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Author Topic: How to pick a great dance teacher -- the first time  (Read 210 times)
phoenix13
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« on: May 14, 2013, 12:39:57 PM »

This thread is a follow-up to a discussion in the "What Would You Do Differently" thread, in which it was noted that many of us experienced a period of months or even years of "wasted" time at the beginning of our dance careers.  In my case, this was because I chose my first dance teacher/studio very poorly.  I had no information, so  I walked into the dance studio that was closest/most familiar and started lessons.  Years later, when I switched to another studio, I really wished that I'd had someone to give me the low down BEFORE I started. What a waste of time and money! But that's pretty common, I think. As a new dancer, you just don't have the skills to assess the quality of your first dance teacher.  So what do you do?

The goal of this thread is to compile a list of tips and pointers for dance newbies about how to find a good teacher.  If you were picking your first dance teacher today, what would you look for?  How would you choose?
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elisedance
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2013, 12:45:31 PM »

Most important of all I think - is to talk to other dancers.  And make sure you ask the right questions - a good teacher for starting or for a wedding may be very different from one if you already know you want to compete pro-am or want someone to guide you into amateur couple competition.  There are many other factors too of course - locatoin, styles of dance and we can't forget expense.  Also some teachers are fantastic but quirky (one I knew could only explain dance in sexual terms - not for the faint of heart!).

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phoenix13
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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2013, 12:59:50 PM »

Hmm.  Something happened to my reply.  Huh

I think that the place to start is with clarifying goals before you ever set foot in a studio.   Goals can change, sure, but, if you at least have some idea of what you want, you're much better off, I think, than if you walk blindly into the first studio you find (as I did  Embarrassed ) and say, in effect, "Teach me to dance!"  What the heck does that even mean?  Different things to different people, for sure.

Of course, it's up to you to clarify your goals periodically and let your teacher know if things change, but that's the subject of a different thread ... Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2013, 09:04:51 PM »

You are right that people have to learn through trial and error about their coaching. I started at a social school where the dancers were extremely poor (this of course is known in Hindsight). We had been dancing with these teachers for a few months and then went to a social dance by another group and saw people dancing better than our teachers.

After 18 months we moved to another school. They were ex comp dancers and state champions, so we thought that would be a great start. But we out grew them also as they were not interested in comp dancers, they just wanted to keep things social. So we moved to a studio that had comp dancers.

We went to this school on the recommendation of another comp dancer. But I think you also need to look at your dancing organisation and see who they have on their register. Now I would ask questions.
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phoenix13
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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2013, 09:22:46 PM »

I agree.  The social versus competitive divide is extremely important.
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phoenix13
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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2013, 11:06:17 PM »

I've been thinking about this and teachers can really help with this, if they wan to.  For example, one of the local Latin coaches here has a clear policy; he accepts only competitive students.  Some other teachers at his studio will accept social students, but he lets people know his expectations up front.

Of course, it might be asking a lot to expect teachers to turn away paying clients ...
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elisedance
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« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2013, 04:50:26 AM »

I've been thinking about this and teachers can really help with this, if they wan to.  For example, one of the local Latin coaches here has a clear policy; he accepts only competitive students.  Some other teachers at his studio will accept social students, but he lets people know his expectations up front.

Of course, it might be asking a lot to expect teachers to turn away paying clients ...
Generally, the more successful you are - and the more potential clients there are in your area - the more you can specialize for competition dancers.  But thats not hard and fast - some people are just better at teaching than others and word gets around.

Also others just prefer teaching social dancing - its actually a quite different skil set - whether thats getting two people to move together that never have or training someone to lead a stranger.  Its also dealing with a very different set of people - less ambitious and more easy going.
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phoenix13
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« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2013, 08:37:47 AM »


I have a few things to say about this, so I'll come back when I have more time, but, for now, I will say that I think,for the people whose dance goals involved meeting people, making friends, finding a spouse, and/or just "having fun," a dance studio plays an important role -- sometimes more important that the teacher her/himself.
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phoenix13
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« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2013, 09:29:48 AM »

Also others just prefer teaching social dancing - its actually a quite different skil set - whether thats getting two people to move together that never have or training someone to lead a stranger. Its also dealing with a very different set of people - less ambitious and more easy going.


But still, in a lot of cases, goal-oriented.  I remember one studio I attended, in particular.  It was a social dance studio whose motto was, "We make dancing fun and easy."  They did make it fun and easy, but they had a core of students who had fun by striving for excellence.  These folks spread-sheeted their progress, made notes, took multiple lessons per week, took extra coaching.  The whole nine yards, with absolutely no desire to move into competition.

I think that there are more than just the two paths. The paths in the middle are not as well defined, but they can be there, if you're clear about what your goals are and if you communicate with your teacher.
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phoenix13
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« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2013, 09:35:20 AM »

Total change of subject, so I'll add a separate post.

One other thing to take advantage of (if possible) is a free or discounted introductory lesson special.  (These are not as common now as they used to be.  I guess the popularity of DWTS and SCD, etc, either made them unnecessary or made the studios lose money on them.)  But, if you find a studio that offers a discount intro package, take it. Heck,  Take two -- one each at two different studios.  

You may not be able to gauge the quality of a teacher, but you can get a feel for what you're comfortable with. If you decide to go this route, try to schedule your intro lesson for a busy time -- in the middle of a workday evening, for example.  That way, you can see the studio in action and, if you're comfortable, talk to some fellow students, as well. Smiley

The two studios I know of that still do this offer a group, a private and a party in a package.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2013, 09:41:30 AM by phoenix13 » Logged

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