How To Get The Most Out Of Your Dance Lessons

Whether you’re new to dance or a seasoned competitor, there are some universal strategies you can use at every lesson, every class, every event to maximize your learning and enjoyment.

Set your course
When learning to dance, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details.  Setting your course ahead of time can help you feel focused and in control.  Let’s say you have a technique lesson scheduled, and you feel anxious because you find technique difficult.  Before your lesson, try setting your course:  decide that during your lesson you will be patient, focused, and open to feedback.  You will find that indeed you were more patient, focused, and open to feedback, which made the difficult lesson more productive.  Deciding in advance how you will face a challenge will enable you to better overcome it.
Be accountable
This means taking full responsibility for your own dancing.  Of course, it’s very easy to find fault with how your partner is dancing, but in doing so, we overlook what we ourselves could be doing better.  We can’t control our partner; we can only try to dance our very best at all times.  So when you’re tempted to correct your partner, or remind them to do XYZ as the teacher instructed, take a breath and think, “how can I improve my own movement during this figure”.  While your partner is likely not perfect, know that they are doing his or her very best.  So allow yourself to focus on your dancing while your partner focuses on their contribution.  Leave instruction, reminders, and correction to your teacher.  Your only job is to dance every figure to the very best of your ability, every time.
 Find your happy dances
Every dancer has certain music, dances, or environments that make them feel happy and fulfilled.  While it’s nice to branch out and try many things, when you do find something that you absolutely love, make sure to make that a central part of your dancing.  Whether it’s latin music, milongas, or swing dancing, when something brings you joy, make that a regular part of your life.
Turn obstacles into bridges
Life has a way of upsetting the well-planned course we have laid out.  When you find a road block in your dancing; get creative.  For example, if you were to injure your shoulder, it would be natural to get upset and worry that you would forget everything while you recovered.  Maybe instead of taking a break from your dancing you could focus on something you can do:  work on your footwork, latin walks for example, or practice leading from your center.  If you learn to turn obstacles into bridges, you’re likely reach to your goals AND enjoy the scenic detour along the way.
 Be open to options & possibilities
Dream big and be open-minded to opportunities.  For example, don’t discount faster dances like Samba or Viennese Waltz simply because you are an older dancer.  You may find, that you excel at these dances.  Be willing to try something like Waltz, even if you feel you are not naturally graceful.  The process of learning Waltz may help you become the beautiful and elegant dancer you wish to be.  When you open your heart and mind to all of life’s possibilities, you will be richly rewarded.
Be appreciative
An attitude of gratitude can transform every situation.  For example, if you are a more experienced dancer, it is tempting to get frustrated while dancing with a newer dancer who may struggle to execute basic patterns.  So you have two choices:  you can grumble or you can be grateful.  If you choose to grumble, you will spend the entire song unhappy and annoyed.  But, if you choose instead to appreciate, you will have a much different experience.  You might take time to reminisce about your days as a new dancer – how nervous you were, and then appreciate that now you are confident dancing every song at the party.  Or you might appreciate the opportunity to be a role model for this new dancer as they continue to grow and learn.  Taking time to appreciate all the gifts and opportunities you’ve been given will bring much joy and happiness to your dancing – and your life!
Be generous
We’ve all benefited from the generosity of others.  Maybe it was a stranger who warmly welcomed you to your first dance party when you were nervous and didn’t know anyone there.  Or perhaps it was the new dancer who was amazed by all your fancy dance moves and boosted your confidence by saying so.   Sharing your kindness, time, and talents with others will bring you abundance, happiness, and fulfillment.
Be honest
Sometimes it’s tempting to give a response that’s easy or expected rather than accurate.  Maybe your teacher asked how your lesson was.  You say, “great”, but really you felt rushed and frustrated.  You would prefer to learn at a slower pace.  Your teacher would benefit from this bit of knowledge.  He or she could plan a lesson with more time for learning and review so you would feel more confident with the figures taught.  Honesty is the foundation for your progress in dance and in life.  There is nothing more powerful than the truth.
Learning to dance is a richly rewarding and life-long process.  Take time to enjoy all the steps along the way.
with your heart,
with your partner,
but only for yourself.
-Marcia Mitchell

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