I had a student say to me recently, “I so badly want to take private lessons from a Champion like you. I hope someday soon I will be good enough.”
“Pardon?” I queried, confused. “Good enough?”
He stared at me with a blank expression, baffled about why I was questioning his apparently obvious reasoning.
I clarified, “Why don’t you think you are good enough to take lessons from me yet?”
He explained, “It’s like fine wine: when you are first learning about wine, you have not yet developed a palette to appreciate the expensive vintages, so you shouldn’t waste your money on something you do not yet know how to appreciate fully.”
No, sir, it’s not like wine. This analogy works in many areas of life: luxury cars, brand name fashion, some technology, cosmetics, etc. It’s not a good idea to give a new driver a brand new luxury car or buy brand name makeup for your preteen. But this analogy does not work for teaching, or any other service provider you entrust with your physical or mental needs: doctors, lawyers, teachers, therapists, engineers, etc.
You don’t need to have an “important enough” case to hire a high quality lawyer: you want the best lawyer you can afford to increase your chances of winning the trial. Your home doesn’t need to be “nice enough” to deserve safe and proper wiring by the most reputable electrician you can afford. You don’t need to put up with a medical school student until you are “sick enough” to deserve a qualified and certified doctor!
I said to him, “You have a young daughter, right? When she starts attending school, if you could choose between a teacher who is a young recent college graduate with little experience, or a seasoned classroom professional with post-graduate degrees, which would you choose?” He shook his head, “I would want the best for my child, of course.” I nodded, “Of course: and she deserves the best education you can provide as early as possible, right? Well, so do you.”
Dance lessons are both physical and mental services. You are entrusting a teacher with your physical and emotional well being and growth. This is an area where you definitely do not want to sacrifice or bypass quality if you can help it. A trained, experienced, passionate teacher is willing and capable of teaching ALL levels of students, from newbies to advanced. Their experience has given them insight into a wide variety of troubleshooting tactics and skill development tools that will help you learn or fix things faster, right from day 1. It’s not that these teachers are “reserved” for the advanced dancers – it’s just that the advanced dancers tend to seek coaching from them more often. Just because I am a master teacher, doesn’t mean I don’t teach beginners, or that I only provide coaching to competitive dancers. There is no velvet rope that makes good instruction exclusive to VIP dancers only. Bottom line is, the higher quality the teacher, the better their teaching at all levels, and everyone deserves the best teaching they can get access to.
I should mention a caveat here: price and status are not always indicators of teaching skills. Dancing is a physical skill, teaching is a mental skill. There is no correlation between the two: just because someone is a good dancer does not make them a good teacher, and vice versa. Don’t be fooled by status: don’t assume that a Champion dancer’s advice in a private lesson is going to be more valuable to your learning than your experienced local teacher whose private lesson rate is 50% lower. So when you are searching for the highest quality teacher you can afford, do your due diligence, just as you would with finding a doctor, home renovations company, or massage therapist. For the whole story on how private lessons work with all levels of instructors, check out my 2015 article: The Mystery of Private Lessons
So don’t follow our friend’s misguided advice and deny yourself the opportunity for growth because you think you aren’t good enough. It’s not like wine. Quality care is not a luxury to postpone. If you have regular access or the occasional opportunity to work with top teachers, take advantage! As your budget allows, invest in yourself as early as possible. You will have more fun sooner, and your dance partners will thank you!