How Your Personality Can Affect How You Learn How To Dance


Just about every good ballroom instructor will tell you that lessons with any student, is different than lessons with every other student.

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First, the type of student makes a difference:

  • Ballroom encourages a sense of responsibility and poise in children, which may give the instructor a view into the adults they will become.
  • For adults, the exhilaration and frustration of learning something new, after having mastered many things in life already, may lead to some unexpectedly major emotional highs and lows regarding dance. These emotions, may be more visible to their instructor than almost anyone else, or even only visible to their instructor.
  • Couples have at least three personalities. One from each partner, and one from two of them as a couple. By the way, I used the words “at least three” very intentionally. The mix of personal and dance relationships have the possibility of muuuuuulllllllltiple personalities.

Now specifically back to personality. Here, we will look at personality in terms of mind-sets and preferences.

One of the least recognized but most important personality dimensions for learning, is the talent vs the challenge mind-set.

The Talent Mind-set


The talent mind-set describes students who believe that they simply do, or do not have particular talents.

  • They are not passive, however, as they typically believe that talents need to be discovered and nurtured before they will be recognized.
  • They work hard to show that they have talent, but may take it a bit too hard when something is difficult, thinking that perhaps they do not have as much talent as they hoped.

How this plays out: 

  • Although these students work very hard and may be very good, they are not very likely to stretch to a new level until they are very sure they will master it.
  • Even in class they are typically the most likely to be cautious with new challenges, and to push back when they are uncomfortable.


  • These students tend to view successful opportunities as the ones where they can show their talent, rather than the ones where they have a chance to conquer a challenge or develop a talent.
  • Very often, they are used to being successful in this way, as they are very good at a lot of very specific things, and prefer to be masters of whatever they do.

The great things about these students are their commitment and steady progress.

  • They want to understand things very well, and that gives them a great foundation upon which to excel.
  • They often develop into technically excellent dancers and strong coaches given their appreciation of clarity and detail.

The not so great thing for these students is that they may fear failure a bit too much, although they may work hard not to show this fear.

  • They may hold themselves back from new experiences and levels way too long or entirely.
  • The important thing for them to remember is that dance is an amazing experience that has much more to offer than a first place ribbon.

The Challenge Mind-set


The challenge mind-set describes students who view challenge as essential to growth.

  • They believe that the amount of effort you put into something is directly related to the reward that you will get back.
  • They may, however, get discouraged if there are no or very few clear signs that they are getting closer to a goal, or no recognition of their efforts.

How this plays out: 

  • Although these students may also work very hard and may be very good, they are more likely to gloss over essential basic skills while seeking challenges.
  • In class they may be the ones who are doing something completely different than what the rest of the class is doing, just to stretch, stimulate or entertain themselves. They may also just be a bit more distracted unless information is presented in an interesting way.  See The Things That Dance Instructors Say


These student view success as being able to handle something that is either hard or new.

  • They are less likely to think that having difficulty doing something is a sign of failure. They are more likely to see difficulty as just a necessary part of what it takes to get to the next level.
  • When they actual master something, they will enjoy the feeling immensely, but then may soon get bored with that particular success and need to move on.

The great things about these students include their openness to various types of coaching, and how quickly they can adapt.

  • They are generally forgiving of the mistakes of others, because they forgive their own mistakes.
  • They will often develop into very musical dancers and outstanding choreographers given their willingness to take risks.

The not so great thing for these students is that they sometimes spread themselves too thin.

  • They may not go deep enough, or stay long enough with the fundamentals of dance, or with any one style of dance, to fully reap the rewards.
  • The important thing for these students to remember is that the pursuit of perfection in Ballroom has enough challenge to last a lifetime.

Of course, hardly anyone has one mind-set or preference all the time. And there are many things that influence learning style.


  • There is the preference to work things out in the moment with others vs reflecting on things alone.
  • The preference to have things spelled our very specifically and concretely vs having them described in concepts and analogies.
  • The preference for learning “steps – then character – then technique”  vs “technique – then steps – then character”.

and more…

The best thing for instructors, is to understand their students well enough to know what is most likely to frustrate or motivate them.

The best thing for students, is to understand their mind-set and preferences well enough not to get too trapped in them.

Author: Miss P [Celebrate DanceSport]
Photography: DanceSport Photography
Exclusively for Dance Comp Review