The Lonely Life of a Ballroom Instructor

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by Monsieur Fatso, Oct 1, 2012.

  1. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    well said
     
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  2. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    4 hours a day for 8 days training. If he didn't have to pay for it, even if he didn't get the job, that sounds like a good deal to me.

    My first three teachers were six week wonders. If I had stayed with one of them til now, then more fool me, I'd still be dancing the way I did a decade ago, but they were more than enough when I started.

    I compete, but I mostly dance socially. Everywhere I've lived, I've seen a lot more social dancers than competitive dancers. And for 95% of the social dancers I see, six week wonders are more than enough teacher for them.

    Six week wonders who are screened for their people skills, and taught how to teach, are a lot more likely to keep a new dancer dancing than a regional 10-dance champion drama queen who insists they can't learn another figure until they perfect the natural spin turn. (I've watched this happen <ugh>.)

    Yes, people will learn some bad habits that need to be corrected later. Isn't that better than giving up on dance because it's too bloody hard to learn to do it perfectly in the beginning?
     
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  3. freeageless

    freeageless Active Member

    I am going to give my perspective and that is the perspective of someone who is not a world class dancer or teacher. I am a beginning dance student. I have taken mostly group classes once or twice a week and some private lessons for almost two years. I consider myself blessed that all my dance instructors are from Eastern Europe and they all have ISTD certifications and have been dancing and teaching for years. My teachers KNOW the syllabus well and can TEACH it. I have seen this studio bring in trainee teachers who are like Mr. Fatso. They have little training and experience. They try to cover it up with a know it all attitude and a big mouth. I see through that, and so do most of the other students in my classes. As a result, we don' take lessons from them. I think that I speak for my fellow beginning students: we are looking for the best qualified teachers we can find-and they are usually the most experienced teachers. They sure ain't the Mr. Fatso's with their 32 hours of training and/or practice.
     
  4. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Honestly you have No Idea what your teachers from Europe were doing before they got here. There is a man in our industry who is practically a GOD. Everyone knows his name. One can barely get lessons with him, he is so wildly popular as a dance coach and a celebrity status personality. Do you have any idea what he was doing in native county before he came to the US, and spoke with such an attitude and big mouth, that we all bought into his "godliness"?

    He was a bus driver. Yes he has some junior titles. But he hadn't even danced since then. He never finished school. Worked a few odd jobs. But pure and simple he was a bus driver. Then some one met him abroad, at a party, and offered him the chance to come to America and make a lot of money teaching. And everyone here bows down to him now. Tell me how, anything other than circumstance, got him to where he is today compared to MF?

    No one is arguing that the best teachers are usually the most experienced teachers. What I am saying is even you beloved european "teachers" weren't really teachers at all when they came over and were sold to the unsuspecting students at the studio as dance legends and experienced "teachers". They were kids who went to dance classes, that came over here as adults and had to learn how to teach just like the rest of us. One girl I work in the studio with, a former World Standard Pro finalist can't even remember her syllabus silver tango to teach because it has been 25 years since she even had to think about it. She has to ask ME (a lowly former 6 week wonder), when she is teaching her competitive couples if she is in syllabus or not!
     
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  5. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    :rolleyes: Cute personal swipe.

    I've never ridden with a riding instructor who just passed their Pony Club C test and never taught before. All of my skating coaches had at LEAST their Senior MIF tests. (When I taught skating, I STRICTLY taught recreational learn-to-skate--I would never dream of trying to coach even a Pre-Pre test student as I only have two tests above that and only a few hundred hours of ice time. I'm considered a fast adult learner for doing multiple successful tests in less than ten months, not a week.) If ALL you want to do is the dance equivalent of hanging on for the pony ride on vacation or not dying on a public skate, yes, someone with fewer hours than a full working week of actual training at what they're supposed to teach who might be a really good communicator might be all right. But I personally don't want to be someone's guinea pig student unless I'm getting their services for free or substantially less than I'd pay for an expert. You don't pay a pony club kid like you pay George Morris, you don't pay even a full-Senior skating coach like you pay Brian Orser. You don't pay a studio $80 a lesson for someone who barely knows more than the students.

    And what is really important is not what the instructor may or may not have done themselves competitively--it's what their students are doing. Before I took the suggestion to contact NP, I had the chance to sit and watch him with his Open student at a comp, and if he'd had Bronze students at that particular event I'd have watched that too before calling. I could see what his 'end product' was, and I could look up and see what else his students were doing. "Well, I only started last week and I never danced before in my life and in fact I've never had any sort of teaching job before, either, but I'm sure we'll do fine" is not what I want to hear when I'm going to be shelling out that kind of money.

    But then I have never been a pure 'adult-type' student. I am paying for a qualified expert, I do what they tell me, I am not the 'why?' adult learner type, and I'm not looking for someone to hold my hand and make me feel happy and warm and fuzzy and positive-thinking. Possibly for the pure rec people, someone with only an appearance of authority passes and they don't mind paying to be a lab rat.
     
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  6. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Nothing personal about it. (I have nothing but fondness for you and admire you and all that you have acquired as a student) I would have said it to anyone who felt that simply because their teachers came from another country, with a "lifetime of experience" (see my last post), were better than someone here who learned to teach and dance as an adult.

    which is the vast MAJORTIY of the students and dancers in the ballroom industry, in spite of what primarily competitive oriented east coast DF posters with immigrant teachers think (who themselves are a very small yet vocal minority)

    Absolutely. My history as a 6 week wonder is overshadowed by what I was able to accomplish since then... not only as a professional dancer, but as a Teacher!
     
  7. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    I think the problem here is that mr. F puts himself in the same category as larinda or any of the other teachers who know more than basic step patterns....know how to make a dancer and not make a shuffler... Who most importantly have a perspective. The ability to teach is an important aspect - after all, many coaches are lacking in the ability to get a student to comprehend and do. But even in kindergarten teacher training, they need more that 32 hours to even begin to understand what they need to teach and how...
     
  8. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    I absolutely agree. That is what I meant by his "bravado".

    It is not sin to be a 6 week wonder. There is plenty of opportunity to transcend that label. To NOT transcend that, and remain in that state, is a disservice to your clients (and to yourself as a pro) I mean really who give a care how their teacher got started? I got started as an underaged college kid who snuck into a bar/nightclub... and was scooped up by someone that saw potential. How is that any different than the bus driver from Europe, except that he happened to dance a as a kid? What I did, and what the bus driver did, AFTER given the opportunity, is what determined our success.
     
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  9. freeageless

    freeageless Active Member

    My Eastern European teachers were not sold to me as "dance legends and experienced teachers." I go to an ISTD studio which follows that syllabus and to some extent the Dance Vision syllabus. Like many of the students I use the ISTD instructional DVD's and the Dance Vision instructional DVD's as a crutch for the instruction given to me by the teachers. If that teacher newbie, ISTD teacher, or Mr. Fatso isn't explaining the pattern correctly-I know it. How do I know it-like many male students at my studio-I study the patterns on the ISTD and Dance Vision instructional DVD's. My experience and the experience of the majority of my fellow beginning students based on our comparison is that the Mr. Fatso's are nowhere near as competent or as knowledgeable as those Eastern European dancers and teachers are. I am sure there are some exceptions. By the way, I assume that the patterns taught on the ISTD DVD's and the Dance Vision DVD's are taught by experts.
     
  10. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    Some people, like doi and freeageless, insist on the best dancer as a teacher that they can find for their money. Some people will even put up with a condescending, narcissistic, manipulative drama queen, because they happened to be a rising star champion in such-and-such competition.

    Some people value other qualities. 32 hours of training before they hired him, not before they threw him in front of students. That's some pretty rigorous screening, if you ask me. 32 hours to find out if he had the qualities to be a good teacher for beginners. Even if they put him in front of a beginner right from the get-go, the gap between the amount of training and practice he gets compared to his student just continues to grow.

    I've watched beginning students who seemed to love dance eventually just give up in frustration because their regional champion teachers didn't know how to teach beginners. The teachers were more concerned with the students getting it right than with the students enjoying dance enough to keep with it. The studio continues to run at a loss.

    By contrast, where I first learned, almost all the teachers were six-week wonders, none were competitive dancers, and the classes and dance socials, four per week, were always packed. Granted, I saw a lot of dancers whose dancing stayed at the same plateau for years. But if one wanted to get beyond that level, there were other studios in the area with instructors who had competed at a very high level successfully.

    I'm not a hipster. I want to see as many people as possible dancing socially. For that to happen, we need six week wonders with people skills. If the only people qualified to teach are those that have won some big rising star event or better, then ballroom dancing is an elitist pursuit.

    And some people may balk at the fact that lessons with six-week wonders cost as much as lessons with some champions. Hey, that means you are getting the lessons with the champions at a discount. Even big-shot coaches who charge $200 are mostly getting the same rate as everybody else with some free food, hotel, and travel thrown in. I don't think many people are making big money off private lessons. If you are going to charge any less than market rates, nobody will be able to make a living as a dance teacher.
     
  11. freeageless

    freeageless Active Member

    TT, my Eastern European teachers also have people skills. They give us their e-mail addresses, and tell us to e-mail them if we have any questions about the patterns-that they may not have had a chance to address in class. I have asked my teachers via e-mail technical dance questions-as well as what steps or patterns they will be teaching in the class. They respond within 24 hours. They also seem eager to answer the questions. I am sure there are non-European teachers who are also that competent and interested. I am sure there are some European teachers who are not. I suppose, I have been lucky in the teachers that I have had. At my studio, I don't see someone with 32 hours of training making it as a teacher for very long. He or she may last for a little while-but I suspect the students will see through him or her. We want this: we want the teacher to know the subject, to be able to reach us, to make it understandable, to show interest and to have the people skills that have been described above. Just like the teachers may be watching us-we are watching them.
     
  12. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    We seem to keep losing the point here that the 32 hours of training was before they even hired him.
    The training doesn't stop after 32 hours. I didn't stop training in my profession when I finished college. My teachers continue to get instruction from top coaches around the world.

    And I'm not saying that only six-week wonders have people skills. But they are selected for those skills. By contrast, people skills are a hit-or-miss proposition with competitors who become teachers.

    When we hire people into our team, I am more concerned with their attitude and their ability to learn than their ability to do the job when they walk in the door.

    I think MF made it quite clear he loves dance, and is continuing to learn.
     
  13. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    You need 1500 hours before you cut hair, but only 32 hours before you teach. Even plumbers need years.
     
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  14. freeageless

    freeageless Active Member

    Excellent point!
     
  15. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    In fairness, we all have to start somewhere. And he did note that that was only the time he spent spent before he was hired and that he wasn't immediately given students after he was hired. And while there's no way he would have had really solid fundamentals only weeks afterwards, meh. He could probably teach steps to newcomers well enough.

    That said, MF, you've only taken the first steps on what could be a life-long journey. I very much suspect that you simply don't yet know what you don't know. That's actually a very common thread amongt beginning to intermediate dancers. (And just when we start to think we've at least got a handle on what it is that we don't know, *boom*. Something usually happens to disabuse us of the notion.) I don't blame you for bristling at the suggestion that your being an instructor isn't fair to the students. But the lecturing was, imo, somewhat misplaced.
     
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  16. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    You know, guys, if you don't see value in those teachers, you can (and do) vote with your wallet. Enough people feel otherwise that the value is obviously there.
     
  17. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    I know, right? Someone needs a dose of scio me nihil scire...

    Seems like for some, the less they know about dancing, the less they realize they're missing. Sure, great dance technique doesn't make you a great teacher... but you can't teach what you don't know.

    That goes even for good coaches who have been dancing for years and are great teachers. I've had lessons where I can tell the pro is just regurgitating their last lesson from a better pro, and it doesn't entirely make sense... then, a few weeks/months/years later, they've had a chance to synthesize the information and are able to teach it.

    I think Monsieur (I'm not calling him Fatso) needs to look after his own insecurities, and chips on his own shoulder, before finding them in others.

    (And can I just add: a ballerina with 18 years of experience? You're really showing how much you don't know you don't know... ballerinas might know how to move their bodies, but they often have bad habits when they start doing ballroom, e.g. knee turn-out and arched lower backs. Knowing one dance style doesn't make you proficient in all others; things like connection, latin hip action, and footwork take a while to master, let alone master well enough to teach.
     
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  18. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    Hair on your head is far different from receiving 45 minutes of pointers on how to move your body. Anyone who has had a bad haircut knows that.

    I think our current system works fine -- go with someone with a certification if that matters to you. Don't if it doesn't. Done.

    A certification isn't a guarantee of anything other than completion of some course material -- doesn't verify any of the many other aspects that are important to being an excellent teacher.

    However, we are so far off from the OP's original point...
     
  19. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    Absolutely not. Everyone has to start somewhere. But somehow, Larinda, I can't see you posting something like this post.

    I think my problem with Monseur F is at the (unnecessarily well emphasized) heart of his rant ("We are not looking for dancers, we are looking for teachers.") and where he seems to be taking it.

    Not being a dancer does not automatically mean you're option B, a teacher. Nor does it mean those who are dancers aren't teachers. Come on - who really pursues a career in ballroom dance not expecting to be a teacher? Yes, some people do not have the right personality to teach the general public, but that doesn't mean they're not teachers. And many world-class dancers can teach just about anyone, little old lady newcomer to Rising Star.

    When a studio specifically targets people who are not dancers, it's not just because non-dancers are somehow better teachers. It's because they want complete control over what is taught; they don't want to pay for an experienced coach; they don't want to deal with logistics of adding another experienced coach; they need someone friendly and confident for newcomers, rather than someone experienced for experienced dancers; etc.

    Six week wonders have their place: training social dancers, or growing up into competitive coaches. But it doesn't change the fact that they're six week wonders. They're new. They don't know much. Tons of them drop out after less than a year, when their passion dies down and they get burnt out. That's all ok. But when they start convincing themselves that they're the be-all and end-all of ballroom dance passion and instruction... it's not pretty.
     
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  20. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    I did not interpret what MF said as either/or. I interpreted it as a difference in emphasis. His boss was looking for people who could be taught to teach dance. No dichotomy there.

    Why so hostile? He found he has a passion for dance. His boss built him up, gave him a mission he is proud of. We don't know if his passion will wane or increase with time. But a few of you, rather than supporting a new member of the dance community, just started beating him down right away. He got offended and defended himself, surprising, eh?

    Some six week wonders decide it's not for them. Some become highly ranked competitive dancers. Some national level competitors burn out and decide some other pursuit is more to their liking. Some competitive dancers with a decade of training turn out to be crappy teachers. You can't predict the trajectory of MF's dance career.

    MF, this is the internet. As the saying goes, haters gonna hate. Don't let them bring you down.
     

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