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Choosing a Teacher
Posted by Karen
8/9/1999  6:27:00 AM
It took me a long time to remember that teachers have different styles, skills and capacities.

I say "remember" because I know this in non-dance areas of my life. Somehow, because I was an adult dance student I felt inadequate in the beginning (several years ago) in a dance world where one's social position is determined by one's skill, not by who one is in other areas of one's life. I forgot that I had learned a lot in other areas in my life and could apply it in dance as well.

Later, I realised my mistake. I found that I had been expecting more from my teacher than he was able to give me. Teachers each have different strengths, weaknesses, preferences and values. In my continuing role as student, I feel that it is my responsibilty to realise something of what my teacher is best at and hire them to do the things that will help me the most. But, I have to say, I didn't know this in the beginning. And now that I am teaching sometimes, I have more perspective on being a student. I know that my style and process is a certain way and not all students will like or benefit from learning that way. Sometimes I encourage them to find another teacher who will be more compatible with their needs.

Having known many teachers, I would not say their ability to train you is based upon whether or not they currently compete or have a lot of students who currently compete. I think it has more to do with their style of teaching. Of course there may be political considerations in the competition where studying with a particular teacher gives one an advantage in the ratings. But that is another subject that I am not qualified to tell you the impact of.

What I had to do for myself was to figure out what I needed and expected. Then I had to look for someone who could teach me in the way that I needed to be taught. The process is important to me and so I looked for a teacher who had a process that worked for me.

Also, I have studied from more than one teacher, because sometimes different one's have different things I need. I have never found one person who had it all. However, it doesn't hurt to do this sequentially, rather than consecutively. Too much at once may not be a good idea either. It depends upon how you learn.

If you like to supplement your study with video instruction, you may want to check out http://www.dancevision.com. I have found studying videos to be very helpful. It is not a substitute for private instruction, but it has it's own benefits. It allows one to replay a step over and over and study it intensely. I made charts off of the videos that detailed things like foot position, weight, hand position, lead, timing, etc. This helped me understand the dance much better. Sometimes, my teachers did not approach the dance this way and could not tell me all the things I wanted to know within the scope of a lesson. At $55 plus dollars and hour, I like to be focused on what I need the teacher for most.


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