A student asked me the other day about the coming Congress in Chicago and was asking whether or not I recommend that they take some of the workshops offered by the out of town guests.

I have to first confess that I am a huge advocate of working with many people as this helps you avoid becoming a clone of a single person. Even within studios, it’s a good idea, in my humble opinion, to work with a variety of teachers. Many times you do end up sticking with one as your ‘main sensei’ but the variety is only a positive as far as I’m concerned.

As I thought about this question, I was really only moved to think of how much value a beginning student could get from a workshop. I think it’s human nature to reflect on your own experiences to offer advice that you might have experience in, so I thought of myself as a young Padwan and how I benefited from taking classes at Congresses when I was working up the ranks.

In truth, it really didn’t help me at the time because I wasn’t ready to hear the information. One thing that I have noticed (I might be a bit guilty of this myself) is that seasoned dancers don’t really teach basic classes at events like this and usually don’t do so at their home studio either. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing as sometimes, it’s good for a student to work their way up the ladder and keep moving to better and more skilled teachers. It frankly keeps things interesting and also gives you something to look forward to.

So, I painted a scenario for my student who is an advanced beginner and told him he was going to run into ‘Combo-mania’ and not really given anything of immediate benefit although the patterns would come in handy later when he was ready to understand. I’ve also seen it happen very often where students go ‘workshop crazy’ and then don’t add a single thing to their repertoire. It’s a bit too much to digest in one shot and they find themselves with a bunch of footage that they have no idea how to execute.

So then what? I’d recommend picking your favorite person at an event and schedule a private lesson with them. In all sincerity, given the limited amount of time you’ll have with them, it’s best if they can just focus on YOU and not running through a workshop and getting everything out in a limited amount of time.

That’s not the fault of the teachers, they are just running under tight time constraints and have to keep things moving. So often they have more to share and don’t really get the time to sink their teeth into what they’re doing.

I am of the opinion that learning a technical skill beats a pattern any day of the week. Working with an instructor privately can help you gain those nuggets of insight that allow you to make advances in your dance ability.

First learn to dance, then learn the style (Salsa/Mambo, Cha Cha, Bachata, Kizomba etc).

What do you guys think?

Have Congress workshops really made a lasting change in your dancing?

How would you change things?

Do you prefer classes at your local studio?

Let me know!

To your dancing…

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