What To Look For In A Dance Instructor

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This post is going to be Short and Sweet.

Even though I live in South Africa, my dance Journey has given me the privilege of being taught by a number of World Class Instructors both locally and internationally. A number of instructors really live up to their name, but occasionally I have come across some instructors that are quite disappointing. Its a sad day when you are looking forward to a class with an instructor you admire and it fails to live up-to your expectations.

A few years ago I asked myself 2 questions after attending one particular class that failed to live up to any and all expectations:

1. Why am I attending this class?
2. Why am I so disappointed?

The answer to 1 was simple, the instructor was an amazing performer and when I watched them dance they inspired me. I simply wanted to learn from someone that talented and inspiring.

As for the answer to question No.2, I was disappointed because they simply did not know how to impart that skill and knowledge in a class environment. They could barely get through the class yet alone explain what they were doing. They lacked the clarity, energy, enthusiasm or passion that I expected to be delivered.

Then I started noticing a pattern – most teachers are actually performers first. When you think about it, this makes sense. I mean when you see someone perform, you are inspired and then you want to take a class with them. I mean who wouldn’t? Look at the poetry they just pulled off on the dance floor? However, as I continued on my dance Journey, I soon realised – there are very few great performers who are actually great teachers.

So what makes a great dance teacher? Well in my opinion and it is just an opinion, there are 4 simple things:

1. Knowledgeable – with the ability to teach and share this information. This needs no further explanation.

2. Passionate – About the dance and the people, not the money.

3. Confident – Instructors should be comfortable and confident enough with their own style that they are not  overly worried about the competition. As a matter of fact, they should encourage you to challenge yourself and try and get different perspectives. Be weary of instructors who always berate and talk down other instructors.

4. Inspiring – The ability to inspire. Its easy to create cookie cut versions of yourself, but when you can encourage & inspire people to create their own styles, you are on another level.

What do you think? What makes a Great Instructor? Feel free to share your thoughts!

3 Comments

  • David says:

    Do you think a beginner would be able to tell the difference between ‘good’ and not so good teachers..? I teach English and learn other languages, and I think it takes a while to find out what works and what doesn’t. But the good thing is that it’s often transferable – your advice on how to find a good dance teacher also works when looking for a language instructor or even a personal trainer.

    I’d add that in passing on knowledge, a good teacher will give you their honest advice on what you need to do in order to improve rather than simply following what you want to do. It’s this negotiation which makes learning much better.

  • Todd says:

    Go to a social, get to know some of the better social dancers and try and find somebody who would be willing to be your mentor. You should still take classes once a week but a mentor will teach you everything that classes won’t (and there is a lot).

  • Sean says:

    A good teacher has made a lot of mistakes and worked through the process of correcting them.

    They can then spot students doing the same they did and help correct it by explaning where that path will end up. I love it when a teacher tells me what’s wrong with a particular thing I’m doing wrong.

    When you only get told the right or the teacher just tries to get you to follow them it doesn’t help you out of bad habits.

    Students get frustrated because they don’t know why they aren’t making progress…

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