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Ballroom Dance

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

Why Ballroom Basics?

Some people take dance lessons in order to become competitors, some take lessons in order to perform, and some take lessons in order to dance once at a wedding and never again, but most people take lessons in order to enjoy social dancing. At social dances, few couples dance exclusively with each other; most mix freely. Some social dance gatherings are form-specific: Polka-fests, Swing Dances, Milongas, Square Dances, Swing dances, Salsa Dances, to name a few. Other social dance gatherings are "variety" dances wherein many dance forms might be practiced, though even "variety" dances are necessarily limited. With well over twenty social dance forms currently popular, few people are proficient in more than half, no band is likely to be able to provide music for half, and a dance with recorded music for all popular social dances could continue for well over an hour before any one dance was repeated; thus most "variety" dances are limited to only a few dance styles.

Ballroom variety dances generally include the most popular dance forms in our culture: Foxtrot, Slow Waltz, Rumba, Tango, East Coast Swing, and Cha Cha. Some also include Salsa or other Latin dances, and occasionally one will encounter a Polka, Samba, Quickstep or Viennese Waltz. Even so, almost every song will be amenable to movements common to foxtrot, waltz, and rumba. Thus, one's initial introduction to social dance will be most efficient if it includes those common elements, which I call "Ballroom Basics."

A few internationally recognized organizations have codified and documented the dance forms we most commonly associate with ballroom and social dance. Thus there is some legitimacy to their syllabi. Even so, I take exception to their curriculum for beginners, primarily because the content for beginners is "form-specific," focusing on particular dance forms rather than elements common to all social dance. Their pedagogy is invariably lacking in that almost every beginning class violates many accepted principles of learning. I believe that is why my course, Ballroom Basics, will not be found in any of the major organizations' syllabi.

I believe that the reason for this structural defect in the traditional dance curriculum is twofold. First, from an economic perspective, it would be costly, reducing income by 50% or more for the beginner classes. Second, there is no component of the "profession" that purports 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. Much like the university professor, dance teachers have had little or no exposure to principles of learning; the burden of learning is primarily on the student. Classes are content and teacher centered, not student centered.

Ballroom Basics, in contrast, is the consequence of the application of established principles of learning to the ballroom dance curriculum. The content is systematically designed, the material is logically sequenced, quantity of new material is carefully measured, and the classes are kept small enough to enable individual attention to all students. Rather than large group classes, where the proficient are held back and the frustrated neglected, the small group classes provide the benefits of group study with the effectiveness of private lessons.

Though no studio has agreed to a double blind study, experiences from students who have completed the class has shown significant advantage over those from traditional curricula, and feedback from experienced dancers indicates that they learned more efficiently and more effectively than the student in the traditional, style-specific, or multi-styled dance course. Thus I believe that Ballroom Basics is the best place to begin to learn social dance and a good place for most social dancers to gain the fundamentals oft neglected in traditional, style-based curricula. 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.