Friday, February 16, 2018

Another frequently asked question:

"How many lessons will it take for me to learn to dance?"

To answer the above question, for our purposes let's say that "to learn to dance" means being able to dance socially - that is, attending a social function, or a dance club where lots of people in attendance change dance partners throughout the event. For example, this could be something like a Salsa or Latin dancing event, where having "learned to dance" means being comfortable with the music, the rhythm, the body movement, technique and vocabulary of the dance, as well as improvisational skills and the ability to lead or follow a partner well.

That is a question with a less straightforward answer.

Dancing is a skill, and learning to dance is no different than learning any other skill, especially another skill that requires any kind of communication.

If you wanted to learn to play an instrument or learn to speak another language, what kind of answer might you expect if you asked an music teacher or language professor how many lessons it would take to play that instrument or to learn that language? Most people wouldn't expect to be able to learn either of these skills in an easily quantified number of lessons. They require time, patience, study and practice.

In the above examples; with a few lessons you might be able to play a short, simple song on your instrument, or you might be able to memorize a few foreign phrases. But would you feel confident in your musical skills outside of that one song (better question, how quickly would you or your audience get bored of that song)? Would you be able to carry out a conversation with a handful of memorized phrases (better question, would you be able to understand the other person's responses and truly communicate)?

Dancing is no different: sure, with a few lessons you might be able to learn a few steps or a simple routine, and you might even be able to lead or follow them well enough. This is a perfectly reasonable expectation if you want to learn a simple dance routine for a single performance such as your first wedding dance. It's even a great place to start if you just want to give dance lessons a try to see how you like it!

However, just like music and language, dancing also has rules and theory, style and expression, even grammar and syntax. If your goal is to learn to dance well socially (and especially if you want others to enjoy dancing with you), you wouldn't just want to memorize a handful of patterns to repeat over and over. You'll want to work on your connection and communication, timing, musicality and technique. These all take time. For example, Tango dancers are known to work on perfecting their walking technique and their embrace for many years! Don't be discouraged if it doesn't feel natural right away (it will!), or if sometimes it all feels overwhelming. It takes time, patience, study and practice.