A Fresh Perspective

Taking Lessons

Things have sped up for me recently. Finding myself in the process of moving, working more, and being an adult in more ways than I’d like has made me busier. Sadly, luxuries like dancing have taken a bit of a back seat. I’m sure those of you with careers far outside the realm of swing can relate to this. So far my summer has consisted of playing a long game of catch up. On the rare occasions that I do finally catch up, I try to spend most of my downtime getting a dance in anywhere I can. But there hasn’t been much time for lessons in my schedule. In result, I’ve been feeling stagnant in my dancing. So I thought I’d take this time to express how much a fan of lessons I am, and how big a part they are in my life.

First off, if you’ve recently gotten into dancing and are considering buying a lesson package but not sure if it’s worth the change, I have three words for you. Just. Do it. Lessons may be my favorite part of dancing. They’re the reason I am what I am today, why I can walk onto a floor with confidence, and even why I’m writing this. Community lessons are great way to get your foot into the door of dancing. But if you truly want to progress as a dancer, there’s no way to invest in yourself than by getting a package of lessons. In lessons such as these, you and other dancers around your skill level can learn and build with each other without any judgment. You’re free to ask as many questions as you like or even have a teacher examine your technique if you’d like. These classes usually have a smaller attendance record and allow for more personal instruction time than your usual drop-in class.

A few other things about lessons are the rate at which you progress. Getting a package and going to lessons every week can allow for so much progression as a dancer. Of course, going to community lessons on top of these would be even better (which I highly recommend). But community lessons are geared more toward people who have very little or no swing experience, so they won’t build on themselves the same way a lesson package might, which will have around the same students consistently. And maybe you’ll even get to know these other students and go have informal practices of your own. I have a friend who’s always going to lessons. Whether it’s a package or community lesson, if it’s swing he’s there. Actually, at one point he was even a member of two lesson packages at two different dance studios. But, eventually we started seeing each other at the same lessons for a while so we started talking about different moves we’d learned and how we could improve on them. And the best part is we’re both leads, so dancing together causes us to practice our following as well. So try to ask other students as well as teachers about certain moves, or about setting up impromptu practices to work on moves. It’s a great way to get better in a fun, comfortable setting.

Inherently, lessons will make you a better dancer. But at the heart of it all, they can also make you a more confident person. Once your knowledge of multiple turns and moves fall in line with your ability to execute them, there’ll be nothing stopping you from asking anyone to dance, which was something that I struggled with when I first started. Of course, that shouldn’t stop you from asking people, whether you’re a lead or follow, and it shouldn’t have stopped me. I would have progressed a lot faster if I got rid of that fear first, because the best way to get better is practice.

 Photos by Ian Monroe

Photos by Ian Monroe

One of the most important things I’ve found in going to lessons is to use it or lose it. For me, I have about a three-day window after I learn a move to use it on the dance floor before I start forgetting the dynamics of it. Because as you progress further into dancing, more complex moves will start making their way into your vocabulary. In my experience, a good way to make sure they don’t overwhelm you is to get them into your muscle memory early on. Whether it’s going out to dance, or getting together with a partner, or practicing alone in front of the mirror, anything helps. Your brain can only remember an hour’s worth of new material for so long. So get out there and dance!

Ian Monroe is a contributing writer for Crescent City Swing, community member, and friend.