The perfect dance instructor

Instruction in jive techniques tends to be much the same in most clubs.   There is a teacher and an assistant, and together they take the audience through three or four moves.  Each move is gone through individually, and then slowly they are put together until such time as either they feel the audience has got it, or they run out of time.

That seems simple, and yet ask any regular dancer who attends more than one dance club and you will be told that instructor a) is better than b) because.

Here are some of the key factors to look out for when you face the instructors.

These instructions are here for two purposes.  First, if you feel that the jive instructor you have is not all that you want, and you find he/she is falling foul of some of these points, then you can immediately be assured that it is not you that is being too picky, it is the instructor who is at fault.

Second, the list is for instructors.  If you want to improve your act, do have a read through, and see if anything rings a bell with you.

1.  Does the lesson start on time?

If yes, you are lucky, because most don’t.  And that is really silly.  If the start of the show is 7.45pm then start at 7.45, or at the latest 7.50pm.  Time and again I have been to dance clubs where the beginners’ lesson is supposed to start at 7.45pm but at 8pm there is still no one on stage ready to go.

When I ask why, they tell me that “people don’t get here til 8”.

When I say, “then why not advertise that it starts at 8?” they say, “because then they won’t be here til 8.15”.

But of course this is not true.  People learn to adjust to what you do.  If you start at 7.45 they will get used to starting at 7.45 and will be there if they possibly can.

Out of courtesy both to those coming to a particular event, such as the beginners’ class, and to those who are coming for a later even (such as the start of the freestyle) start on time.

2.  Does the lesson finish on time?

Instructors who over run their allotted time annoy many more people than they can imagine.  It is excusable to over run once, or even twice, but to do it each week is not a sign of organisation or of caring for your customers.

If you really feel you need 45 minutes for an intermediate class have the guts to say it, and see what the reaction is from the audience.  If they want a longer intermediate class, they will turn up.

3.  Does the instructor always use the same partner?

The problem with always using the same partner is that the instructor becomes a double act with all the banter and exchanges that double acts have.  What he/she should be is a teacher, not an entertainer.

Yes of course some entertainment is needed – you don’t want to be standing there po-faced, but the to-and-fro between a regular couple becomes very warring on many audiences and in my estimation is a major reason for people leaving a club.

Of course there are some people who can pull it off, but not that many.

4.  Does the instructor use as the on stage partner his/her partner/husband/wife/lover?

This is, in my view, doubling the chance of potential disaster of point three.  The ideal is to use a rotating group of partners who are not related to the instructor.

5.  Does the instructor treat the occasion as a chance to “make it fun”?

As noted above, no one wants a dull boring dance instructor.  But the entertainment and fun generally comes from the dancers meeting their own friends.  They don’t need it from the stage.

Most dance instructors are dance instructors, not comics, entertainers and the like.  A dance instructor should be light hearted and jolly, but not endless full of banter, pausing to allow the laughter to subside.

6.  Does the instructor crack jokes?

Oh hard luck if that happens.  See part 5 above.

7.  Does the instructor and the instructor’s partner then come onto the dance floor to dance with those who have done the lesson?

It seems obvious that they should do, but in most cases they do not.  One can allow the dance instructor a rest after a class, but they really should be on the dance floor dancing with their customers.

8.  Do people then use the new moves or do they go back to their old routine?

I have never once seen any dance instructor take note of this, and adjust for this.  But the point is surely obvious: if you have 100 people in a class, with 50 taking the lead, and only two of those 50 then perform the moves in the subsequent free style then one may ask: what was the point of the lesson.  A success rate of 4% is not a success rate – and yet this is what one can often see.

9.  One hour later are the instructor and partner still touring the hall, each finding people to dance with, or are they dancing together?  Or worse, have they gone?

The questions speak for themselves.

10.  Does the instructor come back to last week’s moves and reintroduce one of them?

Again, I have never seen this and yet it is a fundamental of any other form of teaching.  You teach, you observe the effect of your teaching, and if it is poor, you go back and teach it another way.

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