What is a private lesson?

A private lesson is a dance lesson with just you and your partner (or just you) and your teacher at a time and place agreed on between you. In a private lesson you work on the dances you want and instruction is catered specifically for you, your level of dance and ability, and what you need to learn. Even though often referred to as an “hour”, private lessons are 55 minutes long.

I just want to be a social dancer. Do I have to learn all that technique?

Many people use the term “social dancer” as an excuse for not learning good technique and being a bad dancer. Don’t be one of those people. Because dancing socially means dancing with a lot of different people it can be argued that social dancing requires an even higher level of skill. Think about it — do you like dancing with a bad dancer? So yes, you do need to learn all that technique. In fact, your technique is far more important than how many figures you know.

Which style and which dances should I learn?

That depends on your interests and your goals and can vary widely. Here are some basic initial guidelines.

Learning for social dancing: Social dancing typically means International Style because it is the most common, widespread, versatile, standardized, and fun. Start with International Style Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Cha Cha, Rumba, and Jive. Also learn the slight differences in the American Style so you can adapt to the limitations of the American Style only dancers. You only need a brief introduction to the beginning level of American Style Foxtrot, Tango, Rumba, and Bolero. Then as you progress, you can add International Style Viennese Waltz, Quickstep, and Samba.

Learning for dancing in performances and shows: Although you can perform any style, usually this means the American Style Smooth, American Style Rhythm, and International Style Latin because of the showy choreographic nature of those styles. The particular dances you learn will depend on what you want to perform.

Learning for competition: You can compete in any style and any dance, so it is totally up to you which style and dances you choose.

I’ve heard that learning International Style is more difficult than American Style. Is this true?

No, absolutely not. In fact, in the long term, you will find that learning International Style is easier, more rewarding, makes you a more well-rounded more accomplished dancer, and is much more fun.

What is true is that if you learned American Style first, and ignored all the technique that you should have learned and developed bad habits, then learning the technique afterwards and unlearning the bad habits will feel difficult. Even so it is well worth the effort and International Style dancing is a lot more fun.

How long does it take to learn to dance?

It varies from person to person depending on prior experience with body movement related activities such as sports, other types of dance, martial arts, etc. However, on average, the following is close for most people.

To become a basic level social dancer, most people will study dancing for about a year taking a combination of group lessons and private lessons.

To progress to an intermediate level social dancer or a basic level competition dancer, most people will take a private lesson a week, and practice about 2-5 hours per week for one to two years. It is difficult to progress past the beginning level without private lessons. The amount of time to learn can be accelerated by taking more than one private lesson per week and more practice.

To progress to an advanced level dancer, most people will take 1-3 private lessons per week, and practice 6-10 hours per week for 3-5 years. The time to learn can be accelerated with more lessons and more practice.

Etiquette At Social Dance Events (Open Dance Parties)

David Alexander’s Social Dance Events are a bit different than other places you might go. A Social Dance Event is the time to get dressed up to go out  dancing. Everyone is welcome no matter where they learn or teach. So that we can preserve the social, friendly, and nonthreatening environment of the Social Dance Events, a few rules of etiquette should be followed to ensure that everyone has a good time.

  1. Your outfit and accessories should be comfortable, safe, and also reflect the culture and level of formality of the dance. While casual dress might be OK for group classes, dress for a Social Dance Event should be a bit more fashionable. Jeans, T-shirts, tennis shoes, shorts, etc. are not appropriate. Perfume and cologne are also not appropriate. Your perfume or cologne comes off on every person you dance with. By the end of the evening everyone is wearing the combination of everyone else’s perfume and cologne — and it smells awful. Also many people are allergic. So in case it wasn’t clear enough: Don’t wear perfume or cologne to a Social Dance Event!
  2. Today’s beginners will be the good dancers of tomorrow, so be nice to them and dance with them.
  3. Be considerate to other couples on the floor. Exercise good floorcraft. Do not cut other couples off. Lifts, choreographed routines, drops, etc. are not appropriate on the social dance floor.
  4. Always follow line of dance when dancing travelling dances.
  5. Avoid dancing patterns that your partner cannot do. Dance to the level of your partner.
  6. Never blame your partner for missteps.
  7. Classes and private lessons are for learning, Social Dance Events are for using what you have learned — for dancing!. No teaching of any kind is allowed during Social Dance Events. If your partner cannot do the figure you are trying to dance, it is not appropriate to try and “teach it to them”. See #5 & #6.
  8. Social Dance Events are not the time to try and sell anything (including dance lessons) to the attendees. No solicitation of any kind is allowed during Social Dance Events.
  9. Smile. Be warm and personable. Be nice.