How Can I Get More Out Of My Group Classes?

SDsalsaguy

Administrator
Staff member
#1
Taken, with permission, from Terryl's Corner - Advice and tips for dancers

How Can I Get More Out Of My Group Classes?
By Terryl Jones

1 ) Have an open mind.
Many times we walk into a class feeling we already have most of what is being taught, but that we just need one thing ( a new step, syncopation, body move, timing etc etc). When this happens we tend to only hear what we want to hear, not necessarily what is being taught. Many teachers use patterns as a means to teach a skill, that skill would be the primary thing to learn in that class, not the pattern.

2 ) Be in the right level.
Having been a competitor, a teacher and a student for nearly 20 years, I can still say that I can still learn from another teachers beginning class. For example, just because you know the skill that is being taught doesn't mean that you know everything about that skill or that you can't improve the way you use it or that you can't learn another way of doing it for different dancing circumstances. Also, different schools have different numbering systems. (School A's level 4 may be equal to School B's level 2) When in doubt take the more basic class. The key here is: Upper level classes for quantity, beginning classes for quality.

3 ) Be on time.
If you are in class from the beginning you'll obviously have a better understanding than if you come in the middle of an explanation. Besides it's not fair to the teacher or the rest of the class to have to keep repeating things for the latecomers.

4 ) During the class practice time, practice the pattern that is being taught.
During class practice time, the teacher is watching. We want to see if most of the people are getting what we are teaching, if we need to teach another facet of the material, or if the majority is ready to build on what we have done so far. While you may feel "oh, I've got it" in watching you the teacher may see that you missed an certain point (see #1).

5 ) Encourage your partners.
On occasion we have a newer dancer tell us that one of the intermediates gets frustrated with the beginners. While you are working on your dancing, be aware of what emotion that you may be projecting, beginning dancers tend to take it more personal. If you are frustrated with yourself, they may think it is them that you are frustrated with. Let's face it, having lots of partners to dance with can be a lot of fun, especially come party-time. The more comfortable people are, the more often they will come. Everybody has fun. The key here: Remember your roots.

6 ) Come as often as possible.
Group teachers in schools (as opposed to nightclubs) usually progress each class in a series. In a school we can assume that you'll come regularly, so we can teach things knowing we have next week and the week after to build, improve and flesh out what we're starting this week. This ties into #7.

7 ) Take privates.
The group classes are a great place to learn patterns, but if you want to really understand and polish your dancing, privates are an important part of your class schedule. To be honest, some things really cannot be taught in group classes, so some "secrets" can only be fully taught in private lessons because we can get you to "feel" it. This ties to #8.

8 ) Get as much practice as possible.
Get to know your classmates (see #5). They are built in practice partners. Come early to class, stay after class, come to parties, go to clubs....practice as often as possible. The formula I was one told by a coach: there should be 5 hours of practice between each class. While you may not be able to to that much, obviously the more better.

9 ) Have proper tools.
Shoes. You don't have to have dance shoes, but let's put it this way: at least with dance shoes you are eliminating one potential roadblock to your learning. Properly taken care of, a good pair of shoes will last a long time. It's like putting good tires on your car. If you are investing in your dancing, invest in shoes. If you choose not to have dance shoes at least get shoes with thin flexible soles and ladies pick shoes that stay on your feet without flapping around. Clothing should be cool and comfortable. Please avoid tennis shoes and character or tap shoes.

10 ) Have fun.
Remember that this is a social activity (see #5 and #8 ). Remember WHY you walked into your first class. For most people it was to be able to either go out and have fun or the class itself would be fun or both. Also the process of learning guarantees mistakes will happen, if you can laugh about it you really will learn faster than the person stressing over the mistake. Enjoy the learning process.
 

msc

New Member
#2
Well, first of all, any group classes I take are at a fairly high level, so using that as a caveat ...

Group classes actually work to strengthen me, since frequently the follow doesn't have the correct posture, body strength, body action, etc., and ends up holding on to me for dear life. That makes it awfully hard for me to hold my frame, keep strong poise, and use the right body action to make it through the pattern ... but it also makes me stronger. Many times towards the end of a class I'll have sweat beading on my forehead, and one of the less capable follows will comment that I must be out of shape, since the pattern is so easy. LOL. Kinda warped, I know.

It has to be said this is more true in standard/smooth classes. In a Latin or Salsa class, the pattern don't travel as much, and the connection is usually loose, so your movement is more independent. Here you can work on your techniques independently.
 

pygmalion

Well-Known Member
#4
I have been studying ballroom dance only two years, but found pretty early on that very basic level group classes are a great place to practice technique and/or styling , if I plan ahead.

Before I attend class, I'll pick something I need to work on -- Cuban motion, head styling, whatever, and mentally focus on that during the entire group class. Basic classes are great for this because I don't have to think about the footwork.

I also agree with #7 in the original post from Terryl's Corner. Group classes are no substitute for good quality private instruction. I think the two complement each other. Group classes are a great place to practice what I've learned in private lessons, with a variety of partners who have different styles and different levels of experience.
 
#5
I have been studying ballroom dance only two years, but found pretty early on that very basic level group classes are a great place to practice technique and/or styling , if I plan ahead.
Along similar lines, there is an old Zen saying, "to teach is to learn twice." This has always stuck with me through all the basic classes that I've taught. It's easy to think, "OK, I've taught these stupid moves 1000 times. BORING!" But I've found there is always some element to even the most basic patterns that I can improve upon. Often I can work on my own technique as I teach a basic class.
 
#6
Hi, I am a brand new member, so sorry if this is the wrong forum for this question.

I have always wanted to learn to dance Ballroom and Latin and yesterday I went to my first group lesson, YAY! At the end of the 1-hour session I was on a complete "high" and had absolutely loved every single minute of it. However, they only have one beginners class per week, and all the private lessons are on week-days, during the day when I am at work. I would like to practice more at home, but I am not sure if I am "remembering" the right moves, and I don't want to practice the "wrong moves".

I have looked at a lot of stuff on "You Tube" (I can hear you groaning), and there seems to be a lot of conflicting online lessons on there. For example, I looked up Rumba and found that the first 3 videos I watched seemed to show different steps than what I was taught in my class. Eventually I discovered that there is more than one version of the Rumba and I had been taught the International Rumba, whereas those first three videos on You Tube were of the American Rumba.

How can I practice in between classes and know i am doing the right moves?
A whole week seems such a long time away and I am desperate to practice what I have learnt.
My dance teachers are IDTA qualified. Does the IDTA have a more specific list of the dances that they adhere to, or should I just ask my teachers?

Best Regards
Chris
 

pygmalion

Well-Known Member
#7
Hi Chris! Welcome. :)

Your post sounds so excited about dance. That is awesome!

Your question is in (what is probably) one of our least active forums, so I hope folks will find it and respond. *sigh*


What I would say at this point is please be careful with youtube, since you are new to the game. It's quite likely that you will find videos that are confusing or hurtful to you, long-term. I wouldn't necessarily look for things to practice, but it certainly can't hurt to watch. Try using search terms like "international rumba."

When you get to class next week, ask the teacher what to practice. I bet he/she will be pleasantly surprised ... and will give you homework. :)

Again. Welcome.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#8
Hello, Chris.
I always make notes after class. That way I can refer to them ad infinitum. Or until I can't remember where they are, which usually comes first. Focus on the main items that were covered in that class.
Ask your instructors if they can recommend any videos. There might be a dvd that they are selling, or fits with what they are teaching. There IS good stuff on the internet if you look hard enough (sometimes).
Welcome to DF.
 

fascination

Site Moderator
Staff member
#8
chris...welcome...hopefully you are not at a studio that is hostile to your taking groups wherever you like...I would encourage you to look around...see if you can find a studio that teaches privates on a saturday or in the late hours of the week day...see if there are beginner classes elsewhere as well...as for practice, you can never know if you are getting it all right...if you take an occasional private, an instructor can tweak things that need work....

I have been dancing 8 years...I take privates at one studio a long way away from my home...and I take advanced group lessons at two other studios as my schedule allows....I practice alone 2-8 hours a week depending upon the week
 

fascination

Site Moderator
Staff member
#9
Hi Chris! Welcome. :)

Your post sounds so excited about dance. That is awesome!

Your question is in (what is probably) one of our least active forums, so I hope folks will find it and respond. *sigh*


What I would say at this point is please be careful with youtube, since you are new to the game. It's quite likely that you will find videos that are confusing or hurtful to you, long-term. I wouldn't necessarily look for things to practice, but it certainly can't hurt to watch. Try using search terms like "international rumba."

When you get to class next week, ask the teacher what to practice. I bet he/she will be pleasantly surprised ... and will give you homework. :)

Again. Welcome.
with regard to asking the teacher what to practice...if it is a group instructor, you actually need to be careful there to do it only after the lesson and to make sure you aren't taking too much of their time as they may only have that 10 minutes between their next lesson (potty breaks etc are neccessary)...it is difficult to get that sort of personal attention on a group...just understand that
 

pygmalion

Well-Known Member
#11
with regard to asking the teacher what to practice...if it is a group instructor, you actually need to be careful there to do it only after the lesson and to make sure you aren't taking too much of their time as they may only have that 10 minutes between their next lesson (potty breaks etc are neccessary)...it is difficult to get that sort of personal attention on a group...just understand that
Actually, I was thinking more in terms of asking the teacher to point out practice goals in the minute or two of confusion before class starts and/or when she/he stops and says, "Any questions?"

Both of these have worked for me. But you're right. Group classes are not private lessons, so you have to keep a balance that respects both the teacher's and the other students' time.

"I have a question. How do we practice this at home?"

Two seconds to ask and it doesn't waste anybody's time or ask for unfair personal attention.
 
#13
Wow, I have got a lot of great replies really quickly, thanks everyone!
If this is a quiet Forum, I shall expect a ton of replies on a busier one.

Seriously though, thanks for all the advice. Even as I type this reply, more are coming in.

I didn't have time to make notes during my first class, but I suppose I could make a few sat in my car after the lesson. The beginners class is from 8:30-9:30pm, so I don't think that there was anything more after our class, but I am aware that my teachers have had a long day and have a home to go to.

I have had a quick look at DanceVision.com (thanks fascination), and ballroomdancers.com (thanks Derek) but how do I know which is the correct version of the dance? Are certain dances approved by the IDTA?
I assume that if my teacher has IDTA qualifications, that she must teach to their syllabus so that if a student progresses, they can eventually go for medals etc

As a rule of thumb, if the dance says "International" in the title, does it mean that it will be an IDTA style dance?

Many Thanks to everyone
 

Mr 4 styles

Well-Known Member
#14
I assume that if my teacher has IDTA qualifications, that she must teach to their syllabus so that if a student progresses, they can eventually go for medals etc
maybe maybe not you should ask what syllabus your teacher is working from
 

fascination

Site Moderator
Staff member
#15
Actually, I was thinking more in terms of asking the teacher to point out practice goals in the minute or two of confusion before class starts and/or when she/he stops and says, "Any questions?"

Both of these have worked for me. But you're right. Group classes are not private lessons, so you have to keep a balance that respects both the teacher's and the other students' time.

"I have a question. How do we practice this at home?"

Two seconds to ask and it doesn't waste anybody's time or ask for unfair personal attention.
it's a risky proposition...before a lesson, particularly if they aren't also your private teacher, how on earth would they know....during the lesson when people are wanting to practice and have a different focus, it isn't necessarily going to be appreciated....has to be done deftly
 

pygmalion

Well-Known Member
#16
Deft is my middle name. *grin*

Just kidding. And sharing what has worked for me. It also depends on who else is in the class, as you note. If the class is full of people who are just there to move around and get exercise an hour a week, then questions about practice might not go over well.But if, like some classes I've attended, people are fired up about dance, it's entirely possible that several people have that same question.

Chris would know better than I.
 

pygmalion

Well-Known Member
#18
Yeah. Gotcha. :cool:

What I would do, in Chris's position, is pull the teacher aside during that minute or two at the beginning of class where everybody's talking, changing shoes, arriving late, etc, and say, "I'm really serious about this and want to practice at home. When you get a chance to point things out during class, I would really appreciate it if you'd give tips about how I can practice on my own."

Then the teacher will or the teacher won't. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.
 

raindance

Well-Known Member
#20
I think if a teacher asks a group "any questions?" that students should feel free to ask whatever they would like to ask, including how they might practice at home. The teacher should be able to handle the student's questions one way or another. (e.g. They might give practice tips, they might say it is a good question but not one they have time to address right then, or whatever...)
 

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