Learning can be a wonderful thing; it can give us a sense of achievement, growth and joy. As William Butler Yeast wrote “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”
Since learning can be such a delight, why do we sometimes feel so frustrated? Well it comes down to three main obstacles:
1) Poor guidance
2) Unrealistic expectations
3) A misunderstanding of the learning process when it comes to dancing
This is probably the reason that has stopped most newcomers from fully experiencing the joys of dancing. A bad teacher can destroy the enthusiasm of new dance students and leave them with such a bad experience that few of them ever attempt it again.
We have some students who had such a bad experience with their first teacher that it took several years before they could muster the courage to try it again. Sadly, there are many others who may never try again, and they will miss what (under proper guidance) would had been one of the most thrilling experiences in their life – learning to dance!
A good teacher can help you develop your dancing skills faster and make the learning process fun.
This is an area of extremes. We have people who come to us with the expectancy of learning to dance in one or two lessons. Others feel that they don’t have the talent or ability to ever learn to dance but need to pacify their partner by trying.
People know that learning to play the piano may take years of practice; golfers are prepared to spend time and money on ways to improve their game. Learning to dance takes time.
In just a few hours, you can learn a few steps in a dance and get ready to hit the dance floor. Wedding couples with average talent can get a basic first dance ready in about four private lessons. (They will look more natural and feel more confident with twelve private lessons.) Couples desiring a more exotic dance like Argentine Tango should allocate at least fifty lessons to look great.
Becoming a great dancer requires time and dedication. Be patient and enjoy the learning process.
A Misunderstanding of the Learning Process When It Comes to Dancing
You can memorize all the state capitals in the United States and you can memorize all the continents in the world. These skills are mental exercises. Dancing requires not only mental skills for learning patterns and techniques, but also requires physical muscle memory. Muscle memory requires a lot more repetition but it is long lasting. Allow time to learn and time to practice.
People are thrilled when they come to our class and learn a pattern – they feel smart. They come to our weekly party and try to dance their new pattern and can’t – they feel frustrated. They don’t understand that there is a big difference between learning a pattern and knowing a pattern. Usually it takes an average of three lessons working on a particular pattern before you internalize it and are ready to use it in your dancing repertoire.
We have some couples who already dance but would like to improve their skills. They take a lesson and work on their connection and rhythm. They come to a party and things fall apart-nothing works and they feel frustrated. Learning new techniques also require at least three lessons before you can incorporate them into your dancing.
In addition, when you are an experienced dancer trying to improve the quality of your dancing, your are going to go through a process where you are letting go of the old and taking hold of the new. This process can be frustrating. Be patient. Things have to change to improve.
Find a good teacher.
Find a teacher that makes the learning process fun and gives you a sense of accomplishment with your dancing.
Allocate time and money to develop your dance skills.
Private lessons with a good teacher will cost more money, but can save you a lot of time and frustration. Videos and classes will cost less money, but require more time learning and practicing. Be patient and kind to your partner, and enjoy the road.
Allow at least three different sessions to learn a new pattern or technique.
Take three private lessons; repeat the same class three times; or study the same step three different times on a DVD. Allow time for the new skills to develop – don’t worry about letting go of the old but look forward to the new and improved dancer in you.
Whether you are new at dancing or have been at it for a while, you may have experienced one or more of the above scenarios. We all have! They are the roadblocks we need to overcome in order to become a good dancer. Be aware of them but don’t dwell on them – follow the recommended solutions and keep on dancing!
Blanche & Emilio