Teacher poll: What is the most common beginner mistake you see as a teacher?

This week, we asked our teachers to share the mistakes they most often have to correct in class. If you’re starting out, this is a good guide of things to look out for (and also an “it’s ok, everyone does it at the start!”). If you’ve been dancing for a while, which of these were you struggling through at the beginning?

Jeff – What I perceive as the biggest mistake a beginner can make is not practicing what you’ve learned after class. As a beginner, I spent many a hours in front of many bathroom mirrors (I moved a lot back then) checking to see if I am spotting and if my form is correct, and memorizing for the 50th time that stupid combination that just doesn’t seem to make any sense (for about two weeks, I was convinced that my teacher’s right hand had to phase through the lady’s left wrist in order for a combination to work. The answer, of course, was much simpler). A student typically gets about an hour or two a week in class, and if they don’t practice, it is very likely that they’ll forget what they’ve learned in the 166 hours in between classes. So find yourself a mirror, and work it!

Darnell – One of the most common beginner mistakes I see for leaders is that they stop moving their feet during a turn pattern.  The focus goes towards the hands and the lead, and consequently the feet stop following the beat.  This often makes the resolution of the turn pattern awkward, since in these situations the lead’s weight is often not on the correct foot.
On a somewhat related note, following the beat in general seems to be a sticky point when starting out.  Be sure to listen to the music when dancing!  Being able to distinguish between the 1 and 5 beats is a challenge to even some more experienced dancers, so the sooner this can be accomplished the better.

Ana – The most common mistake I see followers make at the beginner is back-leading. Ladies, we might not mean to, but we’ve all done it. Women tend to progress faster in beginner classes, and sometimes get frustrated with their partners who are trying to figure out the lead, so we tend to do the moves whether we feel the lead or not. This might seem like a natural reaction when you know what move you’re meant to do, but it doesn’t help you or your partner in the long run. Whether you’re in class or on the dance floor, make sure you feel a clear lead before executing a move. It might make for an awkward dance, but it gives the guys much-needed feedback that their leading needs practice.

Janusz – Based on personal experience (to this day actually!) and what I see beginners do when they first start dancing is take big steps and travel way too much. When the music gets moderately fast and you’re trying to keep up, this bad habit is not going to help you. Keeping your travel under control is easier said than done, but you have to start by being aware of what your feet are doing while you’re dancing. As you advance and attempt more intricate moves, keeping your steps tight is going to make things much easier and smoother!


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