Friday, December 17, 2010

How do you view beginner dancers?

As someone who's been around dancing for a long time (15 years), I have seen a lot of different people in my time. Of course, a lot of these have been beginners to the world of dance. One thing that many people will agree with is that we always need to bring new people into our sport. We need to keep the studios alive, the dances fun, and we can always use more partners...especially men. Therefore, how we treat our beginners is very, very important.

Most people are very welcoming of beginners and try to help them out as much as they can. As an example, Greg and I recently took up Argentine Tango. The community has been extraordinarily welcoming of us, even though we go to practica after practica with just one (now two, after last night) lesson under our belt. For the most part, the people who have danced with us have been very encouraging and very kind in offering us helpful advice, without being overbearing or rude. This attitude is part of what has gotten us addicted to this very fun and challenging dance!

Other people are not so great. I once had a student who came to a ballroom dance after a couple of classes. He was pretty solid on the few basic steps he knew, but he didn't know anything fancy yet. I encouraged him to ask women to dance, because he needed the practice and most women would rather do basics than sit and not dance. Also, personally (and I know other women who have the same viewpoint), I would rather do basics reasonably well with someone who is pretty comfortable to dance with than advanced stuff crappily with someone who wrenches me around because he didn't learn to lead proerly. Anyway, I digress. So, this very nice man goes to ask a woman to dance. She accepted and stood up, and he said, "By the way, I'm a beginner." She actually said "never mind" and sat down again. I was blown away by her rudeness. can't give 2.5 minutes of your life to dance with a beginner?

I've seen others who will accept the dance, or dance with a beginner in class, but their bad attitude about it shows on their face. How do you think that makes the poor beginner feel?

I should add: not all Tango people are welcoming and helpful, and not all Ballroom dancers are rude. There are both types of people no matter where you go, whether it's Tango, Swing, Ballroom, Country or whatever.

Think of dancing with beginners as an investment. If you are kind and encouraging to them, they are more likely to stick with it. NICELY encourage them to take lessons if they aren't already and explain the benefits so they know how important it is. Eventually, that beginner will get better and better and will grow into a good dancer. They are likely to remember who was kind to them and who wasn't when they can be pickier about their dance partners because they're so in demand. And, because of your encouragement, the dance world will have one more great dancer! Besides, if you take a chance and dance with a beginner, they may not turn out to be as bad as you think.

Sure, it can be a little uncomfortable and maybe even a little boring to dance with someone who only knows the very basic step of the dance. However, if you adjust your attitude about it and find the fun in dancing with someone new who is making an effort, you'll find it much more enjoyable. It's just a couple of minutes, and far better than sitting in a chair and watching everyone else have fun. And don't forget...your investment now may pay great dividends later.

As for my readers who are themselves beginners, I encourage you to get out there! The more practice you get, the better you will become, faster. I can't overstate the importance of taking lessons, either. You really do need to learn to dance properly in order to be the best dancer you can be, even if you never set foot on a competition floor. You can learn a lot just by getting out there with experienced dancers and doing it, but there is a lot to learn. However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't start going to dances as soon as possible. The practice and encouragement will help you improve, and you'll meet some great people! Just ignore the rude ones. :)