1. Keep Your Elbows Up
Your elbows in your dance frame should never resemble a middle seat on an economy airline. Business class, First Class, and never econo-smashed class if you want to impress your teacher.
2. Try a Dance Routine
You may or may not have an allergic reaction to the word “routine”, but how about a different word – “script”. Yes, to develop smooth transitions and effortless looking movement a (sorry) dance routine, performance optional, is the perfect way to ingrain those skills into your muscle memory. Oh, and working on that (ahem) “script” is a great way to make that routine allergy go away.
3. The Willy Wonka Rule
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was as much a tale about chocolate as it was a tale about the power of a gracious, un-entitled attitude. A dance studio can be our chocolate factory, and your teacher wants more Charlies and fewer Veruca Salts.
4. Close Your Feet
This is the dance instructor equivalent of a parent saying “clean your room”. So, if you do it when they ask, expect them to cry tears of joy.
5. Try the Waltz
It may not be as sexy as the Bachata, as spicy as the Salsa, or as mysterious as the Tango, but learning to Waltz not only teaches you an iconic dance, but develops posture and poise for all the other dances you enjoy.
6. Avoid Unfair Comparisons
Think of that first time you walked into a gym and compared yourself to every fitness freak you saw. It would be easy to feel demotivated to get in shape if you felt surrounded by six pack abs in yoga pants. In dancing, it’s the same thing. We can make unfair dance comparisons that sap our motivation. Avoiding them is easy when you focus on the previous, present, and future versions of you.
7. Refine the Basics
OK, so this would be the equivalent of voluntarily eating your vegetables at dinnertime as a kid. “Could I have some more broccoli Mom, oh and l prefer it raw so as to not lose any nutrients.” The shock and awe of such a statement could be matched only by the student who asks their instructor if they could spend more time refining their basics.
8. Let the Teacher Do the Teaching
If you are taking lessons as a couple, your teacher can be a relationship coach, but they shouldn’t have to be a dance argument referee. Making some agreements as a dance couple ahead of time can help fulfill this request, and keep your lessons exciting and productive.
9. Be Courteous and Use Great Etiquette
Sure, at some clubs people don’t actually ask other people to dance and, instead, choose to shake, grind, and twerk their business in the personal space of others – but your dance teacher would prefer that you utilize great Ballroom Dance Etiquette instead.
10. Never Ever Say This One Thing
“Why didn’t you teach this to me before?” to a teacher is like one of the deadly curses from a Harry Potter movie. Some teacher may actually look like they are dying when they hear it. This occurs when there is a breakthrough immediately followed by, what we like to call, “process amnesia”.
Not saying this means that you are aware that the skill or step is a part of a process. That developing it is more like Chess than Checkers, and it took the layers you worked on to achieve this result.
11. Share Your Experience
A referral is the greatest compliment you can pay to the studio you take lessons in. If you are wondering what kind of gift you can give to your teacher, give them the gift of a guest referral and watch their face light up.
12. Take Notes
Your level of note taking can go from “digital casual” with the notes function on your phone, all the way to “sacred manuscript” that looks something like the ballroom dancing version of Dr. Jones’ Grail Diary. Either way you go about it, a simple dance notebook is far better than leaving it all up to that incredibly busy, and constantly distracted, hard drive you call a brain.
13. Set Up Your Calendar
No one loves high stress deadlines, especially when it involves your stress reducing dance hobby. The solution – a dance calendar. Just like note taking this can be done digitally or with your favorite Cat of the Month calendar. The sooner you lay out the events, the sooner you and your teacher can deploy a strategy for them.
14. Remember the Process
Amateur or professional, every dance student will go through a Curve of Learning. Dancing is a skill, and like any skill, there won’t always be instant results. This doesn’t mean that the process has to be horrible, complicated, or horribly complicated.
15. Work With a Coach
A lesson with a Dance Consultant, also known as a “Coaching Lesson”, may be new for some, but will absolutely unlock new and uncharted areas of your dance ability.
Let’s face it, it’s pretty normal to be the last one to notice your own dance progress. With that can come some negative assessments that may not be warranted. Graduating in your dance program is proof of progress, pure and simple. Your teacher wants you to graduate, even if it’s just so you cut yourself some slack.
17. Show Up Ready
Most people enter the oasis of dancing from a blizzard of work, traffic, or personal stress. That usually involves 10 to 15 minutes for your brain to depressurize and get into dance mode. Unless, however, you can arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. This allows you to do some pre-lesson preparation, take a deep breath, and start your lesson in a zen-like state.
18. Have Fun
Your instructor would rather laugh with someone who is struggling, than work with a skilled dancer who loathes the process. Smiling, laughing, and engaged communication are like currency for teachers.
19. Pay It Forward
At some point you were the newest of the new students. You’re not anymore. Someone in your journey along the way made you feel like you were capable of learning, and encouraged you. Now it’s time for you to do the same thing for someone else.
20. Stay Open-Minded
There will be plenty of moments along your dance journey where your comfort zone will be challenged. Ballroom dancing has a way of putting your status quo under constant renovation, and it’s easy to get closed-minded to that level of change. Your teacher wants you to stay open-minded. They have your best interests in mind, and anything they suggest is designed to amplify your progress.
21. Talk and Dance
It may seem like a given, but talking while dancing is the most essential element to Social Dancing. It is also something that, believe it or not, takes a little practice.
22. Quit Believing Non-Believers
From time to time you may have some non-dancing naysayers that may question your decision to pursue dancing. Depending on how new you are, or your relationship to them – their words may strike a chord with you that can throw off the joy and momentum of your dance program. Your teacher wants you to filter those negative voices out because the most important person on your dance journey is you.
23. Eliminate Conspiracy Theories
Competitive Dancers can sometimes be the most susceptible to Dance Conspiracy Theories. “Why didn’t I win?” and “That judge just must not like my costume” can, unfortunately, mask a dancer’s actual progress. Rather than focus on speculation, we recommend reading: 31 Things Dance Judges Want to See You Do. Until dancers understand that they have to compete against the best version of themselves, then elaborate conspiracies will always be an option.
24. Utilize the Group Classes
Note that the heading says “utilize” and not “replace everything with”. Your dance program is built off of The Arthur Murray Unit system: Privates, Groups, and Practice Parties. Using group classes between your private lessons preserves the dance data stored in your muscle memory.
25. Use Practice Parties for Good (Not Evil)
Your teachers, essentially, live at their dance studio. So anytime there’s a practice party, you’re dancing in their living room. Advanced students should utilize the practice party to refine their leading and following, but not to complain or condemn new dancers.
26. Embrace Your Dance Role
In Ballroom Dancing you’re either leading or following. That’s your job description. It’s like Offense and Defense, Shipping and Receiving, or Peanut Butter and Jelly. The more you dive into the details to make your role work, the more likely you’ll see your instructor shed a single tear of joy.
27. Never Leave
Okay, so maybe this is a bit possessive, but your dance instructor never wants to see you leave. Teachers, in any venue, are built to see the potential in their students. They see what they will become, and aren’t distracted by where they currently are. No matter how dancing may be feeling, your teacher sees your potential. They don’t want to see you to leave. In fact, they would rather have you tell them what is missing from the lessons, and how they can improve it, than to have one of their students disappear.
28. Have Great Footwork
Whatever is closest to the ground is the most important detail in dancing. So, since your feet are the only things actually touching the ground – then good use of the feet is pretty darn important.
29. Keep Your Lessons Closer
If you were reading a book, but only picked it up once a week, it would be tough to finish it. Recommending that same book would be unlikely, and you can forget any positive reviews of the book on Amazon. Well, that book is your dance development, your teacher is the author, and the sooner you can get through the first few chapters, the sooner stuff starts making sense.
30. Skip the Videos
Your dance journey is like a novel that your teachers are writing. Wherever you leave off at the end of your lessons, you teachers want to be able to pick up from there. Going home and watching dance videos, for example, can augment the timeline and rush an intended result that needed more time and individual training. When in doubt, check with your teacher to avoid derailing a process you’re on.
31. Starting Point
Your teacher wants you to never forget the tipping point that made you walk through the door for your very first lesson. That person whose heart was beating out of their chest, who was so vulnerable to tossing the whole idea aside, and who took a leap of faith to give dance lessons a try – regardless of the dance problems you may encounter today, that person could very easily have stayed home for that lessons, but didn’t. That’s how you got here, and that’s a big deal to your teacher.
Dance teachers can be pretty demanding, as evidenced by this list. Now consider the alternative – a teacher that demands nothing. You could have a teacher, that’s really just a better dancer than you, and isn’t really motivated to help you grow, doesn’t expect much, and probably feels threatened if you happened to make progress.
So if anything on this list sounds a little familiar… congratulations, your feet are in great hands.