How Do I Begin?
Active vs. Passive Participation
Most dance classes are predicated on passive participation, the tendency of the student to dance only during the dance class, or, perhaps, only occasionally between classes. Such passivity is reinforced by the lack of either prescribed activities or accompanying support materials. Active participation refers to the student who leaves class with a prescribed set of activities, access to resource materials, and, perhaps, notes taken during the class. In addition, the active participant will practice regularly, at least daily, and often twice a day, following a practice guide and exploring ways to prepare for the next class as described in the class materials.
Students in social dance classes are typically passive. Students in private study, particularly if preparing for competition or exhibition, are necessarily active, often practicing for several hours and perhaps daily sessions between lessons.
Those serious about learning social dance must be active participants if they are to get full value from the class. The following are habits that lead to competence and confidence on the dance floor.
Practice. Regular practice of activities done in class is the best way to move them into long term memory and to become comfortable when doing them. It is also the only way to prepare for the next class.
Think. Perhaps the most neglected aspect of learning, simply thinking about an activity enhances learning, and the thinking process approaches physical practice in effectiveness. When walking, think music, and walk to the music. When listening to music, think dance.
Use Persistent Media. Transient media are those sensory inputs that pass us never to return; most of our day is filled with transient media. The dance lesson is transient, fleeting past at $5 to $100 per hour, soon to be forgotten, never to return, little to be retained. Resource material in print or video persists, and it can be referred to regularly at the user's discretion. Teachers who care about learning provide resource materials for their students. Libraries, web sites, book stores, and other vendors provide media that can be kept temporarily or permanently for reference when needed. There is certainly a place in learning for the transient lesson in the presence of a teacher, but to ignore the value of persistent media is neither reasonable nor economical. See Dance Lesson Economics.