How many dances should I learn at once?
New dancers ask me how many dances they should start with.
Here’s my analysis, weighing the pros and cons of learning 1 dance at a time versus multiple dances at once.
1 dance at a time
One dance at a time is easier. You have one dance, one timing, and one style to worry about. Your path is clear! But with multiple dances, you have multiple rhythms, multiple steps, and differences in styles and movements you have to learn — it’s tough!
You’ll learn faster. Learning one dance at a time you can clearly see the progress that you’ve made, and it goes by pretty quickly, which is huge for motivation. After a month, it’s ridiculous how far along you can get by sticking to a single dance. It’s like if you’ve ever run and looked back and thought, “I traveled all that way? Wow!” Think about it. If you split your time learning 2 dances, you’d learn the dances half as fast. Three dances? Four? You’ll be a beginner forever! Dance studios love it, but your confidence doesn’t.
You can more easily transfer your skills to other dances. When you’ve mastered a dance you can transfer your advanced skills to other dances. If you play one instrument, learning another is easier. If you know one programming language, you’ll pick up another one faster. This kind of has a snowball effect. Let’s say you’ve mastered 10 dances, do you think one more will be a breeze? Of course! Your skills are transferable. But what if you’re new and you don’t have any skills yet? If you are struggling with one dance, is one, two or three more really what you need right now? Nope! When you learn several dances at once, you tend to lose focus and will find yourself struggling to remember simple Beginner level moves over and over again, that you would have easily already mastered with one dance.
Are there cons to learning just one dance? Yes!
You might not be able to dance as many dances at parties. Here at The Dance Shack, we’ve mitigated this by having brief classes during our parties that teach you some basics to get you going, not to mention instructors that will help you out. Another way we get around this is by having parties that focus on one genre of dance. If you know Salsa, and come to our Latin party, you’ll be dancing A LOT. Same if you only know Bachata. Of course when you DO dance those dances you know, chances are, you’ll be pretty competent at them, or will be in a short amount of time. Where, if you’re learning multiple dances at once, you might stink at all of them, so…
You might get used to only doing your ‘favorite’ dance, and not branch out. Want to see what a dance snob looks like? Take someone who’s good at only one dance, and try to get ’em to learn a dance they don’t know. Suddenly, they don’t like that music, or they think that kind of dance looks silly or whatever. Too funny. Once you’re good at a dance, do yourself a favor and branch out. Almost all the masters (that I know of) have taken other dance styles, and actually INCORPORATE the new things they learn.
More variety – I mentioned this in the previous section, but it’s a biggie, so here it is again. You get to see different moves, and are exposed to different kinds of music early on. This helps keep your mind open that all dances are “legitimate” and not just the one you’re good at. It’s also helpful at parties, but like I said, that’s less of an issue here at our studio.
Confusion – You’ll mix up steps by accident. I’ve experimented by teaching on an interrelated system, which means you have similar steps in different dances, but what happens is because the steps are so similar, it’s even MORE confusing. Plus, a beginner just can’t see most of the relationships in the steps. When I first started, I was told how similar the dances were, but it wasn’t until I was advanced that I realized that to be true.
Frustration – Some people say they don’t mind frustration, but I don’t like it, and I think that’s true of most people. When you learn multiple dances you learn a lot, but it doesn’t feel like it, because you’re at a beginning level for so long. Which leads to the worst reason….
Quitting – Quitting means your dream is dead. You don’t get what you wanted, and future partners never get a chance to meet you.
In my opinion, it’s better to learn one, maybe two dances at a time. Preferably a fast and a slow one.
Most dance studios will try to talk you into doing a bunch of dances. After all, if you’re taking more dances, that means a bigger contract, more competitive ‘entries’ and the more time and money you have to spend. They’ll use dances to haggle with, and talk about ‘minors’ and ‘majors.’ But I started as a student, and I remember what it was like; 4, 5, 6 dances is just too much in the beginning. Eventually, your mind DOES compartmentalize the different steps and timings, but why take the longer and harder road with no extra benefit? Unless you just like the challenge, I think in the beginning it’s way better to start with fewer dances, until you know what you’re doing.
See you at The Dance Shack!