Today I want to share with you the 15 lessons you learn from dancing, better yet, from teaching, for more than 20 years.
First things first…I came to the United States when I was turning 21 yrs old. I was learning to dance by the time I was 23, after going to a long standing club here in Atlanta, Georgia called The Sanctuary. and I realized that I couldn’t dance that way whatsoever.
I went to take lessons and soon after that I became a Ballroom Dance Instructor. In time, I concentrated my effort and passion for dancing Salsa, Cha Cha, and later on, Bachata music.
In the past 20 years plus of dancing and teaching people how to be good at dancing, I want to honor you all by sharing what you have taught me over the years with the 15 lessons you learn from dancing.
Again, thank you all for allowing me to be part of your life, and for teaching me along the way.
Let’s dive right in…
Lesson 1. Humility.
Early in my life, I was brought up with the understanding of humility, but it was here when I first saw it and understood its true meaning by teaching how to be good at dancing and from those students that are learning to dance from zero.
Really, it does not matter how great a dancer you are or how many other dancers are looking up to you, being humble about your own importance as a dancer is a great quality to have.
I have encouraged every student of mine to pay it forward as I did and still continue to do. Help another dancer that is not “quite there” yet, and trust me, you will become not just a memorable dancer, but also a great person to have as a friend.
This is one of many life lessons learned from dancing.
Lesson 2. Dedication.
Life is a funny thing sometimes. I have always displayed commitment to the thing I want to achieve in life, but I have been naive to assume that people function the same way I do.
Here is another one of the lessons you learn from dancing. My students have taught me the value of keeping their commitment to learning to dance alive. I make their commitment as important as mine and always am prepared for their lesson.
This is not an option for me, but a new lifestyle.
The reality is, the same rules apply to them that apply to me. Skip a dance lesson? Forget about it.
This has served me well in my professional, as well as my personal, life. Dedication is another one of the life lessons from dance.
Lesson 3. Everybody can dance.
To me, it’s a fact that everybody can dance. Maybe you may think you are not world champion material but, believe it or not, your body can dance. I know!
How to be good at dancing? How good do you want to get? Well, this depends on a lot of factors, but you don’t need to be amazing to enjoying dancing, I’m just saying.
Sometimes you just have to take your first step, which is the thought of learning to dance, and then do it.
Having the opportunity to work with all levels of students (especially with people who have never danced before ) has taught me this little fact: those who claimed to have “2 left feet” surprised themselves by how they can dance.
It’s so rewarding to me to see them become a different person altogether. Love it!
Lesson 4. Dance with kindness.
When I was a little boy, my mother taught me to be kind to the little girls around me. Now, as an adult, I continue to be kind to the opposite sex.
I have learned with my students not only to be kind to the opposite sex but to be kind to everybody, young and old, male or female.
I have always been respectful to everybody to the best of my knowledge, but I was mainly kind to the opposite sex. Now, I am grateful to be kind to everybody. What amazing life lessons you learn from dancing!
You can choose to make someone’s day better, whether it’s by inspiring another dancer who watches you, by being a good friend, or by not making judgments about others.
Every time you do something nice to another dancer, or person, you are making the world a better place. If you are still wondering what life skills does dance teach, continue reading…
Lesson 5. The skill of understanding.
In the time that it took me to become a Ballroom Dance Instructor, I saw myself learning so much so quickly, but I saw myself crash and burn, too. Not pretty I assure you.
Learning to dance can be an easy thing to do, but it can be hard sometimes, too.
I knew then, as I know now, that this is normal. Why? Because not everything in life is peachy. Don’t you think so?
My dance students helped me master the skill of understanding. It was through their learning style that helped me become better at teaching in general.
Think about it… there are dancers with the background that puts them in the perfect position to learn faster than others.
These two groups of people helped me focus on what I needed to do to become a better dance instructor.
Understanding their needs helped me show them how to be good at dancing and provide them with exactly what they need to become great dancers.
Lesson 6. The power of teamwork.
When I speak of ‘teamwork’ I’m not referring to ‘partner work’ in dance, but to be working with a single student or a couple.
Learning how to work with my students is crucial to their success, as well as mine as a dance instructor.
In other words, the saying ‘You have to be a team player to succeed’ is just a true statement.
Teaching how to be good at dancing with so many different students, from those who started learning to dance to those who are more advanced, taught me a lot about how to deal with different personalities and work with different types of people.
This is something I do all the time as a dance instructor and, thanks to them, I can share another one of the important life lessons you learn from dancing.
Lesson 7. Self-discipline.
I know you know that dedication matters, right?! In my humble opinion, this is only half of the equation.
From the dancing point of view, discipline is only a side effect of learning to dance, just like technique dictates the execution of the steps.
Self-discipline, however, is the drive to learn to dance or to perform these actions to the best of one’s ability, 100 percent of the time.
I’ve been lucky to work with dancers who are hard workers and self-motivators, taking their tasks seriously in any context.
Self-discipline and self-motivation are qualities I admire so much and use in my life. It is a beautiful thing to see them in action, and something I admire all the time.
It is only fair to acknowledge self-discipline as yet another one of the life lessons you learn from dancing. Thank you guys for making this a core element in my personal life.
Lesson 8. Honest opinion.
I grew up in an era of “never say no and always say yes to every opportunity”. Times have changed since then.
In my journey as a dance instructor, I’ve given my honest opinion to the questions asked by my students. I’ve learned it’s perfectly acceptable and kind to give an honest response, regardless of it being positive or negative.
I have heard other instructors tell white lies about someone’s progress, just to make them feel better.
My students help me take ownership of that, rather than me making them feel good for something done wrong. Wrong is wrong like right is right.
But, on the flip side of things, they will always know when something is being done right.
Lesson 9. Creativity on the fly.
Ok, this is a given for me. In life I like structure. I find patterns in almost everything. But dance, on the other hand, is an art form.
Teaching for so many years has taught me to have the creative switch on all the time. I attribute this to all my students over the years. They are the ones responsible for my creativity on the fly. Thank you, guys!
To me, the purpose of dance is so you can be creative. I think having a creative hobby is what led me to be in a creative profession.
Dance also showed me that I thrive in creative environments, which is something I always keep in the forefront of my mind with career opportunities.
Lesson 10. Time to enjoy yourself.
Dance can be a lot for an adult. Juggling work or school with being constantly at the dance studio training to improve your dance skill or preparing for competitions can be pretty stressful.
Now when it comes to dancing, I consider myself lucky to have the chance to help my students learn a new skill.
I help them keep in mind that every time they get the chance to enter a dance club or perform on stage, it’s an opportunity to truly enjoy what they are doing. Here is the time to enjoy yourself.
I emphasize trying to forget about everything else going on in life, and enjoy yourself in the moment, and to be present.
Take all the hard work, practice, and time on the dance floor, and just have fun.
Since my early beginnings, this has been a core principle in my teaching… Have fun!
Having fun becomes part of the group of lessons you learn from dancing.
Lesson 11. Turn fear into passion.
Right before I began my dance journey, I used to believe that it takes a lot of guts to go up on a stage in front of an audience knowing that all eyes are on you. “Those are brave people,” I used to say to myself.
Once I started learning to dance and teaching my students, I quickly realized that dancing, for some people, was about overcoming fears, whether it was going on stage, trying out a new trick, or just learning to dance in general
The flip side of fear is the positive result of overcoming your fears, and how great it could feel. This is cemented in the back of my mind and it is what pushes me in my everyday life. This is one of the life lessons learned from dance that stuck with me
People believe that it’s hard to be so committed to something without passion. What started as a need to dance turned into a new skill that developed into a career that became a passion.
Teaching my students to dance showed me how important it is to do things that you love and are passionate about because if you don’t, you’re going to live your whole life never as happy as you could be.
Remember, give yourself the opportunity to try, and you can do it.
Lesson 12. Their secret weapon.
Ok, I’ve always believed that everybody has the desire to learn new things, but dancing is not for everyone. Dancing is a special kind of activity that provides different levels of engagement and styles to choose from. Would you agree?
Whether through private lessons, group classes, or performances, this can have a big impact on the individuals to enjoy making dance part of their life.
The very thing I can appreciate most about the people I taught for so many years is their inner motivation.
It is easy to lose motivation whenever you feel like your goals are unattainable, or if you feel like you are not moving forward with your dance classes, but these people do not give up.
They find themselves staying motivated and push through it. This is such a great reminder for me to always continue moving forward no matter what. Do I need to say more? I don’t think so.
And yet, another valuable tip in the lessons you learn from dancing… Motivation.
Lesson 13. Perseverance promotes growth not success.
Ok, allow me to confess this: I thought of quitting teaching people to dance. Not dancing, but the teaching side of it.
I took like a six-month break to re-evaluate my thought of quitting about 20 yrs ago.
In my break from teaching, I learned a valuable lesson. The lesson was that perseverance doesn’t guarantee success, but it guarantees growth.
I came to see this so clearly with the natural progression of my students and how they were growing after each lesson. Each new challenging step helped them to push through to the next level.
Now, thanks to their perseverance, I live my life knowing this awesome lesson:
Perseverance doesn’t guarantee success, but it guarantees growth.
Lesson 14. Stay grounded.
In life, things can spin out of control if we are not careful. As an example, when dancing Salsa, beginners tend to spin on one foot and lose their balance rather than switching off between both feet.
This is a normal reaction from the body to help maintain balance. Don’t you agree? The solution is quite simple once you learn how to make it perfect.
The hidden message from this simple example is that there is always a better way to do the same thing.
This has been a core principle that I apply in my personal life, my relationship with my wife, and with my friends.
Challenges are here and they are meant to be met. Every hour of every day, you and I are faced with new challenges, and that means that we have to rise up and conquer those challenges in order to become a better person and a better dancer.
Lesson 15. Never stop learning.
I have a beautiful daughter in my life and our family is filled with love. She is three years old at this moment. She, just like my students, brings happiness to my personal life.
My students have taught me so much over the years and they continue to do so every time we get together. You guys are the main reason I continue to do what I do.
Quality of practice is better than the quantity of practice. This is what I share with them, and is exactly what I strive to do for them to become great dancers.
So, set goals and achieve them.
My three-year-old daughter has taught me how she sees the world at her height because I get down on the floor and play with her like a little kid… It’s priceless to me.
I don’t know what made me reflect on my career as a dance Instructor, but I have been very lucky to continue doing something that I love doing for so many years.
I felt the need to share with my former and current students the life lessons you learn from dancing, and better yet, what I have learned from teaching you guys. I have grown fond of all of you!
To Kristen, Eric, Kirk, Devash, Will, Ike, Sandra, Oatha, Sarah, Lylah, Arash, Gollie, David, Felitia, Lauren, Nichole, Miguel, Tiffany, Margo, Genevieve, and Shane (just to mention some of them) I want to say:
Thank you so much for giving me the chance to become a better individual with all the things that you guys taught over the years.
As always, Thank you very much for taking the time to read this article.