Group Dance Lessons: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

About a decade ago, as part of a New Year’s Resolution, I decided to take professional dance lessons.  I found a Studio near my home and a beginner’s group class that fit right into my schedule.

Dancing for Every Occasion: A special overview program that introduces you to 8 dances: Waltz, Rumba, Foxtrot, Swing, Salsa, Tango, Merengue and Cha Cha. The basic patterns of the listed dances are covered.

Dancing has never been my strong suit so I didn’t expect to be on the next season of Dancing with the Stars or even to become a great dancer.  I simply wanted to be able to improve my rhythm-challenged white-boy dancing style which needs all the help it can get.

The ratio of girls to guys was about 3:1. That’s not really a good thing, as I’ll explain in a minute. The age range is anything from a few high school girls (or at least that’s how young they look) to middle age men and women, and everything in between. For the record, I wasn’t there to meet anyone, I was there to learn some much needed dance moves. No, Really.

The Good
The instructor, Christa, is very patient. She breaks the dance down and steps through it as many times as necessary. Each week we learned a different style, which builds on what we learned the previous week. For example, Week1 we learned a Waltz and in Week2 we learned some Rumba, which built off the same 3-step box, but adds a fourth step or a pause and in a room full of beginners, hilarity ensued.

The format is generally the same each week. First Christa divides the men and women to separate side of the room.  Then she demonstrates the dance routine, first the guy’s part, then the ladies. Then she has the guys line up and then has the women pair up, placing the extra women in-between pairs. We do the routine, then we rotate so that the unpaired ladies get to be partnered next. If only life worked that way!

Because there is such a difference in the number of guys to girls, the instructor is forced to rotate partners as quickly as possible so that everyone gets a chance to practice the dance with a partner. After all, everyone paid the same price for the same lesson. She could pair up girl with girl but that defeats the purpose since most dances are designed for the guy to lead (sorry ladies).

The Bad
It takes about one cycle or attempt at a dance routine to get it down and each time you switch partners, you have to adjust to each other’s level. Theoretically, if we all know the same dance, it shouldn’t matter, but if we could dance, we wouldn’t be in a beginner’s class in the first place.

Photo by Tyro Photos

Photo by Tyro Photos

The Ugly
Whenever Christa wants to demo a new move, she has us go back to the boys on one side of the room, girls on the other. We do this EVERYTIME she teaches a new step or routine. And each time, the guys seem to be challenged on how to form two or three rows (I guess gym class was so tragic for everyone it’s been blocked out of our memory). So that’s precious time off the clock because Christa has to explain to the guys up front how to form a straight line.

Then Christa will say find yourself a partner. Some people have come here with partners (read: significant others) and while that’s all well and fine, they act like we’re in junior high instead of an adult dance class. The guys kinda look at their girls like “get over here, don’t make me dance with a stranger.” Which means the women have to find their boyfriends/fiancées/husbands/whatever in a crowd while other women bump into them trying to just get a partner so they can learn the freakin dance.

Here’s The Thing: we rotate partners in 30 seconds or so. Towards the end of  class, most people finally figured this out and the transitions went faster and smoother. Unfortunately, after an entire week goes by, we have to re-learn this newfound skill.

The Really Ugly
Remember what I said about guy-to-girl ratio and all that wasted time getting realigned?  One particular week the studio “invited” this Singles Adventure Group to audit the class.  So now you have twice as many people including first time students who are not familiar with the class format of lining up and rotating partners.  Needless to say I did not sign up for future lessons.

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