Would it be possible to learn how to dance in strictly group classes if...

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by LordBallroom, Apr 30, 2013.

  1. LordBallroom

    LordBallroom Member

    the classes were small enough that all the students would be able to get personal attention? I'm thinking classes of no more than 4-8 couples. In addition to that, the curriculum covered would, in addition to new step patterns, include advanced theory of ballroom technique. Think about all the subjects in school that are taught in a classroom setting, subjects that are at least equal in complexity to advanced ballroom technique (physics, calculus, chemistry). Now certainly students often need an extra amount of one on one attention but that's what tutors are for. How is ballroom curriculum so much different from these other school subjects such that it requires the bulk of learning to be done in a one on one setting? Mind you, I understand that ballroom lessons are about having fun also. I'd like to just focus on the educational aspect in this thread as opposed to the entertainment factor.
  2. bia

    bia Well-Known Member

    Sure. Assuming relatively small classes, as you said, and a skilled teacher. Also important is that all the students be at a similar level. Of course, it depends what you mean by "how to dance". Can you learn to get around the floor successfully in a variety of dances? No problem; people do it all the time, even with less than optimal class conditions. Can you learn good enough technique to do well at beginning levels of competition? Yeah, that's the common path for collegiate teams. Can you become a successful competitor at intermediate or higher levels? That's harder to say. Most people certainly don't. With just the right peer group in classes and just the right teacher, things could be learned. But getting individual attention makes the learning faster and maybe deeper.
    Gorme likes this.
  3. Steven123

    Steven123 Member

    The scenario you are describing is the ideal learning environment from my point of view.
  4. bookish

    bookish Active Member

    People learning partner dance either start with or end up having different goals. There are at least two major approaches to teaching partner dance: learning "steps," including how you are supposed to do the steps and the general rules of the dance; and learning body awareness/control/fitness, music, and a conceptual approach to movement that allows you to actually construct the dance. The two don't mix well in classes, I think. Your comparisons to physics, etc, suggest the second approach, while the first seems more common in ballroom, at least in groups.

    Education these days seems to focus, or at least try to focus, on things like critical thinking and problem solving. I'm not sure that has made its way into most ballroom pedagogy yet.

    Also, even if you start with a group that's all in the same boat, it is highly probable that they will learn at different rates. Colleges work because there are so many students that even after they're sorted out into levels, some drop out, etc., there are still enough to fill different classes.
  5. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    The amount of disposable income available for private lessons?
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  6. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    The bulk of learning does not happen one-on-one. The majority of dance students learn primarily in group classes. Many of these classes are larger than the size you suggest, but of course the smaller the better. Dance and academic subjects are two entirely different things. Learning an academic subject does not require the degree of biofeedback and correction that learning any physical skill does. That doesn't mean you can't learn in a group setting, but it depends on what your goals are, as bia discussed.
  7. middy

    middy Well-Known Member

    Yes, you can learn quite a lot in small group settings. I believe I heard a story about Russian kids who all learned through group classes and danced at a quite advanced level, and this is a common thing there? I'm not sure if they did or did not receive additional private lessons.
  8. LordBallroom

    LordBallroom Member

    twnkitoz: Why is it then that people who've only taken group classes are the most uncomfortable people to dance with? In fact, I've seen these people come into a studio to take privates after 10 years of only group classes. They realize that the attempt to save money costed them time. What I'm wondering is if group classes which, from what I've seen primarily teach new step patterns, could be redesigned so that private lessons wouldn't constitute the bulk of a students learning.
  9. DerekWeb

    DerekWeb Active Member

    Was that 10 years of group classes, or one year of classes 10 times?
  10. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Because they don't get the same level of biofeedback as they would in a private lesson. Also, in most cases, they did not commit themselves enough to learn as much as they could have in those group lessons. They probably did not feel invested enough to practice. Private lessons are the most efficient way to get the most in-depth level of skill and knowledge, because your every movement can be analyzed and corrected at YOUR pace. People who spend the money on private lessons TEND (not always) to be more committed and therefore practice, so they better incorporate what they learn.

    When working with a group, even when it is small, you will have disparities in the skill level, rate of learning, and commitment to learning. You simply cannot teach 8 people at the same time as effectively as you can 1 or 2. If you could get 8 people together who have a similar skill set, rate of learning, and level of commitment, you could get them much farther, but good luck doing that.
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  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Note that I found "ballroom" to not be my cup of tea, so my experience is with dances such as: two step, "country" waltz, West Coast Swing, Argentine Tango, nite club 2 step, salsa, etc.

    As a strictly social dancer, I find that the standards where I dance to be fairly low. That said, I've had some really good teachers in Argentine Tango and West Coast Swing. And since they REALLY knew what they were doing, they included things that most people leave out, or frankly, don't even know.
    And, to be be clear, I'm talking group lessons. In one case, with Skippy Blair, group size was limited and you got LOTS of personal attention - especially if you asked a question!

    In a dance like Argentine Tango, if you don't restrict yourself to one teacher/studio for the entire time you do the dance, you eventually learn that there is a lot of uncertainty regarding what a potential partner may bring to the dance. There is most definately NOT one way to do things.
    And so, we learn to be flexible (hopefully), but then, that comes from experience or from the more "enlightened" teachers.

    "Ballroom" is much more well defined, as far as I can tell.
    Personally, I think it's the shared vocabulary that we bring to a dance that makes us feel "comfortable," or not. My standard, and that of most social dancers, I think, is, can we make a dance together to this song?

    One example from my life is the change in Two Step to almost completely "ballroom hold" from cowboy or redneck hold (man's right hand over woman's shoulder). Why do young women say they don't "like" it? They've never been in a class where it was taught, and they rarely even see anyone do it, let alone have someone do it to them.
    There is no shared vocabulary there, and so they "don't like it." (I think they also lack the diplomatic skills that more mature women have, but maybe I'm just venting!)

    There are probably as many below average people teaching group classes as there are above average ones (unless there is an odd distribution!).
    So, I think it's entirely possible to have good group classes. Depending on how good you want to get, however, sure, to get really really good, you are going to have to get more targeted instruction.
    Steven123 likes this.
  12. freeageless

    freeageless Active Member

    That is a great over-generalization. I am a lead and I have danced with plenty of students who have taken only private lessons at group parties and they have been lousy dancers. On the other hand, I have danced with a lot of students who have taken only group classes -and they have been good dancers-easy to dance with. I think I know why too. The person taking only private lessons is used to in general dancing with one person-the teacher or his partner. The person taking group classes is used to rotations and dancing with many different partners. Thus the person dancing with many different partners gains experience and confidence in dancing with different people. The person taking private lessons (in general) gains experience in dancing with one person. I know a number of people who have spent thousands of dollars and quit dancing feeling like they have wasted their money on private lessons. As a matter of fact, several have posted on this forum. If someone wants to be a competitive dancer and has a partner to dance those competitions with or maybe do showcase dances-yea I could see where private lessons might be helpful-or if someone is having problems in the group classes with a step-yea private lessons might be helpful. Otherwise I don't think so.
    Steven123 likes this.
  13. bia

    bia Well-Known Member

    I was thinking of other kinds of dance, in which it's my impression that group lessons are the norm, and people can certainly get to a very high level. But to get to that kind of level with a group class, you need there to be enough serious students that you can divide them into many levels of classes. We don't mostly have that for ballroom here.

    I'm not discounting your experience, but I wouldn't generalize that far. Until the last few years, all of my dance learning was happening when I was a college or graduate student, and I took very few private lessons, but there was one particular group class that taught me a whole lot of technique. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I am fully aware that I could have improved much faster with a greater dedication of time and money, but even so, I do think I'm a solid dancer.

    There's a wide range of group classes out there, and a wide range of learning going on. But to get the really hard-hitting high level technique classes, you need a large enough pool of students who will come for them.
    Steven123 likes this.
  14. Steven123

    Steven123 Member

    I think a strong level of community in a local society makes teaching in group classes easier. That is probably why the other poster was mentioning the Russians who advanced so far with group classes. If you are the only person practicing ballroom dancing, group classes will be pretty hard. I think a lot of it depends on the dances that the local community supports.
  15. DerekWeb

    DerekWeb Active Member

    The best followers I have danced with are the ladies who take private lessons (some for comp, some for showcase) AND also dance socially. You can generally tell which ones dance only with their pro, and which ones dance with their pro and also dance socially very often. The ladies that do both, wow, they make dancing a real joy!
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  16. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    To be fair, it may not be a lack of knowledge on the teacher's part. It's often that the majority of the class is just not ready to learn about certain topics. Maybe the students can't even get the basic concept of moving and stepping on the beat, so why talk about musicality? They're jerking their partners around and hurting them, so the focus needs to be more on a comfortable lead, but the concept of a refined lead with the right amount of compression and release is just too far out there. etc....I've had students say, "You forgot to mention..." no, I didn't forget. There was just so much the majority of the class needed to accomplish before I could bring that up, we never got to it.

    I hope that makes sense. You have to teach the students you have, not the ones you'd like to have.

    Skippy's intensives are a good example of how productive group classes can be. They are expensive (compared to your typical Wednesday night WCS lesson at your neighborhood studio) and you are likely to get a better calibre of students with that drive to learn that you just don't get in regular group classes.
  17. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    I have taken maybe one group lesson since I moved out here.

    I don't really miss them. Hasn't affected my dancing in a negative way, certainly.
  18. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    It is interesting because I have heard some pros actually recommend that their students do not do social dancing as they feel it will hurt their technique. I am not saying I agree or disagree... but generally when a pro is asked what his student should do to improve... they recommend practicing, coaching, maybe even attending workshop type classes, but no one has said to me.."go social dancing more often " or "take that group chacha class on Mondays". This is is no way saying that competitve dancing is better than social, but it is noting that there are different skills involved, and I know very few competitive students who dance socially. I will add that workshops from good pros that work on solid technique basics (rumba drills type classes, or turns/spins, body isolations etc etc), are always recommended by pros, yet I see few social dancers in those type classes. The two worlds are different... neither better than the other, but different.
    Bailamosdance likes this.
  19. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    I think this is a question with a lot of variables, including the goals of the participants.....I think I am at a place now where social dancing is finally good for me in some ways for some purposes...I think, prior to this, it was a double edged sword...in general, I think most exposure to a variety of dance scenarios offers something...do I think it would be an equally viable path for an aspiring champion? NO...beyond that, probably just fine
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  20. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    In gereral, I come down pretty strongly on the "private lessons are great if you can afford them" side of things, but I suspect there's a certain amount of the more advanced students tending not to take group classes feeding off itself. That is, if they don't take group classes, studios have more of an incentive to tailor their group classes to less advanced students, as well as the value of peer feedback being reduced for the more advanced students. Which encourages the more advanced students to skip the group classes, etc.

    Of course, even if a studio wanted to break out of that cycle, I suspect there aren't many studios out there who have a large enough base of *really* dedicated students to make more advanced group classes work. Plus, I personally think it's difficult to overstate the value of having the full attention of a genuinely good instructor in a lesson. But while I'm uncertain that it's truly practical in a lot of areas, I don't see any inherent reason that group classes couldn't be an important part of a student's instruction, even once they're past the "learning steps" stage.
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