Typically a new dancer will start as a social dancer, attracted by enjoying dance at a social event, witnessing a TV show, yearning for more “social” in their social life – or being talked into it by a spouse, friend or relative. A small percentage of social dancers later find that their love of dance compels them to become competitive dancers or DanceSport Athletes.
The vast majority of new dancers will remain social dancers all of their life and will reap many benefits from this activity. A competent social dancer is always welcomed and in great demand at social events.
Besides the valuable social benefits of dancing, your participation in a regular program of ballroom dancing will produce significant mental and physical health benefits. Dancing is a great stress reliever. It stimulates the brain. It builds confidence, alertness and a good attitude. It also has been proven to be a great physical benefit as it physically tones the whole body in enjoyable exercise. In summary, dancing will add a new and very beneficial dimension to your life.
So, how do you get started as a social dancer? The first step, determine if there’s a USA DANCE INC Chapter in your area. If so, you can attend a chapter social dance, introduce yourself to one of the chapter officers and ask for help in getting started as a ballroom dancer. They will be happy to help you get started on the right foot and become familiar with options in your area for instruction and social dance opportunities.
Chapters have frequent social dances and most of them start with a one-hour dance lesson. Many chapters offer affordable weekly group dance lessons, especially for beginners. Those classes will be an excellent place to commence your dance training. You will learn rapidly and will have the time of your life while learning.
The Newsletters issued by chapters include useful information regarding local studios and independent dance instructors that offer group ballroom dance classes and private instruction for beginners.
If there is no USA DANCE INC Chapter in your community, do not despair! Many colleges provide ballroom dance classes as part of their continuing education programs. Also, the programs of many city or county recreational departments include ballroom dance classes. Some organizations such as the YWCA, Community Centers, Elks or Moose Lodges offer dance lessons to their members and guests.
Your best approach will be to seek out opportunities to take group lessons in the particular dance in which you are interested. The Calendar of Events and Entertainment sections of your local newspaper may provide information on scheduled dance classes and other dance events.
If your budgets permits, and you are so inclined, a local commercial dance studio will be happy to arrange a full program of private lessons, group lessons, weekly dance parties, trips to special dance events, etc. The local USA DANCE chapter and your new dancing friends are a good resource for obtaining information on pricing and quality of instruction, as these often vary from one place to another.
Selection of Your Instructor
Your most important decision after you decide to become a social dancer is the selection of your instructor. The instructors now working with your local USA DANCE chapter are a good source of qualified instruction.
Chapter Newsletters usually include a list of the local dance studios and independent instructors.
Ask each prospective instructor for a resume, including professional tests and examination credentials certifying the level of teaching qualification attained by that instructor. Such credentials, when accompanied by actual experience in teaching beginner dancers, such as yourself, offer a good measure of assurance that you will not waste your time and money learning things that at a later stage you will need to relearn.
It is often a good idea to start with group lessons in the American style Bronze syllabus. This will give you a basic foundation for social dancing that will be useful all of your life. The odds are that after you become involved in group classes and witness dancing events, you will soon “pick” a favorite dance or dances in which to seek special training.
Partner Versus No Partner
Ballroom dance includes any dance performed with a partner. However, it is not necessary to have a regular partner when you first start dancing. Most group classes accept singles and you should not hesitate to commence without a partner.
However, if you already have a partner, it will be best that you learn together. You will quickly find that learning to dance together adds an entirely new and beneficial dimension to your relationship.
Private Lessons Versus Group Classes
Which are best? It depends on you and your budget. Private lessons are more expensive but they also provide individualized attention that can greatly speed up the learning process. On the other hand, group lessons are inexpensive and are a good way to try out a variety of dances and meet new friends.
Most beginner dancers find the environment of learning together as a group stimulating, challenging and lots of fun. Also, group classes provide social interplay and the opportunity to both meet and dance with other beginners. We recommend that you start your adventure into the new and joyful world of social dance by attending group classes with other beginners.
Some beginner dancers may feel the need for more privacy as they strive to untangle two left feet. In such cases, a few private lessons may give them the confidence to then join a group class.
If you are taking group lessons and find you are unable to keep up with the group, miss some lessons or are having difficulty with a particular figure, it may be advisable to purchase a few private lessons and use them to catch up with your classmates. Group lessons tend to focus on steps and patterns rather than on technique, so a private lesson every few weeks to refine technique can be quite beneficial and enhance your progress.
Some studios and some independent dance instructors ask students to sign a contract for a specified number of lessons with a price that may include private lessons, group lessons, dance parties, workshops, dance weekends, cruises, etc. Just remember, none of it is free and you may not need or be able to take advantage of, or be able to afford all that is in such packages.
Back in November 1992, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a warning about the sales practices of some dance studios and suggested that potential problems can be avoided by comparison shopping for dance lessons. We encourage you to do that. To read those FTC suggestions, click: FTC-Dance Studios.
It is important that you not let this warning about contracts deter you from becoming a ballroom dancer. The best approach is to learn the basics of dancing without becoming involved in formal contracts, at least until you are familiar with what is offered in your community, what your needs are and what your budget allows. There are many excellent independent instructors and studios that offer dance instructions on a pay-as-you-go basis with no formal contracts. Seek them out and use their services whenever possible. USA DANCE chapters are normally familiar with the wide range of instructors in their service area and can help you do that.
Becoming a good dancer always includes three key elements; expert instruction, practice and frequent use of what you are learning. If your training program does not include an appropriate amount of all three you will be wasting much of your time and money.
Take a few minutes each day to practice what you have been working on in class. Spend 15 minutes each day to focus your mind and body on executing the figures to reinforce the learning process and give you the confidence to then apply those skills in a social dance setting.
Last, its vital that you attend a social dance at least once each week and put into use the things you have learned. Remember! “You use it or lose it!”
It will not happen overnight but as you learn and put into practice the things you learn in class your confidence in your dance abilities will increase and you will begin to capture the joy of dance. Soon other dancers will be seeking you out and asking you to dance with them. You will have arrived!
A Special Request
Please copy this article and give it to all who are interested in learning to ballroom dance. Urge them to give it a whirl! Tell them that dancing will add zest and joy to their lives.
Youth and College Dancers
Are you a youth or college student? If yes, please visit Youth and College Dancers for information on special programs that may be available to you.