How To Learn To Dance

by Lissie

So you want to dance but you don't know where to start? That's OK I've danced for years - I can tell you how to get started learning to dance

I always wanted to learn to dance, but it took until my mid-30s before I made it to a dance class. Since then I've been pretty much hooked and now dance five-night a week and compete.

When I started I only wanted to surprise an out-of-town boyfriend by learning to waltz for a dance we were invited to. I thought the waltz would be an easy dance - a few weeks I'd be flying around the room. Hmm, well not quite, my waltz has improved and a social dancer would say I was good. But I know there are many, many others who are much better than I!

Can Anyone Learn to Dance?

Pretty much in my view. The standard line is that if you can walk you can dance - but then I discovered competitive wheelchair dancing - so you don't need to be able to walk! I also know people who dance who have serious hearing loss. I know a kid with one leg who learned to dance.

Over many, many, years of social dance classes I've seen maybe two or three people out of hundreds who just never got the most basic of steps. Both were men, both were quite sure they were doing it right, and both were more interested in chasing woman than learning to dance. They both got asked to leave.

How Long Does It Take To Learn To Dance?

That's an impossible question. First off - what's your experience? I've seen ex-ballet dancers pick up Latin American very quickly - competiting at a good level within months. I had not background in dance, and no natural balance or flexibility - I know it took me years to actually figure out where my weight was over my feet and to actually follow my partner in ballroom. If you asked me to learn ballet - I can tell you I'd never learn to go en point or to arbesque - I'm just too heavy and not flexible enough. Belly dancing though, might be a different story. Most hip-hop is beyond me too. So my best advice is to be realistic and chose an style of dance that has some hope of suiting you.


Best Way To Learn To Dance

It depends on you and the style of dance. If you want to dance ballet or contemporary, I seriously suggest that you go and find a qualified teacher. You need someone who will not just demonstrate what to do - but put your body in the correct position when you get it wrong. With these difficult technical dances you can easily hurt yourself trying it by yourself.

But other forms of dancing is far more forgiving! I personally think both belly dancing (if you are looking for a non-partner dance) or salsa (which requires a partner) are fun and easy dances that you can learning from a DVD or online course. If you want to take it further you will probably want to get out and find a class to join, but for a beginner without the time or maybe without a local class, why not give it a go at home?

Can Zumba Help You Learn To Dance

Certainly! I took up Zumba when my dance partner was injuried and its fun. Coming from a dance background I found it pretty easy, but I also saw people who had no dance experience picking it up very quickly from one week to the next. I would say though that there is absolutely NO technique taught in Zumba class - it all about having fun and sweating! Its not a substitute for a dance class, but Zumba is certainly great fun.

How To Learn To Dance Quickly

Got a deadline? Like a wedding or prom? Then you need to put the hours in to practice. Really just like any other physical skill, you need to practice to get good at! Getting private lessons will help as well, but not that much, unless you practice. My tutor who teaches dance classes in Wellington, spends a lot of time explaining this to nervous wedding couples!

Updated: 03/14/2012, Lissie
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Lissie on 03/15/2012

@Shelia - I started in social class and got hooked! Initially I didn't have a partner so spent a couple of years doing social classes over a large variety of styles. By the time I met my partner, decided to compete and started doing private lessons - I had some bad habits to correct!

I say to people if on day 1 they know they want to compete - get private lessons - for the other 99% of people just want to dance socially - well taking classes is much more social! I'd say get out to as many dances as you can, and also try to dance with other people - if you only ever dance with the same person you will each learn to subconsciously compensate for the other's faults

Sheila on 03/15/2012

Hi Lissie, thanks so much for this article! My husband and I plan to go to one class a week (time permitting) and practice at home... Do you think social lessons are enough or should we plan to get private lessons (ouch - expensive!) occasionally? With social dancing I've found that you have to pick things up yourself, the instructor usually doesn't have the ability to correct you when they're teaching 30 people at once! But that's ok for us at this stage (still beginners!) How did you get into competitive dancing? :)

Lissie on 03/15/2012

I used to dance a different style every night of the week! Rock&Roll, ballroom, salsa, ceroc, tango - the lot! It wasn't a bad way to reinvent a social life when I'd recently moved back to town!

In the end I met my partner via dancing - and now we dance every night of the week- but only ballroom and with each other!

Meagan on 03/15/2012

All great advice for learning to dance. I danced salsa and argentine tango for several years and would add to get out to social events and dance with as many partners as possible. Even if it is daunting it is a great way to develop your skills and confidence quickly and is also a LOT of fun.

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