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5 things I have learned since becoming an adult partner dance teacher…

1 – Just like children, adults learn in a variety of ways.

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Some are visual learners – they need to see something being done, usually a few times, in order to make it their own.

Some are aural learners – needing clear explanation, and memorable description.

Some are kinaesthetic learners – who need to ‘just do it’ to get it.

Some are blockers – the ‘yeah, but…’ people who will find every reason why something can’t work, can’t be done, can’t happen before making it work, doing it and making it happen.

Some are sponges – the ‘give me more, more, more…’ people who may or may not ‘get’ what they have already been given, but still thirst and hunger for more.  They absorb and absorb until saturation point.

Some have a natural affinity to learning – with open minds, open hearts and a quest for improvement on all levels, they continually strive to learn and grow.

Some have to work hard at it – and despite the fact that it doesn’t come easy, they plough onwards at whatever pace suits them towards their final goal.

Most of us are a combination of the above and more.  So many factors hinder and assist learning.  Personal, professional and environmental influences make us more or less able to absorb at any given time.

Some have to be ‘stealth-taught’ – key points delivered in such a way that even though it ‘doesn’t apply to them’, they pick up on it anyway.

I have learned that In order to effectively teach all styles of learners then I need to clearly demonstrate, effectively break-down the intricacies of music and movement, create moments of humour and deliver ‘hooks’ on which to hang key points.   Above all, I have learned that teaching dance is not about teaching individual moves – but about inspiring people to become the dancer they want to be.

 

2 – Dance is a personal journey.

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Not everyone wants to be the ‘best’.  Most people consider their dance to be a social experience, and being good enough is enough.

This was a difficult lesson for me to learn.

As a teacher my eye is ever set on ‘the next step’, the way to improvement and progression.

But most people just want to dance.  Simples.

The trick is in acceptance.  Even though I can see ways of making small changes to gain big improvements – doesn’t mean that change is necessary for your dance enjoyment.

But if you are looking for improvement, I am ready, willing and able to help you make those changes.

 

3 – Teaching dance isn’t just about teaching dance.

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The lucky ones amongst us find ourselves learning to dance as adults as the fruition of a period of longing.  It’s something we’ve been meaning to do, maybe on a Bucket List, and we finally get round to it.

But for many of us, learning to dance is something we find ourselves doing at a time of great change in our lives.  Borne from a need or necessity.  Perhaps after divorce, loss, drift or at a time of self-discovery we challenge ourselves to try something new in an attempt to build and grow our social lives.

Which means there are many vulnerable and nervous people who come to class.

The lost, the lonely, the angry and the sad, all mixed in with the vibrant, the dynamic, the happy and the joyous.

The rich, the clever, the bright and the gifted, all mixed in with the unusual, the different, the left-of-centres and the alternate thinkers.

A social dance night can be the friendliest place on the planet.  But it also has the potential to be the loneliest and the scariest.

To be a truly successful social event, an ethos of inclusivity and acceptance is fundamental.  It’s OK to be a little different.  It’s OK to be a little weird.  It’s even OK to be a little normal – whatever that is.

Beneath the surface of a dance class is a lot more than movement and music.

 

4 – Teaching is a tiny part of the job.

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Looking back now, I realise how naïve I was when I first started running events 10 years ago.

I came to the table with a teaching degree and my years of experience of school teaching and thought then that actually teaching dance was the main part of the job.

WRONG!

In the last ten years I have had to acquire a whole new set of skills and learn to wear a huge variety of different hats.

Including:

Website design, updating and technical wizardry.

Marketing – the good, the bad and the hideously ugly.

Venue sourcing and the art of dealing with those in charge of them.

Venue management and the ability to cope with any and every incident.

We’ve had the leaky roof that caused the sprung floor to bow upwards, creating a hill in the middle of the room.

The condensation issue that created a permanent puddle in the middle of the floor.

The less than well thought through booking situation that had a dance class and bell ringers trying to co-exist.

The classes that occur after playgroup, so we have to allow an extra 30 minutes of set up time so we can clear up the sand, trodden in jam sandwiches, play dough, glue and sprinkles reminders of artistic creativity at its finest.

The sessions straight after dog shows that require creative air-freshening.

The workshops that happen on a wet afternoon and the footballers have forgotten to take their boots off before coming through to the bar.

Not to mention other peoples events that over-run, or when the caretaker forgets to let us in, or when the hall has been double-booked.  Improvise, Adapt and Overcome is our mantra.

Book-keeping, accounting and the art of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.  Teaching is rewarding in many ways.  Financially, not so much…

Innovation and diversity.  To exist we must evolve.  To evolve we must innovate.  To innovate we must create.  Constantly.

DJing – oh those days when I thought DJing was just about playing my favourite tunes.  Little did I know then about the hours of sourcing, stressing and obsessing!

Team management – back in the day I didn’t realise I needed a team.  These days I don’t know how I’d cope without the amazing people I am lucky enough to call my team.  My management technique consists of allowing and encouraging each of us to do what we enjoy and be the best we can be at it.

Event muscle – setting up, packing away, lifting and shifting of amps, speakers, sound and lighting equipment.

Floor layer – we’ve been lucky enough to be given access to some amazing flooring that allows us to create events in places where the existing flooring wouldn’t be suitable.  I am now expert in the art of floor stomping jigsaws.  And the late night floor lift shift.

Counsellor – as I said, teaching dance isn’t just about teaching dance.  It is about reading between the lines, hearing what is not said, seeing what isn’t mentioned and being emotionally, physically and virtually available.  I care passionately about dance.  I care passionately about teaching dance.  I care passionately about those to whom I am privileged enough to teach dance.  I care.  Passionately.

 

5 – The live to work/work to live rules don’t apply.

Few of us are able to take something we enjoy passionately and make it our living.  I am one of the lucky ones.

There have been many adjustments and compromises I have made along the way to enable that to be the case.

My 13 year-old fourth-hand car gets me where I need to be – usually.

I don’t have a TV – but I have beauty all around me.

I’ll never be in a position to own my own home – but I have the freedom to up and move at will.

I don’t have savings – but I can usually just about pay my bills.

What I do have is the joy of working at a job of my creation that fuels my creativity and my passion, with people who are a constant source of joy and inspiration.

I have the same grr’s and frustrations that everyone else has when things are not going well, but I have learned that I have the spirit and tenacity to deal with the downs as well as the ups.

Sometimes people take a shallow view, and see the few hours spent at a class night and take those few hours to be the sum total of my job.

Sometimes people take the view that dance teaching should done ‘for the love of dance’ and that it is somehow wrong to make a living from it.

And sometimes, when my feet are bleeding, my body is broken and everything in me has been spent and given…

From the countless hours spent on the go, on the floor, on the decks, on the move, on the fly, on demand…

From way before the start til way beyond the finish…

Often on the nights when it has cost me a lot more to run an event than the event has made…

I smile.

Because I am a dancer, a teacher, an event organiser.

I live to do this work I love.  And I work hard to live this way.

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