Boise Square and Round Dance Hall
6534 W Diamond St.
Boise, ID 83709
United States

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Erin's Etiquette Corner - #5 How to Take a Dance Class

Erin Retelle (Erin is the PR/Outreach chairperson and past president of USA Dance Boise. Since 2010, she has served as the chairperson for the Chapter's annual gala, Mad Hot for Ballroom. Erin began ballroom dancing in 1997 & has continued socializing, learning, performing & competing ever since.)
Date Published:
January 17, 2015

Learning politely is as easy as ABC.

Arrive on time. If you're 5 minutes early, you're already late. Be sure to get to the lesson in plenty of time to get checked in, fill out a name-tag, change into your dance shoes, wash your hands and silence your phone. Ideally, you'll be well rested, dressed comfortably for dancing, and neither full nor hungry. You may want to allow 3 or 4 extra minutes to jog in place, do some gentle stretches, or otherwise prepare your body to move.

Be a good student, not only out of respect for your teacher and the other participants, but so you can get the most out of the class. But what does "be a good student" mean?

It (almost) goes without saying to remain silent when the teacher is talking. Be aware of those around you, both when moving and stationary. Are you blocking someone's view of the teacher? Whapping someone's face with your absent-minded arm-styling? Stop it.

Let's get ready to ROTATE! So, undoubtedly you've heard instructors wax poetic about how much better a dancer you'll become (and quicker) the more different people you dance with. Even if you don't believe the dance dogma, believe this: everyone deserves to dance with the best dancer in the room. Maybe today it's you, or maybe today you're the worst dancer in the room, but either way, be a good dancer and share. When you do rotate to the next partner, thank your previous partner and introduce yourself to the new one.

Ask questions, and be concise. If something's not working, ask the teacher or TA for help and clarification. Stupid questions are very rare - if you aren't sure, chances are someone else in class is too. However, multitudes of questions posed at the slightest mishap and hijacking the class with long anecdotes leading up to questions are not the best use of anyone's time. Everybody's learning, and things won't go perfectly right off the bat. Sometimes, if you suspect your partner is the reason something isn't working, it's best to wait a rotation to see if the problem continues to occur with your next partner.

Speaking of partners, treat yours with respect and kindness. Learning new things can be frustrating. Even if your partner is the one who messed up, never blurt out, "you're doing it wrong!" or any such critique. Relax, breathe, things will come together...if not with this partner, then the next one. A dance class is a place where The Golden Rule should be strictly adhered to.

When the level of the class doesn't match up with your (perceived) level of dance expertise, it can be easy to become a less-than-ideal participant. If you feel the pattern or technique the instructor is teaching is "too easy", resist the temptation to work ahead. Others in the class, including your partner, do not need to be distracted by your, "look how many more awesome moves I know" show. Likewise, don't teach your partner. Your partner came and PAID to learn from the teacher, so make sure you're not in competition with him or her. Only correct your partner if you are directly asked, and never answer when the teacher is speaking. But doing these easy moves is so BORING. No it's not. You aren't as good as you think you are. There is always something you can improve on within the framework of a basic pattern. How's your posture? your balance? hip action? frame? foot placement? connection? are you smiling? Now is your opportunity to focus on some of those aspects of your dancing that get overlooked when your concentration is on learning a challenging pattern. How you practice is ultimately how you do something in "real life". Should you be on the other end of the spectrum, and the class is way too advanced for you, don't worry. Try your best for at least 3 partner rotations or 10 minutes, whichever is longer. If at that point you feel you've made no improvements and you are holding back the rest of the class, stand out of the rotation until the teacher has moved on to a different pattern or technique, or until you have caught up. Continue to stand and practice on your own - you'll get it! Watch the teacher as well as other dancers.

Celebrate! Did a pattern work well? How about a high-5 for that partner? Be glad you learned something in class and be happy you got to spend an hour on the dance floor.

Celebrate your teacher by giving him or her a round of applause, and if you particularly appreciated something about the class or the teaching style, let them know; catch them during shoe-change and tell them what you liked, sign up for another class he or she is teaching, tell your friends why you liked the class, etc.

Celebrate your newly-gotten knowledge by doing 3 things.
1. Write it down. Jot a few key words that will help you with technique you learned and write down the names of the patterns in the order you danced them.
2. Practice something from class (with or without a partner) no more than 2 days after the class. You paid for that knowledge! Hang onto it.
3. Celebrate by going dancing and actually using the theoretical in practice. Here are some dances you can attend.

See you in class, dancers!