Okay, so I'm 20 years old, and I have always, always admired dancers. And it was just recently that someone told me I should go ahead and actually dance. So, I've registered for my first dance class. I'm really excited but really nervous. I need advice. I've never danced before, like ever, and I don't expect to turn it into a career. However, I want to be decently good. Am I too old to be able to learn all the acro-tricks? Am I too old to get a "dancer's body"? I need to know what I need to buy.
The most important thing is to enjoy yourself. You are going to have a wonderful time. You are still young and yes if you have a great teacher and dedication you will get your 'dancer's body.' I didn't start dancing until I was older than you and it took me a few years to find the right teacher so I was in my thirties before I was really at the top of my game. I do all the tricks and fun stuff...lifts and drops but that again has to do with your partner's capacity as well as your own.
Decide what you want....competition or social or whatever....decide on your goals and stick to them. You will get there. Stay away from slick salesmen and people who tell you that you are wonderful to get money out of you. If you always are leaving feeling like the best dancer on earth you aren't getting good instruction.
For equipment...shoes....shoes....shoes. Good instruction and SHOES.....not a bunch of shoes but get at least one pair of shoes that really hold to your feet like a second skin. Make sure they are the right kind for Latin or Ballroom and be willing to pay....and know that you are going to have to break them in and your feet are probably going to bleed before its all over. If you are dancing Latin your toes will be longer than your shoes so they can grip the floor. I like Ray Rose...or Supadance or my favorites Dance Naturals.
On the most recent episode of "So You Think You Can Dance," head judge (and producer) Nigel Lithgoe was evaluating a beautiful Viennese Waltz a couple had just danced. He pointed out that VW was a hard dance to do on the show because it doesn't have the "flash and dazzle" of some of the other dances. And he was right. The studio audience cheers louder for things you might expect to see in the Olympic Gymnastics medal round than for beautiful dancing.
At 20 you are young enough to do the athletic moves, and to whip your body into shape. And if you enjoy the tricks and you have a partner who can do them, fine. Remember also that dancing involves a lot of illusion, and much of what you think you see isn't really quite what is happening (this will mean more to you as you get into it).
You aren't old enough to remember Gene Kelly, but you can find him on YouTube. I read (if my memory isn't playing tricks on me) that he didn't begin dancing until he was in his twenties, and he became one of the best in the world.
If you truly want to be good, you can't rush. Don't expect the fancy stuff right off the bat. Learn the basics and the technique involved with each style. It will seem repetitive and maybe even boring but beginners that don't believe that the basics are important get into bad habits that are hard to break later. Muscle memory is the key and that comes with practice. No matter how much you want it, you will not look like a contestant on Dancing With the Stars anytime soon. Too many people quit after one six week session because they thought they would be so much better than they are and they aren't willing to work on their dancing. It is hard, plain and simple. I agree with Belle about shoes. The right shoes are paramount. You can't dance in runners, sandals, boots or street shoes. Don't get 3 inch heels. Women will compete in them but not practice. I like 2 1/4 inch or 2 1/2 max for my latin shoes and 2 in. for my standard.
NO you are not too old to learn to dance - no one is too old to learn to dance!
#1 thing you need to get is a good pr of dance shoes. Hopefully there will be store that sells dance shoes in your area - go try on shoes. The brands fit differently so don't buy on line and your stuck if they don't fit right or feel good. When looking for dance shoes make sure they are the C version. This is the competitive shoe that has more padding on the bottom. It will cost a little more, but your feet will thank you! If your a female make sure you have a good stable heel not a thin stiletto heel.
Wear comfortable clothing that you can move in for your lessons. As you progress, if you are female your instructor may ask you to wear Latin skirts so they can see your knee actions.
Depending upon how many lesson a week you take in the beginning you might be sore as you build muscles. Epsom Salt bath soaks are your friend! When those stop working a good massage works well.
In the beginning you might feel overwhelmed with getting all the patterns down AND being technically correct. THIS IS NORMAL, HANG IN THERE, IT GETS BETTER. For me it felt like had an arm load of small balls I was trying to carry and one or two would always be slipping out. As you put these patterns and move into muscle memory you will find you have fewer balls in your arms.
Go to social dances to put to practice what you've learned in lessons anbd have a lot of fun!