A Complete Dichotomy of Needs
Updated: Jul 20, 2019
I have just been away for a break playing bridge (my second passion after dancing). Whilst chatting to the various people at the table the subject of what one does for a living always seems to come round. In my case they are very interested in finding out what I do as I often talk about working in the evenings.
Once they know I am a dance teacher they talk about their own dance experiences and discuss their own learning. Invariably they say that they used to dance and no longer attend classes. I am then very interested to discover why they no longer dance.
I would suggest that the biggest reason for people leaving regular dance lessons is that teachers keep on teaching steps which the couple don’t need and can’t remember.
I think we all know that this is the case and yet as teachers we continue to do it. So the big question this week is why and what can we do to stop this practice?
As dance teachers we want to teach and by the time we become qualified dance teachers we are bursting with knowledge and information enabling us to develop dancers to higher levels and if they want to, they can progress through various levels and achieve dance awards or enter competitions
If you have a competitive dance school then you are have already solved this problem as everyone is going there to soak up information and to get better, but how do we satisfy the hobby dancer and their needs?
What motivates the hobby dancer to come to lessons, what are their subsequent needs and how do we satisfy them? Research in my own school would suggest that people think it would be a good hobby to do together, they would get some exercise and have some moves that they could employ when on holiday or when they go to dances and functions. This quickly progresses into being part of a social group where they can meet friends and have fun. Essentially there is a complete dichotomy between the needs of the dancer and my needs as a teacher. I want people to develop skill and become more rhythmical. I would like them to have excellent floor craft, good rotation and footwork, with a strong technique.
It is not surprising therefore when I heard from some dancers at my bridge break that they had left dance because they could not remember the dances and the step being piled on every lesson. The problem is not the memory of these people though. They are accomplished bridge players who understand different practice and conventions. Bridge is a tactical game where memory is an essential skill.
I think the difference between their learning in bridge and their learning in dance is that the learning in bridge happens over a much longer period of time. It is not a constant stream of information.
So these are the problems we face every year with our teaching. Despite ballroom dancing being one of the most watched television programmes the number of people engaging in ballroom dancing is going down. Even very successful schools I would suggest, are not getting the types of numbers they have had in the past or should have given the popularity of strictly.
Will social ballroom dancing be around in 100 years? What can we do to increase engagement and retain dancers? I do hope this opens up a lively debate.