If you’re interested in learning to dance, don’t let other beginners dictate your pace and progress. Instead of joining a class, schedule a private lesson with a professional dance instructor. You might not find your perfect match instantly, but you’ll be in a unique position to consider the instructor’s background, personality, and teaching style before signing up. But what should you be looking for, exactly?
Previous Stage Experience
After professional dancers retire, they often stick around to become choreographers or instructors. These dance experts have invaluable experiences to draw upon, from learning to dance for the first time to winning spots in professional companies and solos in major productions. It’s a good sign if an instructor once belonged to a professional dancing company, or if they have several years of performing experience. Even if they don’t have many credentials, an instructor who danced professionally for years is very valuable. They won’t just teach you how to dance; they’ll also know firsthand how to navigate the stress and frustrations of training, rehearsing, performing, and competing.
Even when they’re teaching group classes, good instructors will make sure every single student gets individual attention during each practice session. After all, dance is dependent on precision and form, and beginning students must learn the proper techniques under careful guidance. Whether you’re learning to dance for the first time or trying a new style, an attentive instructor is the primary ingredient in your recipe for success.
As you browse local instructors’ profiles and reviews, look for signs that they care about each student and develop lasting relationships with the dancers who train under them. Years of loyalty is a good sign that an instructor will be attentive enough to correct bad habits and perfect your form.
Love for Learning
The best teachers never stop learning; that’s how they develop effective and refreshing teaching methods, and how they keep their dance experience relevant. Look for a dance instructor who will get creative with his or her exercises, adapt warm-up routines just for you, and try new sequences or techniques that recently captured their attention.
However, everyone expresses their passion and joy differently, so don’t assume that a reserved, serious ballet instructor doesn’t adore her job or love the art of dancing. If an instructor has devoted their entire professional career to dance, there’s often a reason they were able and willing to stick around for so long. Learning to dance under a veteran like this is an honor.
Patience and Flexibility
The most significant perk of private dance lessons is the solitude. Because you aren’t learning alongside other students, your own progress can continue in a more organic, productive way. If you have trouble with certain elements, an instructor should be willing to halt the current lesson and address your confusion. Instead of stumbling over certain footwork and determining to learn it later, you can practice again and again until you get it right.
Experience With Auditions
When you need to perfect a solo routine for an audition, it’s best to study with a teacher who already knows your strengths and weaknesses. However, sometimes it’s not possible or you need a fresh perspective. Feel free to be picky when you choose an instructor to coach you through these particular practice sessions. Ideally, he or she should have experience as a professional dancer or choreographer. If you’re auditioning for a specific dance school or company, you might even be able to find an instructor who’s an alum.
Look at your instructor’s previous experience as a dancer, choreographer, or instructor. If they’ve worked in professional productions or placed in competitions, it means they’ve endured the rejections and triumphs of auditions and competition. Examples of paid dancing gigs can also include working in productions at theme parks, coaching competitive dance teams, and even designated back-up roles in music videos. Auditioning and proving your worth against other dancers can be a brutal process if you’re not prepared. Experienced instructors can make it less overwhelming and equip you for success in front of the judging panel!
Finally, don’t be afraid to try multiple instructors in order to find the best fit. If your personalities clash, you don’t feel challenged or understood, or you just want to keep looking, it’s OK to part ways. Dance is a highly collaborative art form, and it can’t be taught from a distance, so it’s important to find an instructor who’s invested in your progress.
Photo by balletjorgencanada