I’m often asked if private lessons are better than group classes, especially since classes are much cheaper in terms of one-hour costs.
My answer is always take both if you can handle it. In classes instructor simply can’t focus on your specific issues, so they make generic suggestions and hope you fix yourself based on what you’re seeing and feeling. Of course, you can make huge improvements in a group class, but it’s easy to miss something that is obvious to great instructors. Here’s something that happened to me personally.
I’ve been taking a one-hour class from an amazing hip-hop dancer/instructor named Sho-Tyme once or twice a week, for a few months. (View video below to see him having fun.) Earlier this week I took a one-hour private lesson, and within the first 10 minutes he showed me a posture/head isolation exercise to correct something I was missing. When I get it right, it’s amazing how much better I look and feel.
He also gave me enough material for a couple months of practice. I already see a positive difference, although the real payoff will be down the road as I practice and grow into the concepts we practiced in private.
Sho-Tyme Having Fun
Unfortunately, I’ve been practicing some moves slightly wrong since the beginning of his classes, and now I’m starting the process of “unlearning” them and getting the right feel. I need some intense practice time to internalize the details and make it a part of my dancing. Intellectually I “get it”, but undoing my previous practice makes it more of a challenge that it should be.
In other words, in class, I thought it was right and getting better each week, but I missed something rather basic. Instead I was reinforcing an ugly habit every class, not to mention my own out of class practice time.
I was making positive progress in many areas. But because something foundational was weak, more class practice was also making some things worse and I was unaware of the issues.
In my case, I actually thought I was doing things right, but there is a specific motion I totally missed. In my head I was getting it better each week, but in hindsight I see it’s a case of “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”
I suspect I eventually would have figured it out, but I hate to think of the work to unlearn/relearn if I continued to practice incorrectly for another three to six months or more. It's so easy to miss something that should be a part of your dancing, especially when you are working hard to improve.
If you’re taking a class from a great instructor, take some private lessons with them and ask them what they would suggest to upgrade your look and feel. Ask them to focus on foundational issues, rather than the cool move of the week. Those you can pick up in class if your foundation is strong. A few lessons can make a world of difference, because they are exclusively focused on your strengths and weaknesses.
It’s obvious to me I would have benefited from taking the lesson sooner, because then I’d be reinforcing the right moves practicing in class and on my own.
Once you find an instructor you like, I’d recommend you take some private lessons as soon as you can swing it. It makes a huge difference by giving you insights, concepts and details that often take months or more in a group class.
Even though I’ve known this concept for many years, it’s still humbling to see it in action myself. Hopefully you’ll avoid my mistake.
Previous articles on this topic:Classes vs. Privates – Part 1
Classes vs. Privates – Part 2
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