Let’s talk about class! Whether a competitor or social dancer or an amalgam of the two, there’s a good chance that at some point in your ballroom experience, you’ve attended a lesson or regularly attend lessons. Following are a few thoughts on lesson etiquette that may be applied to group or private lessons.
- Arrive on-time or, better yet, early. The time before a lesson starts is an opportunity for you to tune into your body and warm-up in a way that’s beneficial for you, which will be much appreciated by your partner(s) throughout the lesson. If you are late, make sure to apologize after class. However, keep in mind that there is a window of time that is “acceptable” tardiness, which varies from instructor to instructor. Tardiness can be very disruptive to your own learning as well as those in the class who have to wait for you to be caught up. At a point, the phrase “better later than never” does not apply to dance lessons.
- Inform the instructor of injuries before class. This allows them to brainstorm some alternatives for you and avoids a potentially painful experience.
If you have to sit out of class due to injury, be as engaged as you can. Actually sit up and pay attention, rather than slouch or slump on the floor. You can still learn a lot, even when not in motion.
- Adhere to the dress code. Check up on your studio’s dress code before coming to a lesson. In general, you will want to wear clothing that allows you a wide range of motion so perhaps not your tightest pair of jeans. When it comes to partner dancing, dress code also means be mindful of your partner. Leaders, maybe don’t wear that tank top that leaves your sweaty bicep exposed, making connection more difficult and unpleasant for your follower. Followers, perhaps leave that strappy top that your lead might get tangled up in at home. After all, you’re there to learn, not wage a war against clothing.
- Observe proper hygiene. I hate to say it (I actually don’t), but deodorant is a must as is tooth-brushing or at least breath mints. Remember that you are dancing with other people. Again, you want focus to be on the lesson, not the garlic cloves you ate for dinner.
- Leave your phone at the door. When attending a lesson, you don’t need to be distracted by the myriad of things found on phones these days. Being fully engaged in the lesson also demonstrates respect to the instructor and the other students in attendance.
- Avoid excessive talking. The other students don’t need to know about your long commute or the state of Aunt Ida’s vegetable garden. They’re there to learn about dance so try to avoid chatter. When you have a question regarding dance, I encourage you to ask the instructor, rather than fellow students. This prevents anyone from missing key information during a side explanation and ensures that you are learning the material correctly. Plus, that’s why the instructor is there!
- Listen closely and be engaged. This might seem obvious but try to make sure that you are engaged when you are at a lesson. You will get more out of the experience if you are actively participating, whether this means marking material or mentally mulling things over. The lesson will likely also advance at a faster rate when there are fewer repetitive questions (ex. “What did you just do?”, “Could you tell me the choreography again?”, etc).
- Stay in the student role.* Don’t hijack the instructor’s job and teach on the side of their lesson. If someone has a question, you can suggest either asking the instructor or reviewing it with them after class. Conversations during class not only distract the participants but also those around them. It is the instructor’s job to teach during this time period, let them do it.
*The exception to this is if the instructor asks you to help out. Keep in mind though that this is not a free pass to do so at all of their lessons.
- No gum/food/beverages in the studio. Try not to be snacking during a lesson. Again, this is distracting to others, as well as potentially hazardous. Depending on studio rules, you might not even be allowed to have food or beverages, with the exception of water, in your studio.
- Don’t wear your dance shoes outside of the studio.* Not only are dance shoes expensive and a bit more delicate than your everyday street shoe, if you wear your shoes outside, you track in dirt and whatever else is on the ground. Be respectful to the studio owners and other dancers and save the dance shoes for dancing.
*Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule. If you really have to wear the same shoes outside and in the studio, wash off the soles. Ahem, swing dancers…
- Pay attention to those around you. This is the nicest way I can think of to say “develop spatial awareness.” You don’t want to be that person known for cluelessly crashing into everyone else. Look around and note where people are. Like watching when driving, make it an unconscious habit. Help prevent collisions so that everyone can learn.
- Be polite to your partner(s). Ballroom lessons tend to rotate partners and you can learn a lot from each new person, whether it’s something about your role’s technique or something about the other’s. Try to avoid getting too snippy when frustrated and when it feels right thank your partner. After all, they are helping develop you as a dancer.
- Have a positive attitude. Strike the phrase “I can’t” from your vocabulary for the lesson. This attitude is rarely accepted or liked in regular life; it shuts down any efforts to improve. Try anyway and if you’re still having trouble, talk with the instructor.
- Thank your instructor (and any other staff) at the end of class. Show appreciation for for your instructors, who just made a lesson plan come to life, fixed a bevy of unexpected problems, and imparted knowledge.
Do you have any favorite lesson etiquette rules that I missed? Share them in the comments below!