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About the author 

Andrew Sutton

Andrew Sutton is a World Champion Lindy Hop Instructor, and one of the original founders of the Fusion partner dance movement. He uses his extensive research in over 244 cities across 38 countries (& 44 dance forms) to help dance instructors be more successful financially during their pursuit to help their students Make Every Dance Amazing! Impossible? Maybe...but if you shoot for the moon and miss, at least you'll land amongst the stars!

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  • Babysteps says:

    Basics for beginners
    How do I plan a crash course? what basics do I include? What is the best goal to have in mind?

    • Dance Ninjas says:

      Great question! This definitely could be turned into a whole lesson on it’s own but in the meantime…

      Here is my process for figuring out what to teach.

      Ask yourself these 3-4 questions:

      1. At the end of the lesson, what do I want them to be able to do?

      2. How will I know if they can do that or not?

      3a. What would I need to teach in order to succeed in this goal?

      3b. (Optional) Why haven’t I (or others) succeeded in this goal?

      Sometimes this last optional question will help answer question #3.

      Here are my answers based on my goals. You can see how I used the optional question in order to fully develop my answer to #3.

      1. At the end of the lesson, I want complete beginners to feel comfortable social dancing for the rest of the night and to never feel like they have to sit out because they don’t know what they are doing.

      2. I will know if they can do that or not in two different ways.
      A. I will ask them at the end of the lesson if they feel comfortable dancing all night. If they say “yes”, this tells me I probably did a decent job but I want further proof.
      B. I will watch and see how often they sit out. If they sit out more than 2 songs in a row, I will ask them why they are sitting out and see if I can help them overcome any fears they still have. This is also great research to help improve my future lessons as I will try to find ways to overcome the more common fears the beginners are having as I do this research.

      3. In order to succeed in this goal, let’s start by answering the optional question of why others don’t succeed.

      Most beginners get bored or feel inadequate and can’t dance all night long because at the end of the lessons, they only have a few moves to practice and so they only have a few these moves to try over and over and eventually they get bored or feel like they are boring their partner because they aren’t creating anything new or unique to them.

      So to overcome this, I could teach them how to create movement that is new and unique to them (that ideally still fits in with the framework of the dance I am teaching them).

      The cool thing about social partner dancing is that the “new & unique” aspect doesn’t even have to come directly from the beginner.

      For example, if I teach them how to react to music in a very basic way (like volume or energy changes), then every time a new song comes on they can get their inspiration from the song. So they don’t have to think of a new cool step, they can let the music tell them what new step to do.

      Or another example, if I teach them how to react to their partner in a very basic way (like grounding or copycatting), then with every new partner, they can get their inspiration from their partner. So they don’t have to think of a new way to do the move, they can let the partner tell them how to do the move.

      If I can teach them both of the above concepts and get them to understand how to react to new music and new partners, then they will constantly be inspired by the variety of new inputs (different people & different music) that they experience throughout the night and will never feel bored or like they are out of ideas.

      So instead of the ideas needing to come from them, I can teach them how to get their ideas from the music and their partners. This is the type of stuff that I feel creates great dancers anyway, so this is something I’m excited to be doing!

      So to sum up my answer to question #3…

      In order to have the complete beginners feel like they can dance all night long, I will teach them how to relate to music and how to relate to a partner (ideally within some basic frameworks of the dance they are learning).

      I say “ideally within the basic frameworks” because that is not necessarily my main goal. My goal is to get them to feel comfortable all night long and depending on the dance form, I might not worry about certain aspects if they don’t help achieve my goal.

      Bonus Tip: This sort of ties in with that last sentence…

      Just as important as what to teach, for some of you it might also be important to go through your normal lessons and decide what NOT to teach. Everything you teach will either help or hinder your goal. It will either speed up their progress or slow it down and lots of teachers are teaching A LOT of stuff that is slowing their goals down without even realizing it.

      For example, “good” posture, or how to hold the hand “correctly” is something that a lot of people teach in a beginner class but is this actually going to speed up your goal of getting them on the dance floor being able to dance all night long?

      In almost every dance I’ve experienced (and I’ve experienced a lot of them), these two aspects really don’t matter in the grand scheme of being able to dance all night long. Plenty of people can have fantastic dances with pretty “poor” posture or strange hand holds (or even no hand hold). Sure one or two people might benefit from a tip on “not squishing” your partner or something like that. That said, the majority of people won’t actually change that habit just because you mentioned it once in class. So in reality, you are probably wasting everyone’s time by covering that topic if you aren’t willing to dive into it in a way that is going to change people. So save those tips for personalized feedback and focus on achieving your goal for the class…unless your goal for the class is for them to have “good” posture or the “correct” hand hold.

      Also, if you notice someone is doing something that could potentially harm another dancer, get everyone working on something that pertains to the goal of the class and then go talk to that person directly one-on-one. This way you aren’t wasting the time of everyone else and you are more likely to help change that one person because you are telling them directly that they are doing this, instead of mentioning it to the whole class and hoping they figure out it was them you were actually talking to.

  • Babysteps  Great question! This definitely could be turned into a whole lesson on it’s own but in the meantime… 

    Here is my process for figuring out what to teach. 

    Ask yourself these 3-4 questions:

    1. At the end of the lesson, what do I want them to be able to do?

    2. How will I know if they can do that or not?

    3a. What would I need to teach in order to succeed in this goal? 

    3b. (Optional) Why haven’t I (or others) succeeded in this goal?

    Sometimes this last optional question will help answer question #3.  

    Here are my answers based on my goals. You can see how I used the optional question in order to fully develop my answer to #3.

    1. At the end of the lesson, I want complete beginners to feel comfortable social dancing for the rest of the night and to never feel like they have to sit out because they don’t know what they are doing.

    2. I will know if they can do that or not in two different ways.  
    A. I will ask them at the end of the lesson if they feel comfortable dancing all night.  If they say “yes”, this tells me I probably did a decent job but I want further proof. 
    B. I will watch and see how often they sit out. If they sit out more than 2 songs in a row, I will ask them why they are sitting out and see if I can help them overcome any fears they still have. This is also great research to help improve my future lessons as I will try to find ways to overcome the more common fears the beginners are having as I do this research.

    3. In order to succeed in this goal, let’s start by answering the optional question of why others don’t succeed. 

    Most beginners get bored or feel inadequate and can’t dance all night long because at the end of the lessons, they only have a few moves to practice and so they only have a few these moves to try over and over and eventually they get bored or feel like they are boring their partner because they aren’t creating anything new or unique to them.

    So to overcome this, I could teach them how to create movement that is new and unique to them (that ideally still fits in with the framework of the dance I am teaching them).

    The cool thing about social partner dancing is that the “new & unique” aspect doesn’t even have to come directly from the beginner. 

    For example, if I teach them how to react to music in a very basic way (like volume or energy changes), then every time a new song comes on they can get their inspiration from the song. So they don’t have to think of a new cool step, they can let the music tell them what new step to do. 

    Or another example, if I teach them how to react to their partner in a very basic way (like grounding or copycatting), then with every new partner, they can get their inspiration from their partner. So they don’t have to think of a new way to do the move, they can let the partner tell them how to do the move.

    If I can teach them both of the above concepts and get them to understand how to react to new music and new partners, then they will constantly be inspired by the variety of new inputs (different people & different music) that they experience throughout the night and will never feel bored or like they are out of ideas.

    So instead of the ideas needing to come from them, I can teach them how to get their ideas from the music and their partners. This is the type of stuff that I feel creates great dancers anyway, so this is something I’m excited to be doing!

    So to sum up my answer to question #3…

    In order to have the complete beginners feel like they can dance all night long, I will teach them how to relate to music and how to relate to a partner (ideally within some basic frameworks of the dance they are learning).

    I say “ideally within the basic frameworks” because that is not necessarily my main goal. My goal is to get them to feel comfortable all night long and depending on the dance form, I might not worry about certain aspects if they don’t help achieve my goal.

    Bonus Tip: This sort of ties in with that last sentence…

    Just as important as what to teach, for some of you it might also be important to go through your normal lessons and decide what NOT to teach. Everything you teach will either help or hinder your goal. It will either speed up their progress or slow it down and lots of teachers are teaching A LOT of stuff that is slowing their goals down without even realizing it. 

    For example, “good” posture, or how to hold the hand “correctly” is something that a lot of people teach in a beginner class but is this actually going to speed up your goal of getting them on the dance floor being able to dance all night long? 

    In almost every dance I’ve experienced (and I’ve experienced a lot of them), these two aspects really don’t matter in the grand scheme of being able to dance all night long. Plenty of people can have fantastic dances with pretty “poor” posture or strange hand holds (or even no hand hold).  Sure one or two people might benefit from a tip on “not squishing” your partner or something like that. That said, the majority of people won’t actually change that habit just because you mentioned it once in class. So in reality, you are probably wasting everyone’s time by covering that topic if you aren’t willing to dive into it in a way that is going to change people. So save those tips for personalized feedback and focus on achieving your goal for the class…unless your goal for the class is for them to have “good” posture or the “correct” hand hold. 

    Also, if you notice someone is doing something that could potentially harm another dancer, get everyone working on something that pertains to the goal of the class and then go talk to that person directly one-on-one. This way you aren’t wasting the time of everyone else and you are more likely to help change that one person because you are telling them directly that they are doing this, instead of mentioning it to the whole class and hoping they figure out it was them you were actually talking to.

  • How I can grow my dance children in my workshop

    • Hi Neha,

      I’d love to help!

      What are some of your specific struggles when it comes to growing your dance children?

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