I'm Suzanne, the dance class critic. The what?
Professional dance class critic.
As far as I know, the only one in the world.
Trying to introduce myself to new people usually goes something like this...
"What do you do?"
"I work with dance"
"Oh, so you're a dancer?"
"No, I encourage people to go to dance lessons"
"Oh, so you're a dance teacher?"
"No, I'm…" and they've drifted away to someone who can describe themselves in 10 words or less.
I can't do that.
So why a dance class critic (and what on earth is one of those anyway)?
Here it is.
When I was little, I went to ballet classes. So far, so good. I absolutely loved it more than anything else. And I was quite good at it. I practiced every night at home and got all my exams with top grades.
Then I grew up. It's at this point most people stop their dancing lessons. The teen years hit, you decide that going to dance classes isn't cool. And I was one of them - I stopped dancing at 15. But I realized that I missed it terribly and with a break of only a few years, I was back in class.
That's not a career trajectory that a professional dancer could ever get away with, but I was happy to simply be a dedicated amateur (I studied film & tv in college and went to work in the arts / entertainment industry).
During my 20's my dance was a constant - much more so than you could class as a hobby. I often had my ballet bag with me at work so I could go to classes in the evening. Colleagues would ask what the bag was for and this is what happened every time
"I've got my ballet class tonight"
"Ballet? Oh I'd love to be able to dance"
"Why don't you sign up for a class? There are lots of adults beginners lessons available" (and there were, I was working in central London)
"Oooh, no, umm, I don't think so, umm, no, ahh…"
What was that? You want to be able to dance yet you won't go to a class and learn? Why not?
After this happened a few times, it really piqued my interest. I knew lots of dance teachers who said they couldn't get adults to go to beginners classes.
So, hang on a minute. If the teachers want to teach and the people want to learn, what is keeping these two so far away from one another?
Turns out, a lot of people have an image in their minds of what they think dance classes look like. That image inevitably involves rows of identical girls in matching leotards pulling impossible positions with their ridiculously bendy bodies. Or, a whirling, swirling mass of partners tango-ing in perfect unison, elaborate costumes and haughty expressions.
Crikey. That is a bit scary.
If it's one thing that I have to pass on to the world it's this: That image is not what most dance classes look like. It is certainly not what any beginners dance classes look like. Ever. It just isn't.
So that's the problem. A lot of people believe that dance classes are where people who already can dance go. They are afraid that they will embarrass themselves in front of a hostile, sneering audience of near-professional level performers.
But that can't possibly be the case, can it?
I had to promote the idea of learning to dance for the first time. That it is OK to be a complete beginner.
I wanted to show people what a beginner's dance class actually looks like; a fun, relaxing, enjoyable environment where anybody can feel comfortable and everybody is welcome. I had to find a way of taking people by the hand and leading them into a dance class, providing reassurance and gentle encouragement.
The idea of DanceClass.com was born.
I started attending classes for absolute beginners. I pretended I couldn't dance at all, or, if questioned, I would say that I was proficient in a completely different dance style and wanted to learn whatever it was (tap / hip hop / belly dancing / flamenco and so on) from scratch. I haven't yet been 'found out' by a teacher. I'm quite proud of that *serious face*.
I attended hundreds of beginners lessons in the USA and the UK.
I drew up a massive list of questions I wanted answered at every lesson. And I answered these as I went along, dancing through the lesson (or sometimes just watching a lesson in progress).
Patterns of information became clear. Everything from what kind of dancewear do you absolutely need to have for each type of dance style in order to get the most from your class to how much cardio / workout content each dance style has.
I looked at classes where, week after week I saw the same people coming back. What made the class popular?
I scrutinized classes where I saw a
high drop out rate. What things did the teacher do that would mean
half her class wouldn't return next time?
single dance class I went to, I had a list of over 40 questions on all
aspects of it. I spent a lot of time in sweaty dance studio changing
rooms, scribbling notes. The other pupils must have thought I was
Here's just a tiny handful of the thousands of pages in dozens of notebooks that I filled…
I repeated the analysis exercise many, many times, for many different dance styles. And I still do it today.
I have amassed not only my own 40+ years of being an enthusiastic dance pupil but also the 15+ years of research I have gleaned from attending hundreds of different beginner's dance classes as a 'secret shopper' (although I think dance class critic has a nicer ring to it…).
So the information you see on this site is all that knowledge. I haven't guessed at any of it, this is genuinely what beginner's dance classes are like. How to spot good ones and how to avoid bad ones. What to wear, what you'll learn, what questions to ask before you go, the list goes on. And it's all for you to read.
However, reading about dance can only get you so far. I wanted to get people into live dance classes if I possibly could. I wanted to show everybody what a good dance class actually looks like and get as many as possible to join in with the dancing.
During my research, I came across some great dance teachers.
But very occasionally, I came across a truly remarkable teacher. And I had the idea of filming them teaching a class of adult beginners.
It would mean that, wherever you are in the world, whatever your local dance class facilities may be, via our dvds and web videos you would be able to join in with not just a good adult beginner's dance class, but an amazing one. As good as it gets. And in the privacy of your own home.
So that's exactly what happened. I've produced eight programs on dance classes for complete beginners in a huge variety of styles, from Hip Hop to Foxtrot, from Ballet to Cha Cha.
The teachers I filmed are the best there are at teaching adult beginner's dance. They are the gold standard. And so the classes I've filmed of them in action are, quite simply, the best adult beginner's dance classes anywhere.
Read more about these amazing teachers below... and order a class featuring them today.
So you get to do your very first dance class in private. And not just any old dance class, but the very best.
You'll get excellent tuition and a bucket load of confidence. Enough, I hope, to go and join your local dance class and learn with a 'live' teacher. I've just made it easier for you to get started.
Over 20 million video views later, I'm still hard at it - doing everything I can to ensure that anybody who wants to learn how to dance, gets that chance.
So there you go. I am not a dance teacher, nor am I a dancer. I am a lifelong dance pupil and hope that my unique and detailed view into the world of dance classes helps you towards learning your dance of choice.
Do a video class with us, and learn the very basics. Then read the guide to your dance of choice and learn all about what's likely to happen in your local classes, what to wear, what to expect, what to watch out for and loads more.
Then, just get dancing.
I hope this has given you a good idea of what DanceClass.com is all
about. But I'll need your help to stay a little anonymous. Don't tell
your dance class teacher about me.
I don't wish to influence a class or a teacher in any way. I do what I do best if the teacher doesn't know who I am or why I'm in their class. It's important to me that you get an accurate picture of what's going on in the world of dance classes.
But next time you go along to a class (as I hope you will be inspired to after visiting DanceClass.com), give a big smile to the person next to you. It just might be me…
If you have a dance story you'd like to share, or a question, you can contact me here.
I can't always answer every mail I get, but I do my best and I always read every single one.
If you're an experienced dance teacher who loves to teach adult beginners and would like to guest edit a section here on the site, as Emeroy and Helen have done, drop me a line.