Are you keen to start learning partner dance, and looking for a dance school? Or maybe you have chosen a place to learn partner dance and you're wondering if it is the right choice. In either case, it helps to know how to choose a school that's right for you and what you want. It's also worth remembering that sometimes you outgrow a school. What suited you at one stage, might not suit you now. It's always worth reviewing the suitability of your school.
The following will give you some ideas on how can evaluate and choose a dance school.
What to consider
There are 4 basic characteristics that are worth considering before choosing a dance school: The style of dancing you're interested in, the goals you have, socialising opportunity and how fast you want to learn.
Style of interest
Not all schools teach the same type of partner dance. I actually walked into a school randomly, and simply learnt what was taught. This worked out well for me, because I like to have a broader knowledge of things as opposed to deep knowledge in a specific area – this school taught the basic tens dances and street Latin. However, some of the other people who chose this dance school moved on because they were not learning what suited them. I recall one guy who went to a tango school.
A good idea is to at least learn about the different styles to see what suits you. Learning waltz is certainly different from learning salsa, which is very different from swing (east-coast or west-coast). If you're not learning a dance that interests you, then you will most likely find it much harder. You can watch programs such as dancing with the stars, read a few texts on partner dancing or simply look at different online videos. As you get a better sense of the different types of dance out there, you will be in a much better position to choose what dances you want to learn.
Once you know what kind of style you would like to learn, make sure that any school you're considering teaches the style(s) you're interested in. They might teach others, which can be good to keep you open to options, but make sure that they at least teach what you’re interested in.
Are you looking for a pastime; do you want to take on a challenge by learning a lot or do you want to dance competitively? It could even be a mix of these that you want.
Some schools will simply teach you to dance socially in a very casual way and let you progress at your own rate. Others will have gradings to manage and certify your progression. Some will explicitly encourage you to enter dance sport (they will probably be run by people who are into dance sport themselves).
Which style of teaching suits your goals? As my dancing progressed I found that I actually moved from one type of school to another to maintain the novelty of the lessons and the dance experience.
Dancing is a great way to meet people. I have quite a few friends through dance. If you want to meet people as well as learn to dance, then you want to find schools that have an emphasis on group classes. Some schools are all group classes and give you a name tag so that everyone can get to know each other. Some schools have a few group events with mostly private lessons. Other schools are actually one person teaching nothing but one-on-one classes.
The majority of dance schools are social – couples dancing is also called 'social dancing' for a reason – but it's worth finding out how social one is before you commit to it.
Speed of learning
How fast do you want to learn dancing? In truth - you probably want to learn faster than you are actually going to. We are all like this.
Basic rule - The more intense the learning, the faster you learn.
If you really want to learn fast, then have as many private lessons as possible. You can always practice on your own to make the most of your lessons, but there is no substitute for having a person give you their full attention while your practice. However, sometimes going to a group class can offer a new perspective to help you understand what you need to work on. If you want to learn fast, then make sure private lessons are a feature of your school.
Another way to learn fast is to set goals. Very little motivates you to learn faster than knowing that you will need to dance in front of others. A school that has competitions and gradings will also help speed up your learning. In fact, set goals are probably the best way to speed up your learning.