My teacher is a world champion dancer, does that make them a good teacher?

What makes a great dance teacher
Ballroom dancing in Sydney

We’re all guilty of it. We see the glitz and glamour of a global dance champion perform and straight away in our minds they are the benchmark for what should be the gold standard for a good teacher.

While it is true that anyone can dance, and if effort and commitment is added, anyone can be a great dancer. The truth is, some are just naturally better at it than others. The same goes for all disciplines, whether it be swimming, music or science.

Think about your time at school. You would have had some good teachers and some shockers. What was it that made the good ones good and the bad ones bad? For good teachers, most of the time it will come down to making a class enjoyable, challenging learning comfortable and achievable, but also having that knack at pushing us to be our best without us really knowing.

By no means are we suggesting that world champion dancers don’t make great teachers. Just don’t set that as your main criteria for a dance teacher.

Challenges make us better people

One thing that makes dancing easy for some people is their gifted natural ability. Someone who has such ability may actually find it difficult to be in your shoes and explain concepts based on things they have never experienced. Think about a time when you have been amazed by something someone has done, you have asked them how they did it and their response was; “I don’t know, I can just do it”.

When you are paying to learn something, you want to make sure your instructor can convey a single element multiple ways or related it to something you are familiar with, so you have a better chance of achieving competence in the element.

Teaching is a learned art

It’s one thing to have learnt and perfected dance steps and choreography, it’s another thing to teach it. Think back to your time in primary and secondary school, and you’ll remember the prac teachers coming through to practise their teaching. They’ve spent years at university not only learning the content to teach, but also the art of teaching. How to teach set content to a vast range of different people.

The challenge we face as dance teachers is the widely varied motivations for people wanting to learn to dance, then complicate that further for partnership dancing where our partner does not necessarily share those same motivations.

Life outside of the dance world

There’s a fair chance that those who have competed at the most elite levels of dance competition have spent the majority of their lives dancing. Failing at an aspect of dance is not an option. That same approach cannot be applied to a student who comes from everyday life.

A good teacher will understand that sometimes we might have a bad day at the office, which will ultimately affect our ability to learn to dance. A teacher with experience outside of the dance world will be able to tap into that experience and will have the skills and abilities to articulate dance concepts to you in a fashion you understand.

Take a builder who is getting frustrated with adding technique to their Rumba box. We can explain to them until we are blue in the face the importance of good technique and first applying it in its most basic form. However, a good teacher will be able to contextualise the concept and relate it to his trade. Applying technique to our Rumba box and perfecting it, is like building a high-quality concrete slab for our building. If we only added sand and water, we wouldn’t have a good foundation.

A balanced dance teacher is better for beginners

By no means are we saying no to learn to dance with a world champion dancer. Just don’t set that as your only criteria for determining who you decide to dance with. If there is a specific element of your dance you want to perfect, we highly encourage seeking out those professionals for such coaching.

If you are a beginner just starting out on your dance journey, you are going to be better aided by a well-rounded teacher you can relate to and who can make the experience enjoyable. That’s what going to keep your early passion for dance alive. If you go to hard too fast, you’ll end up throwing it away prematurely and will ultimately miss out on the joy that comes from learning the magic of dance.