Tips For Experienced Dancers Dancing With Beginners
Dancing well with beginners is a skill separate from being able to dance
well with other experienced dancers. Revealing the joy of
contra dance to a
new person is, for me, one of the rewards of being an experienced dancer. The
only way to learn, of course, is to practice, so try to dance with at least one
new person at each dance. Many of these tips are also good advice when dancing
with experienced dancers, but they are particularily important when dancing
with beginners. These were written with
contra dance in mind, but many apply
to other dance forms as well.
- Make eye contact.
- Show the other people you enjoy dancing with them.
- Help the beginners have fun. Remember that's what we're here for.
- Don't push, pull or shout, that's rude.
- Lead the new dancers through dance figures with eye contact, body language
and hand gestures as appropriate.
- Make your leads part of the dance (i.e. use a sweeping motion of your arm
and perhaps a small bow to indicate a person should precede you in a given
- Lead your partners gently by the hand.
- Hold your hand out clearly for them to take (as on allemandes and right
and left across).
- Men, gently place the womans hand where it needs to be for stars and
- Women, help your partners end swings in the correct direction.
- Tap your shoulder (the one to be passed by) on heys, etc.
- Don't do extra twirls and spins. The beginners look to you for example,
you may know where you need to be next and which way to be facing, but
they don't. Let them get the basics before trying to add flourishes.
- Swing gently, many beginners are affected by dizziness at first.
- Dance smoothly, show them how it's done.
- Don't get upset at them when mistakes are made. Everyone makes mistakes
from time to time, even you!
- Let them know that if they happen to be very late for a figure, it is
better to skip that figure and go on to the next, rather than try to rush
through the figure(s) they may have missed. Explain, if they ask why,
that the music and dance go together and that each figure should be done
during the same section of the music each time through the dance.
- Encourage and acknowledge the real efforts the beginners are making.
- Communicate acceptance and affirmation as much as possible.
- Communicate willingness to answer questions about the routine or any
aspect of the dance.
- If the new person has obvious difficulty with something in particular,
simply ask, "Do you mind if I show you?"
- Refrain from forcing any issue.
- Listen to the caller/prompter and do not get ahead of him/her during the
teaching/walk-through. Set a good example for the new dancers to follow.
These are just a few which have been suggested to me and which I have
added to from my own experiences. Please let me know of any additions you
may have and I will add them to the list. Hopefully, if we can incorporate
some of these skills into our dancing, then the beginner's first
experience will be that much more enjoyable. Remember, one true mark of an
is being able to dance with anyone, no matter what their skill
level may be, and have them all enjoy the experience equally.
Send comments, additions and suggestions to
Jonathan Sivier at:
Last updated on March 6, 2011