Let’s consider one of the most common approaches taken on the path to the mastery of partner dancing. It goes like this:
- Find a dance school with a good reputation – you can judge this by the awards they have, the number of studios, the number of students, the size or their events and membership of a national dance regulatory board.
- Make an appointment for a trial lesson with a person who will potentially be you instructor.
- If the trial seems to go well, then sign up for regular lesson – probably twice a week.
- Work towards your first level (or medal) grading by learning routines of each style in one groups of dances
- Then satisfy the first level in any other groups of styles you are interested in (street Latin, American Latin, Modern, American Smooth, American Rhythm and so on).
- Once you complete level 1 in your selected style grouping, you can say that you can dance
- Then on to the next level.
- The second level will make you a polished dancer.
- Then the next level.
- You will then be an advanced dancer.
Does this indeed make you an advanced dancer?
There are two defining features of the above approach:
- A focus on routine
- A social interpretation of standard figures
A focus on routine is ideal for learning figures, but not social dancing. A social interpretation is enough for social dancing, but it provides bad habits for dance sport. Thus, because of the routines you will not be well equipped for social dancing, but because of the social interpretation you will not be prepared for dance sport either. It’s like the worst of both worlds. You might have a good teacher who will encourage proper social dancing or focus more on technique than is needed. However, this will slow progress, which can frustrate you.
So what do you do?
If you like simply learning more and more challenging routines and being recognised for that, then this approach is fine.
If you eventually want to get into dance sport, then consider making the move early. You can then focus on technique.
On the other hand, if you wish to become a social dancer, then you can push your instructor to teach differently. This works well for follows – you can have your instructor not teach the routine, but just do the routine with you and show you how to follow. They can even do something different from the routine during training and then do the routine when you are graded. You get to reach a new level and learn to follow.
For leads, you just need to accept that learning a routine as well as how to lead will take more time than learning one or the other. You will need to enhance the learning process if you want to learn both at the same time.
What if you like learning at a social studio, you want to attain higher levels, learn to dance socially and dance with the proper standard (dance sport standard)?
You will need to do the following:
- Attend a school that does gradings and has a dance sport connection (This might be your school now, you might need to change schools or you might need to split your time).
- Manage your teacher to teach you the way you need to be taught so you can also to dance socially.
- Manage your own learning so that you can accelerate the rate you can learn all the dance skills you wish to learn.
The first one is fairly easy – just find another school if needed. You might even charge your teacher with learning about this higher standard. That brings you to the second point – managing your teacher.
If you can manage your teacher and yourself, then you can learn all you want. To know how to do this – click here.