Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to really support your favorite dance club - Part Five: The drop-in class needs You!

Those of us who have been dancing for some time fondly remember the classes we attended as our introduction to the fantastic world of dance!  We have personally experienced the value of these classes and we know what a blessing they are to individual dancers and to the entire dance community.

In a typical drop in class, the lead and follow instructors stand in the middle, and the class of lead and follow student pairs surrounds them in one big circle.  This class occurs before the actual social dance.  Other smaller specialized classes and workshops follow the same general format.  These classes are a great way to learn to dance initially, as well as to learn great new moves and the finer points of dance fundamentals and advanced skills.  They are also a wonderful way to meet your fellow dancers.

Everyone can benefit greatly from these classes, especially when we all work together to make that happen.  Here are a few suggestions that will help you be a fantastic and valuable part of the team.

One:  If you really want to attain the maximum benefit, start by anticipating what a fantastic class it is going to be!  Just think about the great new things you are going to learn!  Think about the profound new insights the instructors will give you!  Anticipate the exciting new moves you will discover!  Imagine the great new people you will meet!  You are going to love this!!  Prepare for the jump into Awesomeness!!!

Two:  Come to the class even if you are already a great dancer and don’t really need the instruction.  You can help the new dancers grasp what is being taught and you can also inspire their confidence by encouraging them with non-verbal positive feedback as you smile enthusiastically and nod your head etc.  Be careful, however, to avoid the temptation to "side teach" or to proceed through a move further than the stage up to which the teacher is presently teaching it.  This way you won't run the risk of distracting a student's attention from what the dance teachers are teaching.

Three:  Arrive early so you can change into your dance shoes and join in the initial warm up before the class.  Relax and enjoy yourself during the typically goofy warm up.  No one is watching you, really!  They are too busy enjoying their own goofiness.  Some of the better dance teachers will introduce steps and moves in the warm up that they will build upon later in the class, so pay attention too.

Four:  Confidently greet each new follow you meet during the normal rotation of the class but keep it really short, something like: “Hello, I’m (your name), nice to meet you.”  Be sure to engagingly shake her hand as you do this.  Listen carefully as she tells you her name and start memorizing it in the back of your head as that segment of the class proceeds.  At the end of that segment, when it is time to rotate to the next follow, face her directly, smile happily, bow slightly at the waist and thank her by name.  Remembering her name is very important as it will make her feel honored and accepted as part of the group.  When you rotate to the next follow, do so by passing behind the follow you just danced with, not in front of her.  In this way you will be communicating respect for her.

Five:  This is so vitally important that I cannot emphasize it enough: I implore you, please be very careful to talk as little as possible during the class other than that simple greeting and farewell mentioned above.  The instructors and your fellow students really need your help in this.  We are all naturally inclined to talk more than we should during class, especially with our best dance friends or when we meet a new and very engaging personality.  Remember, you can always talk later while dancing with her after the class.  If you must talk, say as little as possible and say it as quietly as possible

None of us wants to make the class difficult for anyone, but the tragic truth is that our talking out of turn has the cumulative effect of making our instructor’s job terribly hard.  It really messes with their minds!  It burns up the valuable the time that they desperately need to teach us successfully, and it is seriously frustrating and discouraging to them also.  It erodes their heart, and as the best teachers teach from the heart, that needs to be protected.  When we talk out of turn we are hurting our fellow students also because we are really distracting them when they are trying to concentrate on what is being taught so they can grasp it.  The bottom line is that our instructors and our fellow students do so much for us and they deserve our respect, so we really need to restrain our natural sociability during class, as well as during club announcements and such. 

A similar, and actually even more problematic situation, occurs when dancers who are not taking the class gather in groups just outside of the class circle and talk loudly and constantly.  It is as though they think that because they are outside the circle, that no one can hear them, when in reality everyone hears them and is irritably wondering when they are going to realize this!  Everyone in the class circle starts looking in their direction as the dance instructors contemplate whether to stop the class and march straight out of the dance circle to go talk to them!

Brothers and sisters, none of us wants to make life difficult for anyone else.  We have got to think more about each other’s well-being.  We have got to place this as a very high priority when we are at our favorite dance club. OK, I know we’ve got the point so I’ll stop the preachin’ now.

Six:  Be really diligent to catch the important details that are being demonstrated by the instructors.  What are the count numbers of the steps?  Is he leading her in an outside (to the left) turn or an inside (to the right) turn?  How and in what direction is the initial prep move being done? What is the instructor strongly emphasizing? – it must be important!  On what count is the main action of the move being done?  Is he pivoting on his left foot or his right foot and on what count number is he doing this?  An important part of learning dance is watching the instructors closely in order to get these and other vital questions answered; and without them being answered the move cannot be learned well.  If the instructor asks if anyone has questions, by all means raise your hand and ask them.  Half the class probably has the same question but is afraid to ask.  Some instructors will describe and perform the move they taught at the end of the class so you can record it on your phone or camera.  This can be a great way to review and grasp what has been taught more thoroughly.

Seven:  Immediately after the class, while everything is still fresh in your mind, sit down somewhere whip out your trusty notebook, write down the name of the dance club, the date, the instructors’ names, the name of the move, and then write down the individual elements of the move in sufficient detail that you will be able to read and understand it when you use these notes to practice it at home tomorrow, or even a year from now.  Use abbreviations that you will always understand like “LF” for left foot, “RH” for right hand, and “F” for follow, etc.  You can also take this opportunity to write down the names and short descriptions of the great new people you just met during the class.  There are few more engaging ways of honoring people and making them feel truly welcome than by enthusiastically addressing them by name whenever you meet them in the future.

Eight:  Search out the instructors, heartily shake their hands and thank them for the valuable things they just taught you.  Be specific about the things that they taught that helped you the most or about a particular way in which they taught the class well.  Don’t worry about having to wait in line to do this.  Very few people realize how valuable and powerful positive feedback is to these dear people.  Instructors often struggle with whether they are actually helping people at all.  Free them from these troubling doubts –   free them! – and give to them as they have given to you.  It’s the right thing to do, and you will realize this when you do it.

Nine:  Ask several successive follows to dance and practice the new move with them.  Now you can talk and laugh and have a great, exuberant time as you help each other to iron out the kinks of the move!

Ten:  Practice the new move at home with your sister, friend, wife, daughter, etc., whoever you may have available.  This is how good dancers become really great - consistent daily practice!

To sum it up, we have a really good thing going with these classes!  We need to recognize their great value and leverage that value to its fullest potential!

All the best to you, fellow dance enthusiasts,

Wylin Tjoelker     Dance Evangelist     Dance Club Review

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No doubt there is something important that I failed to mention in this article, and I greatly appreciate any comment you would like to share that will benefit our dance community, so by all means bless us with your insights by commenting below :)