How to Teach a Great Group Class

Teaching dance is part art, part formula. Find out how to earn yourself a reputation as a Fantastic Group Class Teacher in this week's article!

Date added to ADN: Thursday, Jul 25 2013
Originally Published: Thursday, Jul 25 2013
By Diane Jarmolow


There's an art to teaching a great group class. However, there's also a tried and true formula that makes a group class successful. You might hear people say "Jane is a fantastic group class teacher! I learn a lot and have so much fun. Most teachers don't have a clear system like Jane does!"

I don't have the space here to talk about all the procedures in this winning group class formula, but I do want to give you key elements to earn you a reputation as a "Fantastic Group Class Teacher"?

Here's a list of some of the most important things you can do to have your group classes go well. Can you find the two that don't belong?

  1. Be on time
  2. Be professionally dressed (based on the dance you are teaching)
  3. Have your music ready
  4. Warmly welcome your class and let them know about the dance they will be learning
  5. Introduce your assistant or co-teacher
  6. Demonstrate the figures you are going to teach
  7. Play music at a slower tempo than standard, adjusting to the correct tempo toward the end of the class
  8. Rotate partners frequently and in an organized fashion
  9. Have any extra Followers (or Leaders) distribute themselves between couples so they will be assured of having a partner on the next partner rotation
  10. Fill in as necessary if a student is without a partner
  11. Always teach new figures with students coupled up
  12. Use humor to help people laugh and have fun
  13. Never teach technique on the first week of class
  14. Keep your eyes open and help people who seem frustrated, are having difficulty, or are getting passed over in partner rotation
  15. Allow plenty of repetition with one figure before moving on to the next
  16. Let students know about events at the studio, especially those relating to what they are learning

Which did you choose as not belonging? I believe ##11 and ##13 are incorrect.

I've found that separating Leaders and Followers initially to teach a new figure is best. This allows everyone to learn his or her part well before tackling the issues that come up when dancing with a partner. A student of mine once said, "Unencumbered by music and a partner, I can dance great!" Although knowing their part ahead of time sometimes results Followers anticipating or back leading, this can easily be addressed once partners start dancing together.

As for technique, it's only difficult when explained in a complex way. Teaching people to stand nice and tall, or to observe that the heel hits the floor first when walking forward, helps new students feel more confident. I sometimes think we don't give our students enough credit. People are smart—just as they'd anticipate being taught technique for their golf swing or tennis backhand during a sports lesson, our students expect to learn specifics about dancing correctly in a dance class.

However, it's important not to spend too much time on technique. A beginning group class should be fun and light. For easy, playful explanations and exercises to teach students how the body moves, check out Move Like a Champion.

I hope this article has spurs you to take your group classes to new heights. A few other ways to improve your group class teaching include making a checklist for yourself, asking your students for feedback, talking to your colleagues, and taking a video of yourself teaching. You can find the entire formula for teaching a great group class in the book Teach Like a Pro.

Check out Diane's blog here

About the Author:

Diane Jarmolow is a pioneer in the field of ballroom dancing. She founded the first vocational training for ballroom dance teachers, the Ballroom Dance Teachers College (BDTC). Based in Oakland, California, BDTC has trained hundreds of people to become successful dance instructors, and Diane's BDTC-in-a-Box is being used to train teachers in studios throughout North America and abroad.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the AccessDance Network. Be aware that imagery is copyrighted and often licensed for use on AccessDance only. Copying of images is strictly prohibited.

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Ballroom Dance Teachers College
Oakland AND San Francisco, CA 94616

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