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Ballroom Dance

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

Social Ballroom Dance
Requisites and Prerequisites

In the context of teaching and learning, requisites are those things that enable the learner to accomplish the objectives of the lesson; prerequisites are those things that the learner must know in order to begin a particular lesson. Teachers and learners often err greatly in their disregard of prerequisite knowledge, and dance class is no exception. Some even perceive the consideration of prerequisites as trivial, presuming it the equivalent of common knowledge. In some respects, they are correct, yet listing prerequisites can often reveal major impediments for learners. Consider the following prerequisites for learning social ballroom dance.

Understand the language of the teacher. For many, this might not even be worth considering, at least until they walk into a class where the teacher does not use their language. More than one student of International Style has likely had just such an experience.

Understand the music of the culture. This, too, might seem trivial, yet many foreigners, and some citizens by birth, do not have sufficient grasp of the music of our culture to be able to identify the tempo or the repetitive cycles within the tempo. Thus they cannot even tap their foot to the music. Such students are frustrated even in a beginner class, they frustrate the teacher, and they are certainly frustrating to their dance partner.

Positive attitude. Though often presumed, most of us have attended a class where one or more students, for whatever reason, had a negative attitude that affected their ability to learn.

There are, of course, many other prerequisites to learning social dance, but the aforementioned are often the ones that create problems in social dance classes.

While neglect of prerequisites can create problems, neglect of requisites can be disastrous, yet many teachers give little attention to the fundamental requisites inferred by the objectives, or, worse, they treat them as presumed prerequisites, taking the position that the student: knows everything they need to know to master the objective except what I am about to tell them right now. Though rarely delineated in even a beginning social dance class, the following requisites are clearly inferred by the functionality of the sport.

1. When to Step. The music and cadence are the primary influences for when to step.
2. How to Step. Step normally: forward, backward, or to the side.
3. Where to Step is communicated through the dance frame and the visual connection between partners
4. Orientation. Parallel and symmetric positioning complement the dance frame and help maintain appropriate positioning in open frame and when physically separated.
5. Line of Dance. Following Line of Dance protocols enables large groups of dancers to dance comfortably, even on a crowded dance floor.

Consider how the enjoyment of dance might be affected were these five requisites known and practiced by all those on the dance floor. Furthermore, almost any functional complaint about a dance partner will likely relate to one of these requisites. That these are not emphasized in the beginner class, reviewed in intermediate classes, and posted as reminders in teaching venues is perplexing.

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