It’s Tuesday again and I’ve got another Ask the Girl post for you!
I don’t know about you, but I had a rough Monday. If there is such a thing as a case of the Mondays, I had it bad! But I survived to write again.
Today’s question came from one of my Instagram followers! She just started dancing and competing in pro-am ballroom with a pro who also happens to be a good friend. Their connection outside of dance makes their connection and performance on the dance floor really strong, but she has also found that it sometimes causes extra heartache and disappointment. She wanted to know how I found my dance partner and how I knew he was the one to stick with.
Is there any pro-am dancer out there who hasn’t experienced the odd mix of joy and pain that is ballroom dancing? I doubt it.
So how did I end up with Teacher?
I think I lucked out with finding him because I didn’t actually have to go anywhere! He had been teaching at my studio as an independent for awhile, but a few months before my first teacher “fired” me, Teacher signed on as part of the studio staff. He started teaching group classes, which were my first experiences with him. Then to promote him as a new teacher, the studio offered a free private lesson with him. I loved his teaching style in group, so I took advantage of the promotion.
By the time I found myself in need of a new instructor and dance partner, I knew who to turn to. Over two years later, we’re still dancing together! You know, when I can afford it.
I don’t want to use up a lot of space writing about how unique, awkward, confusing and wonderful a dance partnership can be. If you haven’t read my article on the pro-am relationship, feel free to take a minute to take a look. I would also recommend my article on partnering. Every dance partnership has its challenges, but pro-am just throws another wrench into the mix with its built-in imbalance and the fact that an exchange of money is involved.
So as a ballroom dance student, how do you know who is the right teacher for you? Of course, your selection may be limited by your geographical area or your studio’s options. But I can at least share the most important factors for me. Hopefully, they will give you ideas of what to look for in your own search for the right teacher.
The first critical element is obviously the teaching style. People learn in different ways, and people teach in different ways. Ever notice that you can be told something over and over by someone and you really struggle to grasp the concept, and then someone else explains it in a different way and suddenly it just clicks? Finding a teacher that knows how to explain ballroom dance in a way that just clicks for you is invaluable.
Something else I’ve come to really value in my current teacher is his professionalism. When we’ve had conflicts, Teacher has always taken the time to address and resolve them together. Even though the relationship is imbalanced by nature, Teacher treats me like an equal partner and expects me to act like one. Taking into account my struggle to feel significant, this gesture of respect is huge for me.
Beside those traits, I think you just need to look for someone you like and connect with as a person! The ballroom partnership is so dependent on trust. In order to trust someone, you first have to like them!
You also need to remember that you’re there to learn and your teacher’s main job is to teach. So it’s important that your teacher helps you progress in your ballroom dancing. In that first free private lesson with Teacher, I felt like I had gained so much. In the first few months of dancing with him as my official teacher/partner, people constantly commented how my dancing had improved by leaps and bounds. I suppose it depends on what your goals are, but do you really want to spend all that money on private lessons and never advance beyond the ballroom basics?
One final thought: if you want to find a great dance partner, whether it’s a teacher or someone on your own level, you have to BE a great dance partner! As a student, you shouldn’t expect your teacher to just carry you through everything or bow to your every whim because you’re the client. You need to work to be as good a partner to them as you want them to be to you.
This does not mean you have to be perfect. You just have to put in the effort. Mistakes are part of the beautiful, painful journey! You may mess up 1,000 times before you get something right. And then you will forget it the minute your teacher introduces something new. But as long as you keep trying and putting in the effort to improve, a good teacher will never see you as a failure. As dance partners, you are on this journey together.
Everyone I know has gone through at least one or two instructors. So don’t feel discouraged if your first pro-am partnership doesn’t work out. Just like with any other relationship, some will fit and some won’t.
As with everything I write, I hope my thoughts here make your ballroom journey just a bit easier! Thank you for being part of mine!
How are you liking the Ask the Girl series?
Every Tuesday I will post another episode. Leave your topics or questions in the comments below or contact me directly. I hope to hear from you!