Tips for Choosing a Group Dance Class
In a previous post I offered tips for choosing a private instructor. Selecting group classes is equally important, especially for beginners. Group sessions are sometimes called "series classes," purchased as a set (typically meeting once a week for a month) or "drop-ins," when students pay for one class at a time.
Essential for learning to lead or follow in social dancing, they are an ideal complement to private instruction. As a general rule however, dancers are advised to take group classes whether or not they have a private instructor. But with so many studios and classes to choose from, how do you select the best group classes? These tips may help:
1. Take classes that fit your level.
You may hear more experienced dancers describe a certain class as "easy." Perhaps it is—for them. It depends on their dance background, their aptitude, and whether the class is classified as a true beginner's class. If you're new to ballroom dancing, your first group classes should focus on the most basic steps, footwork, patterns and body positions.
Talk with your private instructor or the group class teacher to confirm the class is really designed for "beginners" — not a mix of various levels, such as dancers who have already completed other beginning lessons. In ballroom studios "beginning" is frequently divided into progressive stages of skill (Beginner 1, Beginner 2, Beginner 3, and so on) before reaching the "intermediate" level.
2. Understand what "all levels " means.
A class that welcomes "all levels," is not necessarily appropriate for "first-time" beginners. The instructor may focus on technique, assuming participants already have basic skills. Whether you're in the first week or the third month of your first classes can make a big difference. You may feel uncomfortable surrounded by more advanced students. When in doubt about prerequisites, check with the instructor.
3. Ask to observe a class before enrolling.
You will find dance studios, community centers and independent instructors that are willing to extend this courtesy. Some studios charge a nominal fee for watching. If you're considering group lessons and concerned about selecting the right class, the fee may be a wise investment.
4. Develop a checklist for "rating" beginning classes
When watching a class, here are some things to look for:
- Is the instructor clear, patient, supportive and pleasant?
- Do most of the students appear to grasp the material? Are they smiling and relaxed?
- Does the instructor limit the number of basic steps or patterns – ideally no more than two or three sequences, "figures" or "moves" per class?
- Is material reviewed at the end of class? Does the instructor encourage questions?
- What is the ratio of leaders to followers? Is the class "balanced" for optimum learning?
- How often are partners "rotated"? A primary advantage of group classes is the opportunity to test leading and following skills with different dancers. If frequent partner rotation is overlooked, the class may not meet your needs.
Group classes can be among the most inspiring, upbeat social environments you will ever encounter. This is where dancers make new friends, or perhaps find a practice partner at their own level. When students regularly attend classes – and consistently practice what they learn – their new skills are certain to advance more rapidly.
Hope to see you on the dance floor!
© 2013, Cheryl Burke Dance. All rights reserved.