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teaching beginners
Posted by phil.samways
4/25/2014  5:50:00 AM
I'd like some advice on teaching adult beginners ballroom (international style). I'm an experienced competitive dancer but less experience with teaching complete beginners. Any suggestions as to:
Which dances to teach first?
How much can i expect to cover in say, 4 one-hour sessions?
I've had some advice as part of my teaching licence preparations, but i would very much welcome your views on how to approach the teaching of adult complete beginners
Re: teaching beginners
Posted by ladydance
4/25/2014  3:12:00 PM
In my experience, new adult dancers always think it is going to be easy. The reality hits early and hits hard. We teach American style and start with the rumba. A good dance to experience partnering for the first time. Just a few steps and lots of practice to music. Unlike some schools, we talk about proper technique right away. We tell them we don't expect them to get it but it is important that when they hear it again down the road, it isn't all new. So 'toe leads' on forward steps. Proper hold, heads up etc. For the last 5 minutes or so, we teach the merengue. Everyone can do it and they leave with smiles on their faces and a feeling that they can learn to dance. No one practices so the next lesson we spend 15 minutes reviewing and then we move on to the next dance. In a six hour beginner class, we teach rumba, tango, swing and salsa. These are the dances most requested. Tango is the most hated because it is so difficult but it introduces them to travelling around the dance floor. Adults can be difficult to teach. The men often have unrealistic expectations and they can get really miserable. I always stress that the beginner class is an introduction only.
As you know, four hours is but a drop in the bucket. Don't try to teach too much, 2 or 3 steps is all they need. They do not get bored if they are busy so keep them dancing.
Re: teaching beginners
Posted by phil.samways
4/27/2014  2:31:00 AM
Hi Ladydance
Many thanks for your reply, which is very interesting. I'm in Ireland and incredibly, there is virtually no adult latin danced here. I've never been to a social dance where a rhumba was played! which is a great shame. Of course it's a self-perpetuating problem. It's not taught because it's not played, so it's not taught... The main dances here are quickstep, social foxtrot and slow waltz. I was thinking of starting with quickstep and slow waltz, with maybe some cha-cha to help chasse-type movements. Occasionally a cha-cha is played at social dances.
Re: teaching beginners
Posted by ladydance
4/30/2014  3:46:00 PM
I'm in Canada and latin dances are pretty much what all adults want. At our parties we play two latin for every standard. Due to TV shows like Dancing With the Stars, people don't realize that there are basic steps in quickstep. They think it is all runs and scatter chasses. We don't have the tradition here of ballroom dancing that you do in Europe. So they are all afraid of the standard dances and of dance in general. When we do introduce waltz, most are disappointed because quickly realize how hard it is and how hard it is to look good. Social foxtrot is always well received. Beginners (here) have a real problem with the intimacy of dance. In part this is due to them wanting to have space to put their heads down so they can look at their feet. We have found the best way to cure them of that is to demonstrate what they look like when they dance with their heads down. They then realize how horrible it looks.
The men are terribly afraid of looking stupid so they can lose their temper and blame everything and everyone when they don't get it. I had one man try a new dance, not get it the first time, sit down and declare to his wife that he would wait for the next dance next week. They never came back. As I said, our sessions are six week long and half drop out at week three. All these problems might be a North American thing.
Anyways, good luck and have fun!
Re: teaching beginners
Posted by socialdancer
4/29/2014  5:49:00 AM
I would start with social foxtrot and cha cha the first week. Cha cha is easier than rumba for beginners but if you stick with a basic routine (4 basic, 4 shoulder to shoulder, 3 new york, spot turn) you can convert this to rumba a bit later on and they get an extra dance for free!

Similarly a simple social foxtrot would be a good starting point to speed up into quickstep.

Most beginners will expect to learn waltz but generally find it harder than they thought. I find it is the closing of the feet on 3 that causes the most problem as they get confused which foot to move next. Emphasise that they should use alternate feet just as when walking and make sure they change their weight when they close.

As others have mentioned the men may need treating with kid gloves. They can get very frustrated that they cannot manage a simple thing like dancing!
Re: teaching beginners
Posted by terence2
5/1/2014  12:07:00 AM


If its Standard, begin with Quickstep and follow up with Waltz .

Foxtrot and Tango are the 2 that need more attention and highly improbable to get results in 4 hrs.

Q.S. 1/4 turns with prog chasses
Nat and Rev. turns.. Foward lock

Waltz.. Closed changes.. Nat and Rev turns
IF they are very receptive, add natural Spin ( at a corner )

Latin.. Cha always goes down well and depending upon age, so does Jive, if not, then Rumba .

If I were going to teach a class that only wanted to get "around" the floor, I would use the american style dances ( square rumba for e.g. ), but, still include Q/Step .
Re: teaching beginners
Posted by phil.samways
5/2/2014  6:23:00 AM
Hi terence
I had in mind almost exactly what you suggested and the first class was on monday. It went very well. I made some 160 beats per minute (aka 40BPM) 'quickstep' music for them to dance to. Over the next few weeks i intend to introduce 1-3 natural turn, back lock and running finish round a corner. To get them round the floor without spin turn. What do you think?. Also did some basic cha-cha.
Re: teaching beginners
Posted by terence2
5/3/2014  11:43:00 PM


Back lock etc. might be a tad to early ( what time frame do you mean ? ).If you do, may I suggest a Nat. hesitation change, chasse to right and back lock entry..

I would use the Hesit. change 1st, as an entry into the Rev turn ( ladies often miss the NO weight change,) as the first introduction, prior to Chasse to right .It also works for Waltz
Re: teaching beginners
Posted by socialdancer
5/6/2014  7:42:00 AM
I agree it may be too early for the back lock and running finnish particularly because of the outside partner work required.

One combination that proves popular with beginners and gives them a feeling really dancing around the corner is tipple chasse to L, tipple chasse to R and lock step ending. Different societies/technique books break this down in different ways. The ISTD would describe it as just a half natural turn and tipple chasse to Right at a corner, whereas Guy Howard breaks it into smaller pieces, but the effect is the same.
Re: teaching beginners
Posted by quickstep7
5/7/2014  4:33:00 AM
Good question. If you want to open with standard ballroom I would begin with the quickstep and a very simple routine consisting of:

1) Quarter turn to the right
2) Forward lock
3) Natural turn

Then I would move onto the waltz, which although slower and may seem easier, I feel requires a lot more attention and control:

1) Basic (forward and back)
2) Whisk
3) Chasse
4) Natural Turn (and if time natural spin turn and weave and wing but might be a bit too far).

Foxtrot and Tango would certainly be a bit too far for a first session.

If on the other hand, Latin American is the choice then I would start with Cha Cha Cha and if time potentially a Jive.
Cha Cha Cha might be tricky rhythmically but in my opinion is the easiest to teach to a complete beginner:

1) Basic cha cha (forward and back)
2) New York
3) Spot Turn

Jive on the other hand:

1) Basic Jive
2) Change of direction
3) Change of hands behind the back
4) Stop and Go

You can try Rumba and Samba, but I feel these need more control and therefore more time to teach properly then you have.

Hope this is useful.

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