Does becoming an instructor help/hinder development?

Discussion in 'Just Dance' started by smiling28, Sep 24, 2008.

  1. smiling28

    smiling28 Moderator

    Tough question and I guess it depends on the person.

    I can see the main points being


    Teaching = learning so you are developing also.

    The against:
    It becomes a job, meaning all negatives regarding a job apply eg. exhausting, consuming, less free time to work on your own stuff.

    I am talking about teaching as 2nd job.

    I am considering training up for this path mainly because I ultimately I love teaching. I think I can give a lot to students as I am a 'learner' not a 'do'er'. I break things down and try to explain the what, why, when and how. Whilst working with kids has allowed me to also realise you have to keep things moving and teach on the 'run' so to speak so as not to lose attention of the students so they miss the good points :)

    Key though, as I have a day job (and expect to always have one) my dance time is limited and is 100% spent on my development currently. I hope to work towards performances and competitions eventually and may run out of time so to speak.

    Anyway, would love some thoughts/experiences etc :) :) :)
  2. TrulyMadlyAmanda

    TrulyMadlyAmanda Shine Officer


    teaching things helps learn/understand them better
    if youre successful and dont mind (usually) a big drop in earnings and job security, you can give up your day job and social dance every night :cool: if you do awesomely well, you get paid to go to congresses. :cool:

    there's a certain status that goes with being a teacher in the salsa world (wrongly imho), if you like that kind of thing

    more people notice you, so more people are attracted to you (especially if youre a theory is that many women are attracted to confidence) - again, if you like the idea of people liking you cuz youre a teacher. of course, if youre professional, you cant exploit their attraction...


    teaching can ruin your style - you have to be able to take the body movement and dynamism out of your basic steps to avoid confusing beginners, and depending how many hours you teach, it doesnt always automatically go back in again. my own style can be the last thing i'm thinking about teaching a group advanced class - the focus is on the students, and thinking 'on my feet'.

    a full-time job, plus social salsa, plus teaching is way too much for long-term, imho - something has to give, and it's usually people's social dancing (or in my case, the job, LOL)

    if you end up giving up the day job, it can be very lonely.....your free-time is in the day while everyone else is at work, and youre working at night/weekends when your friends are free. it can also be lonely due to the next point...

    some people suck up to you - it makes it difficult to have friendships, cus it's hard to know who really likes you. also, if you become friends with students, you can lose them as a student if the friendship dies out.

    if salsa teaching becomes your main income, it's hard to keep taking classes yourself. because a) youre teaching your own classes when other people's are on, and b) students (wrongly) assume that if you take someone else's classes that means they are a better teacher and/or dancer than you, and hurts business :(

    other teachers can see you as competition and be unpleasant to you (or behind your back)

    people watch and judge your social dancing, so it can start to feel like an exam

    if you teach at the same club you dance in, you have to (though i know teachers who dont) prioritise dancing with the students over your own preferred partners...

    of course some of the above only applies to full-time teaching, but imho it's nearly impossible to combine a full-time job, teaching and dancing.

    the other question is whether you are ready to teach? there's methodology and there's knowledge of what you're teaching. there's a lot to know about salsa, and no-one's ever finished learning, imho. i started teaching far too early, because i was too ignorant to know what i didnt know, LOL. a lot of teachers will ask their students to teach the beginners class, but this is usually for business reasons (no pay or lower pay, not working with a potential competitor).

    unless there's a real lack of teachers in an area, i'd far rather see large classes with a few really good, knowledgeable teachers....for example, in london there must be about 200+ 'teachers' by now - there's about 30 who i'd really like to see teaching, and sack all the rest! :mad: there's one particular long-time teacher there who's excellent at marketing....and can't do a basic step sticking to any timing whatsoever. :(

    i know that's not your case at all, smiling, but i wouldnt suggest anyone start teaching before dancing for at least 5 years, having worked with teachers from the country of the style they're teaching (ideally in the country itself), and having done the research to know the background as well as the 'how to'. unless you're in a place without any other teachers...
  3. hyh

    hyh Rhythm Deputy

    ^^ What TMA said.

    With caveat ...
    ... probably 0.01% of Salsa "teachers" follow this rule - unless they're coming from Ballroom field like Terence

    I would add ... and unless people beg you to teach there ... I mean if you can get your kick by driving an hour or so to nearby hotspot once a week or so, why bother? Starting a new scene will take a lot of time and effort.
  4. sweavo

    sweavo Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    These really chime with my experience. For me it was classes(learning) that had to go. And then of course, I started to stagnate in my social dancing. I just wasn't prepared to put in (didn't have) enough time to make the whole thing really satisfying.

    I also had been aware of the salsa bitchisphere, and had made a note-to-self to stay well away from it. But although I started teaching only beginners in rural areas as part of an almost charitable initiative, pretty quickly I appeared on the radar and started to have to waste energy on rubbish political issues.
  5. terence

    terence Maestro 'Descarga' Cachao

    This is probably not a " fair " response, as I came thru the " ranks " ( 15 yrs as an amat ), but what it does allow me to do ( probably more than 99,9 % of teachers in the UK ) is give a true perspective of long term assoc. with my profession on a full time basis.

    Para 1.. Nothing should ruin you style if you have been adequately trained in the disciplines ( they NEVER leave me )
    and for a long period of time ( 35 plus yrs ) I was teaching between 6/8 hrs a day 5days a week( all levels and styles ) and continued to maintain most, if not all, of my "style ", but that happens more thru age than thru teaching .

    Para 2.. Lonely ?.. sometimes its a blessing !. After being around people all day ( and part nite ) solitude is welcome ( altho, did go out and dance several nites a week after work ) I suppose it it may be different for others .

    Para 3.. what many people today do not realise is this... back in the 40s early 50s, most B/room teachers had full time jobs and taught every evening ( there were no daytime students ) and all day Sat and Sun.

    para 4... thats a tricky one.. we could say ideally that the indigenous fundamentals are best learned at the source.. however.. that is not always the case. As for todays social style ,that is acceptable to the average consumer, bares little resemblance to its roots . ( sometimes to my dismay ! ) Much of what we dance today socially has been developed outside of the countries from which they emanate, and has become a hybrid of several genres . .

    I would concede, that I believe it to be of paramount importance, in having guidance and understanding of the subject matter at hand in all its aspects of that which you are about to teach.
  6. hyh

    hyh Rhythm Deputy

    You're right, Terence. It's not fair to compare someone who already had 15 years of experience (you) to someone with a little over 1 year of experience (smiling28 ). Smiling28 has a while to go before he finishes developing his style, etc.

    Disclosure: I've been learning Salsa for a little under 4 years but did not go into teaching. So what I'm saying is from observations from a distance rather than from personal experience.
  7. UnlikelySalsero

    UnlikelySalsero Rhythm Deputy

    One factor is your previous life experiences. Have you taught anything before? If not, you are learning to teach and dance, two related but different skills.

    Teaching is an excellent way to learn more yourself, but it does take work, time and commitment.

    You'll find others don't always practice like you do, and 90% of your students dance for reasons different than you.

    As long as you continue to grow yourself (learn/take classes/study), you'll be OK, knowing that after a year or five, you are just breaking the surface of dance knowledge.

    Some of it depends on your local scene, and the overall availability/quality of the other instructors. The business side is another issue.

    Do you have a few people who want you to teach them? Sometimes a person attracts others because of their personality, their ability to make things easy, how you relate to people, or others like me use their secret weapon: beauty. :rolleyes:

    I wouldn't avoid teaching, but I wouldn't quit your day job either.

    A solid approach is to work your way into assisting with a quality instructor in your area. Attend their classes regularly, learn their tendencies, and assist for free for a while. That will give you the feel of being an instructor without the complete responsibility.

    If you're around great instructors, you'll realize some things that are not obvious when you are by yourself. You may find some things you could do better. (Note: Some instructors will get bothered that you later start teaching independently, some don't care, it depends on the instructor.)

    As a rule, new students are often attracted to the better dancers, even though they are not always the best instructors. As a business issue, it's tougher to get students until your dancing has matured to the point that others are a little impressed.

    You may be the better teacher, but how do people know that in the beginning?

    You will learn a ton, your personal development will be enhanced and there is a joy in watching others grow. You might be great at it, and as long as it's not your primary income, then you can try it out and see what happens.
  8. TrulyMadlyAmanda

    TrulyMadlyAmanda Shine Officer

    amateur ballroom/latin ballroom dancer, was that?

    congratulations. ;):cool: but that was ballroom/latin rather than salsa, and those are the disciplines you're referring to, right? i only taught 4 hours a day for 11 years (i never teach more than 4 hours a day, because i feel that the standard of my teaching falls), however, it seems to me that good style comes from drilling or practice? if a teacher is repeating (effectively drilling) steps with style/ing deliberately removed to benefit students, for more hours than they spend/t drilling it correctly, then it can suffer. i did say 'can'.

    when i did ballroom classes as a child, the teacher showed us the steps with her style intact, and it wasnt confusing, because the style she had was fairly seemed to have more to do with poise, posture, angle of the head etc, so her stylishness didn't distract me from the steps. if i'm trying to teach a complete begnner the cuban-style salsa backstep (and when i say salsa, i always mean what i believe you might think of as 'street-style'), i do not want them to have the terrifying experience of the whole thing, the way i did when i first learned in cuba! :eek::headwall:;) feet flicking, shoulders, ribs, hips, was a complete overload for me - and i believe for most beginners.

    do you believe this was good for those ballroom teachers' teaching or dancing? you didnt mention whether they social danced afterwards too? if so, then surely quality would have to suffer their day job, teaching, social dancing or personal life? is it good for someone to work all day and all night every day and night, long-term? we might as well be in banking, lol. ;)

    agree 100% with your dismay as to what the average consumer will accept. sometimes i just want to :rolleyes:. to me, that's all the more reason to push the idea that teachers should get significant experience of the real dance, not a hybrid, and pass that on to their students. it may be that i've taken enough jazz classes, so that mixed with my salsa knowledge, i could 'carry' a beginner-level class.....but i'm sure we all agree that it's much, much better if i just dont go there, LOL. :eek:

    thank you, that's very gracious of you, terence.
  9. smiling28

    smiling28 Moderator

    Great replies everyone. Wow REALLY appreciate the in depth responses.

    For me, I have never been in too much of a rush to teach. I REALLY want to and feel I have a lot to share but my martial arts has set certain standards which conflict with the dancing world.

    I am honestly still bamboozled by the 'teaching' thing. In martial arts I had instructors of 40 years practice and minimum 25 years. I won 2 national championships and practiced diligently many years myself but would not have considered myself an instructor. I taught yes but in the scheme of things I was a baby.

    So appreciate the good points here. I will just focus on improving my technical dancing and gain more experience.

  10. sac

    sac Tumbao

    oh...for a sec, i thought i could see smiling28 conducting one of the workshops at MSF2009;)
  11. MacMoto

    MacMoto Administrator Staff Member

  12. bailar y tocar

    bailar y tocar Clave Commander

    I agree and add to above: Hosting a free lesson at a club is a great way to get into teaching and knowing very quickly if its the right thing. I am always impressed with how dance instructors with great personalities can get non-dancers onto the floor, have fun and enjoy it as much as the students in that very casual setting do.

    Then there are people (like myself) who are not meant to be teaching or coaching or mentoring. I only teach an occasional rueda class just so there are people to dance rueda with otherwise there would be none. I would rather just have the rueda going and I would rather not have to teach it first.
  13. terence

    terence Maestro 'Descarga' Cachao

    para..1... yes, Junior thru Amat and eventually Pro.

    Para 2... The "disciplines " i had been taught ( or was it beaten in to me ? ) is a reference
    More towards the theoretical side of dance as well as techn. And my " latin " was completely re vamped when moving to the States ( had to re learn all ) Mambo did not exist in the UK ( barely does now ) when I left for the States, so i was kinda fortunate learning it in the " street " style from nearly day one .

    Para 3... They really didnt have a choice, They all also came up thru the ranks . Back in the 30s and 40s, there was little comp. outside of the UK, so their comp. careers were very short and subsequently turned to teaching ( not all, by a long way ) . As to the social aspect of their dancing , some did but many did not .When you have had 20 plus yrs on a strict comp. schedule ,it became a business ( I never abandoned the social aspect, in fact, I was still dancing Salsa in clubs until 3 yrs ago, several nites a week ).

    As to their working like they did, many times their wives would be involved. In fact , i have a couple of friends who live close by, who went thru that process and are still teaching, but
    they also did the "cruise ship " thing later on in life. The main reasons ? it supplemented the regular income . Many, as a point of interest , never had children .

    I,m doing a seminar in London this Sat. and will going back thru the social roots, from Bolero and Danzon thru to Salsa and all in between ( that should take a couple of hrs.. yeah and some !) . Hoping to vid. some of it .

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