General Dance Discussion > Which of these ways is the best way to learn dancing?

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by wiseman, Jun 24, 2010.

  1. wiseman

    wiseman New Member

    Which is the best way to learn dancing?

    1) Learn the basics of all the dances and then gradually learn more on each of them. For example, I got to a Latin group class that teaches all the basics of the Merengue, Rumba, Cha Cha, and Salsa. Then as time goes on, they add more stuff on each of them. So we learn multiple dances at once.


    2) Learn one dance at a time. For example, go to Salsa dance lessons and once I master that, then I can move on to a Rumba lesson or whatever other dance I want to learn.

    The reason I ask is because I just recently changed dance studios because the old studio was taking advantage of me and was money hungry. The old studio used technique #1. They taught the basics of those 4 Latin dances and were gradually building up on each of them. However, this new studio doesn't do such a thing. They used technique #2. They have classes for each type of dance. They told me that it's best to learn one dance at a time to avoid confusion and also, it helps you master one type of dance before moving onto the next.

    So, which studio is correct? Which way is the best to learn? Technique #1 or 2?
  2. TangoRocks

    TangoRocks Member

    I learned my Smooth/Rhythm with technique #1--one advantage to that technique is what they call "interrelating"--i.e., your rumba helps your cha-cha helps your mambo helps your, you get the idea. Especially as a newcomer, I found it useful that something I learned in one dance (crossover break, box, open break etc.) can, with some effort, be used in another dance, hence increasing my repertoire for the (at that time) dreaded socials and parties and whatnot where you run out of patterns you know real fast and keep doing the same things over and over.

    Conversely, when I decided to learn Lindy Hop (due to frustration with ECS as well as preferring Lindy speed and style music to most triple-swing tunes) I went with technique #2--master the Lindy, concentrate on the one dance you are trying to get better at.

    So, both techniques can be useful, depending on your goals. If you want to be signor salsero, the lindy bomb, the argentine tango maestro etc., I'd go with technique #2. For a more balanced and generalist approach to both ballroom/latin, technique #1 would be the slow but steady route to take. Of course, I am just a student like you are, not a pro or a teacher, so this is just my personal opinion. Whichever one you choose, though, keep it up, it's so much fun!!! :)
  3. Amanda Coyle

    Amanda Coyle New Member

    I like #1 better. I like the variety, and there is a lot of knowledge that you learn in one dance that crosses over into other dances.
  4. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    Are you taking private lessons or doing only groups? If privates, then I'd suggest starting with a few dances--waltz, foxtrot, cha cha, rumba, swing, perhaps--and learn them first, adding others as time goes on.

    If groups only, then I'd say focus on one or two at first and get comfortable enough to dance them socially, then add more--depending on how many classes per week you want to take!
  5. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    All depends on where you are going to be dancing. If you are going to go out to salsa clubs, focus on salsa, and maybe learn a little of the off-salsa stuff that is popular at the clubs you go to. Around here it would be cha cha, merengue, and bachata. If you go dancing somewhere where they are playing mixed ballroom music, you're going to spend a lot of time watching other people dance unless you learn at least a few.
  6. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    one after another

    I think the community you are dancing in rules this decision. If you are a ballroom student, you have to start with at least 4 or 5 really differnt dances. Either has a tradition in styling and musicality worth of studying alone. Each of these dances above exists outside the ballroom community, too. If you would join these special scenes it is possible to learn one after another.

    I have done them one by one. I have never been on the dance floor up to the age of 40. Then I started with argentine tango exclusively. In the tango community up to 4 different dances are danced, but tango prevails. Then I slipped into a salsa community and began to learn cuban casino and a little bit of NY. In the salsa community about 4-7 different dances are danced, salsa, merengue, bachata, chachachá, mambo, son, cumbia. And you can learn each of them one by one.

    To learn one after another means to learn with more intensity because you put the focus on one dance only and you are also occupied with the music theory and the history of the dance from the very beginning on. You will immerse into the scene and will make that period a phase of your life.
  7. bclure

    bclure Member

    My goal is to build the dance community. With that in mind, I prefer to teach #1. When you are learning one dance, say waltz, it is hard to make it to a social dance knowing that they are going to play many different dances. Scary stuff.. I looked at a playlist from a Friday night dance, if you knew the box step with a few moves off the box, you could have danced to 17 of the 36 songs played. That's better than sitting out waiting for waltz's.
  8. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    I'd say #1, because if I had to keep going and doing the same dance for 45 minutes until I "mastered" the basics, I'd quit from raging boredom. Also, since the only social dancing I do is in a ballroom setting, if I only knew, say, rhumba, I'd be sitting out a lot or getting dragged around the floor in dances I didn't know.
  9. wiseman

    wiseman New Member

    Looks like this new studio of mine is not very good then. They use technique #2. They don’t believe in mixing all the different dances in one class. Each dance has their own class. Oh well. I’ll see how it goes.
  10. jjs914

    jjs914 Active Member

    Wiseman, when you say "mixing all teh different dances i one class," do you mean doing multiple different dances in one 45 minute class, or to you mean a series of four classes and each week focuses on a different dance?

    I think there are a lot of studios that do multi-week series with multiple dances, but probably only approach one dance per class. You can only get through so much in 45 minutes and that doesn't make them a bad studio.

    Though I don't do a lot of group lessons, I've taken lessons at multiple studios and I think they all did the one dance per class, but the dance taught would vary by week in a series.
  11. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    I wouldn't judge the studio as "not very good". Their approach is perfectly valid. It's really just a matter of your personal learning preference as well as what will be more useful socially.

    The big factor is whether you will be attending a "ballroom dance" or a social which is focused on a particular dance. For some reason, certain dances (salsa, West Coast Swing, and Argentine tango) tend to have socials where that one dance is done exclusively, or almost exclusively - so with those dances, it makes good sense to focus on just that one thing.

    In my area, the salsa socials are 80-90% percent salsa songs. The rest is bachata/merengue/cha cha, but many of the salsa folks don't know those other dances and use those songs as their time to sit, chat, get drinks, hit the restrooms, etc.

    On the other hand, ballroom dance is a category where the socials feature many different dances (waltz, foxtrot, tango, rumba, etc.). So it's more important to learn several different dances to enjoy that event to the fullest.
  12. wiseman

    wiseman New Member

    Multiple dances all in one class. In my old studio, they had a 2 hour group lesson where they covered the basics of the Merengue, Rumba, Cha Cha, and Salsa all on one class. In the private lesson, it was one hour and the instructor would still keep changing dances. I may learn 3 different dances in one private session.
  13. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    I've taken group classes where it's four weeks on one dance, but only as a supplement to private instruction. Never without private lessons, though. (Though for comparison, I don't do salsa and I don't social dance, so it might not be necessary to take privates and learn more than one 'dance', though to me 'salsa' is more a category with a lot of different styles.)
  14. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Both methods have value, which is best depends on your goals, how far along you are in your development as a dancer, and maybe if you are taking a multiple classes each week. But the details of each individual situation can matter more than the structure.

    Sometimes it seems that the classes that cover a lot of dances are introductory surveys for the newest dancers, with the next stage of learning being several weeks devoted to a specific dance, but some advanced classes may jump around a lot to cover interesting problems in a variety of dances.

    Other times, especially in competition programs you start with a key dance or two from a given family and then add in the remaining ones one by one months or even years later.

    Something I think often works well is to take both a social survey class that covers a lot of variety, and a more in depth, ideally competition-targeted one that trains sound fundamentals.
  15. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    Oh, no, I don't think that is a problem. You need some continuity to learn even the basic steps of one dance.

    You may learn quickly, but it is common for new dancers to be unable to handle the basics in a new dance even after four hours of instruction. (One hour per week for a month.) Throwing more than one dance at a time at such people would not be very productive.

    So, let me break down my perception of this a little more. At the studio I went to in California, which is very large, they would have 12 group classes a night, three nights a week. You would be able to find several dances being taught at your level per week. At one time, I was in the studio every night of the week, either taking month-long or drop-in group classes, or attending social dances.

    The studio I currently go to teaches one standard and one latin class per month. If I were just starting out, it means it would take a couple of months to learn the basic figures in two standard and two latin, which I think would be enough to spend a reasonable percentage of time on the dance floor. And to be clear, the quality of private instruction I get at this studio is fabulous. The group classes are geared to teaching competition style, so I think they lose a lot of people who just want to dance socially. Previous studio was good at just getting people dancing, but the six-week wonders were limited for private instruction.

    A smaller studio might only be teaching one or two dances at a time, simply because the teachers don't have enough time, or enough student enrollment, to support more than that. That doesn't mean that the smaller studio is not as good. It just means it might take a little time to gain proficiency in multiple dances.

    Most ballroom socials that I am aware of usually have a beginner's lesson in some single dance before the general dancing begin. That is an opportunity to get exposure to more dances if your favorite studio is a small one.

    My own experience (and some franchises promote this model, but I don't think I care for the expensive bundles) is that you take group classes to learn the figures, private lessons to clean up technique, and social dances for practice. In particular, I hate spending $70/hour to learn figures, when I could do it for $10/hour. ;) And these days, since I am doing international style, I review the ISTD texts, look at some youtube videos, and learn the figures for free, and have my private lesson instructor clean up my technique.
  16. morgrob

    morgrob New Member

    I also think that learning multiple dances at one time helps you remember things in the long run. If you master lets say, cha cha, unless you practice it all the time, by the time you master your 5th dance it has been a long time since you've done cha cha (especially for social dancing). Like others said many things can be done in multiple dances, which is helpful. It also just more fun to at least know a couple of steps in each dance so you can get out and do them.
  17. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    I think it's much easier to learn a dance when the full class period is focused just on that one dance. If you want to learn more than one dance at a time, you could always take more than one class a week (if you have the time and money). I usually go to my studio one night per week but I take two classes while there - usually an hour of salsa and then an hour of swing, for example.
  18. ash_sk8s

    ash_sk8s Member

    My studio does dance-specific classes as well. I like it that way. However, they do also have a general beginning ballroom class that teaches I think 3 dances.
  19. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    I wouldn't conclude that your studio isn't good. IME, very few studios teach multiple dances in one group class session. As Chris said, that works either at the very, very beginning or at a very advanced stage. In between, to really learn at the advanced beginner or intermediate stage, you really need to spend some time on each dance to learn enough to dance it socially or in competition, whichever (or both) your goals are.

    The best group classes I've had were 3-month series of weekly classes focusing on just one dance. That was long enough to cover the whole bronze syllabus.

    In private lessons, it's typical to spend time on more than one dance in each lesson, though that too depends on your goals and stage of development. There is a time for that exhausting hour spent on just one step!
  20. jjs914

    jjs914 Active Member

    I think if it's a 45 minute or hour long class, it's actually probably the norm, in most cases, to teach one dance per class period. I wouldn't place a judgement on the studio's value based on that. I think you can use that info to judge whether or not the studio's method's fit with the way you learn...which is a personal thing.

    Now, where the old studio had two hour classes, I can see that it would make sense to do more than one dance. That reminds me of the way we learned as beginners when I joined my college's team. We had multiple hour long classes (an hour for beginners, an hour for intemediate, etc.) and so we could cover more than one dance over the course of a night. Also, especially in the first months, we might cover more than one dance in an hour session to give a taste of the different dances and get people started.

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