Monday, April 30, 2007

Decoding the "Beginner" Classes

I went to many "Beginner" classes, and it didn't take long to realize my definition of "Beginner" didn't match the instructors. Now, I've learned that in the dance business, the real term is “Beginner, Beginner” if you want a class that assumes you haven’t danced before.

A "Beginning" class often assumes you've done some dancing, and they move at a reasonably fast pace. I was always a slower learner than many others, partially because I had only (publicly) danced 3 or 4 times in my life before age 40. Many instructors label their class “fast beginner” or “beginner/intermediate” so they can get away with teaching whatever they want, based on who shows up.

The problem for the instructor is simple: If they really teach what a beginner should learn for long-term success, most people get bored and won't return. As soon as someone learns "basic," most guys want to learn complex turn patterns and the ladies want some sexy styling. So instructors move it along, knowing most people aren't doing basic "well," but they're doing it "good enough" to move on to more steps.

Since most people are dancing for fun and social reasons, that's fine; but if you're serious about improving, you probably need to look toward private lessons to supplement your group classes. (More on selecting instructors in a future article.)
At the ballet you see girls dancing on their tiptoes. Why don't they just get taller girls?
-Greg Ray


  1. I like SALOMON RIVERAS for teaching enthusiasm and high technical correctness

  2. Salomon is one of the instructors who makes beginners feel comfortable and helps them understand the value of working hard on the techniques.

  3. Hi Don,
    I just found your article about beginners. And you are right!
    Ibo and I have many problems with dancers who come from other teacher and will continue with us. They think they are intermediate or advanced. But they can not do correct basics and the leading is horrible. Also we are missing the body tension a dancer should have.
    They tell us we are the only teachers who put so many focus on correct basics, body tension and leading.
    We tell them if you have the correct basics, the girl knows to follow (body tension helps) and the man knwos to lead you can learn complex figures faster and better.
    We have structured our classes - total beginners level 1(people who never have danced Salsa before), beginners level 2 and beginners level 3.
    I do not know how it is in other places but the problems here in my area is that the most Salsa instructors are not educated teachers. They have taken a lot of advanced classes and after a while they think they can teach.
    I am not only a Salsa instructor I taught many style of dances (hiphop, House, different styles of Latin, also I had to learn a lot about sport science) and when I think back how many education I had to do and how skill enhancement /further education I had to make. If I would not do it I would loose my teacher's license.
    The not well educated teacher do not know how to teach total beginners. They do not understand what they think or how they feel being in their very first dancing class. I also have experience in mental training and can see / feel why some people are stressed.

    And the other problem of many teacher is that they love to teach intermediate or advanced classes because they can show off!
    But a good teacher knows it is harder to teach beginner than experienced dancer.
    But I love to see growing process. If I see our students who started without knowing anything until now - dancing like hell with their own style.
    We are happy!


I love feedback. Your thoughts, feelings and comments are appreciated. Civil disagreements and other points of view are always welcomed!

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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero