The same could be said for the kind of practice sessions you will have, but here’s the type of lessons we all have sometimes, listed from least favorable to most awesome:
File under: frustrating
How started it: you had a bad day at work or some unfortunate series of events or maybe you just didn’t prepare for your floor time and you show up physically for your lesson, but you never put your dancing hat on.
What happens: left foot? THIS left foot? Oh, the OTHER left foot? You want me to do a basic step? On my own? HHHHHHHOOOOOOOWWWWWW.
What you’re feeling: everything seems super difficult and like you might have never done it before.
Example: Back in the day, I had a lesson where my instructor tried to dance swing with me, and yet having worked on it the whole time the previous lesson a few days earlier, I COULD NOT figure out A) what foot to start on B) what the rhythm was C) or what the hell a side chassé was. ARGH.
File under: fun, stress relief
How it started: you’ve been running down goals left and right, working hard, and keeping your nose to the grindstone, and you want a day off.
What happens: you sheepishly ask your instructor if you can break ranks for a day and DO THE HUSTLE. Or West Coast Swing, or Peabody, or some dance that you never do and looks awful fun. Instead of pouring sweat and mental energy while doing sssssssllllllooooooowwwwww motion Rumba walks, you move and laugh and don’t give a crap about technique for 45 minutes.
What you’re feeling (hindsight): that was so fun, but DID I JUST WASTE MY PRECIOUS DANCE LESSON DOING THE HUSTLE?
Advice: Nay, young Padawan, that lesson was great for you. That fun you had while “not thinking” was great preparation for when you perform: the release, the smiles, the genuine joy of movement. WORK THAT HUSTLE.
3. Punch Drunk
File under: hilarious, stress relief
How it started: your instructor/your partner/a studio acquaintance says something that tickles your funny bone and it’s all downhill from there.
What happens: after that initial joke makes you giggle, every. single. thing. is. funny. Whether it’s belly laughing/can’t finish that feather step or snickering about every double entendre that comes up while doing your New Yorkers, your “work” on the floor has the ring of Three Stooges to it and it’s on the brink of slipping into waste of time.
What you’re feeling: Hahahahahahahaha whatishappening hahahahahaha!
Example: while practicing with my partner, the studio owner walked by and said how we looked like a couple of cat burglars [but don’t all dancers?] and my partner said, “Too bad we don’t have any cats to burgle,” and I LOST IT. I know, it’s not funny, but it was on that day. The rest of long 2 hours was me giggling uncontrollably about the phrase “cats to burgle” while trying to do rounds.
4. WTF (not Waltz Tango Foxtrot)
File under: frustrating, eye-opening, world-rocking, incredulity.
How it started: you’ve been having easy, fun lessons where you’re totally nailing your material.
What happens: ALL THAT CHANGES. Your instructor offers you a nugget of information that nearly knocks you over. Some bit about latin motion, your frame, WHATEVS. Your perfect dancing bubble has been popped and you are now working. Again.
What you’re feeling: this is way harder now and before it was so easy. Was I supposed to be doing this all along? Why didn’t my instructor teach me this in the first place?
Advice: to get to the next level of your dancing, you need to change something. Everyone has to start out doing simple movements (ex. put this foot here at this time), but once you’re doing that Waltz step in time to the music, you have to start doing it with the correct footwork. And then you have to swing and sway. And shape. And musicality. And smiling. If your instructor told you to do all these things on the first day, your brain would melt from frustration. Enjoy your new nugget of technical know-how and practice the bejeezus out of it until it’s so easy and then your instructor will surprise you with a new one. Yippee!
File under: celebratory, excellent, sigh-of-relief
How it started: you’ve been practicing that oversway for weeks. And weeks. And weeks. You tweak it on lessons, watch videos of the greats doing it, and nearly fall out of your seat while “mentally” practicing it on the train.
What happens: you dance through your routine, including the God-forsaken oversway, and your instructor says, “Good.” You watch a video of it later and it doesn’t suck. You feel the elusive “click” of what it feels to dance it correctly.
Example: I remember being tortured by Foxtrot timing and taking lesson after lesson and practice hour after practice hour trying to “get” it, and then one day, I was leading at a social dance and nearly exclaimed “I GET IT NOW.”
File under: useful, productive, intense
How it started: the planets aligned on your lesson day. You had the exact amount of caffeine that promotes alertness and focus and energy without leaving you jittery. You ate an incredibly healthy salad for lunch. You wore your lucky socks. WHO CARES, IT’S HAPPENING.
What happens: everything makes sense and your body is cooperating with your brain. Life is perfect.
Advice: take them when you can get them and try to recreate the events that lead to these magical unicorns of lessons.