For the beginner dancer, choosing a good dance teacher is the one area of learning dance that is more important than any other.
There are teachers out there who are quite brilliant at teaching adult learners - and it is well worth the effort to find them.
All gifted, enthusiastic, qualified dance teachers know how to teach using positive reinforcement rather than negative. As long as you are taught in a positive environment, you'll be fine.
Please don't give up if you come across a teacher who doesn't appeal to you - there are many different styles of teaching so don't be afraid to keep trying different classes until you find a dance instructor who appeals to you.
There are some teachers who teach pupils from a long way off - walking up and down the front of the class calling out instructions and pointing out mistakes to the pupils while not actually going near them.
There are other teachers who are incredibly 'touchy-feely', who might man-handle you into the right position.
Which do you prefer?
It's time to reflect on what teaching style suits you. And you've got to decide where you want your dancing to take you.
What do you want to achieve?
Are you coming to classes just for fun - for the social element, for the buzz of being in a dance environment?
Or perhaps you are coming to learn how to dance or to get fit without having to go to the gym?
Are you coming to progress, move up through the levels, become a truly natural, proficient dancer?
Or just as an occasional hobby?
It is probably a combination of some or most of the elements above. But perhaps you should decide what you want out of it initially. Because your needs dictate the kind of class (and more importantly, what kind of teacher) is going to suit you.
Do you want to stumble through the steps at the back and be invisible to the teacher, having a laugh with your friends?
Or do you want to be the one right down in front with the teacher scrutinizing your every move?
Perhaps you want to be singled out, in front of the whole class and told what you are doing wrong and corrected? And then told what you are doing is right and demonstrating your move to the rest of the class?
If you don't seek input from the teacher your dancing will progress much, much slower. Being singled out and corrected makes you learn fast. And it is this kind of approach that some dance teachers will take.
Will that suit you?
There are a lot of dance teachers who assume that if you are coming to a dance class then you want to progress. You want to get the moves exactly right and become very able in your dance of choice. So they will teach you accordingly and will correct your moves.
If you really are just going to a dance class for fun, for purely social reasons, make sure that you're with a teacher who teaches the class with the emphasis firmly on fun, on having a laugh, and not worrying too much about doing the steps perfectly.
If this appeals to you, a drop in class rather than a course of classes will suit you better.
An older teacher with many years of experience versus a newly qualified teacher with enthusiasm.
Which is better?
Don't accept "I've been teaching for years / decades / all my life" at face value. Don't take length of service in the industry alone as an indication of teaching ability.
Bear in mind that the longer you do something, the more repetitive it seems, the more bored you get. While in a lot of cases, experience is excellent, it isn't by any means the only way to judge a teacher's ability.
Imagine a new teacher, fresh from training, with all the most up-to-date methods in her head, her examination- standard technique razor sharp and boundless enthusiasm to make a good impression, to teach well and to build her business.
That's appealing too, right?
Now imagine an older, very experienced teacher, who has been teaching the same class for a million years. Not up-to-date with current methods, jaded by doing the same thing and listening to the same old music over and over.
Now these are stereotypes and there are endless amounts of brilliant experienced teachers and equal numbers of fresh, nervous, slightly under-done teachers out there.
Just try not to take experience or relative lack of it at face value.
And it's a big one that applies to most dances.
Ensure you are taught by a TEACHER not by a DANCER.
Your instructor should have had teacher training. And of course be adequately insured as a dance teacher.
There are a lot of dancers out there who, once their professional dancing life is either over or didn't work out quite as planned, turn to teaching without actually training as a dance teacher.
It is very tempting for someone who has been a dancer for a long time
to start teaching, believing they know all they need to know about
their dance of choice.
But knowing how to do a dance, even to a very high level, is completely different to knowing how to teach it safely and effectively.
The best dancers know this and would never dream of attempting to teach
without first re-training. Knowing what hurts in your own body is one
thing. But being able to recognize what could cause pain to someone else
is an entirely different skill.
This is an incredibly important point.
As well-meaning as they may be, being able to dance well does not qualify dancers as dance teachers. It's a crucial distinction.
So, if the dance you choose offers formal training qualifications for its teachers, make sure your teacher does actually have those qualifications.
Many of the more street style dances and traditional folk dances don't have formal training, so make sure the teacher is experienced and has been teaching for a while.
As you get used to your dance teacher and to the moves you are being expected to do, you'll grow to trust that the teacher will not to ask you to do anything which will hurt you.
dance for adults does not rely on very physically demanding moves or
extreme flexibility at the basic level.
Therefore, at a beginners stage, it is unlikely that you'll hurt yourself unless you are asked to spin too quickly. Watch out for this.
rest of an adult beginners dance class should be OK to follow without
too much fear of injury.
Just do what you can to ensure that you are taught by a qualified professional TEACHER, NOT by a DANCER, and your dancing will benefit.
And with that, it's time for your first dance class...