The underlying principle of this weekend is to inspire you, improve your skills and increase your enjoyment of the dance. No one is judging you or forcing you to perform, so relax, check your ego at the door and have fun. Remember they planned this event for people like you.
Keep an open mind
The professionals were brought in because they are experts in their field. They may have ideas or techniques you haven’t heard of yet, but keep an open mind and consider that they have a lot to offer. Chances are, your local teacher is taking the workshop too, so if they value the new information, so should you. If your teacher isn’t here, be sure to tell them what they missed! If your teacher is teaching workshops there, try to avoid taking them – you hear them all the time! Go to other instructors’ workshops to diversify your learning.
Embrace your role as a learner
You paid for a ticket because you wanted to learn something new, meet new people, and/or contribute to a cause. Being a student in a class means actively listening to the instruction, participating in the dancing, and refraining from distracting other learners. Take notes after each workshop – don’t assume you will remember it all. It is considered extremely rude to “teach” or offer advice on the social dance floor. If your partner is “not getting it” or needs help, please refer them to the instructor or ask the instructor for help. If someone tries to “help” you uninvited, just say “Thank you,” knowing that you’ll be rotating in 30 seconds anyway.
This is a social dance, the idea being to meet *lots* of different people. So leave your inhibitions behind and get out there. Don’t spend your whole weekend in the same corner of the ballroom – wander around and see who’s on the other side. Don’t forget your good hygiene and breath mints!
Just because you just took the “beginner” class last hour does not mean you are ready for the “intermediate” class next hour. Classes with a level in the title indicate that the content will be aimed at that level of dancer. It does not indicate “Step 1 and Step 2” of a program. Smart experienced dancers retake beginner-level classes for foundation skills maintenance.
In the classes, there will be uneven numbers of leaders and followers. It’s a statistical probability. In order to ensure everyone gets to dance, we rotate partners. Dancing with different people helps you learn faster because you get to feel what it’s like to work with different body shapes, connection, and styles. Staying with the same partner causes you to learn to adapt to their bad habits which in turn makes you develop bad habits. Do yourself (and everyone) a favor and rotate.
Take advantage of instructional videos
No one’s memory is good enough to remember all the awesome things you’re going to learn this weekend. Videos ensure you leave with the information you came to get. If you like the instructor and they have instructional videos, BUY ONE! If there’s a video notebook supplied, get it!
Take advantage of private lessons
Private lessons are by far the most effective and efficient way to improve your dancing. They are not just for advanced dancers! They are a good idea for every level of dancer, and offer the most value for your dollar. You can learn more in a private lesson than you would in 6 months of taking group classes. During a private, the instructor can give you the feedback you need to make the moves you learned in the workshop actually work. They can also help you overcome “dancer’s block”, or enlighten you to ways you have been sabotaging your own dancing!
This is a no-fear atmosphere. In the world of social dancing, it is understood that everyone is there to dance with everyone. Men ask women and women ask men. Sometimes gender doesn’t matter at all. Unless you have a really good reason like having to use the facilities, it is actually considered a little rude to refuse an invitation to dance. You do, however, have every right to refuse a dance. For your own particular reason. Remember, just because someone refuses to dance does not mean they are refusing you as a person.
Dance with better dancers
You will improve faster by dancing occasionally with dancers who are “better” than you. While this may seem intimidating to you, remember they are just as human as you are and they were once in your shoes. They’ve been around longer and know this principle. Most of them seek the opportunity to dance with less experienced dancers because it forces them to work on their basics and lead/follow skills. You may run into a few egos, but they are not as common as you think.
Prepare to be surprised
The “judging a book by its cover” rule applies here. Never make an assumption based on age, size, or perceived beauty. These are very weak indicators of dance ability. The overweight Grandpa in the corner might take better care of you than all your J&J partners combined, and the mousy shy girl from your workshop might be the only one all night who can follow your tricks. You never know, which means you should give everyone a chance. Consider it a hunting game for the diamonds in the rough!
Manage your stamina
The best part of the weekend happens between dinner and breakfast. Don’t you dare hit the hay before midnight! Don’t make plans to attend the workshops and then take off to go see a movie! The evening competitions and performances are the highlight of the weekend, and the social dancing until the wee hours are the best you’ll ever have. Do whatever it takes to stay up late. Sleep in a little, take a nap during the day, prepare energy supplements , etc. Prepare in advance: bring your own beverages and munchies from the store so you’ll have energy after the restaurants close.
Get in the spirit
Cheer on your fellow dancers. Wear t-shirts, temporary tattoos, jackets, etc to represent your area or school. Always show appreciation for the performers by cheering and applauding during and after each piece. Get a good seat – sit on the floor if you have to – don’t stand at the back behind the crowd. When you get home, tell everyone what a great experience they missed and invite them to join you next time!
Watch all the contests
As many as you can, especially the Pros/Invitational division, Novice division, and the routines. Buy a ticket at a table in the front of the floor, avoiding the sides. If you can, sit on the floor when you see others doing it. It’s the best seat in the house!
Prepare for any theme nights
This isn’t common, but occasionally events have themes attached to one or more of the evening dance parties. It’s always optional, but nobody likes missing the memo and being left out. This will be posted on their website or social media page, so stay tuned so you can prepare costumes when you’re packing.
[Check back next Friday for Part 3]