How to Teach Amazing Dance Workshops

Sydney Salsa Congress Workshops 2009 ­ Jordan & Tatiana

If you are a great dancer, it will help you bringing students to your workshops, but that won’t be the main attraction.

Being a great teacher, that is what will really bring the crowds.

Here are some important tips and skills to consider:

  1. Introduce yourself and any partners on stage with you.
  2. Say and show what you are doing at the beginning of the class; this way everyone knows they are in the right class and what to expect from it.
  3. It is essential to have the ability to break steps down into smaller parts, to know where to step in which count.
  4. Present the leader and the follower steps if you are teaching a couple dance by yourself, or have a partner for the other’s part. 
  5. You must know about music and be very good in following rhythm and beats.
  6. Count, follow the count, it doesn’t matter how you count the music as long as you do it in a way the students can follow it with you.
  7. Have a great move ready, well rehearsed and prepared it very well, in advance, with your partner if you have one.
  8. Choose the “size” of the movement according to the amount of time given for the workshop or class, not too long so it has to be cut, not too short so it’s done by the half of the class. 
  9. Share, if you have a partner, share the teaching with him or her, share according to the partner’s teaching experience but don’t let him or her be a mute the whole class, it’s disturbing.
  10. Energy. No matter how good is your step, if you are not energetic, students will find it boooooring! You have to speak loudly, give out energy, show you are keen to be there. If you show there is nothing else you rather be doing at that moment, well that will get the people like nothing else. Share your passion for dancing. Johnny Vasquez is a great example, he makes you scream, turn, give yourself wholly to the move and the moment.
  11. Good humour: jokes and good humour are big in making people have a good time anywhere. Dance workshops are part of the “entertainment” business, it means people are expecting to be entertained.
    A great example of this was Tony Lara’s Bachata Fun Moves Workshop at the Sydney Salsa Congress 2009. It was a funny thing where the guys trapped the girls hands, made them turn unexpectedly, played pretend-slaps, lots of things that made everyone crack up. But then he decided he needed a “fresh girl”, someone that wasn’t at the workshops to see if the leads worked. And there comes Johnny Vasquez walking calmly. So yes, he was the “fresh girl” following Tony’s traps and tricks and it certainly worked! Great Workshop! 
  12. Organization and rotation: very, Very, VERY important:
    I have been to great workshops where I got more frustrated the better they got. How is that? If you cannot see the front and teacher, or if you don’t have a partner to dance with, all is lost for you. So, an instructor has to organise the class very well. I would say Jaime is a master in that. No mater how full a class is he was able to get it done. Tony Lara and Dani were very acknowledged at the SSC 09 for their classes. Organising tricks examples:
    • First is the division in rows.
    • Second the constant rotation of those rows. Front to back, back to front, so everyone has a view of the instructors.
    • Also, when there are too many students make the people in the front kneel or sit so the ones in the back can see. 
    • For couple dances, partner rotation is essential. Ask right at the start if there are partners not rotating, make sure they don’t disturb your system. Separate non-rotating partners. This way you will discourage people to be fixing partners as the workshops go by. People that don’t come with fixed partners will get very upset if they dance with less and less partners, specially the good ones, as the class goes on. 
    • Organise the class in a circle or rows and explain how the rotation will work. Do not let them do it for themselves. It never works well, it creates embarrassing moments, it’s annoying. If you know how it works all stress is taken from it and only fun is left.
    • Tell if the ladies or the guys are moving, say who is going where.
    • Very, very, important again: Remember to rotate partners often, particularly when the numbers are not even. 
  13. Safety – dips, tricks and full house – instil responsibility: You can be a bit alarmist here, better safe than sorrow. Although we usually say it’s always the guys fault when doing more difficult tricks both are equally responsible. Anyway the instructor has to alert to all things that could be dangerous, even if there are no difficult moves but it’s a small place or there are too many dancers.
  14. It’s a leader’s responsibility to be safe, but it’s a followers responsibility, equally, to stop a movement if they feel they are going to get hurt.
  15. Level, level, level – make sure to tell participants which level is the workshop catered for, for higher levels it is worth requesting that only the people with the right level stay. Also it is always possible you will have to adapt according to the level you perceive from the people present.
  16. Leave time for enjoyment at the end – save a few minutes just to let them dance!
  17. Sell your products at the very end. When the class is great, peopl want to know more about you and what you have to offer. Always. So quickly go over what you have to sell: music, DVDs, congresses, classes, workshops, performances, websites… Be brief but make the offer and tell them where to get it. It is not a bad thing, people crave more information. The ones who don’t want to listen will leave, don’t take it personally. You are offering, the ones who want to buy will listen. Nothing to loose. Five to eight minutes at most.

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