This post is for all of you who have never taken a private lesson. You know that they are possible; that most teachers offer them. You know that they cost much more per hour than taking a group class. Maybe you even know that the best dancers in your scene make it a priority to take them.
But I’m here to tell you why private lessons are my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE.
I’ve taken private lessons in every dance I’ve devoted more than 5 hours to learning: lindy hop, blues, salsa, bachata, tango, kizomba, West Coast Swing, and Brazilian zouk. I think that’s it – maybe? Anyway, that’s a lot of private lessons. And I can remember what I learned from every teacher who ever gave me a private lesson. Valuable material that unlocked new understanding and transformed my dancing.
I started to appreciate private lessons EVEN MORE when I started giving them myself. Doing private lessons is in my top three for favorite dance activities, up there with practicing with a favorite partner and having sublime social dance connection. If someone wants to take a private lesson with me, I do everything I can to make it happen. I remember one time in Minneapolis I had already been teaching all weekend, including 5 hours that Sunday, and then I went and taught 6 hours of private lessons in a row. And I didn’t crash until it was done, because I was having such a good time!
What makes private lessons so special?
1. You have your teacher’s undivided attention.
That means they can see and feel all the kinks in your dance. They can catch every mistake. And all of their feedback is going right to you, in as much detail as you could want, in real time.
While I make it a priority to give personal feedback to every individual in my group classes and workshops, that usually only adds up to between 10 seconds and 4 minutes a person, depending on the group. And although I do watch to be sure that people have the material, I can’t see everyone at all times!
2. The lesson is exactly at your level.
Sure, group classes are organized by level, but we all know the categories are pretty vague. Even when I give a pretty clear class description, I usually have to compromise to achieve progress for the whole group.
If you take a private with a teacher who has you in class regularly, they know what your level is. If you’ve asked for a private with a visiting teacher, or you’re taking advantage of a big festival bringing some big names together, chances are they will start by asking you to dance for a couple of minutes. It doesn’t take long for a pro to figure out exactly where you are and what you need to work on to bring you to the next level.
So, if you want to get to the root of what’s holding you back, take a private! You’ll come away with new insights about your movement. I always offer my students personalized exercises they can work on later to help them continue their progress.
3. You get to learn what you want.
Whatever you’re craving, a private lesson offers you the opportunity to ask for it. When a student schedules a private with me, my first question is about their goals for the session. Some of you want to clean up your basics or focus on partnering technique; others want to learn new moves or how to create variations that will increase your musicality. Or maybe you want to address an issue – you know you have trouble with leading a certain type of move, or you always lose balance in particular positions. Private lessons are the time for a personalized curriculum that’s all about you.
4. Feel the benefits long afterward.
In a private lesson, you get a concentrated amount of information and material. While in a group class the teacher’s goal is often for you to master a particular set of moves, during a private your teacher can give you as much as may be packed into the time you have together. You can work on a concept until you’ve grasped it enough to continue working on your own, then move on to something else. All that material will continue to unpack in the days, weeks, and even months following your lesson. Or maybe they’ll identify a bad habit you were totally unaware of, and help you retrain your movement. When you arrive on the social floor, you’ll be amazed at how that fix transforms all your dancing.
Sound too good to be true? Ask your friends that have taken privates! I have personally experienced all of these benefits as a student. Better yet, I’ve received such feedback from my own students both during our lessons and in messages long afterward.
As if all this weren’t enough, a private lesson is a great opportunity to bond with your teacher. Become more than a face in the crowd, yet another fleeting contact. I’m not saying you’ll be best friends, but an hour or more is enough time for you to take shape as a person in your teacher’s memory, even you are getting to know your teacher better as well. So stop making excuses and wasting time – take a private lesson and see real progress in your dancing!