Swing Discussion Boards > Preventing Beginning Dancers from Getting Intimidated

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by DanceMentor, Oct 2, 2003.

  1. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    I've noticed at some venues here in Atlanta that there are not as many beginning dancers as there used to be. You look out on the dance floor and people are doing 8 count patterns.

    When swing got really big a few years ago, everybody learned, "step, step, rock step". There seems to have been an evolution that took place where people improved their dancing, and now most people you see out dancing have been dancing for 3 or more years, and they are most interested in advanced moves. I get the impreesion that beginners are intimidated.

    What are some things we can do to promote an environment of growth in the swing community, especially at dances, to help new people become part of the Swing community?
  2. SwinginBoo

    SwinginBoo New Member

    Here in CT when there is a swing dance, there is usually a lesson given beforehand. I think that it would help encourage beginning dancers if experienced dancers took the lesson as well and helped them out as they practiced. I don't think this has to be done every time, but once in a while it would be nice. And if everyone was doing it, then the burden wouldn't be laid upon the same people to teach the beginners all the time. Also, when you know someone is just starting out, asking them to dance would help a lot. It's all these little things that give people just starting out confidence, and with confidence and a little fun they will return. :D
  3. tango

    tango New Member

    Keeping Expectations Low

    I think most beginners should be told to work on the basics and not expect to great just yet, especially new couples. People have then enthusiasm to do the dance but the skills are lacking early on and most guy are poor leads when they first start. Which results in an unhappy parter becasue the dance seems so basic and boring.

    For example, after about a month of dance lessons we went to our first dance studio party and it did not go well at all. As soon as the music started my girlfriend tensed up and I stepped on her feet the first three steps! She wasn't used to having a large crowd on the floor because we had only danced with instructors and maybe 4 other couples at a time. Anyway, about 30 minutes in she was ready to quit and leave. She expected that we'd pull off a bunch of moves, be smooth and look great, well it didn't work out that way and her expectations were way to high. I on the otherhand would have been happy to just do the basic steps and avoid bumping into everybody. My focus was more on trying to be a good lead instead of a flashy one, but my girlfriend wanted to be showy. After the party she broke down in tears in the car and I just talked her through it, but she did want to quit. I convinced her not too.

    Now we look back at that and laugh. We have a swing routine coming up next week and we've had some great practice runs and she's got all the confidence in the world. It's amazing what time, a few extra lessons and some practice will do.

    So just to summerize, tell people to just have fun and do the basic steps, (good old KIS rules apply) then next week maybe try a new move and build it slowly until the confidence is there.
  4. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Especially in the WCS . . . because the leader and follower can be doing different body movements and footwork.

    A brand new begginer leader and a brand new beginning follower can easily be intimidated to the point of frustration and subsequent quitting.

    I found it easy when I put them both in a slot . . . leads left arm/hand is extended . . . then the follower extends her right arm/hand out . . . now the two lightly hold hands at the fingertips . . . now I tell them to count to 6 outloud with . . . on the next count 1, the leader steps back on his L foot and the follower steps forward on her R foot. I then tell the lead to bring her by his R side while both of them to exchange places by "walking out" the next 5 counts. Not easy the very first time, but it happens!

    You'd be suprised at about the 5th time they try it . . . most will even get to advanced steps (french crosses) . . . naturally . . . just getting there in 6 counts!

    It's not my idea though. I learned this a long time ago by someone or something that I read. I now use it to teach. It works!
  5. danceguy

    danceguy New Member

    Beginner jitters (not necessarily jitterbug)


    There is only so long one can be a lurker until a really interesting post grabs your attention. I must say this is one of the best run and friendly forums I've ever seen (I'm quite forum-shy from some bad experiences), so a big thank you to whomever created it. :)

    The post about encouraging beginner dancers really caught my eye as it described me perfectly...a beginner! I avoided dances my entire life (I'm a year shy of 30), used to be a sax player and had the music in my blood, but to get me on the dance floor was like trying to catch a wild bull with your bare hands.

    About 4 months ago I decided to finally take some dance lessons, and let me be honest by saying I tried everything in the book to talk myself out of it. Tried to get sick, wanted to run out of the building etc etc, but after 10 minutes in my first class...suddenly I was having the time of my life and I haven't looked back since.

    But, I also have had several experiences that have made me want to turn tail and run several times...and it usually tends to be from the last thing people may suspect...assistant dance instructors!

    As a beginner lead there is so much to think about...and one harsh comment from a person (especially someone who is really advanced) can literally ruin your whole day....not to mention your joy of dance. Comments and suggestions are welcome, and I don't like things to be sugar-coated...but a little kindness certainly goes a long way!

    I'll site an example for everyone. One day I'm in dance class, and everyone save myself has been dancing for years. For a male (and a shy one at that), one of the biggest fears to get over is being up close to a lady that you've just met. So, while we're working on some moves where you have to place your hand on the ladies hip to guide her, I found myself recoiling from doing the move correctly. My timing was there, I could feel the music...what was wrong? Simple...I was worried of accidenly placing my hand somewhere inappropriate (the kind of stuff that gets a guy slapped)..and for a gentleman this is our worst nightmare!

    So, as I continue to hesitate going into the move...the lady (who is an assistant instructor) continues to harp at me about what I'm doing wrong. I place my hand up a little high and she says somewhat rudely "my hip is lower, move your hand!"

    At this point in time...I had to fight back the urge to go storming out the room, and I had dearly wished for a banana creme pie that I could have used to plant into her pretty face. Eventually as I got to know her a bit more, I realized she does this to everyone...and she is probably quite unaware that she tends to rub people the wrong way.

    To sum it up...for us beginner folks, please please if you are much more experienced, especially for teachers and assistants, BE CAREFUL of how you talk to someone who is new at dancing! It takes a lot of courage to get on the dance floor for the first time, and while encouragement to improve our dancing is good, being too harsh, rude and unkind is so very hurtful to us!

    Some of us have waited many years to get on that dance floor, we may not be very good, we may step on your toes (and always say we're sorry), but WE LOVE TO DANCE! :)

    Warm regards to all,

  6. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Hi, scorpionguy! Welcome to the forums. :D

    I wish I had been logged in when you posted, so we could have had a nice little conversation. :cry:

    Yes, this forum IS a very friendly place, and I'm glad you're finally a part of it, after lots of lurking. :D 8)

    I know what you mean about the criticism thing. It's tough enough trying something new, without having people pick on you -- assistant instructors, instructors, and a lot of times, partners or spouses are the worst offenders. :shock: Seems to me that a new person should get extra credit just for overcoming the fear and being there in the first place.

    Congratulations on getting this far! :D I'm sure you have a long and illustrious dance career ahead of you. :D

    By the way, does scorpionguy mean you're a scorpio? If so, happy birthday, a month in advance! :D

    Welcome to the forums! Hope to see you again soon. :D

  7. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Hi scorpianguy,

    Remember a couple of things . . .

    You cannot control how others act, so once you get beyond the footwork, you have it licked! :wink: If you look good, smell good, and your breath is good, there should be nothing to worry about.

    Placing your hand on hip is OK. Remember, this is a dance. You are not having "sex on the floor" . . . . . . . . not yet! If I had a nickel for everytime I inappropriately grabbed the Pro that I compete with, I could go buy that new car I'm looking at. She thinks nothing of it, nor do I.

    Maybe that assistant was making the point so as to make sure you remember to do it correctly. Have you placed your hand on her hip everytime since? I bet you have!

    As you learn, so to will your confidence grow. Grow with it!
  8. brujo

    brujo New Member

    I simply don't think you can.

    I been dancing salsa for a couple of years, so I have always been very comfortable adapting to a new scene and learning new styles. But I started taking Lindy Hop lessons and went to my first club after 5 lessons. I was intimidated out of my sneakers. Even though the scene is friendly, just the fear of making a fool out of myself dominated my nerves.

    A thing that is done in one of the clubs after the lessons here is to run a salsa train, where people line up men on one side and women on the other, and you dance together in the middle down the line. While it can be really scary, it puts you to dance with random people and at least you get the whole 'I can dance' vibe down.
  9. danceguy

    danceguy New Member

    Warm fuzzies

    Hello again,

    Thank you for the replies and welcomes everyone...this IS a nice place as I had suspected. :)

    Pygmalion (Jenn) - No worries, I'll be dropping by now and then, it would be nice to talk with others who are into dancing. And yes, I am a Scorpio...thank you for the birthday wishes (its in a few weeks)...but the name mainly denotes that I use to have pet scorpions...umm...I'll understand completely if no one wishes to know more about that. By the by, what does your nick mean? :)

    Vince - Well, I've learned something about that particular person...I tend to be uncomfortable dancing with her in general. You mentioned doing the move correctly, as I recall I just stopped doing it, and I tend to avoid dancing with her when I can do so polietly.

    For me its a case of the willy-nillies, you know how some people just make your skin crawl and you don't know why? That's what happens with me and this lady...neither good nor bad, it just is.

    I've realized that's where most of my fears come from...from someone who just makes you feel uncomfortable. But the opposite makes up for it, like when you meet someone new at a dance, and as soon as your hands touch, you know there's a good balance between the two of you. You may have never seen them before (and may never see them again, the romantic in me, heh), but when you start to dance, it's like you've known them your entire life! That's actually happened to me several times...which of course is why dancing is so much fun!

    When dancing with other people like this, or just the ones that smile and give you warm fuzzies, even with a stranger I'm totally comfortable doing a sweetheart, caress or other move where there is more close up contact. If the person makes you relax and feel good, then that's great. If not, well then thank God most songs are only 3-5 minutes! :)

    As I continue to dance, the shyness and fears are melting away little by little. Most of the beginners in my school never go to the dances, but I go and branch out and check out other dances in my area. Heck, I even got up on the floor at a live Salsa show after only a few weeks of lessons...so for now I'll keep on dancing...and learn from all the experiences, good and bad! :)


  10. dancergal

    dancergal New Member

    When I was a beginner at WCS, it was the most frustrating time of my life! I wanted to dance because of the music, but I could only do the basics and probably not very well. I didn't want to dance with anyone except my boyfriend because like many people, I didn't want to look stupid and I didn't want to ruin the dance for the leader. On the rare occasion I was asked to dance, I told everyone I was a beginner dancer. Some leaders were very sweet and try to put me at ease. Others were not so nice and looked bored dancing with me, or told me what I was doing wrong. To make it worse, all the women kept rushing up to my b/f after every song so he was busy dancing all the time. Really, after my first dance convention, I broke down in tears. I think if I were a newbie on my own, I might have given up. My b/f wouldn't let me and kept at me to keep going to all the dances and try to dance with others, not just him. For a shy person like me, it was very hard to do. In fact, I'm still not that comfortable asking guys to dance (the ones I don't know) but at least I will do it now.
  11. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Wow, dancergal. That's a good account. I'm not shy at all, and I have no shame, so it was pretty easy for me to get started. But shy people at least look like they're having such a rough time. Doing something foreign to them, in front of strangers. A lot of them give up. I'm glad you didn't. :D
  12. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Re: Warm fuzzies

    Hey scorpionguy!

    I'm glad you'll be back with us from time to time. :D Scorpions for pets? Ewww! :shock: I guess you can tell your pet stories, if you just have to. :lol:

    My nick is under the login names thread, or something like that. :?

    Check it out, man. You have a great attitude! :D Yes, some people do just rub you the wrong way, and it's important to distinguish that bad feeling from not liking dancing (which you seem to have done :D ).

    Also, your habit of going out to dances is about the best thing you can do for yourself, to help you improve quickly. You'd be surprised how quickly you're going to feel great. That "beginner" feeling evaporates so quickly. :D
  13. dancergal

    dancergal New Member

    Jenn, you remind me of my friend I know that started WCS a little after me. He had a hard time picking it up, but he had such a great attitude! He didn't care if he was a beginner, he had so much fun learning that he asked everyone to dance. Women told him "no" (some not so nice) so many times, he had a standing joke about it. He still is not a great dancer, but he's improved very much and finally some women are even asking him to dance, not because he's a great dancer, but because he has such a great attitude and he's fun. He laughs if he makes a mistake, and he acts like you done him the biggest favor by dancing with him. He'll ask the pros and really good dancers to dance all the time. How's that for a great attitude?
  14. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    That is a fantastic attitude. You know, from time to time, being totally shameless does come in handy. :lol: To me, it's just a dance, so why make a federal case out of it? It's fun, first and foremost, so if I mess up, just laugh it off and keep dancing. That keeps it fun, and a whole lot less intimidating. :D
  15. Sarah

    Sarah New Member

    Re: Beginner jitters (not necessarily jitterbug)

    Hi Scorpioguy, nice to meet you. Sarah, senior student and occasional assistant instructor at your service. :)

    I'm not trying to excuse the behavior of someone I don't even know - just give the other perspective and maybe come to an understanding. I don't consider myself to be really advanced - hey I know where all my mistakes are - but I have been told that to a beginner what I am capable of looks pretty impressive.
    What this leads to is the beginner attaching far more importance to what I say than I ever meant it to have. With my tendency towards sarcasam I have to be really careful with what I say. Really really careful.

    Just an aside - I, and I think most ladies, can tell the difference between a grope and an accident.;) Don't worry about it too much.

    Harping is such an ineffective teaching method......
    Note to self - no banana creme pies allowed anywhere near where I am teaching lest the temptation be too much for my students. :D
    I try. Sometimes I get it wrong. A few guidelines I've come to use are

    • In class - only make one suggestion for improvement per song. Realise that it is a suggestion and the student doesn't have to take you up on it if they don't want to.
      Preface suggestions with something gentle and undemanding - `You could try x', `I would like it if you would change this', `I think that x might make things easier for you'. These words are free and they seem to make a difference.
      Sometimes a technical approach is entirely appropriate - engineers paticularly respond well to an explanation that I physically can't change my momentum instantaneously and need a bit of sproingyness to their arms in order to facilitate this. It also gives some idea of why you want them to do something in a paticular way.
      Outside class - don't make any suggestions unless they're specifically asked for. If its an issue that can't be dealt with really quickly suggest a practice after class.

    Another situation I sometimes run into is students getting cranky because they can't get me to do some move they've just seen me do with someone else. Now with the best will in the world there's no way I can pull off even a reasonable facsimile of the desired move with a over strong lead taking me off balance in the wrong direction one and a half beats too late[1].....and the student thinks I'm deliberately trying to make them look bad! :( What can ya do?
    What I do is restrain myself from saying anything like `Its not me, its you!' and call the primary instructor over and say something which doesn't assign any fault to either partner like `We're having trouble with this move, can you help.' With any luck, the instructor will home in on the problem with few hurt feelings on either side.
    Just some stuff I've picked up along the way - I'd appreaciate any
    comments, thoughts, tips from both teachers and students.


    [1] OK, so maybe I'm exaggerating a little.
  16. dancergal

    dancergal New Member

    Sarah, I agree with a lot of your ideas and I use some of them. I try not to correct the beginner leader unless he looks like he wants a suggestion, maybe when he cannot pull off a move and he's frustrated, or if he asks me for help. I try to show him what he's doing wrong by saying, "try it this way," instead of "that's wrong." Sometimes I'm not sure what the leaders' footwork is and I suggest asking the instuctor to help on occasion if we can't figure it out. Sometimes I can do a little back leading if I need to, but I hesitate to do that unless absolutely necessary (to keep my balance or save my arm from being wrenched out of it's socket). :lol: I always smile and try to make the dance pleasant. I always thank them for the dance, but many times they are thanking me and telling me that was their best dance ever. That always makes my day. :) I try to ask the beginners to dance if I see them looking like they want to dance but are afraid of asking anyone. I know that feeling well.
  17. danceguy

    danceguy New Member

    breaking the beginner blues -

    Hello again,

    Yikes, so little time to post and so many people to answer!

    Jenn - Long story of the scorpions...I'll save that for a rainy day. But the kind I had actually used to dance...I forget the term...it was a french phrase, something like "Promenade a Deux"...basically a very elaborate mating ritual thing that they would do for HOURS...locked claw to claw, not unlike partner dances...well sort of like a bug's version of Rumba. *Ahem*, ok enough on that. :)

    I'm doing my best to learn how to improve my dancing skill...and learning both ballroom and latin at the same time is giving me a heck of a lot to study. I made a point of going to a class where I knew no one, without any friends and such so I would be forced to meet new people. Sometimes I go to a dance and I'm just not feeling it...and after the lesson is over I may just leave...but I think we all have days like that.

    Funny...a friend asked me what I was doing this week, and I replied "Tuesday night dance class, same for Wednesday and Thursday. Friday is a dance...ain't missing that...so how about next week?" :)

    Dancergal - Thank you for your post! I didn't have a significant other when I started dancing (wait, I still don't, heh)...but I actually was courting a lady who was into Salsa dancing...and I thought I'd surprise her by learning what she knew. After things went sour with her part of me wanted to give up...like going to my first dance and seeing all the people from my Latin class go into Swing mode...ack I was so intimidated! But I just kept saying "I'm going to do what they're doing, and I'm going to be just as good or better than they are!" My mother never raised a quitter. :)

    Sarah - Some of the assistants in my school are such sweethearts...they go out of their way to help me when I'm having trouble, drag me onto the floor at the dances...those are the ones that make the class worth returning to. Some people just aren't cut out to be teachers...it takes a very special and patient soul with a lot of heart, and it's not for everyone! We need more people like you out there!

    Hmm...I noticed that your profile says that you are from New Zealand...this may be way off topic...but I'm dying to try this type of candy I've heard of from there...they are called "Pollywaffles". Have you heard of them?

    My...its getting late here...time for some basics then to bed. Thank you again to everyone! This is a great forum! :)


  18. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Re: breaking the beginner blues -

    Hey Scorpionguy...let me add my voice to those glad to have you joining the DF family! :D

    I'm not sure how long you've been reading the forums but this is also almost exactly how I got started with dancing as well. In my case the woman in question is still one of my best friends, but I definately felt like giving it up when the fit hit the shan between us... funny how life works, isn't it?
  19. SwinginBoo

    SwinginBoo New Member

    Wow, this is almost a mirror image of how I felt when I first started dancing. Like you, my b/f had already been dancing for years and knew EVERYONE. I was like this shy wallflower who didn't know anyone, and what's worse no one knew me. So it was really a hard time for me. It's been about a year now and I'm getting to know people. I actually went to a dance alone this weekend and asked as many people as I could to dance. It was probably the best experience for me.
  20. Sarah

    Sarah New Member

    Re: breaking the beginner blues -

    Imagine teaching beginner scorpion couples - sixteen left feet!
    Sorry, no I havn't. A quick Google suggests that they're an Australian rather than a New Zealand thing. (And no, there isn't a bridge ;) )


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