Won t you teach me how to dance

Teach Me How To Dance Lyrics JLS Song Hip Hop Music

It's JLS

I like your moves
Girl I gotta keep up
Cause you're the truth
From the bottom and up
You keep it cool
But your performance is hot hot
Performance is hot hot hot hot hot
If you want me to, I'll make a move
Should I play by the rules, or copy you
Part of me I ain't true, or if I'm rude
But I just wanna learn how you move
Teach me how to dance
I'll follow your command
Teach me how to dance, da-da-da-dance
So I can get a chance, to be part of your plans
Teach me how to dance, da-da-da-dance
Yeah yeah yeah oh
Yeah yeah yeah oh
Yeah yeah yeah oooh
Yeah yeah yeah dance
Yeah yeah yeah
Girl do your thing
And I will follow your beat
You're going in
I got some tricks up my sleeve
Let's take a spin
Out on the floor you and me me
The floor you and me me me me me
If you want me to, I'll make a move
Should I play by the rules, or copy you
Part of me I ain't true, or if I'm rude
But I just wanna learn how you move
Teach me how to dance
I'll follow your command
Teach me how to dance, da-da-da-dance
So I can get a chance, to be part of your plans
Teach me how to dance, da-da-da-dance
Yeah yeah yeah oh
Yeah yeah yeah oh
Yeah yeah yeah oooh
Yeah yeah yeah dance
Yeah yeah yeah
Can you teach me, teach me, teach me, teach
Can you teach me, teach me, teach me, teach
Can you teach me, teach me
Can you teach me how to dance girl
Can you teach me, teach me, teach me
Teach me how to dance
I'll follow your command
Teach me how to dance, da-da-da-dance
So I can get a chance, to be part of your plans
Teach me how to dance, da-da-da-dance
Yeah yeah yeah oh
Yeah yeah yeah oh
Yeah yeah yeah oooh
Yeah yeah yeah dance
Yeah yeah yeah
Teach me how to dance
I'll follow your command
Teach me how to dance, da-da-da-dance
So I can get a chance, to be part of your plans
Teach me how to dance, da-da-da-dance
Yeah yeah yeah oh
Yeah yeah yeah oh
Yeah yeah yeah oooh
Yeah yeah yeah dance
Yeah yeah yeah

Teaching Guidelines

             Timing of a class or workshop

These pointers apply both to creating a lesson plan (vertical thinking) and in-class spontaneity (lateral thinking):

Be a clock watcher.   Start and end classes on time. Your students may have another class to go to after yours and will rightfully resent your making them late.

Going overtime shows your students that you're disorganized, and can't form a workable lesson plan (see gaining respect of your students below).  You may believe that teaching overtime demonstrates your enthusiasm for the material, but in your students' eyes, it only looks like poor planning.

In planning a class or course, make sure that you don't try to cover too much material, or too little.  Actually, don't worry about planning too little.  Most beginning teachers make the mistake of trying to cover too much material in a class.

  • Make sure each class or topic is brought to a satisfying closure.
  • On the other hand, if a dance is taught over several days, it's sometimes more effective in the long run to end a class with a difficult challenge, promising to finish (or even fix) it the next day.  This unresolved difficulty sticks in their mind, like your tongue which can't stop probing a cavity, and their mind stays with it overnight.   This often makes the next day's class more successful.
  • In planning a day-long workshop, be aware of their relative energy/awakeness level.  They may be ready for challenging material first thing in the morning, physically refreshed but sleepy after lunch, and both mentally overloaded and physically exhausted by the end of the day, especially after 4:30 pm.
  • In an all-day workshop, brain-fade tends to set in at the two-hour mark, even in the morning.  Make sure you have a plan to prevent attention from wandering at that time.
  • The first class of the day can easily be 75 or even 90 minutes long.  But schedule afternoon classes to be shorter, maybe 60 minutes each, when their attention span shortens.  Another way to enliven the mid-afternoon slump is with humor.
  • Don't lull them to sleep with slow material at the end of the day.  The best choice for the last period is something physically lively, but mentally easy.

                  Presentation of yourself

  • Authenticity is the source of true authority.   Your credibility is directly correlated to the students' perception that you're genuine.  Some teachers fall short because they attempt to project an image of something which they are not.  What you are always communicates more powerfully than what you say.

    Be more interested in your student's success than your own image.  Don't grandstand.  The class is about them, not about yourself.

  • But, on the other hand, realize that your reputation is important to them in one respect: they want to know that you are knowledgeable, and that taking your class is worth their valuable time.  You need to gain their respect.  Being overly modest or self-deprecating can be just as bad as acting self-important and boastful, because it may raise doubts in their mind about their decision to take your class.  "Did I make the wrong choice? This teacher is not very confident. Maybe I should have taken that other class instead."
  • Your body language should convey confidence and security with the material.   Don't fall apart when you err.  Don't be overly defensive of your image when you make a mistake, but take it in good-natured stride.  Be honest about what you don't know.
  • But don't be apologetic about your teaching.  (I once heard a teacher say, "I imagine many of you won't come back tomorrow.")
    This is different from advising, "Don't apologize."  As mentioned, if you mess the class up, yes, admit it, rather than vainly trying to cover for it, or blaming something else.  You can be both confident and authentic, without any conflict between the two.

    Balance authority with a relaxed atmosphere, to help set them at ease.

    Why set them at ease?  Because as mentioned above, they'll be happier and they'll learn much faster if they're in their comfort zone, or a reachable step beyond it.

    Voice projection

    Speak audibly — clearly and loudly without shouting.  Never be shrill.

  • In a large room, also speak a little more slowly, because reverberation muddles fast speaking.

    Use animated tones, without droning.  Use contrast.  Allow humor, or at least be good-natured.

    But I still prefer to be fairly relaxed, not animated to the point of being hyperactive.  I recommend a tone of relaxed authority.  Remember, you want to let your students stay in their comfort zone.  Anxiety interferes with the learning process.  But you can't avoid the fact that the process of learning a new dance does push your students, often resulting in some anxiety and frustration, so your calm and reassuring warm tone of voice is important.

    Articulate your words – don't mumble.  Enunciate, but without straining your face, mouth or neck at all.

  • A good enunciation exercise is to vocally over-articulate the beginning of the alphabet just before you head into the class.  I do this to break out of my habitual everyday voice, into the articulated classroom voice.
  • Shouting in a large room will strain your voice and you'll soon be hoarse.   Do voice exercises before teaching a large class, to preserve your voice.  A good exercise is to repeatedly voice a relaxed descending yawn (out in the hallway, before the class).
  • Use a wireless microphone for a class of more than 40 or 50 people, to preserve your voice and to be heard.

    If they can't understand you (mumbling), or can't hear you (talking too quietly), they will assume that what you're saying must not be important, and they won't pay attention.

    Your choice of words:  quantity

      Don't talk too much.   Be efficient with your words.  Choose only a few of the most effective words — those which are vivid and evocative yet precise.

          1) They would rather spend more time practicing their dancing, and less time listening to you talk.
          2) They need to process the information in their minds, which can't happen unless there are quiet moments to think through what you said.
          3) Minds saturate after a barrage of too many words, and their minds start blocking you out.
          4) Whether you like it or not, your students are accustomed to getting information very quickly, through broadcast media and the Web, so they get very impatient with long-winded explanations.  You can't change them, so work with this to become a more effective teacher.

           Yes, you have to convey your information with words, but use the fewest words possible — those which efficiently convey both the details and the spirit of the dance.

  • This includes not counting while the music is playing, "1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8," nonstop during the music.  Yikes!  Your students can count just fine without you.  Many students complain about this one.  It's annoying.
  • Another verbal barrage that students often find annoying is a constant, "C'mon you can do it! Go! Go! You're doing great!" cheerleading, non-stop for an hour.  Enthusiasm and encouragement are fine of course, but any non-stop barrage of words will soon be blocked out, as students need to think through what they're doing.   Then they'll miss something important, real information buried in the cheerleading, because they've switched you off.

    If you ever feel like you've been talking a little too long, the truth is that it's already been far too long.  Why?  Have you ever driven to someone's house for the first time, following directions of turns and landmarks, and you thought it took a fairly long time to get there?  Then the next time you drive there, once you know the way, it seems much shorter.  It's really the same time, but it feels half as long, once you know the way.  Why?  Once you know where you're headed, you have the destination visualized.  Your mind is already there, so it seems shorter.

    It's the exact same dynamic with talking.  You already know the way (i.e., you know what you intend to say) but your class doesn't.  This is their first time down that road, and it can seem like it's taking forever (your talking, that is), just as you're thinking the opposite – "this isn't taking too long to say. "  Who is right?  They are.

    Your choice of words:  quality

  • Be both a poet and a technician.  Convey the subjective spirit as well as analytical technique.  Be inspirational.  You teach it digitally (linearly, one aspect at time) then they dance it in analog.  Convey both.
  • Provide precise degrees of movements when applicable — length of steps, degree of turn or turnout, etc.
  • But don't overspecify when flexible adjustments must be made to accommodate partnering, or when you're teaching a dance which favors individuality.  Unnecessary specification is one of dancers' pet peeves.

    Don't forget the other physical aspects of a dance beyond footwork: partnering, quality of movement, energy levels, posture, what to do with free hands, facial expressions, flow of movement, etc.

  • Be consistent in your terminology.  If a step has five different names among different schools or traditions, pick just one and stay with it.  Using multiple terms may only confuse your students.
  • If you want them to remember the name of a dance or step, have them say a new term audibly.  This sends the word through a different part of their brains, from merely hearing it, and thus helps retention.
  • Basic Pedagogy 101:  Repeat questions before answering them, as many questioners speak too quietly to be heard by the other side of the room.
  • Point out and demonstrate what you liked seeing (even if you only saw a hint of it).  Opt to speak in the positive more often; in the negative less often.
  • Try to maintain the anonymity of those who do a step incorrectly.  Be discreet and maybe mention it privately later.  But you may point out the individuals who are doing it well.

    Tell why a step is done this way.  Logic always makes a better and more lasting impression than arbitrary rules, or saying, "because that's the way my teacher taught it."

  • But don't make up bogus answers.  Why not?  Because today, people (especially young people) are tired of hype, and are increasingly adept at spotting and dismissing false reasoning.   Authenticity is the source of true authority.
  • Conditional teaching.  Experimental research, conducted over 25 years, has proven that when your students are presented with any facts as absolute truths, they tend to use the material thoughtlessly, often making bad, inappropriate or limited decisions.  But when they're presented with the same information in a conditional way ("Maybe it's so, but maybe it's also this other way"), they process the information, and use the information, in smarter, more effective, and more creative ways, and also enjoy it more.  Read the page on Ellen Langer's research and findings here.  This can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your teaching.

                  Team Teaching

    Sometimes a class is taught by a Lead/Follow couple, who both speak, sometimes equally.  The reasons are usually to offer an additional viewpoint, and to not marginalize one of the partner's roles.

    This arrangement can be effective when done well, and problematic when it's done badly.

  • The most common problem with two-voice teaching is if it doubles the talking time, without adding enough new information to justify the additional non-dancing time, thereby violating one of the most important teaching guidelines.  Have a system in place to divide which of you will make which half of the necessary comments, without any repeats.

    If you're team-teaching with a partner or collaborator, never rephrase what they just said, even if you think you can say it better.  Your slight "improvement" in phrasing doubles the talking time... not a very effective ratio.  Just as you're starting to think, "I would say that differently..." immediately replace that thought with, "...but that's good enough for now."

  • Even worse, team-teaching can lead to one person confirming what the other just said.  Have you ever experienced this?  She finishes saying something about the step, and he can't let it stand without his approval, adding yet more words to the class like, "Yes I agree, blah blah blah. "  It's called "mansplaining" and the women in the class usually resent it.  The class doesn't need to know that you agree with her.  They assume you do, since you're a team, and they want to dance, not listen to more words.  The approver usually thinks he's complimenting his partner by adding his approval, but instead it's an insult to imply that her words cannot stand alone without his approval.  (Does this comment seem gender-biased against men?  No, it's based on too many bad examples.)
  • Another disaster is when both count and/or talk while the music is playing, each with different words, at the same moments.  Then if each has a microphone, the two voices mix into unintelligible mush over the speakers.
  • Effective team teachers usually plan in advance who is going to say what, with one perfect thread of information coming from two alternating voices.  A few rare team-teachers have a great sense of this pacing without planning in advance.  But unfortunately team teaching can also make a class less effective than a single voice, if it's not done well.
  • Bottom line: Never lose sight of your primary goal, for your students to grasp the material as effectively and efficiently as possible.  Your students are smart – they know that a single voice isn't marginalizing any gender or role, and anyone can accurately describe both Lead and Follow pointers.  They're there to learn dancing, and they appreciate a well-paced class, regardless of who is talking.

                  Pace of the class

  • Don't rush your students.  Make sure they have a solid foundation before moving on.  If you're afraid of boring them, find other ways to educate or entertain them, rather than just feeding them more steps.

    On the other hand, keep the pace of your class moving.  Don't let it get bogged down.  Don't rush them, but don't bore them either.  Talking too much is boring.  They want to move, not stand around listening to you talk.

  • Then when you have something important to say for a few minutes, let them sit down to listen.
  • One of my solutions to this problem is to skip the classroom discussion of a dance's history and significance, then e-mail this information to my students within the day.  But this only works if you have all of your students' e-mail addresses.

                  Too fast?  Too slow?

  • The best way to keep the pace moving is to change partners, if you're teaching a couple dance form.  It's amazing how quickly the group will equalize the combined skill of individuals.  Those who have it will show those who don't, Lead or Follow, experienced or newcomer.  The couples who don't change partners often keep repeating the same mistake over and over, with no feedback from someone who has succeeded with the figure.
  • I've often been asked another pacing question, "How much individual attention do you give in a class?"

    This isn't a rule, but my personal priority is to care for the greater group.  One of my pet peeves is a teacher in a large class spending five minutes working with one individual or couple who has a problem, while 98% of the class stands around bored.

    But sometimes you can see that an individual's difficulty or confusion might be true for others too, so you can address that point to the entire class.  I tell my students this is a "Repair Clinic" only intended for those who are having this specific difficulty.  So I tell the class, "If you're not having this problem, don't fix it."  This is serious, not a whimsical comment.  Often you'll make a comment to help someone who is under-rotating, for example, then you'll see someone else, who already had it perfectly, now over-rotating after your comment.

    Then unfortunately, you'll occasionally get a student who demands that you stop the class to solve their unique problem, which no one else has. (Some psychiatrists call this behavior a "demanding sense of entitlement").  In those cases, you have to be firm for the good of the class, so that the progress of the other students doesn't get stalled or bogged down.

    Sometimes you'll get a couple who refuses to change partners when you ask them to.   That's fine, but what often happens is they'll be the only couple who doesn't get a figure, when everyone else has succeeded with the help of their rotating partners.  Yes, you guessed it — the non-rotating couple will often demand that you slow the class down just for them.

  • A related question is, "Do you keep working on the step until everyone gets it?"

    No, on the average I go for 90% to 95% of the class.  The remaining few will usually be helped by their partners who already got it.  And the few who are exceptionally slow learners already know they're slow, and would rather that you not make a fuss for them.

                  Teaching experienced dancers

    I'm sometimes surprised to see a professional dance teacher who apparently hasn't thought through the difference between teaching beginning versus experienced dancers.  Where do I see this most clearly?  In specifying personal style.  Beginning and advanced dancers have very different needs and wishes in this area.

    When teaching beginners, who are a clean slate, of course you'll teach them the version you think is best, with all of the stylistic details for your preferred form.

    But when your students have been dancing for years or decades, they've already developed their personal style, or maybe they've mastered a different teacher's style.  This is now who they are.  Fred Astaire, among many, wrote this is a good thing. (click for a short quote)

    First, they're probably happy with the dancer they've become, and they're taking your class to learn more useful variations and partnering tips from you, not dismantle the dancer they've become.  Secondly, they probably couldn't change their personal style if they tried.

    The aware teacher will work from this platform (their personal style), giving their experienced students useful new material for them to integrate into their dancing.  The unaware teacher will dismiss their students' accumulated style as "incorrect" and attempt to tear it down, hoping to rebuild their student back up in the teacher's preferred style.   That's not going to happen!  A one-hour class will not undo twenty years of their dancing in a different style.  If you attempt to do that, they'll think, "I can't learn from this teacher!" and not come back.  And they'll justifiably resent the disrespect of a teacher dismissing their personal style.

    Now if they've signed up for a lifetime of private lessons to learn your style, that's different.  But this section addresses dance classes or workshops.

    You may find it difficult to be patient with experienced dancers who appear to be "doing it wrong," which often means they're merely dancing in styles different from your preferred style.  So how should you respond?  (A) Dismiss their dancing style, making them wary, defensive or resentful?  Or (B), see the class from their point of view.  Why are they taking your class?  Probably to learn new figures and become better dancers, based on the dancers they are.

    I recommend approach B.  Allow them to keep their experience and personal style as their platform upon which to build improvements.   If you wish to introduce your stylistic preferences, present them as "try this out" options, instead of "you're doing it all wrong" rules.  Inspire, don't reprimand.  They'll be much happier, meaning they'll learn better (comfort zone).  And they'll come back to your second class.

                 Aging teachers and/or students

  • As a teacher, you don't have to appear young or youthful.  Maturity commands respect.  However students unconsciously pick up our most subtle stylings, and if you start moving in an elderly way, so will your students.  You can't just suggest, "Do what I say, not what I do."  The way you demonstrate a dance is important.  (If you're not feeling elderly yet, then be preemptively aware of the ways in which your movement limitations may affect your students some day.)

    The good news is that your dancing skills will enable you to walk and move in a younger manner.  You know that dancing is acting, so you can mostly act like the movements of a younger dancer, to a certain extent.   Here's how...

  • Study the way that the elderly walk.  Watch closely and then imitate their walk.  Specifically, you'll see  (1) head slouched a little forward,  (2) shoulders slightly hunched up,  (3) elbows pinned back (that's an important one),  (4) limited range of head and arm motion,  (5) a shuffling gait on flat feet.  Try it – practice that exactly, so you know how it feels.  Now reverse all of those.  (1) Head tall but not stiff,  (2) shoulders down,  (3) elbows at your side, not even slightly pinned back,  (4) animate your head and arms,  (5) stride like a younger person, on the balls of your feet.

    Try different strides.  The next time you're walking down a sidewalk (maybe when no one is watching) try the John Travolta strut from Saturday Night Fever.  Try a hip-hop stride, not to be a poseur, but to expand your range of motion.  Loosen up and put a spring in your step.  Then keep a little bit of that animation whenever you walk, move, or teach your dance class.

  • You can take this further by doing stretches every day, yoga and/or Pilates.
  • If aging or an injury has limited your range of motion permanently, train a younger dancer or couple to be your class demonstrator(s).  Your students need a visual prototype, not just your words.
  • Tempo warning: There may come the day when you think to yourself, "That music feels too fast. I think I'll slow it down for them."  Or, "I can't believe I've been teaching it that fast all of these years!"  No, the music isn't too fast; you're just slowing down.  If your class is comprised of younger people, don't slow the class down to a tempo which works for an older teacher.
  • Conversely, be aware of the movement limitations of the older dancers in your class.  Some dance groups are an aging population — the same dancers getting older every year, for decades.  In that case, modify your material to be achievable and satisfying for their age range, which may mean lowering the impact level, slowing the tempo, and simplifying memorization tasks.   Remember, you don't want to push them too far out of their comfort zone.  You can still teach new and challenging material, but not challenging to the point of frustration or injury.


  • When using recorded music, have complete technical expertise with the CD player, iPod, iPad, phone or laptop that you'll be using.  Avoid using a machine you're unfamiliar with, or come in early to get to know it.

    Select all of the music for your class ahead of time.  It takes time to find a perfect track for a particular step, with the right tempo, quality, energy level, and emphasis on the right beats.  Some teachers make their students stand around as they start to fumble through their music collection searching for a good track.  It's even more embarrassing if the track you chose doesn't work well, and you have to stop it and start searching again.  Go through that process before class.

    If you play CDs, a more specific tip is to buy a red grease pencil at a hardware store, normally used for marking glass, and write the track number of your pre-selected music on the CD or case.   After class you can erase it with a tissue.

    List your pre-selected tracks in your lesson plan notes.

    Know how to count into the music.  Use the same number of preparatory counts each time.&nbsp I prefer to count into a dance just as a musician would, saying something like, "five, six, ready, and..."

  • But do give them some warning!  It's amazing how often teachers just start dancing a step without warning, and expect the class to read their mind that they were going to start.  Yes, your students can start a moment late and catch up with you, but they'd much rather know when you're going to start.
  • "...than you would begin a sentence in the middle, or..."

    Did that make sense to you?  No, and neither does starting and stopping your recording arbitrarily in the middle of a musical phrase.  When playing your recorded music, allow the musical phrases to finish, as live musicians would do.  Musicians would never start and stop in mid-phrase, any more than you would begin a sentence in the middle, or stop speaking halfway through a sentence.   I recommend that you play your recorded music the same way.

    This guideline isn't marked as essential, but you should realize that your musical phrasing of recorded music demonstrates your respect for the music.  So if you start and stop your music arbitrarily in mid-phrase, it tells your class that you don't care very much about music.

  • Most teachers teach a dance step tacet (without music) so they can be heard clearly, and then after the class has practiced it a few times, they put on the music.  It's the natural progression.  However...
    When you do this, you must make sure that you have brought your teaching tempo up to the same as the tempo of the music that you're about to play.  It's a huge mistake to teach a step at a slow tempo, then put on music which is significantly faster, guaranteeing frustration or failure among many of your students.

    A helpful hint is to hear the tune that you're about to play in your head, while you're still teaching it tacet.   With a little practice you'll be able to bring the class up to the exact tempo of the music before you play it.  This way, the music supports their dancing, at just the right tempo, instead of pressuring your students.

  • Changing tempo:  Your music player may have tempo control, which is an important tool for teaching dance.  We usually need to start a dance at a slower tempo, then let the speed pick up with practice.  My favorite method uses the Amazing Slow Downer software available online for both Mac and PC.  This is the highest quality software I've seen for slowing down or speeding up the tempo without changing the pitch.  If you play music from a laptop, you can do this in real-time, in class.  I don't use a laptop for my class music so I pre-record the music, at several tempos slowed by Amazing Slow-Downer.  Some CD players change tempo without changing pitch, but all firmware solutions that I've seen sound watery and choppy when slowed more than 8%.   Amazing Slow Downer retains realistic fidelity when slowed 50%.  Speeding up music is easy with software or firmware; it's the slowing down with fidelity that's hard.
  • More on ideal dance tempos is here.
  • When you're thinking through your back-up plans, include possible problems with music.  How might the sound go wrong?  What components or connectors for the sound system might be missing?  When teaching in a new space, consider bringing a backup sound system (even if just a boom box), extra batteries for a wireless microphone, and extra audio adaptors for other's sound systems.
  • Working with live music is a full discussion in itself, but the short version is to respect your musicians, never treating them like hired help, or worse, as an equivalent to canned music.  Let your students applaud them at the end of class.  But you know this, so I'll skip that topic for this page.

                  Spatial arrangement

  • If teaching to a group in the round, be sure to show a step at several angles, for those who couldn't see an important detail from their side of the room.   This may also avoid some mirror-image problems.  Don't wait for them to request this.  If they have to ask to see it from their viewpoint, you've already failed to consider their point of view.
  • Dance teachers often have to deal with the mirror-image problem, when a student facing you has to step or gesture to their right, as you're showing it to your right, which is the opposite of a mirror image.  One solution is for you to mirror the step yourself as you face them, gesturing to your left as you mean (and say) "right".
         A second solution is to teach with students in a large circle and have an assistant on the other side, facing you.  Ask your students to follow the person in front of them.
         A third solution, if they're in a circle around the perimeter of the room with you in the middle, is to have them all turn a quarter to their right, toward Line of Dance, asking them to follow most of those ahead of them.  They can clearly see both you and those ahead of them.
         Another tradition is for the teacher to face a large mirror, with the students behind, also facing the mirror.  It's not ideal to turn your back to your students, but they can see your face in the mirror.
  • When Lead's and Follow's steps differ significantly in partnered couple dancing, sometimes it's effective to have all of the Leads stand behind the Lead teacher/partner and all Follows behind the Follow teacher/ partner.  After teaching the step(s), let them walk forward to find a partner on the other side.


  • Don't forget warm-ups and stretches when necessary.
  • In partnered couple dancing, don't forget to change partners every five minutes or so.  Students learn much faster when they change partners, with the extra benefit of learning how to dance with people of all shapes, sizes and experience levels.  But many dancers come with a favorite partner, who they dance with first, so I like to return them to their first partners once in a while, and then again for the last dance of the class.
  • Consider providing handouts and music recordings where applicable.  Syllabi can also be put online, and I sometimes e-mail my students the dance descriptions after a class.
  • Be generous in your appraisal of other dancers and instructors.  This is not only considerate of others in your field, but it's good for you too — everyone knows that only the most confident teachers are charitable toward their competitors.
  • An ideal that I value is to use a dance to illustrate a higher concept, such as partnering, traditions, ways to be a better person, new ways of using the mind and body, analogies to personal relationships, or something philosophical, beyond the steps.  But this is optional.  It's great if you can make your class convey more than just steps, but it's not necessary.
  • Have a greater concern with your students' progress and comprehension than in enhancing your own reputation.  This dedication must be sincere, and not just an act.  Effective teaching is like good dance partnering, in that it's primarily dancing for your partner's success, rather than showing off yourself.

    This concern for your students is also a sign of maturity.  Small children constantly clamor, "Look at me Daddy! Watch me Mommy!"   Then we grow up, and we (hopefully) mature into valuing others' happiness and progress.  The few teachers who don't understand this are quite obvious to their students, as self-absorbed grandstanders more interested in displaying their greatness than in helping their students learn the material.

    But I know you're completely devoted to your students' success, or else you wouldn't have made it to the bottom of this page.

                 Teaching makes you smarter

    Take a look at this page, Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter.  It's a report on several studies which show that rapid-fire decision-making maintains or increases your intelligence as you age.  Teaching a class involves even more rapid-fire decision making than dancing, so it's ever better for you.  Then furthermore...

    I like R. Buckminster Fuller's definition of genius.  In his opinion, genius isn't a mere quantity or capacity, but the combination of rational and intuitive thinking, both left-brain and right-brain, vertical and lateral thinking.  And it's the simultaneous use of both kinds of thinking, not exercising linear rational thinking first thing in the morning, then doing something more intuitive an hour later.  Genius is being fully rational and fully intuitive at the same time, seeing both the finest details and the overall big picture at the same time.

    Teaching a class, in any topic, is one of the ultimate simultaneous combinations of vertical and lateral thinking, as your planning strategies morph with your spontaneous assessment of your students' progress.  But as the research shows, it depends on continual split-second decision making, not repeating rote routines.  You don't have to be a genius, but to stay smarter longer, don't always follow the same lesson plan.  Teach it differently each time, spontaneously making those changes in class.   Or teach topics you've never taught before.  Challenge yourself.  Plan your class thoroughly, then welcome chance intrusions.  Every day.  Research shows that it will keep you smarter longer.


  • The human mind can't keep track of a hundred pointers simultaneously so don't even try to achieve perfection in teaching.  It doesn't exist.  If following some of these guidelines helps your next class be 5% more successful, great.  Don't be hard on yourself — it gets better with each class.&nbsp Allow mastery to develop at its own pace.
  • But you do have to try.  Improving your teaching takes concentration and effort.  You can read these pointers,  and understand them,  and even agree with many of them,  but nothing will change until you incorporate them into your teaching.  That takes a conscious effort on your part and practice.  And don't forget to take lots of notes before and after your classes.
  • Enjoy the process, every step along the way.  Some teachers dwell on the belief that they're not "there" yet, and look forward to the day when they are.  No, it's much more rewarding to realize that you are already there, completely immersed in the moment, while also helping others.  What could be better?  Enjoy it!

  • I would like to thank both the good and bad exemplars in my many years of taking dance classes.  I learned equally as much from both.
  • I'd like to thank my collaborator of the past 35 years Joan Walton, for participating in many discussions about dance pedagogy over the years.  It's a fascinating field.
  • Photo by Jason Chuang.
    More thoughts and musings

  • Anastasia Gunder // Dancing with the Stars

    Anastasia Gunder - a the author of the books "The Taste of Winter" (Nigma, 2020), "My mother is broken!" (Speech, 2020), "Gift for Ba" (Nigma, 2020). Published in the magazines Murzilka, Children's Reading for the Heart and Mind, Miracles and Adventures (for children), Partner (Germany), Prostokvasha, Fountain, Electronic Pampas, etc. Finalist of the International Competition for the best work for children "Korneichuk Prize", semi-finalist of the X season of the "New Book" competition (ROSMEN), winner of the International Literary "Gaidar Competition", literary festival-competition "Crystal Spring", etc. lit. competitions. Participant in seminars for young writers writing for children, participant in the Annual Seminar for Young Writers of the Writers' Union of Moscow. He is a member of the secret order of children's writers "Mykhukhol".


    In a dense forest there once lived a girl named Nastya. She lived well: she collected mushrooms and berries and grew fairy tales on trees. And then suddenly Nastya grew up and thought: well, how long can you sit among the pine trees, it's time to look at the world and show yourself. Nastya packed a knapsack with breadcrumbs, took the laptop under her arm and went into the light - to tell people fairy tales.

    About the elephant who stomped

    More than anything, the Elephant loved to run. Fast, fast. For the wind to whistle in your ears. Only he rarely ran, because every time it ended badly for him. Here's how it is now:

    - Don't stomp like an elephant! shouted the Monkey from the tree.

    — And I am an elephant, — the Elephant was surprised and ran on.

    — Hey, shut up, mate! Coconuts fall on my head from your stomp! Rhino complained.

    — Excuse me, — said the Elephant and went further on foot.

    “If you make such a noise, I will write a complaint against you,” the Parrot called from the palm tree to the Elephant. I have a concert tomorrow, I can't concentrate.

    “I'm sorry,” the Elephant replied and trudged off wherever his eyes looked.

    — And why stomp so loudly! The lioness was outraged. - My baby sleeps!

    “Excuse me,” whispered the Elephant and went on tiptoe.

    - Earthquake! came from somewhere below.

    The elephant stopped and listened.

    — Urgently leave the premises! the voice commanded. We take only the essentials with us.

    A tiny suitcase appeared right under the feet of the Elephant, followed by the Mole, then a shopping bag appeared along with the Mole's wife, and finally, eleven little moles with toys in their hands crawled out of the hole.

    “Sorry, I'm so clumsy,” the Elephant apologized and began to cry.

    - Flood! Flood! the moles squealed.

    Don't panic! Mole said.

    He put the suitcase on the ground. Walked around the elephant on all sides and again returned to his wife and children:

    "It's not a flood," he reassured everyone. - The elephant is crying.

    — I'm sorry! - Elephant said through tears and burst into tears even louder.

    All the moles lined up in front of the Elephant:

    “The Elephant is crying,” said the youngest mole cub and, looking at the roaring Elephant, also began to cry.

    A minute later, all eleven moles roared into three streams.

    — Calm down! their mother urged.

    "We can't," they answered.

    — Why?

    - We feel sorry for the Elephant!

    “We won’t calm down until the Elephant calms down,” the younger one answered.

    — All right, said the Mole. We will calm the Elephant together. Let's help him.

    “You need not worry,” the Elephant roared through his tears. "You won't help me anyway."

    “We will help if you explain to us why you are crying,” insisted the Mole.

    "I'm crying because it's an elephant," explained the Elephant.

    — Found something to be upset about. And I'm a mole, but I don't cry.

    - That's because no one calls you names. And I only hear: “What are you stomping like an elephant!”. And how can I walk differently if I am an elephant. I will never run again! And I won't go either! To not disturb anyone.

    “Ah, here's the thing,” the Mole shook his head. “I think I can help you.

    Surprised, the Elephant even stopped crying:

    — Are you a magician? he asked seriously.

    “No, I'm even better than a wizard,” smiled the Mole. - I'm a shoemaker. Come to me in three days - you will soar like a butterfly.

    And after three days the Elephant ran again. Fast, fast. Only the wind whistled in my ears. In my brand new slippers. From dandelions! And none of the animals made any remarks to him, everyone was only surprised: “Well, it’s an elephant, but it soars like a butterfly.”

    Crocodile with a bad temper


    There lived a Crocodile in the world. It looks quite ordinary - green and toothy, only this Crocodile had a bad temper. Therefore, he had no friends, no buddies. The Crocodile sat on the river bank and caught a fish, and if someone passed by and said hello, he did not answer anything, but only hissed loudly and shook his fist at those who scared the fish. If someone invited the Crocodile to a housewarming or name day, then the Crocodile always refused: "This does not concern me." And if it was necessary to plant trees for the park or build a new playground for animals, then the Crocodile only shook his head negatively, saying: "It's none of my business." Therefore, no one asked him for help, no one invited him to visit him, and gradually there were no more people who wanted to say hello.

    One day the Crocodile, as usual, was sitting on the bank of the river and was fishing. A little Kangaroo galloped past:

    — Hello, Uncle Crocodile! she greeted.

    The crocodile hissed loudly, but the Kangaroo was not afraid:

    “Ah, catch,” she said in a whisper. — I won't scare your fish.

    In parting, she waved her paw at the Crocodile and galloped on. The crocodile was even surprised: no one had talked to him for a long time.

    A few days later the Kangaroo appeared again on the shore, but this time she did not scream, but only nodded, walked on tiptoe to the river and sat next to the Crocodile. They sat in silence for a long time, and then the Kangaroo said quietly:

    — I also like to look at the river.

    — And I like to sit alone, — the Crocodile muttered with displeasure.

    “Me too,” Kangaroo smiled. — You can sit quietly and think about something...

    — Perhaps, — Crocodile agreed.

    — Well, I have to go. Nice to meet you! the Kangaroo said goodbye and rode away.

    “That’s wonderful,” thought the Crocodile, and also began to get ready to go home.


    On Saturday Crocodile went to the market for oranges: he always drank orange juice in the morning. He was walking, waving an empty bag, but suddenly stopped: the log, which served as a bridge over the abyss, completely rotted and collapsed down.

    The crocodile scratched the back of his head, looked around: not far away lay a tree felled by the wind, thick and strong. The crocodile picked up a log, threw it over a cliff and crossed to the other side.

    — How strong you are! He suddenly heard a voice behind him.

    It was the Kangaroo: she also crossed the log and caught up with the Crocodile.

    — What a wonderful bridge you have built! she continued. Now other animals will be able to walk on it.

    “It's none of my business,” Crocodile muttered.

    “Everyone will walk on it and say “thank you” to you,” Kangaroo chattered.

    I don't have to say thank you.

    “That's right,” Kangaroo nodded. — Humility makes a person beautiful.

    — But I'm not human! Crocodile was outraged.

    "It doesn't matter," said the Kangaroo.

    The crocodile no longer argued, but only increased his pace, he himself did not notice how he was no longer walking, but running. Only near the market he stopped a little rest and catch his breath. “I think I got rid of it,” thought the Crocodile.


    Ten juicy sunny oranges nestled together in a bag. Satisfied with the purchase, the Crocodile went home, whistling under his breath. Suddenly he heard someone crying: in front, on a large hummock, sat the Frog and roared loudly.

    As if nothing had happened, the Crocodile went on, but suddenly he stopped again - a huge dusty cloud was rushing right at him. The crocodile barely managed to jump aside. The cloud rushed past and hung near the Frog.

    - Why are you crying baby? asked the Kangaroo emerging from the dusty cloud.

    — Mom went to the market and still won’t come back, — answered the surprised Frog.

    — Don't worry, she will come soon, I saw her in the market with a full basket.

    — Full? This is good, - the Frog was delighted. - And then my tummy has been wanting to eat for a long time.

    “His tummy wants to eat,” Kangaroo Crocodile, who was just passing by, said with a smile.

    “That doesn't concern me,” replied the Crocodile.

    The kangaroo gave the Crocodile a little nudge in the side and said in a whisper:

    — We should give him an orange.

    These are my oranges! the Crocodile shouted and held the bag tightly to his chest.

    — But he's small! Kangaroo didn't give up. And he wants to eat!

    “It's none of my business,” grumbled the Crocodile, displeased, and was about to leave.

    — How is this none of your business? - Kangaroo blocked his way. - Very much yours. You met him...

    — So what?

    — And now you have to help him!

    — I don't owe anyone anything!

    The little frog was sitting on a hummock, turning his head in different directions, looking first at the Kangaroo, then at the Crocodile and blinking his huge eyes incomprehensibly.

    The crocodile got angry:

    — Do you know what others say about me? he asked Kangaroo.

    — No.

    — Did you fall from the moon?

    “No, I came from Australia with my mom and dad,” Kangaroo explained.

    - Not local, then. Something so weird. Well, if you don't know, I'll tell you. Everyone says I have a bad temper.
    - That's not true! Kangaroo began to argue.

    “True,” Crocodile replied calmly.

    - And that's not true! Kangaroo was outraged. - You are good.

    - Do you think?

    "I'm sure of it," Kangaroo said firmly.

    - The sun or you gave me a terrible headache. It's time for me to get back to the river.

    The crocodile wanted to move the Kangaroo aside to pass, but it did not retreat. She firmly took the Crocodile by the paw and asked again:

    “Just one orange,” Kangaroo said and looked right into Crocodile's eyes. – Please-a-a-luista…

    — All right, — Crocodile sighed. I'm tired of arguing with you. It's too tiring. The crocodile took an orange out of the bag and gave it to Kangaroo.

    “Thank you,” the Kangaroo smiled and handed the orange to the Frog.

    Thank you Uncle Crocodile! the Frog croaked happily.

    The crocodile did not answer and moved on. Soon Kangaroo caught up with him and they silently walked along the road. Finally Kangaroo spoke:

    “My house is over there,” she pointed in the direction of a huge baobab.

    “I have never treated anyone,” Crocodile suddenly confessed.

    — And what is it like? Kangaroo asked.

    — I don't even know… Somehow I didn't understand…

    — Probably, we should try again, — Kangaroo smiled.

    “Perhaps,” Crocodile agreed.

    The kangaroo galloped home, but the Crocodile still stood and looked after her. Suddenly he began to rummage through his bag, as if he had lost something. The crocodile sorted through the oranges for a long time and kept shaking his head in displeasure, and then he rushed to catch up with the Kangaroo with all his might and already almost at the very baobab awkwardly handed her an orange.

    “Here, take this,” Crocodile said, out of breath. - This one is the tastiest!

    “Thank you very much,” Kangaroo thanked him.

    “Not at all,” replied the embarrassed Crocodile.

    Listen to the wind and fly. Yes, not just with the stars, but with the real constellations, which the king of animals - Leo - specially invited from heaven to earth.

    Everyone wanted to dance, and in order not to quarrel, the animals came up with this: let the couples choose the constellations themselves.

    All the participants gathered in the big clearing, even the Behemoth came.

    - Do hippos dance? Lev was surprised.

    “No,” Behemoth admitted. - But I really want it.

    "Maybe you'd better sit under a palm tree and look," Lev suggested.

    “No,” Behemoth said decisively. — I want to dance with the stars.

    Leo didn't argue, because it was time to greet the guests from heaven. The constellations are located under the palm trees: especially for them, Leo ordered to make swing chairs from vines - he believed that the stars should soar, and not walk on the earth. The guests carelessly swayed on the vines, drank coconut milk and complained about the unbearable heat.

    And the participants of the contest settled down in the clearing. All the animals were worried: some had trembling knees, others chattered their teeth, and still others had stomach pains from fear. Finally, Lev nodded to the musicians, and the dancing began.

    Everyone wanted to please the stars, so they tried their best, but Behemoth tried the most. This made him even worse. First, the Behemoth stepped on the paw of the Lioness:

    - Rrr! Meow! squealed the Lioness.

    — Sorry, I didn't mean to! The Behemoth moved away from the Lioness and accidentally pushed the Cow.

    - Watch where you're going! - the Cow fell to the ground indignantly.

    — Sorry, I didn't notice you, — Behemoth apologized. He wanted to help the Cow to get up, but accidentally crushed the Boa.

    The boa didn't say anything, but only hissed and twisted the tip of its tail at the temple.

    — Sorry. I'm so clumsy. I better move away! - said Behemoth and went to dance in the farthest corner of the meadow, under a palm tree.

    — It would be so long ago! - shouted after the Lioness.

    Music played faster. The Horse and the Cow were clattering their hooves as if they were tap dancing, the Giraffe was shaking its long neck to the beat of the music, and the Boa constrictor, like a spring, was bouncing in place. Everyone suddenly became so cheerful that even the constellations forgot about the heat and clapped their hands. Only Behemoth stood alone under a palm tree.

    When the dances were over, the constellations began to choose their couples: Ursa Major chose the brown Bear, the Snake - the Boa constrictor, the Unicorn - the Horse, the starry Leo - the Lioness, Taurus - the Cow, and Orion liked the Giraffe.

    “We will make a good couple,” Orion remarked.

    — Couple? Giraffe blushed.

    — Yes, yes, my dear, I can't wait to dance with you. And now it's time for us to return: it's unbearably hot here.

    “Stop,” a voice said. I haven't chosen yet.

    And then everyone turned their attention to the Star. Next to the rest of the constellations, she was so small that the animals did not immediately notice her. It was the North Star.

    — Ah, is that you? yawned the Star Lion.

    — Well, then choose, — Ursa Major said displeasedly.

    - And hurry up, otherwise I'll kick my hooves from the heat! Taurus complained.

    “I will dance with the Behemoth,” said the Pole Star.

    — With Behemoth? the constellations asked.

    - With Behemoth? the animals did not believe.

    — With me? Behemoth was surprised.

    “Yes,” Star smiled.

    "Well then," said the constellations. - Dance with the Behemoth.

    - There will be something to laugh at, - Orion added and soared high into the sky.

    And the rest of the constellations rose after him.


    Only the North Star with Behemoth remained in the clearing.

    “I am Behemoth,” Behemoth introduced himself for some reason.

    “I know,” said Polaris.

    — I really want to learn how to dance!

    “I know,” Polaris said again. - I really want to see the forest.

    — Isn't it time for you to return to heaven? Behemoth asked.

    “It's time,” Star sighed. “But it’s so beautiful here on Earth!”

    — Do you want me to show you our forest?

    — I want to, — Asterisk smiled and extended her hand to Behemoth. - Hold tight. And then I'll fly away.

    Behemoth took Pole Star by the hand and they went into the forest. On the way, Zvezdochka was surprised at everything:

    - Wow! How bright!

    - These are flowers.

    — Great! Flying flowers!

    “Those are not flowers, but butterflies,” Behemoth explained.

    — Butterflies! - Asterisk lit up and became even lighter.

    And so, when the forest appeared, the Pole Star no longer walked along the ground, but only slightly repelled from it. She didn't ask any more questions, she just looked around.

    A greenish twilight reigned in the forest. The branches of the trees were so tightly intertwined with each other that the light barely penetrated inside. The ground was covered with moss and ferns. Lianas hung from the trunks like giant boas, and orchids bloomed on the trees.

    Suddenly surprised Starlight stopped in front of a huge tree. It was so high that it seemed that the crown rests on the very sky.

    The North Star stroked the bark:

    - Rough. And alive,” she said.

    - Will you teach me how to dance? - Behemoth asked unexpectedly.

    Zvezdochka didn't answer anything, but only squeezed her hand tighter.

    "Close your eyes," she said.

    Behemoth closed his eyes.

    “Now listen,” Star said softly.

    Behemoth began to listen, but did not hear anything.

    "I can't hear anything," he admitted.

    - Listen to the wind.

    Behemoth closed his eyes again and listened.

    — It rustles, — Behemoth said happily.

    — It rustles, — Polar Star smiled.

    — Now open your eyes and look.

    Behemoth opened his eyes. The tree was still standing in front of him.

    “I don't see anything,” he said, “there is only a tree.

    - Look further.

    The hippopotamus tried his best, looked into his eyes, but nothing happened. And then suddenly he noticed a small leaf, which broke away from the branch and slowly fell to the ground.

    - Flying! Behemoth rejoiced.

    — Flies.

    - Beautiful.

    “Yes,” Star agreed. "Now let's dance."

    — Right here? Behemoth was surprised.


    - But I can't.

    - You can. Everyone knows how to dance.

    — Even Behemoths?

    - Even Behemoths.

    — Are you sure?

    — Of course.

    — How can we dance without music? Behemoth was worried.

    “You don't need music to dance,” Polar Star smiled. Just listen to the wind and fly.

    Star extended her second hand, and Behemoth suddenly felt uneasy: his legs did not obey at all, but slightly lifted off the ground.

    Behemoth closed his eyes... And flew away.


    Three days later, when evening came, the animals again gathered in the clearing. It was dark: the audience stepped on each other's tails, apologized and, finally, somehow settled down under the palm trees.

    Everything around was lit up with an extraordinary radiance: constellations descended onto the clearing, straight from the sky. The musicians began to play and the performance began.

    The Bull and the Cow merrily butted their horns, and the Unicorn and the Horse thumped their hooves so hard that a whole dusty cloud rose up next to them. The snake and the Boa, like strings, stretched out and swayed from side to side, and then suddenly intertwined into one ball, and now the star ball quickly rolled across the clearing. The audience applauded.

    The Lioness with the star Leo performed all movements simultaneously, and when the star Leo hid behind the Lioness and she lit up, for a moment even the Lioness herself thought that she had turned into a constellation.

    Like a spinning top, a Giraffe was spinning in a dance with Orion. And then Orion picked up the graceful Giraffe and threw her high into the air. All the animals gasped, and the pleased Orion, like a feather, caught his lady and handed her a red rose. The audience shouted: "Bravo!"

    Only Behemoth did not dance, but stood in his tracks.

    "I'm afraid," Behemoth admitted.

    “Don’t be afraid,” Star smiled.

    — What if I fail?

    Polar Star extended her hand to Behemoth and whispered softly in his ear:

    — Listen to the wind and fly.

    The astonished spectators froze: a Behemoth was circling in the very corner of the meadow. And it seemed that this was not a Hippo at all, but an airy beautiful leaf was flying across the clearing.

    Teach-In - Dear John

    Teach-In - Dear John

    Dear john, I write you this letter

    Oh please, won't you teach me to dance?

    Dear john, the sooner the better

    Oh please, won't you give me a chance?

    There is a show at the new disco where I wanna go

    The lights are low while we can show all the tricks we know.

    When we're dancing, disco dancing

    When we're dancing, we dream away

    Drea-a drea-a dream away.

    (John Travolta)

    Won't you teach me to dance?

    (John Travolta)

    Won't you give me a chance?

    Dear john, won't you listen?

    Oh please, won't you drop me a line?

    Dear john, you know what I'm missing

    Oh please, give me a sign.

    There is a show at the new disco where I wanna go

    The lights are low while we can show all the tricks we know.

    When we're dancing, disco dancing

    When we're dancing, we dream away

    Drea-a drea-a dream away.

    (John Travolta)

    Won't you teach me to dance?

    (John Travolta)

    Won't you give me a chance?

    (John Travolta) .

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