Ballroom teachers needed - no experience required

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by pygmalion, Aug 6, 2004.

  1. harp34552

    harp34552 Member

    As someone who has been teaching a very short time as a way to pay for my continuing dance education, I think there's another relevant point. Beginning newbie off-the-street dancers do all kinds of crazy stuff that one doesn't expect, and it can sometimes be harder to figure out why it isn't working than to diagnose higher-level technique problems. Falling out of a spiral? Yeah, I know why that's happening. But the crazy promenade situation that's happening on day five of beginning American foxtrot - there are a lot of contributing factors that have to be separated out and taught in layers.

    Not that I think I am super-awesome-amazing at this - in another thread recently I think I said that I feel like, in comparison to the people I take lessons from, a hot dog vendor in a room of top chefs - but simply that it takes some experience and a bit of an eye to figure out what is happening with newbies even more, sometimes, than with more experienced dancers. That has got to be pretty difficult if you are learning to teach and learning to dance at the same time, I would imagine.

    I think for teachers gaining experience and trying to provide students with the best service they can, it's like this (if you'll allow the metaphor to be dragged on and on): you want to make sure people are getting decent delicious food and nobody is going home with bad oysters. And not everybody's palette is ready for black truffles, anyway.
  2. pinkstuff

    pinkstuff Member

    Sure teachers need to gain experience but as a customer I don't see why I should have to pay for some-one to gain experience but probably learn very little myself, or try to adapt what I learn to fit the teachers needs. I understand that every-one starts somewhere but may be there should be an apprentice-based model where inexperienced dancers/teachers provide supervised lessons at a cheaper rate under supervision.

    As a beginner it is important to have some-one experienced with sound knowledge. The bad habits & poor technique learnt at the beginning are hard to break.
  3. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Moderator

    Recently, I tried to help a newbie friend start driving backward through her heel. It was an interesting half hour, constantly trying and discarding approaches. It's hard to break down something you've taken for granted over even just a few years.
    Dragging your metaphor on... ;)

    If someone wants hot dog and you give him hot dog, that's cool. But if he wants wild salmon and you say yes, but you bring him farm-raised salmon without telling him, that's not cool.

    Not everyone is ready for black truffles, but some people with inexperienced palates are willing to try them if offered and can develop an appreciation.

    I'm getting hungry...:wanders off to the kitchen for a snack: :razz:
  4. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    " Skimming" the floor ? , I hope.
  5. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member


    Yes. Absolutely. The right newbie (with an untutored palate but a natural affinity for black truffles) could certainly benefit from such lessons.

    I'll leave aside for the moment the fact that not everybody likes black truffles and many people never will.

    In my mind, saying that a newbie could benefit from lessons with a top pro is different from arguing that every newbie needs such lessons in order to advance while avoiding poor technique. If that were the case, there'd be lots of good but unemployed dance teachers and no feeder pool for the upcoming generation of teachers. I think there needs to be a middle ground somewhere.

    And. Dare I say it? The hidden assumption in some of this discussion has been that top pros are always good teachers. Someone (TC?) has already implied that this is not always true. Just figured that saying it again wouldn't go amiss. :cool:

    Just my view. :cool:
  6. nottomention

    nottomention New Member

    Unfortunately that decision is more likely to be driven by business concerns than by dance quality concerns.

    Unfortunately it is very hard to stay in business. A lot of outstanding teachers with a management role years ago made the decision to do right by their own personal students while letting a lot happen to their underlings' students, because it was the only way they could think of to cover the rent.

    If you follow the general rule of only studying with a teacher who is their own dance director, you can and likely will find yourself walking into circumstances where those problems do occur, but being unharmed as you are on the safe side of their pragmatic divide over what they can afford to care about. But the minute you allow them to assign a teacher to you, you start to run risks.

    For the other side, the advice to teachers is that if you care about teaching, do not get into the situation of becoming responsible for facility rent or managing others. Instead, rent the space you actually need for the time you personally need it for your own students from a studio, or else a rehearsal facility, church, community center, dojo, or whatever.
  7. nottomention

    nottomention New Member

    Given how long even winning competitors often take to meaningfully develop that, its actually something the top teachers are the least likely to take for granted - they are the ones to whom it frequently falls to inform accomplished dancers that they are still missing a basic skill.

    Few trainees would even be aware that this has been missed in their own demonstration.

    Ultimately, this is an example of a skill that comes when quality of movement is given priority over variety. That tends to happen only when there is freedom from pressing business and even competitive concerns. Expert guests have that freedom. Low level idealists may as well. And some can make a protected space for it with their own students.

    But it is a perfect example of what tends to fall by the wayside whenever a program is under pressure.
  8. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    Easier said than done . Circumstance usually dictates feasability .

    Rental space is as rare as hens teeth in my current locale . Im actually limited to one location, on a nite not of my choice, but Hobsons .
  9. DL

    DL Well-Known Member

    I agree. But, one way or another some portion of the overall revenue that flows from students into the ballroom industry gets allocated for teacher training/experience building. That's all I'm trying to say. That doesn't imply that it's good for you to pay $200 for a worthless private lesson. But having a little give-and-take with a good studio's staff in the context of a larger picture could be good for all concerned.

    Hmm. I guess there are personal and impersonal teacher/student relationships. My own primary teacher/student relationships are long-term relationships, and I've adapted quite frequently, for mundane stuff like scheduling, and to take into account individual teaching styles while I'm learning.

    There are many models across the industry. Some take advantage of hapless newcomers; many don't. In different places things are structured in different ways. Probably no model is perfect.

    I generally agree with that. Yet at the same time not every beginner can have every private lesson with the most senior/experienced teacher in town.
  10. tanya_the_dancer

    tanya_the_dancer Well-Known Member

    I think it also makes a huge difference if a newbie teacher has some kind of dance experience in another field. And that puts female newbies at advantage, because most girls do at least a little bit of non-partner dancing at some point in their lives (not all girls do it, but it is much more common around here for parents to enroll girls in ballet or tap classes and boys in other sports).
  11. tanya_the_dancer

    tanya_the_dancer Well-Known Member

    I agree. I skimmed this thread and at some point someone mentioned using trade students for other services (like getting a haircut). The results could be iffy, but the price was considerably cheaper compared to using more qualified service. So, if a studio had a sliding pay scale based on how experienced the teacher is, the practice would be more acceptable.
  12. nottomention

    nottomention New Member

    This can actually be the worst situation, as it easily leads to someone who has the appearence of knowing what they are doing, while not yet having begun the process of understanding how ballroom is fundamentally different.

    Dancing is not the steps, it is the movement between them - an area that is not only unique to each discipline, but where habits are hardest to change.

    It might be tempting to ask how many students need a teacher who actually understands ballroom - maybe the student is happy just to look like they can do something that looks like ballroom. And maybe they would be. But trying to dance with someone who hasn't learned to move in partnerable ways is quite a bit more difficult than it should be. The student is left feeling like they will never learn to dance - not surprising really, as even an experienced dancer would find it difficult to dance with that 'teacher'.
  13. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member



    I'm not saying all new teachers are terrible, or that all experienced teachers are good, or that all the competitive top pros are good teachers either. Just relaying what my personal experience has been. That's why I made sure to use the term "top teacher". By that I mean, someone is both highly skilled and knows how to communicate their knowledge.

    Yes, obviously, new dance teachers have to start somewhere to gain experience, just as newbies do in all fields. But there should be a more experienced teacher overseeing the process and making sure that the students are learning properly. Also, the students should know what they're getting. It's not ethical in my view to misrepresent the teacher's experience level or charge the student the same amount that a top pro would get.

    This seems like a fair solution to me. My own studio does have different rates for different teachers, depending on their experience, and I've seen this with other studios.
  14. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member


    Yes. I understood. :cool:

    I like your suggestion that newbie teachers be monitored/mentored by more experienced teachers. At the studio where I saw this in practice, the monitoring was in place but not as effectively applied as I would have liked. A lot of the teachers were very territorial (with good reason. Students = paycheck.) So, even if the newbie teacher wasn't working out, he/she was often allowed to keep students, unless the students explicitly complained. Not cool. ETA: In all fairness, there were lots and lots of closed-door meetings that I was not privy to. It's entirely possible that the dance director was working to address issues and I never saw it.

    And I agree with your point about unethical behavior as well. While I've never seen explicit misrepresentation, I've seen instances where students who were new to ballroom were allowed to think that their teachers were at a much higher skill level than they were. Also not cool, IMO, especially when the students were being asked to pay the same hundred bucks an hour as if they had the most senior instructor in the studio.
  15. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    This is /was the system in place, used by all English studios if one wished to qualify as a Prof . ; a minimum of one yr was required , and a competant dance level, before the first exam was taken.
  16. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    Letting new students decide on what teacher is good or better is a losing proposition. I hear people who have been dancing for a month or less saying 'teacher x' is good' when they have no perspective or point of reference. New dancers' views are shaped by how good they feel, not how well they are taught.

    I spend a lot of time with new students fixing strange body movements and bizarre shaping concepts that were unnoticed or actually taught by other teachers. The concept of a standing leg, for instance, is a total mystery to the social dancer who took a few group classes and happily prances through a social, and is of no real use I suppose to someone who is not concerned with dance quality vs. the ability to remain on the social floor for more dances, but should be de riguer for anyone attempting to learn how to dance properly.

    And price can never be presented to new dancers - some of them will instinctively go lowball (and of course their reasoning is the old saw "teacher x knows more than me so who cares how much better teacher y is - as long as teacher x is 'better' than me I am getting better / cheaper lessons") and some will go hi for no reason other than price ("she charges the most so she must be the best").

    Many new dancers also cannot get past their physical concept of what a dance teacher looks and sounds like. Cuteness or hunkiness does not translate into quality dance instruction; try telling that to an older dancer who is confronted by a smooth 20-something who intimates companionship. In most other disciplines, the Senior instructor is the most revered, but in partner dancing, sometimes the older instructor is passed over.

    The real issue here is whether the studio manager or owner (or the teacher) is dealing honestly with the students. And many owners' ego prevents them from seeing what will be best for the student.
  17. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member


    Yes. (I finally went back and read the previous incarnation of this thread. :oops: )

    I used to take lessons at a social dance studio which sold the experience of "fun" dancing. There was a guy there who'd been taking lessons, IIRC, ten years, and who was a perfectionist, just like me. He loved everything ballroom and his dancing had a very smooth, Fred Astaire look to it, especially when he danced foxtrot, which was his favorite dance.

    About a year after I left that studio, I ran into him at an independent studio, learning everything that had never been required of him. Poor guy. He strove for excellence for ten years and actually did better than most. But, for those ten years, he was being fed the dance equivalent of junk food. All the fun and none of the footwork. (Don't quote me on this. :lol: ) I wonder what kind of dancer he could have been, at that point, if he'd been fed black truffles or wth even meatloaf and mashed potatoes rather than hotdogs and potato chips.

    ETA: This is not to diss social dance studios. I think they serve a useful purpose. I just think that such studios need to be up front with their students about what they provide -- fun dance rather than dancesport training. And then it would be all good. It's the deception by omission that rankles.
  18. nottomention

    nottomention New Member

    The experience requirement is still on the books for later certification degrees - the problem is that requirements on paper do not seem to reliably translate to capability in dancing. It's too easy - especially in this age of teaching to the test - for candidates to learn what is required while the harder-to-describe-on-paper skills the requirements and memorized details were intended to bracket escape coverage or verification.

    There really is no shortcut substitute for extensive personal experience dancing with peers off-routine, while studying to perfect the application of technique for ones own improvement.
  19. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    Amen! There's a local guy that has a million 'steps' and expensive dance outfits who appears at nearly every social - but was never taught how to count time or to dance in time - and he claims he took a dance lesson DAILY for years and years. It is heartbreaking to see him drift off the music, as if he was dancing to another song entirely, one that started a few seconds later than what is actually playing.

    Another fellow does his 'moves' to every song - but he dances waltz to every song. At this point, who knows if he can even stop his muscle memory...
  20. nottomention

    nottomention New Member

    Your points are certainly valid. However, I expect that inexperienced students allowed to pick their own teacher (and change at their fickle will) while exposed to a varied selection of possibilities and prices in an open market will generally make better choices than those who walk into one or two closed markets and trust the management their to guide their choice.

    It's not that the students are going to make great choices - especially at first. Rather it's that at least they are guided by their own interests and able to learn from the experience of making good and bad choices - especially as they will likely be exposed to competing opportunities almost every time they take a lesson.

    Some factors which are a real aid to connecting students with the best opportunities:

    1) variety of teachers in free competition with each other on the same floors
    2) teachers free to set their own prices and policies
    3) norm of competitive rates for single lessons, ie, no package lock-in
    4) student body at a wide variety of levels which interacts at socials and talks at the water cooler

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