Ballroom Dance > What Makes A Good Teacher?

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by SDsalsaguy, Apr 10, 2003.

  1. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Being an excellent dancer does not a good teacher make!

    I've recently watched some excellent dancers (based both on ability and placement) who do not seem to be very good teachers, especially for newer and more beginning dancers! So what does make a teacher "good"?
  2. Phil Owl

    Phil Owl Well-Known Member

    Great Thread SD!!!

    Here's my 2-Hoots worth:

    1) Friendliness, a student needs to feel comfortable with their teacher, otherwise, their ability and willingness to learn is severely impaired and discouraged. Snootiness and ego have NO place in this arena! :x

    2) Knowledge of variety material

    3) Able to communicate their material in a way that ANYBODY can understand and grasp it, dmakes sure the student grasps it before moving on.

    4) Great patience and careful instruction

    5) Works with the student to define their goals and devise a way of getting there, doesn't impose his/her vision on the student.

    6) Makes the lessons fun, upbeat and enjoyable, not like undergoing a root canal! :shock:
  3. Liz076

    Liz076 New Member

    Another virtue to a good teacher...

    Those are definately some good points! :wink:
    I've had several teachers throughout my life and I think one of the best teachers I had would always look for input from me on an individual basis. She would ask me questions and try to conform to my needs. I had lots of fun and in the process, improved considerably. :D
  4. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    Welcome to the forums, Liz076!

    Those are also very good points, Liz. Not every student is looking for the same thing and I believe it is important for the teacher to try their best to figure out what the student desires most. Sometimes teachers have their own agendas such as teaching their favorite dances when they are not the student's favorite dances or teaching a competitive program to a student that especially enjoys Salsa dancing.
  5. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Hi Liz076!

    Welcome to the forums and great point! It is vitally important that an instructor tailor their teaching to what the student is after. Its your dancing! If the instructor isn’t even concerned with what you want out of it, leave! Fast :!:

    As DanceMentor points out…
    …and, indeed, I have ended up on the losing end of this equation myself, back when I was starting out. In my own situation I was taught largely syllabus mambo, but “on1” in one studio, as salsa, and sold a package of multiple dances at another. Some of the rhetoric involved in this later scenario included “well, cha cha will help you with speed, rumba will help you with body control, and samba will help you with body rhythm.” While all of those might be true in the grand scheme of things, all I wanted help on (at the time) was salsa! (Don’t even get me started on how they justified why I should be learning foxtrot too!)

    In a different vein, however, I don’t entirely agree with everything Phil suggested. I think, precisely because individual purpose and goals enter into it, that some of the items in question may be more or less applicable, depending on the situation. I want to go through the points one at a time but, as a general caveat, let me say that I think these items are, by and large, all quite important in a social dance instructor. Also, in so far as my original prompt did specify newer and beginning dancers, I think Phil is more right then not! I just add the following considerations on top of – not in place of – his valuable commentary:

    Especially in a competitive coach, I think that comfort is the issue, not necessarily friendliness. While learning will, indeed, be impaired if you are not comfortable with a coach, I do not think that the same is necessarily the case regarding friendliness. I also find that this varies cross-culturally – what we, in America, find to be friendly, many from other countries find to be rather disingenuous since genuine friendliness (from their frame of reference) takes time to forge. Just an observation from my travels/experiences.

    Again, not necessarily true. A competitive Latin couple, for instance, probably have little if any interest or concern if their teacher a competitive coach knows any foxtrot whatsoever. Similarly, someone who really wants to learn WCS, or Argentine Tango, can be very well served by an instructor who is not very well versed outside of the dance in question. Again, as relates to newer students Phil makes a good point since exposure to more, rather then less, helps students find what they want and like. To me, however, the underlying issue here is misrepresentation. A good teacher knows their own limitations and doesn’t try to teach beyond their capabilities just because the student, who doesn’t know any better, is willing to pay them for such “instruction.”

    And, again, it depends. This seems particularly apt for a social instructor or one working with beginners, and less so for a more competitive coach. Certainly the better teachers will be able to convey their information to a wider variety of people but, ultimately, what counts is whether that instructor can convey the information to you!

    Nothing needs to be said, save that what counts as patience is situationally variable.

    HELL YES! And exactly the point both Liz and DanceMentor were picking up on!

    Especially for the newer dancer this is, indeed, absolutely, 100%, incontrovertibly crucial. Later on though, I might modify it to say “rewarding.” When I’m gearing up for a competition and really getting my @$$ kicked by my instructor, it may not be all that much fun…but I’d leave them in a heartbeat if they compromised that to make it fun. I seek out such coaching to improve the quality of my dancing, hence that lesson better be rewarding, it better help my dancing, but I’m OK without it being fun. But, again, this is a different focus from that of the new student.

    Anyway, have to run now…heading over to the evening session of the Southwest Regional Dance Championships

  6. Anonymous

    Anonymous New Member

    Hi everybody!
    Just my 2 cents: I actually like "undergoing root canal" because if it's well done it won't hurt anymore!
    The worst thing for me is to hear "you shouldn't be concerned about it right now", and then next week to correct exactly the thing that "wasn't necessary" the week before! :x
    Also, those who can't get basic figures right shouldn't be forced into something more complicated just yet (in group classes). Likewise, don't bore "quick" students to death - give an idea what to work on for a few minutes while you're busy.
    And I had a teacher once who tried to explain clave to the beginners (literally beginners, first salsa lesson ever). 8) Imagine all the fun!
  7. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Good point redhead! The same teacher and teaching are not suitable at all levels. A good teacher can, of course, adapt accordingly, but some may be good teachers for students at certain stages vs. others.

    I do think, however, that there are times for an instructor to legitimately say that a student shouldn't be concerned with something yet. Obviously not if they're then going to get there next week ( :!: ), but when a student sees something and wants to do it -- because it looks cool, etc. -- but doesn't have the fundamentals in place yet.

    Mind you, a good teacher will then show how the fundamentals all contribute to, or set the foundation for, what the student had seen.
  8. Anonymous

    Anonymous New Member

    I totally agree with you, Jonathan. It can be unsafe. :wink: What I meant - it's frustrating if you learn a new move, your teacher explains the footwork, you ask about were your head goes, or hands, or whatever - and hear "don't worry about it yet". Then for a week you do it the way that seems logical to you, and THEN you learn it was wrong! You could learn it the proper way in first place! It might be just me...
  9. Sean Boogie

    Sean Boogie New Member

    I think good teachers are the ones who dance with there students,I've seen a lot of over weight teachers that i think are in it for the money.A good teacher should know the history behind the type of dance. Also you have 2 types of Teachers, The teacher and the Master teacher.
  10. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    Welcome to the forums, SEANBOOGIE :)

    Good Points: Some teachers get too comfortable with their current knowledge and don't train (and get overweight!). Also, it's good to identify whether you are learning from a new teacher or a true "master".

    Thanks for you participation. We welcome your comments. If you want to put a link to your website in your signature that is included at the end of every most you make, go into your profile and add a signature.
  11. Sean Boogie

    Sean Boogie New Member

    Thank you Dance Mentor for the welcome.
  12. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    No problem, SEANBOOGIE

    Looks like you got the link in the signature working. Cool!
    If you get a chance, I hope you'll tell us a little bit about your dance background.
  13. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Ok, now I see where you were coming from…and definitely! If the whole point of practice is “muscle memory,” then knowingly letting a student go off and practice something incorrectly is the height of irresponsibility as an instructor. That would be like me letting my students (I work as a teaching assistant at UCSD) go home to study incorrect material for their final.

    Any such occurrence demonstrates either (A) lack of responsibility from their teacher, or (B) a student teacher who doesn’t know better yet themselves. Either one of whom is a poor investment of your time and $.
  14. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member


    Let me add my welcome to DanceMentor’s. I had a friend who was competing in her first ever ballroom competition, doing pro-am, with an instructor who hadn’t been to an event or pursued his own training in over 10 years. It was ridiculous! Some of his choreography was practically archaic, he had no idea about how the ballroom itself was organized (i.e. on deck area, that there was water in the ballroom, etc.) and, worst of all, was his dance knowledge. Now don’t get me wrong – he had more training and ability then I do, but I could see tons of problems which, when the two of them took a coaching session the next morning, were exactly what the coach pointed out! That, to me, is ridiculous. When the coach finds more problems in the teachers dancing then the students, something is…well, for lack of a better term, &#$%@!
  15. MissAlyssa

    MissAlyssa New Member

    Well I may be biased because I am an instructor lol but hmm..
    1) Overall warmth and genuine excitement in their personality
    2) Knowledge of dances
    3) Patience!!!
    4) Constant question asking without coming across as too agressive.
    5) Teaching at just the right speed. Not too fast so they don't get confused or forget what they learned and not too slow so that they get bored.
    6) Make students feel proud of themselves because after all...dancing is not easy!

    My two cents :)
  16. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    If you can do this one well, you'll go a long way. I'm also curious what skills a teacher must possess to keep students for longer than 6 months. I would say that calling your students is always important in building a long-term working relationship.
  17. MissAlyssa

    MissAlyssa New Member

    Honestly I think that keeping a student longer than 6 months depends on what student you have. If the student is very interested in dance than they may continue but some may just not get the "hang of it" or may decide that they'd rather play badminton or something haha. :D I just make my students feel as if they can come to me as a friend without getting to be too close of a friend (otherwise I'd feel guilty asking them to turn bronze/silver/gold etc) :!:
  18. msc

    msc New Member

    Here's a twist on the question ... suppose you have a talented "mid-level" instructor, the instructor is friendly, good-natured, etc. Now suppose that, after 10-15 lessons or so, you come to the realization that the teacher has some fairly obvious weaknesses, and they try to "correct" you, although you're certain they are mistaken in their beliefs. What do you do?
    I ended up stopping the lessons after 20 or so, I just couldn't continue, but I really couldn't level with her as to why I couldn't continue, so I made up some lame excuse. I thought maybe I was crazy (even if the competition videos I had leaned in my favor,) until I started taking group classes from a very accomplished instructor, and she uses essentially the same body actions and techniques I use, so that was a bit of a relief. Still, I'm not sure if I handled the situation properly with my former instructor.
    I'd appreciate any thoughts on the matter.
  19. MissAlyssa

    MissAlyssa New Member

    Well first I would have to ask how you knew she had weaknesses and what they were. Then I would have to say that if an instructor has a student that is "mid-level" he/she should be able to dance and teach mid-level before they try to "wing it". And to answer your question about how you handled's tough answering that. I don't think it was necessarily "right" for you to straight out lie to her face. She WILL find out if you decide to go on with classes, especially if you are doing group lessons at the same studio or if you decide to do comps. I think that you should have told her the truth, but not so bluntly. Let her know how you feel and don't burn bridges by bailing out!
  20. msc

    msc New Member

    See, this is the attitude that scared me. Your response seems to justify my actions, unfortunately.

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