I’ve been teaching dance as an instructor for many years now. I’ve taught hip hop, freestyle popping, and more recently K-POP. Many of my current students are beginners, or haven’t been dancing for very long. Many times, people I know who are interested in learning how to dance will ask me about taking class and some tips I have for them.
I wish I had a guide when I first started taking dance classes and one I could pass on to my new students. Therefore, I decided to create one.
Here’s my list of top 10 things to note if you plan on taking your first dance class.
1. Wear Comfortable Clothes and Shoes
The most important thing you can do is wear appropriate clothes. Dressing the part is key. As the saying goes, “fake it ‘til you make it”. Wear the most dancer-looking clothes you can find so that people won’t second guess your authenticity. Ex: sweats, baseball cap, tanks, booty shorts, crop tops, leg warmers, off the shoulder tops, ballet tights, nutcracker costume, 6-inch heels, rhinestones, Michael Jackson glove, etc. Extra street cred if you wear them all at once.
2. Bring Water
Hydration is always important when engaging in any physical activity. Although some people mistakenly think it’s most important to hydrate after or during class, water’s effectiveness increases when consumed in large quantities before class. Consume 1-2 gallons of water before class. If you’re a beginner, aim for 2-3 gallons as insurance.
3. Familiarize Yourself with the Song
If available, it’s highly recommended to listen to the song beforehand. Knowing the song by the time you get to class will give you a huge advantage. Unfortunately, not all instructors will announce the workshop song prior to class, so you’ll have to do some research. Go to your nearest karaoke room/bar and play all the songs in the library. Begin with song titles starting with the letter “A” and working your way down. When you finish, you’ll be ready for any song the instructor chooses. Note: Start this process early as it could take weeks.
4. Don’t Miss Warm-Ups and Stretching
If you don’t properly stretch and warm up, you are more prone to injuring yourself during class. Therefore, arrive early to class to do a pre-warm up. First set should include 30 jumping jacks, 20 burpees, 10 pushups, and 30 squats. Slowly start adding weights in increments of 5 lbs. Eventually, you’ll have to switch to a squat rack and bench press. To increase strength, utilize 5×5 sets, reverse pyramids, and super-set burnouts. Start cutting carbs and eating a lot more protein during the day. In 2-3 months, you’ll start gaining sizable mass. Pretend to act flattered when people ask if you take steroids. It’ll get annoying after a while but ignore the haters.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Move to the Front of Class
The best place to learn is always closest to the instructor. Don’t relegate yourself to the back of the class where it’s more difficult to see. In fact, move to the very front of the class, dancing next to the instructor. Because dance is an art, you don’t even need to follow along with the instructor. Just start doing your own moves. If your dancing is superior to the instructor, the class attendees will pledge loyalty to you and start worshiping you as their new deity. Being a good dancer has it’s perks.
6. Ask Questions
Great learning comes from asking the right questions. I like to start light with “how’s it going?” or “how’s your day?” After more rapport is built, you can inquire about their favorite TV shows and hobbies. When the time is right, transition to the juicy subjects like greatest fears, darkest secrets, and their social security number. Before you know it, the class will be over and you didn’t even need to break a sweat.
7. Learn from the People Around You
If you can’t see the instructor, utilize the dancers around you to learn the details. A word of caution, be aware of whom you’re following. Make sure the person you’re copying is actually a GOOD dancer, not someone who’s clearly inexperienced and flailing around. 4-year olds are adorable, but terrible dance students so don’t let them distract you.
8. Don’t Watch the Instructor for Better Pickup
The biggest pro-tip for picking up choreography faster is to not watch the instructor during run-throughs. This helps develop your muscle memory much faster than relying on your visual cues. Begin class by turning around 180 degrees to face the opposite direction. Learning based purely on sounds and grunts is difficult, but will make you an amazing dancer in no time. For more advanced students, use a blindfold and earplugs.
9. Practice and Perform Your Facial Expressions
The difference between a beginning dancer and an advanced dancer is how well they can perform. The optimal angle and expression for any dance is the following:
- Tilt your head back and angle your face upwards 45 degrees
- Raise your left eyebrow while simultaneously closing your left eyelid
- Open your right eyelid as big as possible
- Open your mouth so there is a 2-inch gap in between your teeth and pull back your lips to expose your upper and lower gums
- (Optional) Stick your tongue out to the left side of your mouth
- Slightly tilt your head to the right and hunch over
The longer you can maintain this facial expression and posture, the more impressive you’ll be to everyone around you.
10. Have Fun!
It might be cliché to have this as the last point but its arguably the most important. If you’re not having fun then there’s no point in taking a dance class. If you’re not constantly smiling and laughing during class, just leave. Like seriously. Who told you that you could even dance? Go away. Nobody likes you. You’re such a loser.