There are many reasons why you might have chosen to take up partner dance. If you want to get the most out of it, then it's important that you take the right kinds of classes and prepare for those classes in the right way. I have seen some people take up couples dance without really thinking about what they want from it or assuming that they will get what they want regardless of where they learn or how they approach it. The end result is that they are not satisfied and leave social dancing because they did not get what they wanted even though they could have.
In this post I am going to go over some reasons for taking a dance class and what you can do to get what you want.
It is called 'social dancing' so it makes sense for socialising to be a major motivator. If you do want to meet people through dance, then look for schools that do mostly group classes with a social event afterwards. Sometimes these schools are not actual places, but instead they are businesses that deliver classes on various premises such as bars and halls. This might mean that they are less likely to be in established major directories or come up first on an internet search, and you might need to hunt around for them.
Don't forget, that it's easier to meet people if you're a pleasure to dance with so a few private lessons are handy. Most schools that focus on group classes will still offer private lessons too so consider taking a few at the start to speed up progress.
Also, no matter how many people you dance with, you will still need the social skills to really connect with other people. Dance is not a cure-all if you're socially awkward, but it can help a lot.
Stimulate the brain through learning
Dance is actually one of the best things you can do to keep your mind healthy. To keep your brain in good shape throughout your life you need to exercise your social ability, your memory and your physical coordination. Social dancing does all of these and that's why it is one of the best thing for your brain. If you are taking up dance for the pleasure of learning and to keep your brain active, then look for a school that:
- Teaches a number of dances to really work your mind and your body in different ways
- Has gradings so that you have something to focus on, and stimulate your brain into action
- Has group classes and social events so that you interact with a diversity of people
At one extreme, some schools focus on simply providing a social events and a place for people to meet. At the other extreme, some schools focus preparing people for dance sport, and focus on conditioning and the proper execution of all steps. I do not advocate either extreme - I like to take things down the middle - however, it's clear that one extreme is much better for someone looking for a challenge. Think about the type of challenge you want and then choose a school that fits with this. Dance at any level will have a challenge, but you still want it to be the challenge that you want.
The experience of performing your own dance
Personally, I am not really a fan of performing.
However, I know people who love to dance for others: both men and women. I do however like creating a routine for a song I like. The chance to do such things is higher in a school that runs competitions and grand finals within (so that it need not meet the strict rules of dance sport) and does showcases.
In showcases and grand finals a uniquely choreographed dance with costumes is performed to a chosen song in front of other students (and friends and family) and a judge. If you like the idea of this, then make sure you're at a school that has such dances.
A love of dance
On occasion, I have come across a ballet dancer, or a belly dancer or a modern dancer who has taken up partner dancing to get a sense of what it's like to dance with another person. You can imagine that for someone who has always danced in a primarily individual manner social dancing would be quite different. Typically, if you were in such a situation, then you would have some interest in theory. You would probably want to go to a school that offers mostly private lessons.
Something fun to do with your partner
This is quite a common reason, and I know a few couples who have taken up couples dancing together for something to do together. Usually, this works out well. However, it sometimes causes tension when one is clearly more committed than the other. The only thing that is different here is that you need to be aware of what each person wants (or might want). Try to find a solution that will keep both people happy.
This holds for a wedding dance too, which is probably the most common reason for couples to take up partner dancing for a period. I remember talking to a dance teacher who said she needed the skills of a pre-marital counsellor as well as those of a dance teacher. The problem was still that there was a mismatch in expectation between the couple.
Changing dance schools
Chances are you are reading this blog because you have already started dancing. Not many people do much research first; they just go to the first dance school they see. That's what I did. However, things change. Therefore, the type of school that you started at might not be the one that is ideal for you now. Also, what works for you now might not be what you want in the future. It's worth considering the suitability of a school if you ever feel that dance isn't giving you what it once did.
Finally, don't think you need to stick with one school. I have my main dance school, but I will go to others if I want to learn something specifics, explore new styles or just to do something different. Sometimes just seeing what else is out there is enough to reinvigorate the interest.