Private lessons are the quickest and most effective way to learn the art and skill of dancing. Many people will tell you that one private is the equivalent of 4 group classes. That's partly true, but just partly. There is really no equation that matches private dance lessons to group classes. When you take a private lesson from a good dance instructor, you are learning something the correct way right off the bat. With group classes, you learn the same thing, but with 20 dance students in the class, how can the teacher make sure that you are dancing the correct way? He can't. Being slightly off, is off. It's like saying you're almost on timing. You're either on or off. The same thing with technique.
In a group dance class, you mainly practice with other people at your level. Maybe the teacher will dance with you for a few minutes, but for the most part, you are dancing with someone at your level. That's not a good thing if you want to get better. The way to improve at anything is to do it with someone who is better than you. Speaking French with a beginner won't help much. Put you in a room with a native speaker for a month and you will be speaking French.
Many people think, I can't afford to take private dance lessons. If you can afford to take group classes, you can afford to take privates. Here's why. You will learn more in a private than in a group class for the same amount of money. You won't just learn more, and here's the important part, you will learn right. Because of the tactile nature of partner dancing, certain techniques can not be learned properly in a group setting. You need to be with someone who knows how to do it the correct way. Feel how their body moves. This is next to impossible in a group setting. You also need to have this proper technique drilled into your muscle memory. Once bad technique is in your muscle memory, it will be very hard to lose. Group classes are good for practicing what you learn in your privates.
In my two Brooklyn dance studios, I have seen many students who have spent lots of money over the years taking group lessons: salsa, tango, Latin, ballroom and more. The things they were doing only partly right a year ago, many are still doing only partly right today. Bad habits are hard to break. Even harder if you are dancing with someone who also has the same bad habits. I have many students who started with privates, learned things the 100% correct way, and have actually spent less money to get to the level they are at than the student who is taking the group class.
Author: Lisa Grebenyuk