Question by User Ban89
So I just did my first bachata group lesson and I enjoyed it. I’m just here to gather any tips to maximise my learning experience. I really want to give it a good crack. I also have a few questions and I know the answers might be quite subjective.
Note: I’m a guy who sucks at dancing. Its fun but feels very unnatural for me.
1. Is it worth doing private lessons straight away or after a few group lessons? I’m scared im going to be left behind…
2. Will doing more classes speed up the learning process or is it more like doing 1/2 classes a week and practice.
3. How long will it take to be “good”? For my own expectations…
Started dancing Bachata in December last year. I had a semi-grounding with 3 months of Salsa lessons before this and an ex-professional mother in law who is also my teacher, but before the Salsa, I was also a two left feet kind of person.
Being good at Bachata is different to being good to dance with. Remember that. You can be the best solo dancer in the world, but if your lead is shit, you’ll never be a good Bachata partner.
Your first few months are going to be frustrating for you in some ways and incredible in others. Be prepared for it.
Frustrations will include the feeling of not progressing fast enough, especially compared to followers. Do not get discouraged. My partner is my dance partner too, and she can dance with far more advanced leads than me because following is easier to pick up (but harder to master). Follows are as good as the leads. Remember that.
The joy will come when you dance your first full song non-stop. When you do your first combination with a stranger and they understand it. When you catch the break in a song for the first time and execute it well.
Here’s the best tips I picked up from my own experience.
– it’s a whole world of it’s own and you choose how much you immerse yourself in it. You can be a bachata dancer or someone who dances bachata.
– listen to the music. A lot. So so much. Theres a lot of good songs out there.
– find three or four songs that don’t have musical breaks in them and learn the beat all the way through. Know the songs inside out. When they come on and you can dance them because you know the song by heart, you can focus on everything else.
– when you’re feeling confident with those songs, find some that have musical breaks, or beat changes. Learn those too.
– focus on your form. I’m now, I would say, a pretty good dancer. I get regular good feedback, and told by the people in our classes that they see us as an advanced couple, but the one thing I still have to actively do is keep my back straight and shoulders back in a good posture. You’ll feel like a king when you get that down.
– don’t be afraid of the intimacy. I spent too long refusing to let another person other than my partner press against my body, even when the move called for it. That made me a bad lead for a while.
– get smaller all the time. What I mean by this is – learn the basic step, then learn to make the basic step smaller and smaller. The smaller your step, the longer your body has to make other movements and the more naturally those moves will come. A small basic provides a very sexy hip swing by default that you don’t even need to emphasise.
– when you learn a new move or combination, do it three times in a row perfectly. Then make it smaller. Three times will get the combination in to your head. Making it smaller will make it look better.
Maybe wait until you become familiar with the basics and then start privates to assist in perfecting the moves and leading them well.
More classes means you will become familiar with bachata quicker. Just like learning anything, the more you commit to it and become consistent, the faster you master it. Dancing is like hand writing. Everyone had their own way of executing moves or shines. I believe in going to many different companies classes so you learn a range of styles.
Lastly depends how much you put in and train! Some people spend 5 years and are still crappy and some people have done bachata for 3 months and are great. 🙂 I think natural aptitude also plays a part. Understanding the musically of bachata helps a lot. Goodluck! Where are you located?
FYI I’m about 18 months in, so this is only based on what I’ve seen so far and YMMV.
1. Private lessons are great for mastering certain advanced techniques, but I’ve never used them and I’m not sure they really give you a boost above small group classes if you’re not already advanced. (note reference on small, small groups are better for learning than massive conference classes). Also regular classes are better than pre-evening workshops. For added feedback, dance with your teacher if you catch her at socials. You’ll often get advice on your technique that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
2. More of everything helps, but you need a balance. A lot of teachers recommend 1h of dancing per 1h of lessons minimum. This is tough for guys at the beginning because we have to build the dance and we start out with next to no vocabulary, but the sooner you can get your feet wet the better. Very often dance evenings will have an hour or two of workshops before hand which can serve as a warm up and also as a way to help get you to a decent dance repertoire. Honestly with 4/5 passes you can easily hold a song, and follows typically prefer a lead with limited vocabulary but decent basics (ie dances on the music, guides firmly but gently) to someone who knows loads of moves but brakes their back and can’t seem to find the, what do you call them? Beats.
3. Define good and I’ll tell you how long it takes ;). The honest answer is that you never really stop learning. If you go out often (ie at least one evening a week on top of a regular dance class) and put yourself out there, you’ll be amazed at the progress you can make. I know people who have only been dancing 6 months and are already a joy to watch at socials. On the other end are people who only ever really did classes for over a year and are still awkward and have trouble with the basics, they’re getting out more now and getting better but the difference shows.
4. Also, don’t try and judge yourself based on how the follows you dance with are progressing. The progression for follows is much much faster than for leads at the early stages once the initial hurdle of letting go has passed.
5. A final point, unless you’re looking to do shows or competitions, the most important thing is that you and the people you dance with have a good time. If you follow that principle, you’ll never go too far wrong.
Good is very subjective. Do you want good as in be a good professional dancer? Good as in relative to the average Joe that only knows basic step, or good as in being above average in a given random social dance Latin party? The first can be never/many years depending on the talent and effort you put. The second can be in a matter of weeks. The third is the most interesting one and depends on your talent and how often you practice.
Taking me as an example, I am legitimately completely untalented at it. I am talking cringe awkward movement dancing. Now after a year of practising often and lessons once per week, I am alright. Depending on the type of party and who shows up, I am somewhat below or above average. This I think is a worst case scenario you can expect, if you are also equally untalented like me. With even a hint of a talent, you can reach “being average” quicker. Most people I have met that I consider good are dancing for about 2-3 years. The real pros are a different story.
As for private lessons I would say you wait. Depending on your financials, they are quite expensive so I would say it is better to take them once you reach a point where you know stuff and want to improve them, rather than sending money on seeing a basic turn. But if you are loaded and don’t mind having a lot of private lessons, then why not!
1. I think private lessons are very good especially when you suck at stuff on current regular classes. For me it helps to realize that I’m better than I think – I used to think bachata is not for me, I suck too much, especially when I see pro level on my social dancefloors. My instructor give me cool tips and sentence: “I see few lacks in your leading, but I don’t see any reason you shouldn’t go to party and have fun.”
2. I think it’s good to have 1-2 classes per week and practice. My current target is to be 1% better from social to social – 1 more pattern, styling or something more. There is no rules here – try it and check if you feel good with your amount of classes.
3. I’m dancing bachata for about 13 months. I have two breakthroughs in my way – after 7 and 12 months – I felt stronger, finally managed to do bodyroll/wave stuffs which I couldn’t do at the first months. Sensual bodymovement combinations have many conditions which you have fullfill to lead well and in comfortable way for your follower. It makes me crazy same or more than sensual/connection/etc part of this dance.
Been dancing salsa/bachata for 8 years.
1- Not in the beginning. In my opinion, private lessons are for polishing your skills, fix bad habits, improving your posture. If you don’t know the basics, you won’t get the most out of private classes. Only thing I’d bother learning in private classes at the beginning is how to perform a well executed basic step. Teachers rarely explain how to do it in regular classes. Executing a good basic step and going right on the beat is the most important thing you should focus on the beginning, not any patterns. Record yourself, dance in front of a mirror… if you get fluent with it, you will improve much faster
2- Yes, but you shouldnt do more than 2 hours a week in classes. It’s more important to go out social dancing to consolidate what you have learned. If you go too many classes, you won’t remember or assimilate what you are doing.
3- Depends on how much you go out social dancing and how consistent you are, if you did any other type of dancing before… . Still, I wouldn’t say you will be good until at least 1-2 years. Also, being ‘good’ is relative for your dancing scene. If the average level of socials in your country is better, you will advance faster. You should always try to dance with people who are better than you.
1 practice your steps and create your own little variations at home
2 fall in love with the music and research the history
3 reflect after each social what went well and what didn’t
4 imagine yourself dancing when you listen to bachata music, training the mind to think “in bachata” will help tremendously
5 pay attention to the many instruments being played in the song, they can all be danced to
6 record yourself just doing a basic or dancing with a partner, you’re often you’re hardest and best critic
I am very advanced in Bachata and my advice is:
– take as many classes as you can. Workshops over the week-end are also fine. You can learn a lot of moves and polish your technique.
– go to as many parties as you can and try to dance with different level partners.
– once that you have enough technique to dance all the way to the intermediate level, you can learn from the internet. FInd moves that you like and try to reproduce them. You have a partner that can help you improve at home.
– try to learn moves from all Bachata variations: Sensual, Dominican, Traditional, Bachata-Tango.
– dancing salsa or Kizomba helps. try to be creative with your moves. Express musicality combining the moves. Looking on youtube to other dancing Bachata, give you more ideas of what moves you can do on specific songs.
Good luck and enjoy the ride.