Ok, I'm a 56 year old dude who decided that ny inability to dance was simply ignorance - I had never learned any dance steps! I'm athletic, and have rhythm to burn. (professional musician in my past.). So I signed my wife and I up for lessons at Arthur Murray. (yes, she was pleasantly shocked.). We're making progress, and are clearly waaay better than we were. We've taken about 20 private lessons and about the equivalent number of group lessons.
(Side note - I historically danced two dances per occasion (wedding, etc) - go out on a slow dance, stay for a fast one. She led, and I tried manfully not to embarrass us. Headed for a cocktail immediately after.)
So what's the problem? We went to our 2nd dance party tonight. Marginally better than the disastrous 1st. All of the other people are great! Swirling all over the place. Looking great! No problem - we just stumble through our basic steps (yeah! A rumba!). Then they announce a hustle. Don't know it. Sit down and are enjoying watching the others dance. (They're really good. Mostly silver and high bronze.).
A guy comes up and asks my wife to dance. She agrees and he makes her look good. A lady asks me to dance, and I agree, scared to death. She's good! I don't know the steps! I can't lead her!
We stumble through. She's very kind, and back leads me through the steps.
So, my question - is this just normal learning pains? Are we in the wrong studio? Would it be easier if we were somewhere more crowded with a larger diversity of skill levels?
I feel OK in group classes, but it seems to me our lessons are focused on figures and techniques without learning how to dance to a song on a dance floor.
This is a typical newbie problem. Don't be intimidated, every dancer has been in your position. I would suggest that as a leader, you decline to dance if you don't know the dance. It is perfectly OK to say, "I don't know this dance, maybe the next one." Floorcraft is so important and it is a learned skill. It takes practice, practice, practice. Don't stick to a routine. Learn to put steps together so you can get around the floor. The latin dances are easier since you don't travel (except samba). Stay closer to the middle of the floor so the more advanced dancers can get around you. If you make a mistake and stop, get off the floor as quickly as possible. Don't stop and walk back to the corner, blocking the line of dance. Everyone should be very forgiving if you observe general dance etiquette.
Yes, that mix is normal. It takes a great deal of courage for beginners to come out to parties (kudos to you!). We give out free passes and they still won't attend. Attitude is everything. When my husband and I started, we couldn't do more than one wall of foxtrot. Instead of saying everyone is too good, we're not coming anymore, we looked around and thought if they can do it, we will too. We went to every Friday night party (still do) and my husband has the best floorcraft of anyone there. So hang in there, don't worry about what you can't do, just keep working on the stuff you can. It will get easier as you get more comfortable. I still the remember the thrill we got when we got all around the floor in the waltz without stopping.
Congratulations on getting out on the dance floor. As was stated it's a bit nerve racking putting beginner stuff together and getting out on the dance floor. YES it does get easier! There is NOTHING wrong if you've been asked to dance and you don't know the steps to say your just starring out and have yet to learn this dance. Ask them if it would be OK to wait until a (fill in the blank) come on, that you would love to practice what you've learned with them.
If your not comfortable with the dancing level at this studio, you can check out other studio dance parties. There are other places to dance besides A.M. Google USA Dance (your city). Try Googling dance studios in your city as well. There are many dance studios that have independent instructors and host weekly (open) dance parties.
Kudos to you for trying, and yes: Practice makes poerfect, so it´s logical that those couples who have come to the dance parties for a long time appear more perfect.
Stay with it, practice what you have learned, and sooner or later you won´t have to sit out so many dances, as you start to learn them one by one.
If, as a beginner, you stay out of everybodays way in those dances that move a round the floor (i.e. stay in the middle so the others can dance line of dance around the outside of the floor) you should be fine and nobody should object. Sooner rather than later you will probably feel more confident and gradually increase what you can do on the floor.
This is so very normal. If you want to be a good dancer, you do have to at times step out of your comfort zone. Be aware that it really doesn't matter what level you are dancing, everyone feels the need to find improvement. I have dancers who have been with me for 6 years and they still feel like they are awkward with the advanced material at the social parties...but they still attend! I know it might feel like everyone is watching you, but the truth is everyone feels that way. The only difference between you and the other dancers is that the other dancers have decided to throw caution to the wind and improve their dance skills by dancing at the parties reguardless. You will always be your worst critic,it is human nature to do so. However,if you stay and plow through it,in a few months the new beginners will be watching you in wistful admiration as you are doing now. I promise.
~I feel OK in group classes, but it seems to me our lessons are focused on figures and techniques without learning how to dance to a song on a dance floor.
I also forgot to mention that it is normal to feel this way in a group class. Group classes can only cover dance patterns as there are really too many people in the class to cover technique. This is because this is something that has to be apporached differently to every couple. Some couples have difficutly with timing, others with footwork or lead/follow. There are just too many variables with this material to cover in a class. I suggest private lessons in supplementation to your class work. Keep in mind that you don't want to go into private to learn more patterns, you want to approach it in a way that will help you and your partner dance more comfortably with each other in the patterns that you have already learned. That way your instructor can focus only on YOU and what YOU need and not what the class needs as a whole. Most people complain about the pricing of private, but when you are learnning twice as fast and dancing more easily, it is worth the sacrifice.
If you were a professional musician, how would you respond to an amateur who showed up at a jam session with other professionals? The amateur is going to feel a little intimidated, but as these things are you learn by doing. You wouldn't expect the amateur to keep up all the time, but you also wouldn't necessarily exclude them.
The crowd you describe is normal, as is your experience. You probably ought to remind yourself that there are other places to dance besides AM. Seek them out, go there and have a good time.
When we moved to the city where we live now my wife and I were pretty good Bronze-level dancers—though probably not as good as we thought. We were USA Dance members, so we went to one of their dances. There was a man who watched us very closely, and we didn't know what to make of the expression on his face. As it turned out he was an instructor, one of the best in town. Not only did he become our instructor but we became good friends. We gained a great deal from the chance encounter at the beginning.