The most popular way people come into the first actual dancing is through dance school. It is convenient and easy. If you want to learn anything, go to school. That is the conventional wisdom.
While dance schools offer lots of values and are recommended for many beginner dancers, it is not a perfect solution. For some, dance schools can be challenging and mentally break your heart.
If it is a drop in class, your initial risk is low. But many schools require up-front 2-3 month commitment. What ends up happening is you will stop going after the first class, wasting a lot of money.
Before committing to anything, it is important you determine your living environment and personality style to consider your fit. It is especially true for beginners who can simply give up dancing altogether depending on the first few bad experiences.
So I made a checklist to decide if dance school is the right fit for you.
There are many alternatives to start dancing, which are mentioned later. Please read it until the end.
10 checklist to decide dance school is really for you
There are many people who have started going to dance school, but became frustrated or never got anywhere. Everything was unexpected.
The following 10 questions are prepared so that you can judge yourself if you will likely succeed in attending dance school. You can answer with YES or NO.
1. You have some experience dancing, even a little
Instructors of dance school are expected to teach more than a handful of students in a fixed time period. You can never hope to learn the foundation with great care and detail this way.
There is a subtle difference here between beginners with no experience whatsoever and ones with small but some experience.
Even the class titled with a beginner's label, the experience level of students vary from the 0 months to 6 or 12 months. This differs with the type of instructor as well.
You might not be able to follow at all. That would be the worst experience probably blaming your natural ability.
If you have never touched on dancing before, you need to think of coupling dance school with your own self-practice. Some basic preparations are always helpful.
2. You are confident in your physical strength
Whether one person improves in almost anything depends largely on the practice method and practice duration. Nevertheless, the basic motor skills in the beginning are helpful.
It will not be practicing if you become out of breath right away. If your body is too stiff, there is also a danger of injury to your joints and muscles.
I mentioned in the post "How to learn dance move quickly? Turn your body flexible", some physical preparations can ease out your entrance into dance practices. You will be able to enjoy dancing much better with increased physical strength with muscle training or stretching.
3. There is an attractive dance school nearby
It seems irrelevant when our media only talks about passion is all you need.
In the real life, convenience is surprisingly important part of our life. If you want to keep on learning not just one week but months and years, you have to take troublesome commute conditions into consideration.
There is a huge difference between 10 minutes by bus, and 2 hours with a bus, train, and bus transit.
Because human motivation is fragile and easily influenced, you would want to skip a class because of reasons as trivial as a gloomy day that looks like it is going to rain...
If you skip once, making an excuse not to go becomes easy, eventually becoming habitual. When the lesson happens only once a week, the impact on your progress is fatal.
The presence of dance school in your neighborhood is an important point of consideration.
4. You have checked several schools and gone through trials
Each school has different levels and atmosphere. Some schools have younger age group, catering towards high school, while others are for working adults.
The difference in sex ratio can be big as well. As I wrote in "Being the only guy in the dance studio sucks", the studio usually has high girl ratio than boys'. I do not think there is anything to worry about, but it is you who have to feel comfortable.
Let's not forget an instructor is also a human. Aside from their dance skills, each has the personal style of teaching. Some are more stoic and structured than others, while others are more loose and entertaining. Energy level, detail-oriented, personal distance, and punctuality are all different. You have to ask yourself the personal compatibility.
(Related reading: "How to recognize the "real instructor"")
Those environmental differences are hard to capture through only looking at the websites. It is important you actually pay a visit and experience the class to decide if that school suits you.
5. You don't mind making mistakes in front of others
You are jumping to a class full of students who have been taking lessons before you. Inevitably, they all become your seniors so to speak.
Most dancers are understanding, and they do not care about how you dance as a beginner since everyone has gone through that stage. But that does not mean you stop caring about their eyes.
It can be embarrassing to dance in front of others understandably. You might become worrisome of others' judgments. The worst case is building traumatic experience having to demonstrate your choreography in front of others.
Shy people often make dance steps and move timidly. Unless you make a big move with your whole body, the learning becomes slow and ineffective.
Just like four, this also depends on your personality type. Some are more sensitive than others. It is something to think about before jumping in.
6. In addition to the dance school, you can secure practice time
The dance school is good for learning choreography and getting feedback. But it is not suited to learn foundation. To build those skills you need to practice on your own.
It is indispensable for you to secure practice time outside of dance schools.
Moreover, it is important to practice every day even for a short amount rather than the 2 hours a week. The progress happens faster as your muscle remembers the steps through repetition.
If you cannot secure practice time outside of school, your progress will naturally be slower. Since you are paying for the lessons, you might want to reconsider this route.
Let's not depend on the school only, and be sure to ensure time to practice properly on your own.
7. You have stable schedule every week
You can have the highest motivation and top-level physical strength. But they do not matter if things keep coming to your way that blocks your practice time.
The biggest cause is work. Not everyone has 9 to 5 jobs. It is worse if you have part-time job that gives you the shift only 3 days before.
When it comes to learning to dance for the first time, securing regular practice time is crucial for your improvement. It is especially true if the school is the type that builds choreography on top of the previous.
It also affects your motivation. If you have to keep postponing the class, practice never becomes your habit.
It is necessary to have a stable weekly schedule and be confident in your ability to block and announce the time you have set aside for practicing to everyone around you such as your boss, colleagues, friends, family, etc.
8. No chronic illness or injury in the body
Dancing is not only for the youth. People at any age should give it a try at least once.
Even so, like any other sports, it is a physically demanding activity. You need to follow choreography and music with bursts of movements. On top of that, dancing adds a heavy burden on places around your knees and waists.
When you have pain somewhere, your body unconsciously puts extra weight on a place elsewhere to balance off. That will add a new problem down the road. You will never know if problems might arise in 3 months or 3 years. It is not recommended to keep on practicing for anyone with the history of incoming pain.
Please come back to dancing once you think your health is in perfect condition.
9. There are is no dance community nearby
Many dancers practice on their own. They usually gather on their own once or twice a week at school, community center or open square. They are comfortable learning by themselves through YouTube videos or pure mentorship.
If you have a friend in those circles or have come across them, you can always ask to join. These people usually have some experience, so you will be constantly on the learning side. If you show your motivation and willingness to practice, they will usually welcome your initiatives.
If you find an active community environment, it will be a better place to get started with your foundation.
10. You have examined options other than dance school
The dance school is by far the most popular way to get started with dancing. That is rightfully so. You can drop into any school and follow the instructor move. That class environment also helps with your motivation surrounded by other enthusiastic students. It is attractive to anyone who is stuck not knowing where to start.
But, it is not a perfect fit for all. There are many good alternatives as well. You can learn through YouTube and DVDs at home. Finding an active community as mentioned above is also an option.
You should at least consider every opportunity to fully maximize your time and effort.
Reconsider dance school if more than half
How was the result?
If you have answered no, to more than 5, it is better to postpone committing to any school and think again if there is another way.
It is exciting for anyone when signing up for schools, but that does not mean they can keep up with the practices. Sometimes the teaching was too tough or timing was not right. They end up giving up feeling frustrated or disappointed.
I do not want you to leave a bitter memory about dancing in general, just because you picked the wrong methods in the beginning.
Find a way that suits you. Aim for a start that will succeed. Be happy with the right choice you have made down the road.