Wednesday, February 20, 2008

So I Think I Can Teach?

About two weeks ago, a friend and fellow dancer contacted me and asked if I might be interested in teaching a one-time-only beginner ballroom class as part of a charity event. At first I was immediately on board, then she mentioned that it was the same Saturday as the Salsa Congress. I'll admit I was torn, I really wanted to make the absolute most of the Congress, but the desire to see if I could actually teach ended up winning out. We agreed on a time, and I forwarded a list of dances I would want to cover, a little something from each aspect of Ballroom and Latin.

Immediately a challenge presented itself... who would lead? If I couldn't lead some basics then was I skilled enough in both dance and persuasion to get a gentleman to allow me to back lead them? Would that work? The answer is no, the only way I could REALLY teach is if I could understand the parts of follow AND lead. So all thoughts of what I was going to practice for my upcoming lessons were abandoned and I set forth on teaching myself how to lead some basic steps. I could very well have asked RT to help in my lesson, but I wanted to do this on my own. So first I practiced all the basics from a lead's perspective, it really didn't take long for me to get through the basic steps in a lot of the dances I know, but I needed a few steps in each dance to make the students feel really good about what they were doing.

My friend and I practiced for about an hour a few days before Saturday, and turns out because she's such a good dancer and follow I was able to lead in everything I wanted to teach! This was going to be great! I later found out that there was a possibility of 50 people arriving for this charity event, THAT made me a little nervous. I was not going to be able to pay individual attention to anyone if I had THAT many students! Oh dear! oh dear!... but on I practiced.

Class time came and I arrived fresh off of the Salsa Congress, so tired I could barelysee straight. A little caffeine and some good old ibuprofen took care of that! We practiced some more before my prospective students arrived, there really weren't that many about 14-16. I guess a lot of people had purchased tickets to support the cause, but didn't want to attend the dance. The organizers of the event had a DJ with a lot of music we could use. My friend had brought some music of her own and so we gave that to him as well. When class time began they handed me a microphone so I could introduce myself.... it went something like this:

"Hi everyone, thanks so much for coming! My name is Kat, and I have been taking ballroom dance lessons for over a year and a half, I am by no means an instructor... my personal claim to fame is that I've lost 110lbs by dancing. I'd like to share some of what I know with you...(friend leaning over my shoulder) Oh! this is [friend's name] a fellow dance student of mine, and she's agreed to be my assistant. Now everybody up! We're going to do a little Swing, a little Cha Cha, and some Fox Trot... we'll have you gliding across the floor in no time!"

I know...can it get much worse than that? I wasn't expecting to have to formally introduce myself! I had thought of a few words to say beforehand, but in the moment... that's what came out. It did however get everyone on their feet, so I must have said something right!

Everyone in the class was so receptive to what I was teaching! We would review the basic for the leads, the basic for the follows, my friend and I would dance along with the class slowly...then because we always had the appropriate music for whatever dance we were doing going we'd bring it up to time. Then we'd work on a turn, my friend and I would show it, and then we would go around to each couple individually and help them get through it. It was SOOOO MUCH FUN!

There was one husband/wife couple that really picked up on stuff fast! I was impressed. There was another married couple that really wanted to get it, but were having typical brand new dancer issues... after I lead the Mrs. and then showed the Mr. how to lead a little they really got it together, especially when we got to Fox Trot!

There were a few sets of ladies where one would lead, and I made sure they were up to speed on their particular roles as well. Everyone was so receptive to what I was showing them!

My favorite though was a boy about age 10-12 who was dancing with his mom. He was so cute! I helped them out on the single time Swing, and got them through a turn, then I asked him if I could dance with him. He didn't say anything, just looked up at me and nodded shyly. We got through some basic and then I asked "How about if we do a turn?" again he nodded with excitement in his eyes... so I back led myself while talking him through the turn. That planted the biggest smile on his face. THAT made it all worth it. He had the same excitement for the Cha Cha... I think that must have been his favorite. His mom was great too, she really wanted to learn! I was so happy to see people that were really interested in dancing!

I actually started laughing at myself towards the end because I had to say out loud to myself "Ok, I'm being the boy now." or "I'm the girl now" it was the only way I could get my feet to start the correct way (somehow the top part of the frame wasn't enough indication for me), and which ever student I was dancing with got a kick out of it too... :-)

I completely lost track of time, I think my friend and I actually taught for about an hour. Then socialized some, before it was time for me to get back to Salsa Congress. It's amazing how doing something you love can take the exhaustion and pain away. I couldn't feel my blisters, I wasn't tired, I could have shown that group of folks how to dance for days! Once in my car and trekking back to Congress reality set in, and I had to stop at the drug store for blister treatment and more caffeine...

A very special thanks to all my "students" from the UMC in Deerfield... you made that experience truly unforgettable for me, I look forward to seeing you all cutting rugs of your own very soon!

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