One of the things I enjoyed about beginning my swing dance journey was learning a brand-new skill. I’m a serial hobbyist that likes to dive deep into my new fascination and I work hard to get as good as I can at a new skill. And for me – as it is with every new learner – classes were the way to go. In group classes, you learn the fundamentals of the dance, what it’s like to have multiple partners, and make some great new friends. But after a while if you’re serious about your dance development, private lessons will give you the boost you need to take some big steps in your dancing. Big dance steps. See what I did there?
Anyhow, I’m here to share some tips on how to make your first private lesson or private lesson series a success. Follow this advice and you’ll be richly rewarded with a killer lindy hop private lesson.
Find The Right Teacher
There are a lot of good dancers in the world. A lot of them even live in this city. Your first inclination might be to find the best dancer and work exclusively with them, and that might be exactly what you need.
But not every great dancer is a great teacher, and a private lesson requires even more knowledge and skill than a group class instructor. Find a teacher that you think would work well with you, has experience providing private lessons, and has a set of skills that you’d like to improve on personally. I suggest asking friends and fellow dancers who they would recommend learning from. Think outside of the box a little bit with this. If you’re typically a lead, why not take a private lesson from a great follow? Do you like the way that one instructor looks during their swing out? Learn from them! You’re already going to be paying a premium for the undivided attention of the instructor, so make sure you’re getting the most out of it by choosing the right person.
Get Over Your Jitters
The first thing you realize is that it’s a lot easier to hide in a group class. The teacher’s attention is on the whole class and only sometimes exclusively on you. And even then, the experience is simply not as intense as being with a private instructor. It can be nerve-racking to feel all the eyes on you.
But can I tell you a secret? A good private lesson instructor doesn’t have any judgement about you or your dancing while you’re in the lesson. In fact, seeking a private lesson is commendable because you’re admitting that there’s something you need work on! These teachers have seen everything and your skill (or lack thereof) will not surprise them in the least. Try and relax and remember that the instructor is there to help you. You have nothing to be nervous about.
Besides the essential things you should bring to every class, like water, dance shoes, a winning smile, and an open mind, you may want to bring some things you normally wouldn’t think about. The first is an idea of what you’d like to work on. There are plenty of times when you can start a private lesson with the goal of just getting better and let the instructor guide the practice. But if you are passionate about something, you should tell the instructor what it is you’re hoping to get out of the time you have together.
Do you have a partner in mind if you’re looking for some partner work? Think of a few people that you work well with and are appropriately skilled for the subject you’re working on. You don’t want to be caught in a lesson where your partner can’t keep up with the material you’re paying money to work on. If you’re not sure where to start with this, you should ask your instructor.
Do you have a song or specific tempo in mind? If you do, you should make it a point to have a song or even a few songs ready to play so that the teacher has an idea of what you’d like to work on from that perspective.
Each instructor is different, so if you need guidance on what to be prepared for you should ask in advance of the lesson.
Be Receptive To Feedback
A private lessons, and any other class for that matter, only works if you’re willing to listen to your teachers. You’re dedicating a lot of time and energy to work on something that you think would be an improvement. Sometimes the feedback you receive isn’t what you were looking for or you have a hard time seeing the value of the lesson in the short term. That’s ok – we are often bad judges of our weaknesses. And if you have a strong perception of what you’re dancing is like, and your feedback conflicts with that perception, it can be a tough pill to swallow.
My best advice for taking criticism is to focus on how making these changes to your dancing will make you a better dancer and lead to more fun for you and your partner when you’re dancing. Keep your focus on the reward of getting better in the future and not the disappointment of not being perfect today. If you were perfect you wouldn’t need the lesson in the first place.
Record What You Learn
Maybe you’re the note taking type like I am (I keep my notes on my phone, backed up online for quick reference). Or maybe you want the visual cues to remember exactly what you went over. Either way, make sure you record what you learned so you can reference it later during your practice or spare time. Just remember to ask your instructor before you film them. It’s pretty rude to pull out a phone and record during a session without permission.
Ok, great. You finished a wonderful lesson and feel new swing dance powers coursing through you. But all that work will go to waste if you don’t practice what you’re working on. Use your notes or video to focus on key points you went over so that you can make habits out of the tips you received. If possible, seek more feedback from the instructor after you’ve worked on your new skill for a while and see if there’s something you’re missing. Even better – sign up for another private lesson session to keep plugging away at whatever you’re getting at.
Private lessons can really fast track your dancing skill. It’s a lot of time, effort, and dedication but the rewards are so worth it. Do you need some help getting started? Contact us and we’ll be happy to get you a one on one session, or point you in the right direction if we don’t have what you’re looking for.
See you on the dance floor!