Do’s & Don’t’s Of Ballroom Dance Group Class

DON’T’S:

  • DON’T teach other students! Even if there is a difference in skill or experience level, only the instructors are qualified to teach group class. No matter how good your intentions are, it can quickly become a case of the blind leading the blind.
  • DON’T bring your bad attitude to group class. We understand that stressful days happen, and we understand that Arthur Murray is your happy place where you get rid of the stress. So do your best to let go of that bad day and let your mood improve with some good ol’ dance time.
  • DON’T slack off — don’t be a lazy leader or follower! Classes are relaxed atmospheres, but that is no excuse for slacking off. We want you and everyone in class to improve, not go through the motions.
  • DON’T be afraid to try something new. There are more dances out there than your teacher can get to in 45 minutes. You never know how Peabody will help your Foxtrot, or Polka your Swing.

DO’S:

  • DO listen to the teacher! It’s a group class, so it may seem obvious, but listening to the teacher should be the priority. Classes are fun spaces, but everyone is still there to learn.
  • DO be polite to your partners! Everyone here is part of your Arthur Murray family, and everyone deserves your respect. Smile, be kind, thank them for dancing with you, genuinely compliment them if you’d like — wouldn’t you like someone to do the same for you?
  • DO clap after every dance. It’s to show everyone that you had a good time! Dancing is a skill, a skill that everyone here is working to improve, and that deserves celebration.
  • DO remind your teacher you went to group class — and learned something new. We try to keep track of what classes you attend and the material covered, but sometimes we get distracted. Remind us you went to Salsa class and tried out that cool new step.
  • DO bow at the beginning and end of group class. Again, be respectful to your partners of the evening, and also to your teacher. You got to practice and improve your dancing, maybe you learned something new or figured out a step you’ve been struggling to master. You are thanking everyone for their time, just as they are thanking you for yours.

But What IS Freestyles?

Whether you’ve heard the term from an instructor or another student, or saw it on the calendar, or heard it in an event announcement, or have seen the poster in our studio — we like to talk about our events here, in case it weren’t obvious — you’ve probably heard the term “Freestyles” before. Of course, hearing about something is very different from knowing what it is, so you may still be wondering — what is Freestyles?

Think of Freestyles as a mini dance vacation, one or two days long. You get to spend as much time as possible dancing, as many dances as you can, giving you vital floor time. The more you dance, the faster you feel progress with your dancing. You dress up and feel glamorous, both on the dance floor and for the evening banquet. Other Arthur Murray schools attend, allowing you to catch up with (or meet!) your extended Arthur Murray family. It is a celebration of YOUR dancing and dance journey!

The dancing portion of the day is full of heats, which are basically “rounds” of dancing. One Waltz heat is one time you will be out on the floor with your partner or your teacher dancing Waltz. There will be other students and staff on the floor as well, dancing the same dance, so you won’t be alone. Those on the sidelines will be cheering and watching.

The event begins with Country Western style dancing. This is a great way to warm up and let loose on the dance floor. Next, we take off the boots and hats for long dresses and suits for the Smooth dancing (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz). No matter your level, it is always fun watching how your Foxtrot will progress through the levels. After lunch, the skirts get shorter and the ties come off for the Rhythm and Specialty dances. The energy in the ballroom works itself into a frenzy at the hip sway to the music.

That evening (Saturday evening for our two-day Spring Freestyles), we host a formal banquet, with a fun theme to match. There are professional shows performed by the staffs of the various schools attending, so everyone gets the chance to see their instructors perform as they would at professional competitions.

After the event ends, we compile all of the feedback from the guest judges to give back to each student. “But it’s not a competition!” you repeat, puzzled, and that’s still correct! You are never scored against other students. You are given feedback, which is for noncompetitive events — it is a standard of expectations for your level. (Scores, by contrast, are given for competitive events.) It will be an outside perspective, however quick, on your dancing and where you are in your dance journey. It is by no means a perfect glimpse into your skill (there are a lot of others on the dance floor in every heat, after all), but all together, it can be a very good idea of how well you are dancing for your level.

What Happens If I Have To Cancel?

Sometimes, despite your instructor’s best efforts to accommodate any schedule, life will get in the way. And that’s okay.

So what do you do when life happens?

First, please call the studio and let your instructor know what is going on – whether you need to reschedule or are just running late. Think of the last time you had a salon or doctor’s appointment. Sometimes, they require some form of deposit to hold the time slot for you. In the event you had to cancel, you wouldn’t just skip your appointment, and lose your deposit, you would call and reschedule. You reserved someone’s time and they are expecting you. Arthur Murray operates in the same way. Not showing up to a lesson runs the risk of the lesson being charged to your account. So, please, call!

Expect genuine concern when you do call. Your team cares about your dance education and wants to make sure you don’t miss out on your opportunity to dance. Expect your teacher to reschedule you for a later time that day or week if necessary.

We’re serious about your dancing. Some things in life are out of your control, and we know that. For those that you can control, please be mindful if you have already made an appointment to dance with your instructor. If you have to cancel last minute, you will be rescheduled for the soonest next available time. If you are unable to reschedule within the week for non-emergency cancellations, the studio may exercise the 24 hour notice cancellation policy.

But what if I think I’ve injured myself?

The great thing about social dancing is that not all lessons require intense movement. Your instructor can modify your lesson plan to fit any malady, from a cold to a broken limb. Sometimes, coming to dance is actually better medicine than sitting around and nursing a strained muscle. Of course, we will never do anything to further your injury. If you feel like you have truly hurt yourself, make sure you see a doctor, and let us know.

It matters more to us that you come and take your lessons. As much as we want you to be able to dance every day, we recognize you have a life outside of Arthur Murray. Barring a cataclysmic end, call the studio and let them know what is going on so they can keep you on track and keep dancing!

How It Works: Coaching Lessons

We just ran a blog recently about the importance of team teaching and exchange lessons, and this week’s blog can seem repetitive if you don’t understand what exactly a guest coaching lesson is, or what it offers you as a student. Rest assured, there is a difference!

Think of a coaching as hiring a certified consultant to give you advice, like on your taxes. As an expert in their field, a CPA provides you with the best way to get the most money back. Traveling dance consultants work in a similar way. They are the leading experts in dance – drawing on years of previous experience. They certify through dance exams similar to what you do as a medalist student – only slightly more intense.

Typically, while you work one-on-one with your instructor, they are both your teacher and dance partner. When you’re on a coaching lesson, you can focus your attention on the information being given while your instructor dances with you. If you are a couple, your instructor will still be present on your lesson – so don’t worry if you miss something. They will take notes and follow up when ready.

Arthur Murray traveling coaches are not just fountains of dance knowledge. They can also help you unlock hidden dance personality. Even the best technicians will often say they don’t feel the dance. Because coaches only see a snapshot of your dancing, they can pinpoint the thing you are missing to release the dancer from the shell. They give you permission to move and feel.

Arthur Murray Dance Center of Cranford

A full coaching lesson may seem daunting – even overwhelming at first. That’s okay – and normal! The coach will give you information kind of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Some of it, you will know – GREAT! Some will feel just right. And some will make your brain explode. Over the next few months, your instructor will parse the same information out to you so you can turn the coaching lesson material into muscle memory.

We have Traveling Consultants who visit the studio every couple of months, but you don’t have to wait, you can take coaching lessons with any of our instructors at any time, no special date required.

6 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Lessons

Your personal lessons are the backbone of your dance education. They’re the part that are totally tailored to you and your dancing. You’ll want to maximize their impact, so we’ve put together some helpful tips & tricks for you below for just how you can get the most out of your personal lessons.

Arthur Murray Dance Center of Cranford

  • Arrive early. Getting here early ensures you have plenty of time to change your shoes and grab a drink for your lesson. You could even grab your book and glance over your instructor’s lesson plan so you know what’s in store for you that day.
  • Warm up before your lesson. “But we warm up as part of the lesson!” you exclaim. This is true, and warming up on your own won’t make that disappear. Warming up before your lesson helps you clear your mind and focus on basic movement exercises.
  • Warm up on your lesson. No, this isn’t a redundancy – you’ll definitely still do a dance or two with your instructor to get you in the groove. Warming up with your instructor focuses on connection and technique under a careful eye.
  • Be present in the moment. Listen, absorb, and execute! It’s your lesson and your time, so become a sponge. Listen attentively to your instructor, commit their teaching to memory, and do your best to do as instructed at once while it’s still fresh in your mind.
  • Move. Even if it’s a new concept or idea, you must make your body do it. You’re building muscle memory, which is vital for your learning. You won’t learn anything immediately, but you also know the saying – nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • Find something you improved on – and be proud of it! Your instructor will always tell you what they notice; any compliments you receive are genuine. Be proud of your progress. You’ve earned it!

7 Reasons Why Practice Parties Aren’t Scary, They’re Your New Best Friend

Arthur Murray Dance Center of Cranford

  1. “Move your hips more!” Club style dances — Salsa, Bachata, Country, or Merengue — look best when the hips are relaxed. When you are at a practice session, you can focus on fluid, continued movement.
  2. “New steps!” Variety keeps both the leader and follower engaged. Syllabus steps are great! But sometimes you can feel limited. By never stopping while you are at a party, you will start to create your own feel for creativity.
  3. “Connect with your partner more!” When you are in the studio with your instructor, we work on a very nice BIG frame. It is very rare in the real world that you would have that much space. Practice parties simulate the environment so you can dance more closely with your partner and FEEL what is happening in your partner’s body. The change may be more subtle than we expect, so it should take half the effort.
  4. “Be spontaneous!” Social Dancing requires the lead and follow to constantly be adapting — the song, the location, other people on the floor. Everything affords the opportunity to improve your response to the unexpected. Recover gracefully the next time you bump in to someone, but make it part of the dance as well.
  5. “Work on timing!” You never know what music the DJ or live band is going to play. As such, we have to train the ear to listen to different styles and tempos. The more comfortable you become in listening to musical cues, the more you will be able to express different parts of the song through dips and explosions.
  6. “You need to practice!” The point of a practice party is just that: to practice. At Arthur Murray, it is guided. We take away some of the pressure for identifying the song and can even step in and help you in a pinch. But remember, it is not a lesson. You are there to practice — so never stop moving!
  7. “Talk to me!” Social dancing is social — whether you are resting in between dances or with a different partner ever song, you need to become so comfortable with your movement so you can respond when asked a question, or hold general conversation. You never know who you will meet on the dance floor!

The Arthur Murrays’ Dance Secrets: Etiquette Of The Ballroom (Part 4)

Part three found here.

Night Club Dancing

So far, we have discussed private dancing parties.

A restaurant, featuring dancing, is quite different. Here your only obligation is to the people of your own party. A cut-in from a stranger should never be accepted… nor should it be offered. A man should avoid leaving his date alone at the table unless it is really necessary. Otherwise, she may be subjected to unwelcome attention.

Most restaurant and night club dance floors are tiny in size. So, in consideration of your partner and your neighbors, you should avoid complicated steps. Dance simply and follow the line of direction. This means to progress around the room, clockwise. Shorten your steps to fit the limitation of space.

One Last Word

It is not bad manners to suggest sitting down before the dance is over. That is, if you suggest the idea tactfully. Either partner can say: “It’s warm in here, don’t you think so? Shall we sit out and cool off for a few moments?” Or, “It’s crowded, isn’t it? I’m anxious to talk to you anyway—shall we sit down?”

From now on, try to think more kindly of the word “etiquette”—it protects you, too; don’t you think so?

A Few Remaining Tips…

  • Don’t give helpful pointers while dancing. It makes you sound fault-finding.
  • Don’t steer your partner around the floor like a bicycle.
  • Don’t dance side-saddle.
  • Don’t chew gum in time to music. Don’t chew gum in your partner’s ear. Maybe… don’t chew gum!
  • Don’t be so serious. Leave your business face at the office when you step out.
  • Don’t say you hate dancing just because you don’t know how.
  • If you want to lead a man to the altar—don’t lead him on the dance floor.
  • Don’t let old-fashioned dancing date you!
  • When you make a misstep, don’t blame the orchestra.
  • Don’t brag “I never had a lesson in my life.”
  • Don’t keep on dancing for “politeness’ sake” when neither of you is having fun.
  • Don’t dance passively—be glad you’re alive.

The Arthur Murrays’ Dance Secrets: Etiquette Of The Ballroom (Part 3)

Part Two found here.

Conversation

This is a matter of personality but there are general rules of good manners to consider. The first taboo is don’t argue! Dancing is a partnership that depends on accord. Two people cannot move as one and enjoy the rhythm of the music together unless they feel harmonious toward each other. So, avoid subjects that might breed discord; such as politics, religion, school elections, and so on. Even when you discuss songs or bands, remember that the sweetest words ever spoken are: “I think you’re right!”

There are some people who cannot talk as they dance. Theirs is a companionable silence because it is obvious that their minds are occupied with the rhythm of the music and the pleasure of the dance.

The strong, stern, silent man and the frosty-faced, forbidding female don’t belong at a dance. Their partners find them unpleasant and the onlookers will avoid them. There may be some reason not to talk as you dance… but always keep your smile on!

The walkie-talkie chatter-box is a conversational hazard, too. There are always a few at every dance… they are so keyed up or so shy that they have forgotten all about Silence Being Golden. Their chatter is so steady that it drowns out the loudest band. Like the brook, they ripple on and on. Nothing can be done about it but you can profit by their example!

Introductions

Introducing people is a bugbear to those who are shy… and to those who are young and unpracticed. Actually, the only difficult part is to remember names—and to have them at the tip of your tongue. Otherwise, your cues are easy… you always present the man to the lady, mentioning her name first. Such as: “Lillian, this is Mr. Brown—Miss Smith.” Or, if you are not on a first-name terms with her, you can say: “Miss Smith, may I present Mr. Brown.”

When introducing two women, you present the younger one to the older, such as: “Mrs. Jones, this is Miss Smith.” If they are of equal age, it doesn’t matter which name is mentioned first. “Mrs. Jones, I’d like to have you know Mrs. Brown.”

Acknowledging Introductions

It is good training to make a point of remembering names; therefore many people form the habit of acknowledging introductions by repeating the name. Such as: “How do you do, Mrs. Brown.” If you have not really heard the other person’s name, it will flatter them to have you say: “Did you say Mrs. Brown? …How do you do.”

Don’t make the famous mistake that was made by a young girl, who was too shy to ask to have the name repeated—and who, later in the evening, asked: “I’m not quite sure—how do you spell your name?” “S-M-I-T-H, plain Smith,” he replied.

Certain replies to introductions have fallen into too much common usage and are not considered good taste. As an example: “Pleased to meet you”… is no longer used. Yet, “I’m so glad to know you” is quite acceptable.

A woman does not rise to acknowledge introductions, unless she is the hostess, or is being introduced to an older person. A hostess rises to greet all of her guests, men or women.

The Arthur Murrays’ Dance Secrets: Etiquette Of The Ballroom (Part 2)

Part one found here.

There is a right and wrong way to ask a lady to dance. It puts her in an awkward spot if you say: “Have you the next dance taken?” What girl wants to admit that her dances are not taken! Instead, say: “May I have the next dance?” Don’t forget this… it holds true for all invitations. It is more polite to say: “Will you go dancing with me on Friday night?” …than to tactlessly say: “What are you doing on Friday night?” See the difference?

At the end of each dance, a man must always escort his partner back to where she was sitting. He must never leave her in the middle of the floor. But don’t forget, he doesn’t have to take her by the arm to lead her off!

When leaving a girl after dancing with her, a man should make some pleasant remark like: “Thank you so much—I enjoyed dancing with you.” He should be careful not to say: “I’ll be back later,” unless he plans to return. A man is well protected by the rules of etiquette. If he has had an uncongenial or dull partner, he can make his exit very smoothly by saying that he must find the girl with whom he has the next dance. Or, that he has not yet dance with the hostess.

Cutting-in

This is an acceptable custom at almost all dances that are held in America. If a man wants to cut-in on the girl of his choice, he should wait until she is dancing fairly near him, at the outer edge of the floor. Then he can easily step up to her side and nod pleasantly, saying “May I?” to her partner.

It is considered childishly bad form to refuse to “break”. Instead, the man who has been cut-in on, should step aside good-naturedly, with a slight bow and a smile, and join the stag line. From there, he can do a little cutting-in himself.

There is a generally accepted rule that there must be an intervening cut-in before a man can return to claim his original partner. For instance, if Bill cuts-in on John… John should not cut back on Bill. He should wait until another man is dancing with the lady.

The cut-in system is very cruel to a woman. Even when she likes the partner she has, she yearns for cut-ins, to prove her popularity. But, no matter how welcome the “cut” is, a woman should not show undue glee. She should smile equally at her original partner and at her new one.

A girl who pounces on a new cut-in with obvious delight makes him wary and suspicious. Further, her stock goes down with a bang because she has been noticeably insulting to her original partner. Neither can she show reluctance to break, even when her original partner is her dream man. Ladies must chart their course very carefully for smooth sailing.

The Arthur Murrays’ Dance Secrets: Etiquette Of The Ballroom (Part 1)

Many people seem to shy away from the word “etiquette”. It has an old-fashioned sound. But etiquette, after all, is merely the practical application of good common sense and attractive manners.

Ballroom dancing is a partnership and group activity and so it concerns other people beside yourself. There is never any excuse for faulty manners that might affect or react on others. A popular member of a dancing group is considerate—and shows regard for the comfort and pleasure of partners, a hostess, and the other guests.

Once you have accepted an invitation to a dance, you have automatically agreed to live up to the obligations it implies. You are expected to be suitably dressed, to be pleasant company, and, above all, to be able to dance.

No one would dream of accepting an invitation for tennis or bridge unless they could play. But many will accept dancing dates when they know quite well that their dancing is not good enough for a partner to enjoy. It’s odd, isn’t it?

If you can’t dance with confidence, have the courage to refuse dancing invitations. Wait until you have the ability and can appear in the best light possible. By starting to practice immediately, you’ll be ready and in demand the next time!

A man who accepts an invitation to a dance cannot spend the entire evening with the one partner of his choice. By accepting, he has agreed to add to the festivity of the evening by mingling with the group, by asking several partners to dance, or by changing partners with other couples. Natural courtesy dictates the rule that he must seek out and invite the hostess to dance. If she has daughters or sisters present, they must not be overlooked.

A lady must wait to be asked to dance, but she has her obligations to the party. She cannot, for instance, refuse one partner and then turn around and accept another. Neither should a girl attempt to tie strings to a partner—to hold on to him. She must release him gracefully so that he can get about and dance with others.

When entering or leaving the dance room, the lady always precedes. Men never go first unless they need to do so to give assistance, such as in helping someone out of a car, bus, or so on.

It is no longer considered good taste for a man to take the lady’s arm when they are walking to or from the dance floor. This has been out-of-date for years.