As we are all different, with different needs and goals, one size does not fit all. A comment I frequently hear is, “I’m not good enough to take a private lesson.” Another is, “I don’t need the private lesson; I can learn all I need to know from the group class.” In each case, neither student truly understands the purpose of group classes or private lessons. It seems that a lot of dancers don’t truly understand the differences, and/or benefits of private lessons vs. group lessons, so let me take a moment to explain.
The main purpose of the group class is to teach foot placement, footwork and timing. This is a cost effective way of learning the skeletal structure of the dance figure. However, a group class is an ineffective way of practicing your dance figures and getting any sort of feedback, except for what you see in the mirror. Most, or all, of the other students are learning the steps also. Practicing the steps on your own or at studio parties and socials is more effective, and is essential to getting the most out of taking a group class.
The purpose of the private lesson is to work on the small details that make you look and feel good on the dance floor. Your dance instructor has the ability to physically place you in the correct position so you can feel where you need to be. This is not practical in group classes. A good private instructor will evaluate the students’ dancing as they proceed and correct the student on the spot, thereby eliminating bad habits before they are formed.
So, a combination of both group and private lessons, along with student practice is the most practical and efficient way of learning to dance.
About the Author: Barry Jost has been teaching Ballroom, Latin, Swing, Salsa dancing in the South Bay for over 23 years and has taught over 30,000 people how to dance. Barry got his initial training with the Fred Astaire Dance Studios and continues to train with some of the top coaches in the country. Barry is also the resident dance instructor for The Los Angeles Harbor College Extension Program and Torrance Adult School.