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

Reasons for Dance Lessons

One might think that the reason for dance lessons would be to teach/learn dance, but that would be rather naive, and, upon even cursory investigation, wrong. The following is to posit arguments for a few reasons for offering or taking dance lessons, and most have little to do with teaching or learning.

Studio Lessons. Dance studios offer lessons to make money, and they have no incentive to teach effectively or efficiently. If they did, their students would learn quickly, take fewer lessons, and reduce income. There is a great incentive to promote as many lessons as possible, make learning as laborious as tolerable, and strike a balance between frustration and enjoyment. This increases the need for lessons and profits for the studio. The last thing a studio wants is an effective and efficient method of teaching dance. Furthermore, there is also a high motivation to reserve some content for private lessons rather than providing comprehensive content in group lessons.

Pre-Dance Lessons. Clubs, organizations and special events often have a lesson prior to a dance. These lessons are usually for entertainment. The audience is unpredictably diverse and often frivolous in attitude, and few learn. Furthermore, both the beginners and the experienced dancers are typically overwhelmed with content to the extent that neither group retains much, if any, of the lesson. If this isn't consistent with the reader's assumptions, it is easily confirmed by observing post-lesson behavior. Pre-dance lessons are for entertainment.

Special Occasion Lessons. Many people take dance lessons for weddings, anniversaries, or to be able to dance at events associated with their profession. These people do not want to learn to dance. They feel obligated to learn to dance, and they want to avoid the social consequences of not dancing. However, they are generally attentive and engaged students; they need to learn to dance.

Peer Pressure. Similar to the "special occasion student," these learners might be even more difficult, for they feel coerced. Spouses and significant others often fall into this category, and they likely never dance after the divorce or breakup. Meanwhile, they present a special challenge to the dance teacher.

Exhibitionists. More enthusiastic than those who are externally pressured, these students are internally pressured, and, rather than learn to dance, their objective is to give the appearance of being able to dance. Such students are often irritated at the requirements for mastery; they simply want to learn the gestures of the accomplished. Since their objectives conflict with the natural progression of skill acquisition, they can be an irritant to both their teacher and their fellow students.

Recipe Dancers. Somewhat like the exhibitionist, but certainly with a much better attitude, such students also eschew the requirements of mastery. They simply wish to learn a variety of "steps" to satisfy a superficial perception of social dance that leads them to associate a large repertoire of styles and variations with success as a dancer. They might appear to be serious dancers, but they are often not good dance partners because they depend on mutually-acquired "recipes" for confident and competent execution. Clusters of such dancers can be found at studios that tend to serve as both a teaching and entertainment venue, with a relatively closed cadre of dancers where everyone simply moves from one learned figure to another, with little attention to the requirements of leading and following. Outside the comfort of their cadre, they are often awkward and perplexed.

Serious Learner. Those who take their pleasure seriously seem to get the most enjoyment from their recreation. Unfortunately, such students are hampered by the aforementioned priorities of the teacher/studio and the tendency to address the aforementioned types of students rather than a student who actually desires to learn to dance. Persistence in exploring every available aspect of their recreation often enables the serious learners to overcome the impediments to learning and become some of the most enjoyable dance partners on the floor. Would that more dancers were also serious learners, and would that more dance teachers were serious about their craft.

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