" becomes too long, then self analysis of the above points must be considered.

    I hope that this was encouraging.
  4. raindance

    raindance Well-Known Member

    I have a few general comments/ideas for you. Keep in mind I am not from the UK, so I am not familiar with the types of different competitions you have available there, or how the studios tend to work over there. These are just some general comments/ideas.

    It sounds like you have a pretty good idea what your goals are for your dancing, at least in the short term. You know in general what sort of events you'd like to enter, and you know you want to work on competing, not necessarily social dancing. So one thing you can do is do some research, on the internet and by talking to other dancers you know or meet, and find out more about the types of competitions you can enter in your area. Find out the dates and locations, what sort of events are offered (pro/am, am/am, fund dances, medal tests, etc), entry fees, etc. If you have time, go and attend some of these events as a spectator to get a better idea of how the events work and whether you want to participate in them.

    It would be nice if your teacher would help you sort out some of these options. From what you've typed, she hasn't been a big help about this so far. But perhaps she would be more helpful if you asked her to help you identify good events to enter, and asked her to make a list of upcoming events that she could/would be available to do with you (assuming you want to dance with her in these events). Ask her for details about what dances you would enter, and other requirements.

    It also sounds like you aren't sure your teacher is a great match for you in terms of working on technique and other things she offers. If so, this may be a good time to ask around and see what other teachers are in your area, and how other students like working with them. You may want to try some lessons with other teachers. How about the teachers that she keeps going to and asking for advice, the ones that seem to know what they are doing? Have you considered some lessons with them??

    If you want to progress, you will need to figure out how to practice outside of lessons, either by yourself, or with a practice partner (another student), or with a competitive partner. It is OK to practice a bit and come back to your next lessons with new questions - that's a great way to learn! It is also normal to accidentally practice the wrong thing and then have to fix it in the next lessons. Don't let that stop you from practicing. Ask your teacher for tips on how you should practice to improve. If she can't offer you tips on how to do that, you may need to find a different teacher who can do that for you. (Some people take from multiple teachers and get different things from different teachers, or it may be time for you to move on and find someone else.)

    Also keep an eye out for group lessons that are appropriate for your level and goals. Groups can be great, awful, or anything in between for a given dancer, so just see what is out there and whether any would be helpful for you.

    Have you considered looking for another student to practice and/or partner with? If you start out as practice partners, you can just see how it goes - minimal money investment into each other, and you may even be able to split the cost of some lessons you do together.

    Are there other dancers your age that have been dancing a bit longer than you, and you admire their dancing? If so, ask them how they got to where they are. What teachers have they worked with, how do they practice, what other tips do they have for you?

    Good luck with everything. You are right to question what value you are getting for your money. It is good for dancers to be aware of their own goals and try to find the best ways to pursue them. Finding the right combination of teacher(s) and practice situations are big parts of the puzzle.
  5. Thank you guys for your input. Really appreciate!

    If possible, can you please share a bit about how you find a partner and how you plan your dance in general?

    I'm a bit confused about my short term goal to be honest. As I'm looking for a job and am very likely to relocate to a new city sooner or later. At the moment, I just felt I'm more dancing to the routine than actually dancing better, which is not acceptable.

    1. Yes I have routines memorized and yes I should start to remember names for each step so I can write them down on paper. Then yes, maybe I should start to looking for a new partner. Actually this is what I did during my university competitions. I asked my partner(s) to dance my routines. A small hinder-side is that I need to teach them, and since we are both just novice level we need some guides. But yeah. If I am able to find a partner now, we should at least share lessons or something. I do have female friends but they are useless dancing-wise lol :p

    2. The school is very close to where I live, less than 5-minutes walking distance. And the school principles are well-known and are judges in many competitions. The school is probably one of the biggest in the city. It's my teacher. As I mentioned I felt she's giving up herself a bit in some aspects. So she's prolly the least competition-wise teacher. So, yeah I will find a way to try other teachers in the school.

    3. This is linked in point 2 above. One of the principles is male. He did give us a lot free advice during our university competition, and yes I could tell he's well better in terms of teaching ability. I will try to ask him.

    1.1. We used to practise a lot during the university competition season. We took 2 lessons a week, almost practised at least an hour a day. Not many students do this, I had to say. Among the 4 partners I had during the university, only 2 can cope with me in term of practice time (that is about 2.5:1 ratio only), and one of these two wasn't prepared to train techniques as I mentioned in the original post.

    1.2. At the moment, I don't practise outside of lessons at all. I only sometimes do basic steps at home, which aren't a lot at all.

    2, 3 and 4. Well I am OK on these, keep them on a decent level only. I realise that you probably set much higher goals than me. Dance is not my 1st hobby but 2nd. It's still nice you mention these things as they are important factors even in day-to-day life.

    5. Yes, I read a bit bible everyday. No, I'm not attached to any church. I might have my own one day :p (No pun intended). The other thing is as I'm looking for a job at the moment, so it's very likely I will relocate to a new city depend on my job. So yes, I am unrest at the moment, like can't really settle to look for a new partner etc etc.

    6. THIS. is the most frustrate part. As I clearly need guide on these things, but as I mentioned earlier my teacher has been like taking a piss. So when I mentioned if we will be focus on something, she would be like yeah yeah sure without a plan so my direction-less suggestion fade away eventually. She gave me the impressive that she's just being a bit lazy and not very proactive and strict enough to set up a plan and help me understand my dancing. It's almost like she set the goal as the medal test which is really follow the flow. As I said, medal test is dancing industry's business model, everyone passes eventually.

    Thank you for your kind words. I will just reply short because otherwise it will make me look like I whine too much lol.

    My teacher hasn't been helpful even I asked her various things. Not much proactive suggestion or plan-making from her. She was just being lazy (I guess) and saying the obvious. The things you mentioned I more or less raised to her at some point. So I guess I will have a last talk with her, and if still not improved (which it's very likely), I will definitely change current lesson plan and try other teachers in the school. I just need to do this skillfully lol otherwise dancing school is a bitching place you know.

    The school I'm in is good though. Many university couples are here to get taught as well. With said, if I have a car, I will definitely look around (but I kept failing driving test zzzzzzz).

    I feel that at my dancing level, it's the hardest to find a partner and go for competition. Worse if you have a bit competitive like me. I know in the school there is another student who is very ambitious but he got mocked at the back (with some other reasons as well e.g. he's quite self-absorbed etc etc so yeah). So basically you aren't good enough to go for any decent level competition (I guess it's called competing in the open circus, other than university circus), and not many people at your level are actually competitive enough and want to practise a lot.

    but Yes, I will definitely try to find a partner.
  6. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    I have repeated this many times and I'll say it again. Rule number one is always to enjoy your dancing. Don't let the competition or the partner or the teacher take away that enjoyment. If you enjoy your dancing, in time things will get better and you will dance better. It could take another month or it could take another year or you may just find you want to keep trying to get better for the rest of your life. But some of these difficulties you have are just things you will look back on and find that they actually made you stronger as you learned how everything worked.
  7. Thanks DanceMentor. I complete agree on what you said. I'm just trying to find a better solution for my current situation :p
  8. UKTenDancer

    UKTenDancer New Member

    All lessons and no practice is a rather expensive way to dance. I would advise to form a partnership with someone

    As a leader it will be much easier to find a partner. In the UK the best web sites for finding a dance partner are

    Can you give us a rough idea of your location in the UK? We might be able to offer some better suggestions.
  9. I'm in the very south, lets say Hampshire area. I really don't wanna say more about my location at least in public.

    I do have an account on, but the reason I am reluctant to find a partner requiring any traveling effort is because 1) I dont have a car and can't drive yet, 2) I rate dancing as my 2nd hobby and enjoying spending times on other things as well and 3) I'm looking for a job atm so might re-locate to a new place soon or later.

    My budget on dancing is 2 hours private lessons per week, if there's a competition can add up to 3 hours. The reason I'm doing 3 hours a week atm really is because I don't have a partner so this (expensive) way I can at least get a bit practice.

    I'm 175cm tall, normal build. I'm 33, but at university I dance with 19-21 year old girls, no problem lol. I don't mind dancing with older ladies either, I actually do in the dancing school when they do fun evening class other dances like swing jive etc etc.

    Thanks UKTenDancer, hope you didn't register just for me :p
  10. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    Let me share my approach to and viewpoint of dancing. Firstly, I am not a fan of routines, particularly if that's all you have. In that case, you can only dance with a partner who knows the same routine as there will be severe deficits in the lead/follow connection/communication.

    I do a lot of social dancing with a variety of random partners. "Random" in the sense that they are women who have independently decided to go dancing, and women with a range of dance skills from complete beginner to way better than me. That only works if I have sufficient technique to give the lady a natural lead and she has at least rudimentary following skills to recognize and cooperate with my lead. Most ladies even fresh off the street have some of that, at least enough to do a basic box.

    I agree with the comments that practice is needed in addition to lessons. A misconception is that one can't practice without a partner. I disagree. I think that for part of practice, having a partner involved is counter productive. Dancing requires putting the body into strange but not uncomfortable but still strange positions. If you're in frame with another human being, it's difficult to focus on your own posture and other factors while interacting with another human. In solo practice, you can move at your own pace watching yourself in the mirror to see if you're doing it correctly.

    To learn how to lead, you need to learn how to control your own body internally first. That takes time and practice.

    I suggest that you find a teacher who will work with you on technique. Take one hour of lesson per week and spend two hours on solo practice. That two hours can be broken into short sessions at opportunistic times, maybe even waiting in a queue somewhere.

    But you will also need to spend some time practicing with a partner. I don't have a regular partner so I crowd-source my practice partners at socials focusing on the lead/follow aspects. I abhor people who do routines on crowded social floors. Learn how to judge a lady's skills and not outdance her. Learn how to fit figures together to navigate the floor among other couples without collisions.
  11. UKTenDancer

    UKTenDancer New Member

    Not all dance schools cater for all dancers. There is quite a wide variation in what people want from their dancing. Perhaps your dance school isn't able to cater for your specific needs. If a dance teacher does not regularly take a number of students to medallist competitions then I can understand that a teacher would not be willing to attend with just one student. Dance is their livelihood so it is understandable that they would go with a full days teaching over a day of competition. They might want to go to a competition but with just one student it might not be worth it.

    You also seem to be a point where major life changes could take place i.e. change of location so perhaps forming a new partnership isn't the right answer at this point and you should wait until you are more settled.

    It would be helpful if you were able to meet other dancers outside of your studio with knowledge of other dance schools. Of course it is hard to meet other dancers if you are not going to things outside your studio. Reaching out to fellow dancers on dance forums is the right thing to do.

    I would also add that it is good to not focus too much on results at competitions. Don't get disheartened from poor results. Use it to make you stronger and come back with the desire to work harder.

    Do focus on trying to enjoy every minute of lesson and practice. Dancing is supposed to be fun!
  12. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    Couple things:

    ANY practice is better than no practice - with or without a partner - unless you're practicing things incorrectly.

    IME, ppl who have tried to find partners online have failed. Partners have been successfully found through some form of face-to-face interaction or word of mouth. YEMV.
  13. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    Just as an aside I did not realize there were a lot of teachers doing Pro am now in the UK. Is this getting to be a pretty common practice or maybe it always has been and I did not know this? I was thinking in the past that you mostly had a mature and professional but no in-between.
  14. UKTenDancer

    UKTenDancer New Member

    I still do not think that there are a lot of teachers doing Pro Am in the UK. I get the impression it is more popular in the US. With the UK being a lot more compact it is easier to find a partner which I think is a factor. It seems to me that Pro Am is becoming a little more popular in the UK than it has been.

    In the UK, Medallist competitions are reasonably popular and would share a lot of the features of a Pro Am competition.
  15. UKTenDancer

    UKTenDancer New Member

    That might be the case where you come from but here in the UK it is very worthwhile looking online. I would say it is about as successful as face to face and word of mouth. To stand the best chance you need to advertise online on more than one website, look at the adverts of others, be aware of the various partner search groups on facebook, contact local teachers and network with other dancers. It can still take months to find a partner.
  16. This is so true! I had good and bad competitions in uni circuit, and now I'm here. I guess it's definitely the fun part kept me going :)
  17. Thanks, this is the thing I found out when I brought my staged studio salsa into a social dancing environment. Within less 30 seconds, I realised I needed to work on my lead!
    RiseNFall likes this.
  18. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    I know the feeling. To know the footwork and basic framework to a step is just the beginning. I wonder if you did work on your lead and then got better at using these steps in more situations.
  19. I was told the normal club salsa dancing is more vibe than flash routine. Someone told me he had only a few moves and he was doing fine.

    You see, I'm more focused on ballroom and latin now. So only doing salsa medal test atm so it's all staged. And the other reason I hadn't gone to salsa bar often is because in the uni society there was this girl quite eager (on me) which scared me a bit lol so to avoid her (I know she would be there every time) I hadn't gone at all. lol I know, lame story zzzzzz small city, only one good salsa bar.

    In terms of my lead, I need firmer lead in ballroom & latin as well. So yes, my lead in general speaking can be firmer and more decided iykwim. :p
  20. Kitten22

    Kitten22 New Member

    Hi there,

    Hopefully I can offer some advise, as I am UK based and have danced on the uk university circuit from 2009 (still competing as ex-student) and the open circuit for a long time too.

    I feel that there are two competitive routes that people go down - medalist (where you dance at levels such as bronze silver etc with your teacher or other random dancers) or open (where you can dance with one partner in multiple levels so from beginner through novice, intermediate, pre-am and amateur (think of pre-am and amateur as advanced from the uni circuit, loosely any way). My experience is that people do one or the other, I'm not really sure why.

    There open comps are usually advertised on dpa dot com. They're pretty much weekly on a Sunday around the country - we compete usually twice a month. You can enter a number of levels snd see what dances will be required for them way in advance. But you should have all your dances equally ready to go at all times!

    Partner wise - try advertising yourself on fb - there's a uk university dance sport page where lots of uni and ex uni dancers are looking for partners. I wouldn't worry about only being novice, there are plenty of young people our age who are novice and are looking for the right partner to progress into inter and beyond with. Or consider a beginner who is really keen. My partner was a beginner (also my boyfriend so had vested interest haha) but now we're progressing together very well.

    Teacher wise, sounds like you would benefit from Trying out a few alternatives. Best way to do this is to find out local people's reputations - ask the good dancers you know from the uni circuit to find appropriate teachers, follow some of the top uk couples on fb - when they win they often thank their teachers, thereby giving you more names to check out.

    With regards to lessons, you need to find a ratio that works best for you. My partner and I have at least 2 hours private a week - an hour ballroom, and hour Latin, and practise at least 12 hours a week - that's the clincher - practice makes progress. Use your uni connections - practice at their practises, their gyms etc - we tag on to a local uni's practices even though we went to a different university. Training wise stamina is as important as technique. Spend time watching videos, record your lessons on particular tricky bits, practise in a mirror, write any questions down you have to ask your teacher at your next lesson. I would suggest though given your obvious desire to progress and learn, you should look into a More accomplished and competitive school.c

    Feel free to message me if you want any more info advice.

    Hope this helps


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