How Can I Get More Out Of My Group Salsa Classes?
By Terryl Jones
1) Have an open mind.
Many times we walk into a class feeling we already have most of what is being taught, but that we just need one thing ( a new step, syncopation, body move, timing etc etc). When this happens we tend to only hear what we want to hear, not necessarily what is being taught. Many teachers use patterns as a means to teach a skill, that skill would be the primary thing to learn in that class, not the pattern.
2) Be in the right level.
Having been a competitor, a teacher and a student for nearly 20 years, I can still say that I can still learn from another teachers beginning class. For example, just because you know the skill that is being taught doesn't mean that you know everything about that skill or that you can't improve the way you use it or that you can't learn another way of doing it for different dancing circumstances. Also, different schools have different numbering systems. (School A's level 4 may be equal to School B's level 2) When in doubt take the more basic class. The key here is: Upper level classes for quantity, beginning classes for quality.
3) Be on time.
If you are in class from the beginning you'll obviously have a better understanding than if you come in the middle of an explanation. Besides it's not fair to the teacher or the rest of the class to have to keep repeating things for the latecomers.
4) During the class practice time, practice the pattern that is being taught.
During class practice time, the teacher is watching. We want to see if most of the people are getting what we are teaching, if we need to teach another facet of the material, or if the majority is ready to build on what we have done so far. While you may feel "oh, I've got it" in watching you the teacher may see that you missed an certain point (see #1).
5) Encourage your partners.
On occasion we have a newer dancer tell us that one of the intermediates gets frustrated with the beginners. While you are working on your dancing, be aware of what emotion that you may be projecting, beginning dancers tend to take it more personal. If you are frustrated with yourself, they may think it is them that you are frustrated with. Let's face it, having lots of partners to dance with can be a lot of fun, especially come party-time. The more comfortable people are, the more often they will come. Everybody has fun. The key here: Remember your roots.
6) Come as often as possible.
Group teachers in schools (as opposed to nightclubs) usually progress each class in a series. In a school we can assume that you'll come regularly, so we can teach things knowing we have next week and the week after to build, improve and flesh out what we're starting this week. This ties into #7.
7) Take privates.
The group classes are a great place to learn patterns, but if you want to really understand and polish your dancing, privates are an important part of your class schedule. To be honest, some things really cannot be taught in group classes, so some "secrets" can only be fully taught in private lessons because we can get you to "feel" it. This ties to #8.
8) Get as much practice as possible.
Get to know your classmates (see #5). They are built in practice partners. Come early to class, stay after class, come to parties, go to clubs....practice as often as possible. The formula I was one told by a coach: there should be 5 hours of practice between each class. While you may not be able to to that much, obviously the more better.
9) Have proper tools.
Shoes. You don't have to have dance shoes, but let's put it this way: at least with dance shoes you are eliminating one potential roadblock to your learning. Properly taken care of, a good pair of shoes will last a long time. It's like putting good tires on your car. If you are investing in your dancing, invest in shoes. If you choose not to have dance shoes at least get shoes with thin flexible soles and ladies pick shoes that stay on your feet without flapping around. Clothing should be cool and comfortable. Please avoid tennis shoes and character or tap shoes.
10) Have fun.
Remember that this is a social activity (see #5 and #8). Remember WHY you walked into your first class. For most people it was to be able to either go out and have fun or the class itself would be fun or both. Also the process of learning guarantees mistakes will happen, if you can laugh about it you really will learn faster than the person stressing over the mistake. Enjoy the learning process.