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Learning How To Dance (Methods & Fears)

By H. Leon Raper

Fun Method - Dancing is supposed to be fun, isn't it? Let's just keep trying this until it feels good! This method does not work well at all, takes 10 times as long to learn, most students are very limited in what they can eventually do, and their dance styles look amateurish and out of control.

Academic Method - The dance class experience is treated the same as taking a class in a regular school. Attention is paid to minor details, good basics are developed, and a professional looking dance style results.

Step Happy Syndrome - These type people want to learn "a million steps and end up performing none of them right." Many people, when learning to dance, want too much too soon, and thereby end up doing everything poorly, look like amateurs, and never end up with that polished look of someone that looks like they know what they are doing.

Mistakes & Fear Someone Is Watching - Students must give themselves "permission to make mistakes". Trying to do things correctly and making mistakes is the way the mind and body automatically condition themselves to eventually do things correctly. Students who are afraid of making mistakes, or are afraid someone will be watching, will take a great deal longer to learn to dance. Many years ago, in a dance class I was in, a lady told the instructor she was afraid of making mistakes because of people watching. His response was "what the hell makes you think you are good enough for anyone to want to watch?" That sounds cruel, but it is absolutely true. No one is watching new people making their mistakes. They are watching the flashy advanced students. Sorry to burst any beginner's bubble, but no one is watching, all is safe, make your mistakes.

(Published in Flagstaff Swing Dance Club, Inc. Newsletter, November 1993)

(Published in NTA (National Teachers Association) Newsletter, February 1994)