Newbie need advice

I've had some dance training, but I'm still very much a novice. That was several years ago, and I'm considering trying again. But I had some bad experiences trying to learn.

Here's my new plan. Please let me know if you think this is a good way to go about it.

The thing I'd like to do now is to skip group classes and just do private lessons maybe for 3 months, until I've actually learned all the moves that would be covered in group classes. And then I would do group classes after that to practice leading different partners with those moves. Maybe I'd take the group class all the way through twice even, if I felt there was more I needed to work on. And then I'd go back to private lessons to learn the next batch of moves for the next group class higher. And then back again to group classes after that. Repeat.

That's what I'm considering doing.

And I wouldn't want to do any social dances until I felt I could actually dance. I'd use my private instructor to help me learn to dance spontaneously. Group classes don't seem to teach that. And I've had absolutely dreadful experiences being thrown in the deep end trying to social dance with no idea what I was doing.

Does that sound reasonable?



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I would continue the private lessons while taking classes--questions are going to come up during the classes that are most easily addressed in privates. Also, being a leader at social dances is always rough in the beginning. I spend a lot of time reassuring new leaders at socials.


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Look for a supportive studio - some studios are better than others at helping newer dancers get going. If you didn't like the environment or program at the last place, try another.

You posted in the general dance folder - which dance or dances are you working on learning? (Many of us that post here are ballroom dancers, but there are others that post as well, and some principles apply across different dances.)

I agree with RiseNFall that a mixture of group and private lessons are a good idea. The group lessons will give you a chance to dance with a variety of ladies, and get used to trying to lead followers of different skill levels. In a beginner class many people will likely be beginners, so they should be understanding that you are too (if not, try to ignore their bad manners). If you only dance with your teacher at private lessons, it will not really prepare you to dance at socials, since most people you dance with will feel nothing like your teacher. The private lesson teacher is great for other things, though, such as refining your lead, helping you remember your steps, refining technique, etc, which will help you get ready for socials as part of the program.

Don't wait too long to go to socials, if you keep taking lessons waiting until you are "good enough" you may never feel like you get there and never get over the hurdle. (This assumes there are some beginner friendly socials in your area, of course.) If you know a few basics in a few dances, then you can get through a song in a few different dances, and that is enough to start. The more important thing for socials at the beginning is to keep your expectations low. Go hoping to get a few dances in, and hoping that they go sort of OK for starters. E.g. in a waltz you try some waltz basics. In a rumba, you try some rumba basics, etc, and your partner manages to do some of those with you. You try to meet some people and start to get to know some of the other dancers. You have a decent enough time that you are willing to come back. You can work on bigger goals over time.

Stick with it, as RiseNFall says, it can be tough for leaders in the beginning. But persistence pays off.
I had a student contact me (mid-40's) who wanted to do ballet privately. I will say I was able to do A LOT with her! private lessons are awesome. Once you get comfortable, definitely do group classes on top of it; it is a totally different experience and you'll learn a lot.


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I had a student contact me (mid-40's) who wanted to do ballet privately.
Perhaps if you had bothered to read the OP's post, you would have noticed where he said " practice leading different partners". You are on a partner dance forum. Ballet training is in my experience counter productive to learning partner dancing.


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Please let me know if you think this is a good way..
Hi Steve, it actually is a good plan. Group lessons got a totally different goal than privates do. Group lessons are important for social learning only. The privates are for learning moves, and body control. But don't underestimate the social thingy. It´s the third column. You should go to socials, even if you do not plan to dance. Each of the three columns got it´s own right and purpose.
I don't think that's a very good idea - here's why. Private lessons are useful in terms of figuring out what is the technically correct way to execute certain moves, but what you learn with your pro doesn't actually translate to leading on the floor until you've experienced leading follows at your level (and below). Leading is about taking care of your follow, and since every follow needs different support (stronger frame, more articulated preps, etc.), most leads learn to lead through trial & error on the social floor. Emphasis on the error. From my experience, people who only take privates from the pros, and don't dance socially or take group classes, get discouraged when they can't lead/follow as well as they could with the pros because they have no experience with leading/following social dancers.

I'd use my private instructor to help me learn to dance spontaneously. Group classes don't seem to teach that.
In terms of group classes, yes, teachers don't go through the techniques enough and people need privates to get better. Also a lot of beginner follows who only take classes and don't social dance often learn to back-lead moves so it could be sometimes be harmful to the leads. But I wouldn't dismiss group classes altogether; you can combine what you've learned in the private with what the pro is saying to the group to get a better picture of how to lead. (Not to mention that the group classes are a lot cheaper than privates)

I think finding a follow who's at a slightly higher level who would practice with you and give you feedback is also very helpful.
I think finding a follow who's at a slightly higher level who would practice with you and give you feedback is also very helpful.
I sure hope so because I spend hours each week doing that for my classmates who cannot afford frequent private lessons. It is no substitute for real teaching, but more focused and systematic than them trying to practice during a social dance, and more individualized than during a group class rotation. It also helps me solidify my own understanding and begin to understand the different types of learners and to appreciate their challenges. Often there are questions I answer with "this is something for a real teacher." Our teacher knows I do this and appreciates it. Sometimes I take lessons on how to help my classmates. At the college practices this is common, for students to help less advanced students.

During group class I refrain from mentioning any feedback because the leaders need to focus on what our teacher is teaching at that time. Knowing I'll have an hour 1-on-1 with them later in the week makes it easier to keep quiet.

I agree the best combination is private lessons, group class, social dancing and focused practice (off the social floor.) Enjoy the social dancing at your current level, using what you know already and not critical of imperfections, supporting your partner of the moment at your current ability level. Group class with rotating partners is useful for testing your lead & follow and to have a curriculum in common with your classmates. But private lessons are essential to significantly grow.

And I agree with AirColor that it is hard to learn to lead unskilled follows by leading a teacher, unless that is specifically what you are asking of that teacher. Most social followers are far less skilled than a teacher and are only partially able to interpret a solid body lead. They rely on hacks and crutches developed for leading the unskilled, such as a wrist bend or even an arm shove into promenade when they have no hip contact and lack awareness of frame and hips relative to motion. When I lead on the social floor with less experienced follows, I have to push, shove and haul them around in ways that a skilled follow would resent. How did I learn battleground leading? From the unskilled leaders at social dances, by experiencing it first hand as a follower. So I guess one can learn at a social dance too. :)
I find that beginners dancing with beginners doesn't always work out as hoped. I think your plan is good, Steve, but do agree with RiseNFall. Stick with the privates even when you do go to group.

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