Ways to Learn

Group Classes

This is where most people start. Group Classes are advertised in the Classifieds section of the newspaper, on directory websites like this one, and on posters around the city. Dance studios are the most likely place to find them, but bars/clubs frequently offer drop-in lessons early in the evening before the DJ takes over. They’re usually weekly, 1-1.5 hours per session. The vast majority of studios offer class series which last for 4-10 weeks in a row. The cost varies $5-20 per class, with the average being $10 per hour. Sometimes a studio will offer a full day of group classes on one theme, taught by one instructor. This is called a workshop, and is discussed on the Events page.

Advantages of learning in a Group Class

  • Social – you meet lots of people
  • Learn to adapt to different leads/follows.
  • Get lots of patterns to try on the floor
  • You’re more anonymous – you can hide in the masses
  • Learn with your friends
  • Regular practice
  • Cheapest way to learn

Disavantages of learning in a Group Class

  • Little personal attention – you’re more anonymous
  • You don’t get the feedback you need to make sure you’re doing it correctly
  • The class might move to slow or to fast for you
  • The instructor might teach a different style than what you need/ are looking for

Recommendations

  • Balance group classes with Private Lessons
  • Shop around

 

Private Lessons

Private lessons are one-on-one instruction with just you and the instructor. This is your chance to get personal attention and the feedback you need to progress exponentially faster. Many instructors offer private lessons in addition to their group classes. The value of the instruction will vary depending on the level and expereince of the instructor, the instructor’s education and training, their teaching ability, their currency in the dance, and the teacher-student chemistry you have with them.
It is always a good idea to “shop around” before you choose an instructor. It is also a good idea to take private lessons from a variety of people, so you can find the right teaching method for your learning style. You are also able to get a broader perpective of the dance. Private lesson rates vary depending on the instructor, $30-100. Here’s a great article demystifying Private Lessons

Advantages of learning in a Private Lesson

  • Personal attention & encouragement
  • Feedback & correction of bad habits
  • You can FEEL the correct technique from the instructor
  • Learn at your own speed, according you your own learning style

Disavantages of learning in a Private Lesson

  • Expensive

Recommendations

  • Take private lessons with a friend to split the cost and gain a dance practice partner.
  • Go social dancing between lessons to practice.
  • Shop around.

Workshop weekends

Workshop weekends are an excellent way to supplement your learning. A local studio brings in a top professional to coach them and their students in an intensive group class setting. Usually a full day or two days of classes are offered, and usually along a certain theme. Instructors who take responsibility for their own professional development and for bringing their students the most current, accurate, and highest quality information always offer at least one or two workshops per year. Be sure not to miss it! Here’s a great resource explaining how to take advantage of workshop weekends

Instructional Videos

THESE ARE NOT INTENDED TO REPLACE LIVE LEARNING. This allows students to learn from home or review what was taught in a workshop. Video also allows instructors to pass on new ideas and technology quickly, and to reach remote areas which don’t get frequent training opportunities. Because some technologies are available to everyone, there are many examples of poor instruction or poor dancing out there, which requires some research on the viewer’s part. Because WCS is a constantly evolving dance, the technology and trends are changing yearly. Like encyclopedias, videos that were excellent learning resources years ago are now out of date and have been replaced. Be sure to invest in current productions (within the last 3-4 years), and don’t learn from only one instructor – learn from many and get a balanced approach.

You Tube: Seems like an invaluable tool to promote WCS to potential dancers, as long as the appropriate content is shown. Be wary of anyone demostrating WCS in a skirt and heels – this is Ballroom style WCS, and is not authentic WCS. Same goes for instruction: Anyone of merit in the authentic WCS world does not produce free instructional content on You Tube. WCS is a dance that is far too kinesthetic to learn visually, and trying to mimic the movement from watching others’ competition clips on You Tube is actually detrimental to one’s permanent learning. You Tube is only a place for inspiration and exposure, NOT learning. Here’s a great resource describing How to Learn WCS from YouTube

Advantages of learning via video:

  • Learning in the private comfort of your home
  • Watch it again and again if you forget the material
  • Pause, slow-mo and rewind to catch details of the movement
  • Get technique tips from the Pros without having to travel
  • Permanent addition to your reference library

Disavantages of learning via video:

  • Hard to ask questions to clarify
  • No feedback to confirm if you are doing it right
  • Trying to learn patterns without learning the technique first to pull them off.

Recommendations:

  • When you take a workshop from an instructor who impresses you, buy their video (as long as it’s current). Ask them to recommend one for you.
  • Keep the website/contact info of that instructor so you can ask questions after watching the video.
  • Take private lessons to clarify things you learned from the video.
  • Be aware that videos do not replace personal instruction.
  • Be aware that most videos teach patterns assuming you already know the technique. Technique videos are rare, so be sure to get your hands on them!