- How come I don’t need to bring a partner, and how do we get ‘partnered’ up?”
- Do I have to rotate partners or can I stay with my husband?
- I am a woman without a partner. I’ve joined other classes where there was a 3-1 shortage of men and the women end up having to dance together. I don’t want to do that. What is the male to female balance in a class?
- My boyfriend hates dance classes. How come you get so many men in your classes?
- What is the size of an average class?
- What is the age range in your classes?
- I want to know about your $5 dances & classes but I don’t want to be ‘spammed’. What’s up with your ‘Confidential Email List’?
- How come you don’t have ‘drop in classes’? I want to try it before I commit.
- Which dance should I learn?
- Which level should I enroll in?
- What exactly will I learn?
- What makes a good dance teacher?
- What dance should I start with?
- I have more questions
1 ) No need to bring a partner.
You do not need to bring a partner because most people rotate partners every 2 minutes.
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2 ) Can I stay with my partner and not rotate?
Of course. It’s your business not mine. Just be aware of the pitfalls listed below.
The reasons most people rotate are:
- Despite what you might expect, it’s actually much easier to learn to dance if you rotate. If you stay together, every time you make a mistake, your partner learns to compensate for that mistake and you both never realize you’re doing things incorrectly.
- Half the fun is from meeting people and dancing with others. Our classes are like parties (without the alcohol) and you will really enjoy it if you mix around. But it’s your business if you choose to stay together – it doesn’t matter to us. Many people start out wanting to stay with their partner (if they have one) but after they’ve tried rotating, they find it much more fun. Why no try both? Bottom line – do what you want!
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3 ) Male to female balance
Generally, the classes are extremely well balanced in terms of boys/girls. I can’t guarantee perfect balance because even if I have perfect balance ‘on paper’ of those who are registered, I have no control over who actually shows up. In any given class, on any given day, a few people won’t show. The worst case scenario is about five of one, to six of the other. Most classes will have a few more men one day, be dead even the next, and a few more women the class after that. If that happens, you will only be without a partner for 1-2 minutes as we rotate partners constantly. I do know that if you wait for perfect balance – you will be waiting forever. There’s no such thing.
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4 ) How come you have so many guys in your classes?
Because we’re very good at teaching guys and still letting them be ‘guys’. Seriously. Men like to be in control and they usually learn analytically, not intuitively. We make sure that we break things down for men, motion by motion, step by step. Then we review it next class. And we review the class after that. Because of that process, men feel in control in our classes.
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5 ) Class Size
The size of an average class is around 35 – 40 people. Some classes are larger, some smaller. Our classes are certainly larger than most other teachers because – obviously – we have more people who want to take classes with us. This should reassure you – not worry you! You should worry more about attending a class where the teacher is obviously not in demand! Our classes are run very efficiently and are highly structured. I use a wireless mike so you should be able to hear clearly at all times. The only people who have trouble learning in our classes are those who do not listen.
Eighty-five percent of our new students come from recommendations from satisfied students – students who also attended large classes. Obviously, they would not recommend us to their friends if they were not able to learn easily in our classes. Feel free to watch a class ahead of time and/or speak to our students about our abilities as teachers.
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6 ) What is the age range in your classes?
The age range is between 10 – 70. All ages are welcome. Most people come in with preconceptions about who they want to dance with. Older people prefer to dance with older people, younger people prefer to dance with younger people. Until they get a little experience. Then all they care about is how much fun their partner is! I’ve seen 16 year old girls fight over whose turn it is to dance with Frankie Manning – when he was in his eighties! Generally speaking though, Hip Hop and salsa are a younger crowd and Club Style Swing/West Coast Swing or East Coast Swing have a very broad range of ages.
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7 ) What’s up with your ‘Confidential Email List?”
We give out your email address to no one. Never. Ever. You have our word on that. We will only send you our dance schedules, upcoming Swing and Salsa Dances information and our ‘Dance Notebooks’ (including steps, where to dance, music to practice to, etc. for all swing and salsa classes. If at anytime you would like to be removed from our confidential email list, please email Graeme@urbanbeatdanceco.com with the word “remove” in the subject heading.
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8 ) How come you don’t do drop in classes?
Because ‘drop in classes’ don’t work. Instead, we allow people to watch our classes to see if they like it. If after the first class in a series, you want to drop out, we will refund your money minus the first class fee ($18 for swing classes; $15 for other classes).
The advantages of ‘drop-in classes’: they allow you to try a dance or teacher to see if you like it/him/her there’s no commitment.
The disadvantages of ‘drop-in classes’: no structured learning is possible, because every week a new crowd shows up, making it impossible to ever get better. All you can learn in a drop in class are ‘steps’: any monkey can learn steps, steps will never make you a dancer. Understanding ‘connection’ and the principles of leading/following are what make people able to dance comfortably and this cannot be taught in a drop in class.
In addition, studies have been done on memory: you must learn things 3 times in order to remember it. In a drop in class, there is no review process possible when every week a new crowd shows up.
In conclusion, we teach structured eight week courses because they are the only thing that works for most people. Each week you’ve learned another foundation step, then the next week we build on that step and the next week we build on that step. We review a lot so you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. We also spend a lot of time working on ‘connection exercises’: these are the principles of leading and following. These make the steps you’ve learned ‘work’.
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9 ) Which dance should I learn?
First, decide whether you want to dance socially, that is with a partner, or to improve your solo dancing skills. Partner dancing is above all social: you’ll meet more people, develop confidence, and have a lot of fun cooperating to create the dance. Solo dancing is less social, but still fun and challenging, and you can apply what you learn even when you haven’t a partner handy.
Solo: Dances you do by yourself:
Freestyle Club Dancing: basic solo dancing for nightclubs: if you haven’t a clue where to begin, have two or more left feet, or just feel too embarrassed to dance, this is the class for you. Pam Podmoroff creates a fun and forgiving atmosphere, where you can loosen up your body, get over those inhibitions, and discover your own groove.
Belly Dancing: an ancient middle-eastern style of seductive dance for women of all body types: a perfect way to have fun, get some excellent exercise, and embrace and enjoy your natural curves. All you need to bring is a scarf to wrap your hips, and your desire to try something new!
Hip Hop: a funky street dance that’s all about “attitude”: it includes beats and moves from the old skool (popping & freezing) – and the new age grooves and smoothness of today’s most popular artists like Justin Timberlake, Missy Elliot & Chris Brown. This dance will have you sweating while having fun – bring your runners and some attitude! Faster-paced than our basic freestyle club dancing course, but still suited to beginners.
Pussycat Doll Dance: a sensual hip hop style for ladies that fuses hip hop, jazz and Latin movement. These suggestive yet feminine moves (see The Pussy Cat Dolls, Beyonce etc.) are easy to do at a club or to incorporate in your partner dancing. Structured by a choreographed routine, you will learn pussycat doll-style of dancing from Angela Amici in a comfortable environment.
Social: Dances you do with a partner:
Though you’ll dance in partnership, you don’t need to bring your own partner – we’ll provide dozens. Most people choose to rotate partners, so you’ll be dancing with someone new every two minutes. It’s not speed-dating, but it is a heck of a fast way to meet new smiling faces.
Salsa: fast, sexy, Latin club dancing, with easy-to-learn basics, and loads of flashy complex moves for the advanced student: particularly useful because there are many local salsa dances and clubs.
West Coast Swing (Funky Swing): a rich and varied dance that can be hip and funky, fast and fun, or slow and sensual: extremely practical, because it can be danced to almost anything – top-40, hip-hop, pop, R&B, jazz, or more traditional blues and swing music. Popular throughout the US and Canada, it’s very Vancouver – we have a number of the world’s best WCS dancers right here.
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10 ) Which level should I enroll in?
All our solo dance courses are suited to both beginners and experienced dancers. The material taught changes with each session, so many students take these courses several times over. There will always be basic material for beginners, and more advanced material for those with more experience.
For our social-dance courses, choose a level that suits your skills – Level 1 for beginners, up to Level 3 for experienced students.
Have you done some drop-in lessons at nightclubs? Or perhaps learned some moves from other dancers, casually? Sad to say, those don’t count. You’ve learned steps, but without progressive lessons, you’ve missed the most important part: how to lead and how to follow. Also, good dancers are rarely good teachers. So, if you’ve learned some odds and ends along the way, you may have a head start, but you should still choose a Level 1 course. Our Level 1 courses cover a lot of material and emphasize sound fundamentals.
Beginner (Level 1): a standard set of basic, leadable moves that anyone can learn to do, plus the principles of leading & following, maintaining connection, how to find the beat, plus basics of floorcraft, dance courtesy and social grace. Level one courses leave you able to dance a whole song with confidence and competence, and able to navigate the social scene without faux pas.
Level 2: a standard set of leadable but more complex patterns that build upon your Level 1 basics. These are moves that need some practice to perfect, including spins, how to lead and follow spins correctly, and how to express the character of the dance. Level two courses let you know you look good on the floor, and that you can dance all night, enjoying differences in songs and partners, having a blast.
Level 3: a different array of more advanced moves every 8-week series. These require well-established skill to attempt, and frequent practice to master. Level 3 emphasizes how to lead with precise timing and clear differentiation of moves, how to follow instantly and correctly, how to embellish and style your movements. A few level-three patterns are not strictly ‘leadable’ – you can execute them only with partners who know the same patterns.
After a few series of level three classes, you’ll not only look good, you’ll have an individual style, with some flash and drama – you can ‘show off’ to your friends, and you can expect to hear compliments regularly.
Level 3 courses are ongoing: the material taught changes every session, so you can take the same course over and over, and continually learn something new and valuable, steadily improving your dancing. This is the best choice for most dedicated dancers, providing plenty of challenge and reward for as long as you wish to continue.
Competition/Performance: a continually changing array of advanced moves that demand plenty of experience to understand and /constant/ practice to master – different moves every series. Complex sequences, fast multiple spins, dips, tricks, choreography, richer musical interpretation. Some moves may require above-average flexibility or athleticism. Competition courses aim to produce superbly impressive, showy dancers, and are a bit less social, more about pursuing dance as a performing art.
These invitational courses are for prospective competitors and hard-core dance nuts. Enrollment is generally at the instructor’s suggestion; students who start to find level three insufficiently challenging, after two or three sessions, are welcome to enquire. If you have advanced training at another school, and think you’re ready for this level of study at Urban Beat, by all means ask an instructor.
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11 ) What exactly will I learn?
Funky Swing 1: The smooth and slinky fundamentals of funky swing: the laid-back posture, the springy connection with your partner, how to lead with confidence, how to follow with grace. Covers push break, right-side pass, left-side pass, tuck-turn, sugar tuck, arm loop pushbreak, a basic whip, syncopations, slingshot, and a simple inside spin with pivot-turn footwork.
Funky Swing 2: The dramatic side of funky swing: sharper turns, more spins, tighter coordination with your partner. Covers all the standard whips: basic, inside, and outside whips, with and without spins, locked whip and tummy whip, plus syncopations, posting, plus responding to the music: playing, syncopating, hitting breaks, hanging out.
Funky Swing 3: Learn how to tear up the floor: showy moves, sexy styling, cool spins, unexpected combinations, and clever musical interpretation. The exact patterns taught change with every session, but the emphasis is on advanced but leadable moves.
Funky Swing Invitational (Material varies; enquire.)
Salsa 1: The fast and sexy fundamentals: the hip movement, natural turnout of the feet, connection with your partner, the basic rhythm of the dance. Covers two basic steps, both the foreward-back and cumbia basics, in open and closed positions, new yorkers, angled basic, reverse basic cumbia, underarm turn, open break , forearm spin, cross-body lead, chase spot turns for both leaders and followers, waistwrap and mini dip.
Salsa 2: More stylish and interesting patterns, including closed inside and outside spins, hammerlock positions, back spot-turns, and some ‘fancy’ moves – alternating underarms and windmills.
Salsa 3: Much more demanding moves for experienced salsa dancers, including fast multiple spins, complex hand-changes, and more elaborate sequences. The exact patterns taught change with every session, but 85% will be leadable.
Salsa ADVANCED/Invitational (Material varies; enquire)
Freestyle: Every session covers basics of moving to the music, finding your groove, varying your moves to suit the music, and a variety of easy, good-looking patterns to adapt and personalize.
Bellydance: Each session covers bellydance basics: stance, balance, fluid arm movements, hip movements, footwork, and using the drama of the music. To aid memory and learning, students work through a choreographed routine, different in every session. Students normally repeat the course many times to develop their skills and increase their array of moves.
Hip Hop: Each session develops one or more long series of moves designed to contrast cool with showy, flowing with snappy, and all delivered with confidence and attitude. The material taught changes with every session, and always includes easy moves for beginners and trickier moves for more experienced dancers. Students normally repeat the course for several sessions to acquire a vocabulary of moves they can adapt and re-use in sequences of their own.
Pussycat Doll Dance Each session covers a few basics and a lot of new material, all accessible to both beginners and experienced dancers. Moves emphasize style and attitude rather than tricky technique, so beginners can benefit from nearly everything. Many students repeat the course over several sessions.
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12 ) What makes a good dance teacher?
- a teacher that’s won many dance competitions?
- a teacher that has technical qualifications: degrees in dance, CDTA, etc.?
a) Many beginners assume that a top competitive dancer would be a good teacher. Maybe – maybe not. Dancing is one skill, teaching dancing is quite another. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that someone who is a natural dancer has any clue how to teach the average person. For example, you probably speak English well – does that mean you can teach English? I couldn’t. You may be very proficient at operating computers but if you’ve ever tried to teach this to someone who is an absolute beginner – you probably found teaching much more difficult than you thought. I remember university classes where the teacher was extremely knowledgeable about his/her specialty and yet had no ability to teach it!
The best dancers tend to be natural dancers, who usually started very young, find dancing incredibly easy, and they work at it for many hours a week – just for the fun of it! The average person is not a natural dancer and has no intention of doing hours of homework. Many extremely advanced dancers often find it hard to remember how it feels to be a beginner. They also find it hard to believe that the average person just wants to have fun with dancing – not spend hours practicing.
The bottom line is that you should be more concerned about your teacher’s teaching ability than their competitive dancing ability. So how do you know this? (See list below)
b) What about teachers with technical qualifications like CDTA (Canadian dance teachers Association) after their name? First, those technical qualifications are only available in ballroom, ballet, modern and Jazz. There are no meaningful degrees even available in swing, salsa, or Hip Hop – dances which are easily the most popular with our students.
Secondly, while it would be logical to assume that a ballroom teacher with many technical qualifications would be a good teacher, it isn’t necessarily so. (See example below)
So how do you know who is the right teacher for you?
If you are a natural dancer or at the stage where you want to compete – a top competitive dancer would be a good choice. If you’re a ballroom dancer who takes dancing very seriously and want to work on a lot of technique, a teacher with lots of technical qualifications would be a good choice. But if you’re an average person who just wants to have fun with dancing, here is what you should do.
- Watch a teacher’s class. You may not know much about dancing but you can tell if a class is fun or tense and fearful. You can tell if 95% of the students are getting it or if the teacher only caters to the talented few or – more commonly – the attractive women! Does the class seem organized and well run? Is there too much talk and not enough dancing? Does the teacher publicly insult the slow students? (Amazingly – this is not uncommon!) So walk out.
- Or talk to the students afterward. Ask them what they think of the teacher. Is the class fun? If the teacher won’t allow watching or speaking to the students privately or gives you a heavy sales pitch when you just want to be left alone – walk out. Trust your own judgement – you know what’s right for you.
- If you have a friend who has had a good experience with a certain teacher, that is a very good sign. If he/she has had a good experience, chances are you will too.
- Ask the teacher if they’re professional or do it in their spare time? How many years have they been teaching? These are all good things to know and teachers should be happy to explain.
Our approach: We believe that dance teachers who are international champions or teachers with many technical qualifications are perfect for you if you’re a very serious student with lots of experience and natural ability. But dance teachers who know how to keep it simple, how to teach the average or ‘klutzy’ person well AND make it fun at the same time, are incredibly rare. Those are the only teachers we hire.
We encourage people to watch our classes and talk to our students – there will be no sales pitch! (No one will take you into a small room, and pressure you to sign an expensive contract.) Our classes sell themselves and cost a measly $10-$11 an hour – less than a movie with popcorn. We take great pride in the fact that 85% of our new students come from ‘word of mouth’ – satisfied students who have strongly recommended us to their friends. We take even greater pride that in a recent survey, 95% of our students said they were “completely satisfied” with our classes.
The Urban Beat Dance Co. was chosen by Vancouver Magazine as the best dance teachers in Vancouver. “Even if you have two left feet, Graeme and Elizabeth can help you shimmy sensuously … all with a sense of joy and humor that complements their skill. Students praise them intensely.” -The Best of Vancouver Magazine.
Years ago, I took lessons in waltz from a dance teacher who had so many degrees after her name, and had won so many top competitions, that I was very impressed. I took one step in waltz and she stopped me and pointed out two things I was doing wrong. Concentrating on correcting those two mistakes, I took another step. Again she stopped and corrected two other things, I was also doing wrong. Now I had 4 things to think about and I still had only taken one step! I did it again and she corrected two new things!! I tried again, but now I had so many things to think about and I was so confused, I couldn’t remember anything, and – frozen with fear – I couldn’t even take one step. It was a very painful and expensive hour. So I quit dancing, convinced that I had no ability.
Years later, I took Ballroom from Penny Bedaux, a UBC dance teacher I had heard about from a friend. Penny let me master one little thing and when I was ready, she would teach me one more thing. And so on and so on. Next week she would review everything, then when I was ready, she would move onto something new. Penny knew how to teach. After spending twenty years in the dance community, I have realized that she was a rarity. So don’t assume that because a teacher knows everything there is to know about dance technique – that they know how to teach the average person.
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13 ) Which dance should I start with?
We recommend starting with Foundation Dances: dances that are very commonly done – and therefore very practical – like Swing or Salsa. Accessory dances are dances that are done only occasionally by more experienced dancers. For example, Salsa 1s extremely popular in Vancouver so it is a foundation dance. Salsa dancers will also frequently learn accessory dances that are only occasionally played at salsa clubs – like merengue, cha cha, tango or bachata.
Swing dancers in Vancouver will commonly start with Clubstyle/West Coast swing. Once they get comfy with that, they may work on dances that are only occasionally played at swing clubs like East Coast swing, Nightclub Two Step, Cha cha or Tango.
The bottom line is that you should first get comfy with Foundation Dances like salsa, swing or hip hop before considering the less commonly done and therefore less practical accessory dances.
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