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Warning – I am violating my previous policy and posting right after a lesson without giving myself time to process the whole thing. There might be a bit of a raw edge to this.

Funny thing is that I was in a great mood coming to the studio.  There was a post rolling around inside my head about dancing and my progress and how good I was feeling about it all even though there were setbacks and adjustments.

On balance, it was not a bad lesson.  But what bothers me is the inconsistencies.  If I remember, I may do some kind of scorecard at the end to show you where I think everything is.  I don’t understand how it is that we can be brilliant in certain dance (swing) and then I can feel like an absolute freaking beginner on others.  I know I’m not a beginner because we are doing advanced steps but even steps I’ve done thousands of times now feel alien and messed up.

And, I’ll just get this out of the way right now.  I know part of this is ego and part of this is how much I really hate being corrected.  It can be done but you need to have the right style.  Kid T is certainly miles better than Z in this regard but when we mess up a step that I’ve executed successfully multiple times before with Z and the Body Double, there is a big part of my brain that says maybe the problem isn’t me.  So I get a bit defensive in my head when she starts to correct me.  And then I get frustrated because I know I can do the step but my brain is just working against me.  Still, there is the part of me that wants to point out that I’ve done the step just fine with other instructors so maybe I ain’t one with a problem here.

But let’s go back to the beginning because that’s where things started to go off track.  The calendar said tonight’s group was Viennese Waltz and it was supposed to be Silver because that’s what it was when the calendar first came out.  But, OwnerGuy is out this week and Z was occupied so they gave the group class to Kid T.  And, M-Dawg was on a lesson and I guess Lady Gator isn’t ready to teach this yet so they crammed everyone into one group and it was clearly not going to be Silver.

OK, I can deal with that because I can still practice leading and other things but I look around and there is this total newbie couple at the end.  I’m not sure if they knew what they were getting themselves into.  They were significantly younger than anyone else and didn’t know the rest of us and were hanging on the edge of the class.  I was next to them with my designated Cha-Cha partner who was the only other true Silver dancer who had done Viennese Waltz.

I’ve said before that group class can be a frustrating and humbling experience if you get tossed into a dance that is above your current level because the instructor won’t always have time to give everyone individual attention.  It gets worse if you are on the outside where she can’t see you to offer suggestions.  And, if there are so many other people struggling, then you may not get any attention.  The guy seemed to be OK and was fine even with his struggles.  The girl was getting frustrated and I think she was ready to quit at one point.  So my designated Cha-Cha partner and I became the helper couple offering encouragement.  I was telling them that they were doing just fine and that Viennese Waltz was really a tricky dance and they were doing great for not having any experience.  We tried a couple of time to illustrate some of the steps including the inside turn which she wasn’t getting and the explosion – pointing out that they had to change hands and explode outward.  Having been the one who has walked off group classes before, I’m overly sensitive to that sort of thing so I was trying to do my part.  Seriously, I think they did great for being newbies tossed into a Viennese Waltz class.

Can’t say the same for one other lady – the wrestler.  Sorry, that’s a bit mean but I told you I might be a bit raw.  In theory, she and her husband have checked out of Bronze IV and are in Silver.  I suppose Viennese Waltz may not be one of the dances they do but in no way can she be considered a Silver dancer.  Hilde followed better than she did and Hilde hadn’t done Viennese Waltz at all.  Heck, the newbie was almost as good.  I know her problem is that she overthinks everything and then gets frustrated when it doesn’t work.  Well, I can’t help you if you fight me the entire time.

In a bigger picture view, this illustrated two things that are kind of the ugly side of dancing at a Franchise.  They promote the group classes as part of the packet when you sign up and it is supposed to be a bonus.  Your hourly rate is not just private lessons because you don’t have to pay extra for groups.  OK, but when you don’t adapt to your staff and advertise a Silver group that isn’t a Silver group, then is really looks like you are just slapping a group together because you have to.  And, if there is no value in the group, then it really isn’t the bonus that you said it was.  Honestly, they should have updated the calendar after knowing that OwnerGuy wasn’t going to be there and not done that group.  It was OK for me because I got to practice frame but I really doubt there were too many others who got anything good out of it.

The other thing that is ugly is that some students get pushed through just to push them through.  I know that most of it is based on the student’s goals.  If you get a pair that aren’t going to do Showcases or other comps, and are just interested in social dancing, then technique isn’t as critical and you can just focus on the steps.  But there is a part of me that thinks those students aren’t really economically viable to the studio unless the studio has a number of teachers at the advanced level.  In our studio, we don’t and so when you have a couple that is just taking a lesson a week and not doing the comps, then all they are doing is sucking time away from students who do go to comps and events.  So maybe you take couples like that and push them forward in the hopes that they’ll hit a goal and move on.  I suppose I shouldn’t really care because if they dance in front of non-dancers, they will look like experts.

Then, Kid T got on me about why I had taken the Shuffle off the board for the next Showcase and I guess Lady Gator was disappointed that I took away the Bachata.  I hung tough on my “no” and tried to explain that I didn’t want to divert time away from dances I care about given all the change that had happened.  Part of me didn’t appreciate the hard sell.  Showcase is supposed to be about my goals.  I get that they like to push students (although that seems to be Z’s influence) but it can come across feeling like all they care about is getting you to sign up for as many heats as possible to help cover the cost of the event.  Look, I know this is a business and it is a paid transaction but I don’t need to be reminded of it so forcefully.

We started on the Tango which OwnerGuy had finished.  It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either.  What frustrates me is that I know there are things that aren’t working but I can’t put my finger on them to tell Kid T what isn’t working.  Part of it is that I learn by doing so when she’s showing me a bunch of steps in the pattern, I get lost and then I can’t replicate it and so showing me really didn’t help.  And there is the inconsistency in timing.  The Body Double was great at ramping up the speed so we’d take a pattern and do it slowly 3-4 times and then she’d slowly increase the speed until we got to the tempo.  With Kid T, we sort of worked on parts of it and then she jumped me to tempo and things went wrong.  Also, she wanted to do the whole thing right to music when we hadn’t even done a complete run through without music.  Naturally, I forgot parts.  And she pointed that out to me.  Then, the nasty, sarcastic part of me took over and I’m think “No shit, Sherlock.  Did you really expect me to remember the entire thing?  Well that’s a confidence booster”.  I didn’t say any of those things but that little part did kind of poison my mind a bit.  At the end of the lesson, she was focusing on how much we accomplished and I was focusing on how rough and unpolished it was so it didn’t feel like a major accomplishment.

Somehow, I have to find a way to say some of this to her.  I really can’t figure out why certain dances are working and others just aren’t.  But it gets frustrating and then I start to shut down and I have to fight that and try to stay positive even though I’m screaming to myself that I know this freaking step and I should be able to do it and why does it feel so horrible.

Oh well, tomorrow is another day and the best thing about a new day is what happened today can be put aside.

OK, I want to do a report card of where I stand with the 9 major dances heading into Showcase and knowing that the out of town Showcase is just over two weeks from now (assuming I still go which is an open question right now).  I’m going to avoid the use of ‘+’ and ‘-‘ and just stick to letter grades.

Swing:   A

Cha-Cha:  A

Mambo:  B

Fox Trot:  C

Waltz:  C

Viennese Waltz:  D

Rumba:  D

Tango:  D

Bolero:  F (maybe really Incomplete since we haven’t focused there)

Not a pretty picture.


  1. Tomorrow is definitely another day! Sounds like you do need to have a chat with your latest teacher. Maybe just tell her you’re frustrated because you can’t seem to get steps right that you know you know and ask if you guys can go through the trouble dances slowly, without music, together. Then maybe you can pinpoint where things go wrong.

    1. You are right and I’m mentally preparing for that. The good news is she did say that if there was anything I needed her to do differently, then she’d do it. So I think she’s open to discussing it. Just have residual scars from trying to discuss this with Z and not having it go well.

  2. I agree with the Girl. You have had time to ‘test the waters’ with the new instructor, now it is time to narrow down more specifically with her what works, what doesn’t and how you would like to focus in the future. Try the ‘sandwich’ method (think you are familiar with that). Sounds like there are pluses and minuses and it looks like smooth is a big area you need to focus or partnering in general. Do you ever just forget the routines and practice just leading her to see what happens? Perhaps that might help give both of you an idea where issues are in the partnership away from the steps. It’s good she seems open to discussion!

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