This is a topic that needs to be talked about especially with people who are newer to the world of pro-am ballroom dancing. Basically, it boils down to – you don’t need to be a passive observer when it comes to your dance career – speak up! Voice your interests, needs, and concerns so you can have a better experience. Your coach can’t read your mind (..well after years together they might be able to hahah). And although coaches are very knowledgeable it’s ok to push back occasionally and defend yourself if there’s something you aren’t comfortable with. YOU ARE YOUR OWN BEST ADVOCATE.
Ok, so let’s talk through some scenarios:
- You are signing up for a competition and your coach or studio manager encourages you to do 10 single dance heats of waltz, tango, and foxtrot. Maybe this pushes the competition outside your price range or maybe you simply don’t want to dance waltz 10 times (completely understandable). SAY SOMETHING. You don’t have to passively sit there and agree just because the manager is “the expert.” Ask other competitors you know how many heats they dance of each style. Ask your coach his logic for advising you do that many. At the end of the day you are the one writing the check and it’ll be your sore feet at the end of the day. It’s completely acceptable for you to say, “You know what, I’d prefer to just do 4 single dances of each style this comp” or “My max budget for this comp is $__, can we figure out how to adjust the entries in order to stay in my budget?”
- Let’s say there is a professional that you really admire and would absolutely love to do a coaching lesson with – mention it to your instructor! You never know who they are connected to; they might be able to make it happen. Unless you speak up, they have no idea who you would love to learn from. If you want to strengthen the odds of getting the coach in, talk it up to other students in your area, if you can get 5 others who say they would take private coachings from a certain pro, then it’s definitely worth the studio manager’s time to see if it can happen.
- Private lessons are expensive. I’ve seen the situation where an instructor
wants to sit for 10 minutes and talk costumes or music ideas for a showcase
during the lesson. Or perhaps there is a
wedding couple practicing their first dance at your studio and all other
lessons stop and watch for 3 minutes. Some
students are fine with this, but the more money conscious may not be. Let’s say your private lesson is $120 for 45
minutes, that equates to $2.67/minute that you are paying your instructor. So what are your options?
- Ask your instructor if you can set a separate meeting, not lesson, to strategize about showcase costumes. Obviously, this depends on the instructor but there are other options you can explore, maybe your instructor can text you some pictures of song and costume ideas, or perhaps they can take 15 minutes and call you over your lunch break.
- If it’s a scenario like stopping to watch the wedding couple, be brave and polite and say something
- I had the situation before where my instructor needed to stop during a lesson to talk with a walk-in customer or take an urgent phone call for 5 minutes. I totally understand these things happen, but I was happy when he offered to extend our lesson 5 minutes to make up for it.
- Similar to asking for a promotion at work, it’s ok to have a conversation with your coach if you feel you’ve been stuck at the same level for a long time. Perhaps it goes a little like this “Coach, I’m eager to get to silver, how close do you feel I am to being ready for that? What do I need to achieve in order for you to move me up? I’ve been at bronze for two years now and I won first place out of 5 couples at my last competition.” He might reply that he needs you to prove that you have all of your routines memorized and needs you to be steadier on your feet. That gives you clear things you can work on.
My dance friends know I am I not shy about asking tough questions and advocating for myself and my fellow students. I’m not telling you to be rude, but don’t let yourself get walked over. If they try to get you to pay $250 for a coaching with someone you have no interest in, say something. If they are pressuring you to wear a costume that is skimpier than you feel comfortable in, say something. If they push you to do foxtrot for a student showcase, but you were really hoping for a chacha, say something.
Thank you. Mic drop.
Check out the new ballroom dance journal from The Girl with the Tree Tattoo! It’s perfect for tracking your dance goals and progress.