In a private lesson, the teacher and student are able to connect to each other in a way that isn’t possible in the group class. The individual attention in the private lesson allows for more insight into how the student learns, what motivates them, and what will make a dance “click” for them.
I have had the good fortune to work with a number of students on a long term basis. In every case, there came a point when the lessons stopped focusing on dancing and became more a journey of the self. In most endeavors of the same nature, such as martial arts, sports, even therapy, there is the same final barrier – confronting our personal demons so to speak. Many movies like “Star Wars” or “The Karate Kid” use this journey as the heart of their story. Check out “The Hero With 1000 Faces” by Joseph Campbell for more about the full journey of self discovery and how it’s depicted in literature and film.
Thing is, partner dancing is an endeavor that involves interacting with another person continuously. So it’s not just a journey of the self, but a journey of the self and how it directly and immediately relates to others. This journey may unlock certain feelings and bring to light interpersonal concerns that the student didn’t even know existed. Discovering these feelings, accepting them, working through them, and figuring out how they factor into partner dancing is a big part of the relationship between instructor and student.
When is this point reached?
Most dancers reach this emotional wall in his/her dance journey after considerable time spent learning patterns and techniques. The students are beginning to spend more time dancing socially or preparing for performances or competitions. Trouble is, these students are finding that they are having a difficult time finding the spark within themselves to make their dancing really connect emotionally with either the music, his/her partner, or both.
How do the pair face the hurdle?
The instructor and the student need to acknowledge that this hurdle will be reached and accept that it takes time to work through this hurdle. For many of us, our personal demons have been with us for years, and facing them will not be resolved in minutes. For that reason, patience is a very important quality to have for both people, especially the instructor. Working through this hurdle can make a person feel frustrated and vulnerable. An impatient and unsupportive instructor can cause a student to lose confidence in the possibility of attaining that level of quality they’re seeking and may even turn away from dancing entirely.
What is the outcome?
The instructor and the student need to find a solution together once the hurdle is defined. What is the hurdle? Is it trust in others? Is it self-confidence? Fear of performance or of criticism? Once defined, the instructor needs to have at her/his disposable different tools/techniques/tricks to help the student break through this wall. This blog will list some well tested exercises and tools for guiding a student through his/her hurdle in a future article.
Very often, the mere act of defining what the hurdle is can be enough to help a student go to the next level of dance that they are seeking. Even if not, there is some relief that there is definition; then the dance journey will be fun again, instead of frustrating.
While the thought of “facing personal demons” sounds intimidating, scary, or just plain heavy, it’s a wonderful example of the beauty and the power of partner dancing. Through partner dancing, a person learns how to move to music while physically, emotionally, and psychologically connected to themselves and with another person. Very few activities offer that kind of connectivity – and in such a fun way!