Dance Home Page Dance Curriculum Dance Articles

Ballroom Dance

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

Dance Lessons as Entertainment

One would assume that people take ballroom dance lessons to learn to dance, or to learn additional variations within a particular dance style, but there seems to be much more to it than that. Certainly many people do take lessons to learn to dance, yet the behavior of many patrons seems to indicate that learning is not their highest priority. Since attendance is voluntary, there must be an entertainment component as well.

Pre-dance lessons, likely the lesson category with the highest attendance nationwide, are almost certainly for entertainment. To defend this argument, one must examine both teacher and student behavior to ascertain whether or not the primary intent was learning. Teaching assessment would certainly focus on lesson design and class activities. Learner assessment would be directed to behavior following the lesson. One does not need to be a statistician to reach defensible conclusions in each of these areas.

Teaching assessment. Pre-dance lessons generally fall into one of two categories, basic and advanced, with advanced meaning any class directed to a group presumed to have mastered the basics for the style in question. Basic lesson content typically includes the basic step for a dance style plus two or three variations. Advanced lessons typically include several variations, perhaps with a choreographed sequence. Either of these situations will present well over a dozen, and typically over twenty, new items of information. Short term memory can only hold about seven new items of information. This is a fact of the human psyche; like gravity, one can ignore it, but one cannot escape the consequences. Whether by accident or design, very little of any pre-dance lesson can be retained by the student, who typically has no guidance as to the seven most important items to remember.

Student assessment. Student behavior ranges widely, but there is one constant; following the class, very few of the students implement much, if any, of the lesson. Depending on the venue, there is a wide range of other behaviors. A few students remain, struggle to remember a few items, and accept assistance from willing helpers. A few simply leave. One club tracked guest behavior for over a year and found that more than half never returned, and two thirds only attended twice. In addition, even with weekly lessons, the improvement of those who attended regularly was minimal when compared to the number of lessons they had experienced. Several club members had taken lessons from a private studio rather than depend on the complimentary lessons at the club's weekly dances, which, over the year, had provided lessons in all the popular dance styles, perhaps as many as five times for some styles. Interestingly, feedback seemed to indicate that the lessons were enjoyed, and guests almost never expressed disappointment.

Given that little or no learning is involved in the pre-dance lesson, it seems reasonable to conclude that the lessons are designed, and the guest attend, for entertainment. Though neither teachers nor guests would likely admit that their intent was entertainment, no other motive seems defensible. Furthermore, humans often do things for reasons that are not always clear; that is the makeup of our psyche. Though the intent of both the teacher and the student might be learning, the absence of learning in conjunction with the expressed pleasure of the experience leads to no other reasonable conclusion. Pre-dance lessons are for entertainment.

©2008, J M Nelson 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.