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Ballroom Dance

J M (Mike) Nelson
Phone: 612-810-0157

Learning Social Dance

Most people take lessons in order to enjoy social dancing. Unfortunately, one cannot take a beginning class in "ballroom dance" or "social dance;" one must take a class in a particular style, or, worse, a class introducing several dance styles. This tradition is contrary to all that we know about teaching and learning.

National organizations have codified ballroom and social dance styles. Thus there is some legitimacy to current syllabi. Even so, the dance curriculum for beginners is more frustrating than effective. Though the community seems to recognize this, few seem to consider that the deficiency might be in the pedagogy; almost every beginning class violates accepted principles of learning that have been common knowledge in academic circles since the mid 1950's. (Take heart, inept dance teacher, they are regularly ignored in colleges and universities as well, but not so much in industry and the military, where ineffective learning can cost money and lives.)

I suggest that the reason for this structural defect in the traditional dance curriculum is twofold. First, from an economic perspective, efficiency would be costly, reducing income by 50% or more for the beginner classes. Second, there is no component of the "profession" that engages in inquiry into learning theory, teaching proficiency, technique, or research; thus it seems never to occur to a dance teacher to consult academic research to ascertain why their classes seem consistently inefficient and their students consistently overwhelmed. No publication or archive within the "profession" harbors principles of dance class design to guide the aspiring teacher in creating a successful lesson plan. Much like the university professor, dance teachers have had little or no exposure to theories of learning; the burden of learning is primarily on the student.

Established principles of learning applied to dance would result in a curriculum distinctly different from that in current practice. The content would be systematically organized, the material logically sequenced, the quantity of new material carefully measured, and the classes organized to assure better mastery and retention.

Though no studio has agreed to a double blind study, students who have completed a pedagogically defensible class have provided evidence that they learned more efficiently and more effectively than the student in the traditional, style-specific, or multi-style dance course. Thus I believe that there is a better place than generally available for the beginner to learn social dance, namely, Ballroom Basics.

For more details, see Ballroom Basics. Dance Home Page Dance Curriculum Dance Articles

Copyright (c) 2006, J. M. Nelson. All rights reserved. Reproduction of contents prohibited without prior permission from the author.