What to Look for in a Dance Teacher
My thoughts on this subject!
I know many excellent dance teachers. Three of them are shown in the picture below. They come from different parts of the country, have had different sets of experiences and training, AND they love to teach others how to dance well! In one way or another, they are MY models!
However, EVERY Teacher has their own set of biases, range of experiences, preferred teaching methods, music and figures - including me. The point is that we all have them and YOU, the dancing consumer, need to identify their set to see if it matches your own needs, desires and goals. (See page on Your Dance Goals.) As your goals evolve, you need to determine if your current teacher is able to support your new goals.
My set of biases will be crystal clear as you read on.
Here's a List of Seven Characteristics of a Great Dance Teacher
These are obvious characteristics, as a quick scan will reveal. My thoughts below this paragraph are more specific and based upon my own experiences with dance teachers.
1. Professional in grooming and dress
2. On time to lessons and appointments
3. Knowledgable in all aspects of ballroom dancing
4. Committed to always learning and working to improve one's own dancing ability
5. Warm, friendly and outgoing
6. Supportive and caring
7. Identifies and creates goals for their students and helps them to reach their goals.
My Thoughts Regarding What Makes an Excellent Dance Teacher
In the beginning of your dance education, it may not make much difference whether you learn from a social or a ballroom teacher. (See the page on the differences between the two styles.) In hindsight, I wish I had learned good technique upfront instead of later trying to unlearn old muscle memory and habits that inhibited graceful and effective movement - which were taught in the name of expediency. I did it that way for a while but what a waste of my time, effort and money!
Let's admit it upfront, cost IS an issue for most people. I found that the well-known franchises were ridiculously over-priced and they pushed hard to sign me up for thousands of dollars of instruction packages. You don't need to pay for someone's TV ads or buy a corporate executive his next BMW in order to learn how to dance! $8 - $15 per classroom hour is reasonable, in my opinion!
Secondly, private lessons are very useful for people who are working on specific goals or who are too shy for group classes. But a private lesson from a Professional Dance Champion will run $85 to $100 an hour. And I pay that at times. However, I think the $30 to $60 range is reasonable considering the thousands of dollars your CERTIFIED INSTRUCTOR paid for lessons and exams in order to prove their teaching and dancing skills. Remember, they tested before a professional examiner in order to earn those certifications.
Next on my list is - learn from a certified teacher. Anyone can advertise and hang out a shingle as a dance instructor. But ask, are they certified? What professional dance organizations do they belong to?
Do they dance in sanctioned competitive events? Preparing for and dancing in competitions improves your dancing exponentially. It will make your instuctor a better teacher and it will make you a better dancer, especially if you will compete, too!
No, everybody doesn't have to compete to be a good dancer. I just believe the experience is of great value in the long run.
Teaching and dance experience are good things. But it's not the PRIME DIRECTIVE. A person who has been divorced 4 times over 40 years has lots of marriage experience - but of questionable value, if they continue to repeat the same behaviors.
So ask about a prospective teacher's experience teaching, teaching dance, competitive dance experience. Are they continually taking lessons themselves? Do they listen to you and your expressed goals? Are they flexible? Is their goal to make you look good or to make themselves look good? How far can they take your skills - Bronze, Silver or Gold levels? (These are recognizable and defined skill sets from worldwide accepted professional dance organizations.)
What about their list of dance figures? Do they make up their own? Do they make up the names they call them? Do they give you a list of steps taught? Do they use a syllabus produced, refined and available to the public by one of the professional dance organizations?
As a dancing consumer, and after about 6 months of instruction, I realized my social dance teachers did not score well in those considerations. But at the time, I didn't know any better. Once I found my way to a certified ballroom style teacher, the picture got much clearer.
Well, if you have hung in here with me, you see my biases! I think every one of them is in YOUR best interest!
Attributes of a Good Dance Teacher