Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Wandering Eyes: Cheating on Your Instructor?

Have you ever felt a little guilty eying another instructor? Could another teacher make you happier? Are you feeling that seven-lesson itch that is common among students? Do you have an instructor on the side that is unknown to your other teacher? What if they find out you are not committed to them?

And you thought dating was tough.

There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but I'm amazed how uncomfortable someone can be leaving one instructor for another. Some students won't tell a group instructor they are taking privates with another teacher.

Well, get over it, because this is old news to your instructor. They have probably been with other students all along; they just pretend you two are going steady.

They know at some point you'll have wandering eyes. From your first lesson, they are aware you are just using them and will leave them sooner or later. Just like dating, some instructors look great yet once you are gazing into their eyes, you realize it's never going to work.

Take the band-aid approach: As soon as you know it isn't working for you, rip it off and find someone else. If that seems a little harsh, you can use the famous "No... It's me, really... you deserve better students and I can't give you what you need." (Meaning: I'm not going to pay for more lessons, since I hardly even know you anymore!)

Alternately, you can actually have two instructors at once, one for group classes, one for privates. Yes they will conflict at points, so don't do this the first few months you learn a new dance. After you have some solid experience under your belt, you can deal with the minor differences. It may be just logistics; one instructor is closer, or teaches a night that works better for you. It's really all about, "what works for you?"

At some point they will find out you are working with someone else, but so what? They have been through that before because everybody goes to someone else at some point. It's OK to be a "player" among instructors. They may not tell you, but they knew all along you were using them.

If they get upset, make you uncomfortable, or treat you poorly after you leave, be sure to tell all your friends because that instructor doesn't deserve more students. Good professionals realizes that some student/instructor combinations just don't work. They don't own you. They have no right to tell you who you can and cannot see!

There are multiple learning styles and the better instructors know how to teach to the strengths of their students. But even a "great" instructor may not be right for you, because being a great instructor for one person doesn't mean their teaching style fits your learning style.

Remember! You focus on your needs!
The instructor has been through this before and will forget about you as a student long before you stop feeling guilty. Any decent instructor has been quietly seeing others behind your back the whole time you've been together. Some even make a show of it, but they don't want to hurt your feelings either. Of course they will miss you, and if they are really worth it, you may be back in the future for some tune-up flings, but that is totally up to you!

It's your dime and your time, so once the relationship isn't working, shop another until you find the right fit for you. Sometimes you just need someone new in order to grow or multiple instructors are the right fit for you.

They all hope you'll stay, but they will get over it much sooner than you when the time is right for you to move on.

How Many Instructors (Part 1)
My sister was with two men in one night. She could hardly walk after that.
Can you imagine? Two dinners!
-Sarah Silverman


  1. My 2 cent:
    A good student should outgrow any instructor over time.
    And a good instructor is one whose students learn faster, so they outgrow them sooner.

  2. A very helpful text. And I think, no instructor can teach all styles. What a burden, if he/she thinks so! Or if the students expect this.
    So: less guilt, more authentic instructors and students :-)

  3. You are right, most will outgrow an instructor over time. That said, great instructors are worth returning to for "tune-ups" over the years. Just like great athletes have coaches, better dancers needs someone to provide outside perspectives.

    While we may dramatically improve over a few years, we also tend to develope a few blind spots that a trusted advisor (former instructor?) can quickly point out.

  4. Great article!!

    I love my instructor, but she has recently relocated and isn't in town often enough to teach on a consistent basis. Since I've taken her classes on and off for almost five years, I do feel some guilt even considering going to another instructor. Her partner is picking up her classes when she's not here, but as a female, I feel I can only learn so much from a male instructor. So, though it pains me to do so, I've realized that it might be time to look elsewhere for guidance.

    I’ve taken workshops with other teachers before, and while they are always educational, there’s that “first day of school” feeling to get past whenever you’re in a new studio. But, I am a firm believer in pushing yourself outside of your own comfort zone, and the benefit in this case is that a new set of eyes will watch me and tweek things my current instructor has seen so many times she's ignoring it.

    That said, I do keep coming back to my current instructor because of what she offers. She has a particular elegant style that appeals to me, and as a trained dancer, she gives a ton of advice based on that training.

  5. It can be uncomfortable going to someone new... They always want to adjust something.

    As for male vs. female instructors, I need to write an article about that, because in privates, I've had excellent value from working with females and males. Their focus is different, and the combined value is way more than simply one viewpoint.

  6. Honestly, I'm all for the adjusting! It's my own choice if I want to incorporate the knowledge gained or not. It's not like I'm going to get an "F" in the class if I don't do it JUST like I'm told (with some exceptions...). Certainly, students need to get the fundamentals of the dance mastered, but once you begin to embellish your dancing, there will be things your instructor(s) teach you that you love and things that just don't gel.

    As I was thinking more on this subject, I realized how lucky those of us in the LA area are to even be able to choose to go to another instructor. I'm originally from Seattle, and I actually started my salsa dancing there. But there is only one studio that I know of that teaches a high level of salsa in my old hometown. It's crazy not to avail yourself of the many opportunities to learn from the variety of salsa instructors here in LA.

    On that note, if you will please excuse me, I'm going to go searching for salsa instructors near my zip code now.... :-)

  7. Personally, I get different things from different teachers.

    I love my first teachers. They're so gentle with the beginners and I learn a lot from them. But I've taken classes from other teachers with different styles. They just focus on different things. And I've always been open with my original teachers. I told them that my goal was to get really good at Salsa. And the good thing is, that now they're not only my teachers, but my friends. So they're really supportive of me learning new things. A lot of times I'll learn something new, then bring it to them to polish it.


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

Feel free to send me private mail if appropriate.

Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero