"Dancing Tid-bits" Issue #145, Thursday, May 29, 2003

Dancing Tid-bits
The First Lesson

Believe it or not, several years ago, when I took my ISTD Associate examination, this was the first thing Mr. Billet wanted to test me on. What do you do with a student on first lesson? I am talking here a student who has come to you for the very first lesson in dancing. It goes without saying that this is perhaps the most important event for this student and either you can break him/her or win him/her.

Leave aside first few minutes of introductions, shake hands etc.; where does one start?

1. Preferences of the student, not you the teacher. Is he/her inclined more for Latin or Ballroom or may be just Salsa. This is no time for a teacher to give a lecture on his personal liking or otherwise. Gear up the first part of the lesson exactly to student's choice, good or bad, Period.

2. Assume that like most students he/she says "I don't know. I just like to try ballroom dancing, so I will leave it upto you". That is a good start. You will of course tell him/her two main classifications, in other words Ballroom (Fox, Waltz etc.) and Latin (Rumba Cha Cha , etc.). Don't burden him/her with too many details.

3. "Let's us do 1/2 and 1/2 Ballroom and Latin (1/2 hour each).

Ballroom: I picked Foxtrot (not the Slow Fox but to be exact the Foxtrot, American Style or so called Rhythm Dancing) and my examiner said, yes that is a good choice. It is a walking dance and easy to interpret. He asked me how do you teach Rhythm to a an absolute beginner. My answer was SSQQ and 12, 34, 5,6 etc. That was a bummer. Not that he expected a straight answer but really it was his intention to give me a little education and rather not harass me. He told me that a beginner's ear responds more to "down beat" which is like a "boom" An upbeat sounds more like a "chick". So the student can appreciate "boom chick, boom chick" (accented beat is boom and the other is chick, so accent in 1 and 3). This way is better than to explain 1234. I said to myself but my students do understand 1234 quite easuily in music and Slows and Quicks are not that difficult but this was no time to be too smart so I said "Great". Similarly Waltz will be Boom, Chick Chick for 123 with accent on 1.

We spent at least 45 minutes on rhythm dancing and luckily I was relaxed and showed him a smooth flowing simple combination with my partner Jane. I even did a little dip and he was happy to see that I was not too stiff or too "hung up" and was enjoying myself. He cautioned me to emphasize "Movement" more than the "Technique" in first few lessons. I always remember that.

Latin: We did not go into many details but he reminded me to keep the steps short and again don't drill too much technique. I usually pick American Rumba Box, SQQ for the first few lessons for two reason. If you dance in a typical american studio, you must know American Style and I also feel that teaching SQQ box rhythm is so much easier than 2,3, 41 which I save for more keen students at a later date. Do only one category of student's choice if you feel, that is all he/she can handle in one hour.
Any Comments? With Best Wishes, Max

This article is part of and should be seen in the frame context of Dancesport UK, Tid-bits