I have recently started to instruct ballroom dance,and am also very new to the sport.I love to dance and am anxious to learn everything I can.Though, sometimes,I tend to get a little discouradged...Mabey because I am 19 years old and have only been dancing for about 2 months, and I work with very experienced dancers that I think the world of. Although for the time being, I am only teaching beginners, I cant wait to fully dance the knowledge that is being given to me. Not to sound concided, but I think I hold alot of potential and want some advice on how to absorb more of dancing in less time (to be a little more comfortable w/ teaching).I have been thinking of looking for a dance partner to practice with,I think this will be alot of help to get the focus that I am trying to acheive. Any suggestions??? I am in the St.Pete area of Florida...Any advice that fellow dancers can give me on the hole topic itself and how to be more confident in teaching would be highly appreciated...Thank you so much!
Tanya- I am an amateur competitor, but I think that I can help you out. I've been competing for 11 years, and our studio's pros learn quite a bit, and quicker from doing some/all of the following: learning step-by-step and testing of both the American and International styles (ISTD and other step-by-step handbooks, Videos, etc.), practice and study during downtime, take coaching sessions from pros/coaches in studio, visiting your studio, if none, make arrangements to get coaches in or travel to their studio or events, often, compete with students (start at small local comps, then move up to larger regional and national ones), find a partner (get coaching sessions and compete), have confidence in yourself, keep your goals/dreams in focus at all times, and don't get discouraged! I hope that I have helped. Good Luck, Len.
Welcome to the world of teaching!! As an amateur then professional for a number of years and from experience both with/without studios, I'll give my perspective. A lot of new teachers seek two kinds of knowledge: (1) To improve their own level of dancing and (2) To improve thier level of teaching. Note I have implied nothing as to level of importance. To address the first, nothing will improve your dancing further than practice with a partner. There simply is NO MAGIC POTION that will instantly turn one into a superb dancer. Talent is a mere 5% of the equation and the other 95% is good coaching and work, work, work. Further, there is something to be gained by dancing with someone on your own level rather than someone far superior in level. So while dancing with the superior dancer will enable you to get the characteristic feel, I consider it a "crutch"--especially for instructors. There is quite a bit to be gained in "dance understanding" via working things out with your equal-experienced partner. (The latter requires being tactful with your partner and understanding that both partners have their respective problems to work out). Secondarily understand that the best dancers are so due to quality of movement rather than flash (or steps). A flashy dancer will win lower grade competitions but will ultimately lose upper grade competitions (You'll hear all the excuses, "The judges were aginst me", etc.) In reality that quality of movement takes work and practice to perfect. A lot of beginning teachers (and amateurs)run from famous champion to famous champion looking for that magic pill. Don't seek the champion dancers but rather seek the champion coaches (Someone coached the champion dancer--this coach is the person who really knows the subject)Stick with this one coach and attend on a regular basis; over the long term, they'll fix your problems. (Another way to look at this...if you feel your future students benefit from regular instruction, why wouldn't you?) A good coach will start out with a slower foundation but later-on you'll be surprised how much you'll benefit. It is my personal opionion--and I stress opinion--that International dancing will teach you the greatest regarding the foundation of the dances. Onto the teaching aspects...A good coach can also help in these areas. So while on your lesson, ask during a break in the action "I'm having problems getting my student to do this. How do you explain or teach that concept". Also, the most common fault of professionals (especially beginner pro's) is teaching too much, too soon. A second fault is assuming that the amateur is somehow of less ability or less intelligence than the professional. So what works for them (coaching via you, or practice) also works for us. Good teachers always ask themselves," how could I have communicated that concept easier?" , rather than blame the student(s). You're also going to find this crazy but some of the best coaches find their greatest satisfaction in teaching beginners or intermediate level people! Why? Because (1) Its a challenge. They find it interesting to find ways to get that student along further, with less painful bad instruction, and in a more fun environment. (2) They don't have to correct bad habits due to thier unattentive past teachers. (3) They don't think they know it all. So my advice is to concentrate on being the best teacher you can. You will build a NEVER-ENDING loyal clientel that you can graduate to the next level of dancing.
Happy you're in the profession!!
|<A Qualified Teacher>|
I think it is wrong that you are teaching with so little knowledge yourself.
Thanks for responding to this new "teacher". I thought exactly what you said but kept silent because I am an amateur and not involved with teaching. We see this all the time, unqualified teachers trying to teach. The result is always a disaster. I have found that it takes a very good teacher to teach beginners, not one with a couple of weeks of instruction. I only know of two teachers who I could recommend for beginners. Their results speak for their ability, both have been at it for over 20 years.
Yes, it is somewhat unethical to teach others without the proper training. In any other country but the US, this wouldn't happen. (At least not on the grand scale as it does in the US) Although not implicitly stated, I assume this new teacher is from the US. It appears that only in this country do these "studios" of dance instruction permit teaching without a solid background. (I prefer to call them "social clubs with marginal dance instruction" and not a dance studio.) The worst indictment is for the owners of the studios that permit this activity. Once again they play on the nievity of the student and are really saying, "we don't care whether or what they learn as long as they had a good time and we were able to bilk them out of lots of money". It really says how they view the amateur community--somewhat inferior and of somehow less ability then themselves. This is CLEARLY WRONG. While we're on the subject, lets also blame some of the amateurs who knowingly see this activity but are (1) Afraid to speak out or (2) Idolize these instructors simply because they have more knowledge than themselves or "waltz" them around the room every now and then. It never ceases to amaze me how the AMATEUR community embraces these people knowing they do these activities. Other dance organizations such as USABDA should also speak out in favor of articles on the importance of teacher accredidation or at the very least, years of teaching experience. This country (US) needs a system like the rest of the world has. The figures are standardized, uniform and teacher/studio accredidation by the ISTD and IDTA. Contrast this with FADS and AM franchised studios in this country where many a teacher or owner was certified simply because they were good at sales (i.e. "con-artist"). Since most independent studios are somehow derived from those organizations, I don't largely think of "professionals" in this country as either (1) professional or (2) ethical (And some are crooks!)The history of the level of "illegal" activities regarding dance studios is unlike any other in the world. So why does AM have a ruling by the FTC on selling lifetime memberships? And why so many states regulate the studio activities? (These owners learn to navigate the rules so now many are simply unethical but not strictly illegal). With this kind of history, our embracing of quality instruction and ethical professionals and owners has been slow in coming. Not speaking out will clearly not help the situation. Now where I do applaud this young instructor is at least she realizes her situation and wants to improve. Maybe she will be one of the new ethical professionals. Maybe she'll really pursue her instructor training and introduce dancing to others. And just maybe she'll realize that there is no need for the age old studio tricks that fleece excessive dollars from lonely people in the name of dancing. We can certainly hope so!
Dave, You are totally correct, however, I would like to expand several areas. First, the rest of the world is not pure when it comes to unqualified dance teaching. The worst of the US contract studios has several locations in the UK, this one is even selling lifetime memberships. They are called "unlimited memberships", limited only by the financial condition of the member(victim?). I can introduce you to people who have mortgaged their homes to finance one of these "unlimited memberships". One couple are in their 80s. Germany has a mixed situation with both amateur and professional teachers, when was a German couple last highly ranked in the world? I understand that Japan also has a similar situation with similar results. Quantity alone does not produce a winner. Second, USABDA will do nothing to correct this situation, as the people running it don't believe in taking lessons. Ask any studio owner in NJ, the original home of USABDA. They started with this attitude and it has returned with the current administration. Last, don't be too harsh on amateurs who seem to be overly friendly with these so called professional teachers. The pros who frequent open studio parties always fall all over these people, doing everything they can to make them look good. We amateurs must bite our tongues whenever confronted with this bad front end teacher problem. Alienating studios and beginning teachers can hurt us in the future so we try our best to avoid burning bridges. When asked directly, I always tell the truth about a studio or teacher, otherwise I don't say anything concerning the instruction or lack of it. I do however, always refuse to dance with any teacher at any level. I occasionally have to deal with a nasty remark, always from one of these beginners. They are so stupid it is unreal. The last time, was at a studio which had just completed a major enlargement and my partner was curious to see it. We attended a friday evening social and even though it was a much larger place than the previous location, it was not a pleasant experience. The front end teachers were prowling for new students, pouncing on the ladies and when that didn't work, pouncing on the men in order to separate them. One of these didn't recognize me, and asked me for a dance, as usual, I refused, trying to be as polite as possible. She then started in with, "can't dance HUH?", she continued with some other nasty taunts before giving up. I am used to attending functions in this area where the studio owners know us, so this kind of treatment is infuriating. Needless to say, we won't return.
Teaching is a very exciting profession indeed! I have been teaching Ballroom dancing for 13 years. I currently hold the Master level in the I.P.D.T.A. (International Professional Dance Teachers Association), and a member of the NDCA. I have also trained many new teachers as yourself. In the regards of learning faster, practice, practice, practice... Also, since you love dancing so much, if you are looking for a partner for competition, then truly decide on where your energy will be focused. Teaching is a full time job and a part time one combined. Competition is equally demanding. if you have exact questions in teaching, presenting, application and theory, just email me. DJ
As I have been reading the posts, I have noticed a lot of great feedback. However, something really bothers me. The two posts alluding to the fact that you can't be a good instructor unless you have had 20 years of training. There are good instructors out there that haven't been trained for even half that that are some of the best instructors around. Sometimes it's not how long you have been doing it, but the quality training you recieve along with the drive to do well and talent. These are very important parts of the equation that we cannot forget. If someone has the talent, the drive and a good trainer, I say go for it and more power to you!
Some very good points have been made in the previous posts. However, though I don't want to sound discouraging, I believe that a person only dancing for 2 months can't understand the nuances of the dances she is teaching. Although beginners cannot be expected to polish basics steps and figures, the experience and depth of instruction provided by a certified teacher makes the beginning lessons more successful, productive and satisfying for both the teacher and students. There are aspects to steps that beginner dancers & teachers, no matter how skilled they are, cannot pick up without knowing the step backwards, forwards and in their sleep.
My advice would be to find the best instructors in your area and have lessons with them. Have them analyze your dancing, and the way you do you steps. Let them make suggestions how to make your steps look better and the purpose behind the steps and figures. Then, use that knowledge when helping your beginners.
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