Top 10 Characteristics of a Successful Ballroom Dance Teacher

Do you have what it takes to be a ballroom dance teacher? Find out by reading Diane Jarmolow's Top 10 Characteristics of a Successful Ballroom Dance Teacher.

Date added to ADN: Thursday, Sep 19 2013
Originally Published: Thursday, Sep 19 2013
By Diane Jarmolow


Dear Diane,

I love the idea of becoming a ballroom dance teacher. But how do I know if I have what it takes to be successful as a dance teacher?

Wanting it to work,

Hi Alice,

This is an excellent question and you are smart to ask it. Great dancers often assume they'll automatically be great teachers, but there's much more to teaching ballroom than knowing how to dance.

There are several personality and lifestyle traits that are important in the ballroom business. Taking an honest look at whether you possess these qualities will help tell you answer the question: is a ballroom dance career is right for me?

Here are my Top 10 characteristics of a successful ballroom dance teacher:

1. Patient: When teaching, there will be times you've explained something 10 different ways and your student still doesn't understand. If you tend to get frustrated and impatient when people don't learn right away, then teaching dance may not be right for you.

As a dance teacher, you need to be calm, compassionate, and non-judgmental. Your ability to be sincerely patient and continually encouraging will allow your students to feel comfortable when they don't get things right away.

2. Passionate: Having a love of dancing and teaching creates an environment that will inspire and motivate your students to learn. If the idea of teaching the same figures over and over sounds boring to you, this will show in your teaching. Without passion, your students will wonder why they are bothering to learn.

3. Love to Learn: There is no end to the amount of knowledge and skill in dancing. Great ballroom professionals hunger for new ways to teach and dance. They recognize the need to take lessons, get certified, and continue to challenge themselves—and they're willing to spend their own money to do it.

4. Outgoing: While it's not impossible for a shy, quiet person to be a good dance teacher, it will require concerted effort. Students thrive in a fun, friendly environment. This is easy to create when you're a naturally outgoing, sociable person.

5. Possess Self-Control: There's a lot of temptation in the ballroom dance business—sexy clothing, close physical contact, sensual movement, dance students having crushes on you, etc.

Ballroom teachers must have the discipline to push inappropriate urges aside and maintain their professionalism. Without such self-control, you're sure to ruin your career in no time.

6. Creative: There's no simple rulebook for dance teachers that tells you everything you need to know or how to deal with every situation that may come up. Having a strong creative side will allow you to come up with new ideas for your students, choreograph routines on the fly, solve logistical problems, and navigate interpersonal tensions as they arise.

7. People-Oriented: Do you prefer working with people or by yourself? Do you prefer being with people or with animals? If you want to be a dance teacher, your answers to both had better be people!

You will encounter every type of person when you teach ballroom dance. If your inclination is to see every person as interesting and wonderful in his or her own way, you'll do well as a teacher. If you aren't very tolerant of people with annoying habits or idiosyncracies, you may have a tough time in the ballroom industry.

8. Interested in Fitness and Well Being: There's a reason why competitive ballroom dancing is called DanceSport. As a professional dance teacher, you may be on your feet and dancing as much as 40 or 50 hours per week.

So if you are frequently sick, have low energy or are prone to injuries, this probably isn't the career for you. You don't have to be young, but you do need to be healthy and strong, and prioritize taking good care of your body.

9. Organized: It might seem like a ballroom dance career is as far away from Corporate America as you can get. But surprisingly, being a successful dance teacher requires many of the same skills.

You must have excellent time management, planning skills (preparing lessons and class series), keep an impeccable calendar (so you don't book two students at the same time), keep to do lists, and follow through on your promises and responsibilities.

10. Well-Groomed: If you think you can wear whatever you want as a dance teacher, then watch out. Overall, the ballroom professionals are a very well dressed and groomed group.

Most studios have a dress code, many of which are more formal than your average 21st century workplace. Good hygiene, immaculate clothing, and an overall professional appearance is important both for looking like a dance teacher and for showing respect for your students.

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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