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Should I Do Private Lessons or Group Classes First to Learn Salsa or Bachata?

Updated: May 11

This audio was recorded by Danny Kalman, the Director of Movers and Shakers Salsa and Bachata Dance Academy. The following text is an unedited transcript of his audio and headers have been added for clarity.

Transcript of Audio:

When learning to dance salsa or bachata for the first time, should you take private lessons or group classes first? I will make this advice as practical and simple and as actionable as possible.  

The short answer is that if you have access to a group program that's a great program, it has to be progressive, it has to be structured, and hopefully, it's comprehensive, so it can take you all the way from beginner to advanced.

Hopefully, it's with some good instructors, and has a solid curriculum. If you have access to a good group program, start with that. Any good group program should start from zero and really take care of beginners dancing for the first time.

Some people call and they say, “Hey, I'm not ready for group class. I want to take private lessons first.” and I understand this. It's a feeling of anxiety, right? People are going to look at me. I've never danced before. Everybody's going to be so good. Don't worry about any of that. People are looking at themselves. Most of them have the same thoughts and fears about this as you might.

Choosing the Right Dance Program: Group Classes vs. Drop-In Sessions

So if you have access to a great group program that starts from the top, just jump into that. 

If you only have access to drop-in classes, and this depends on your city, your location, right? Then, honestly, starting from the top with drop-in classes is really messy and it really doesn't work well. Trying to piece together, I mean, imagine learning any skill. Imagine if you were learning computer programming and there was a drop-in class and you learned something random every time you come in, and it's beginner level, but it's random.  

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Meanwhile, you don't even know the first thing about computer programming. That's a big, giant mess. I mean, it's a very slow, inefficient way to learn and the ultimate result is that you'll never have the proper foundations. So it's really crucial to find a great structured program that's progressive and comprehensive. Hopefully, you can find that in your city. 

If all you have access to is drop-in classes, then yeah, private lessons are a great way to go. Now the thing with privates, of course, the first thing that comes to mind for many people is the price, right? And everybody has a different financial situation. If it's within your budget to get private lessons, fantastic. Of course, in terms of speed of learning, you can't beat the speed that you'll learn in private lessons.

The Social Benefits of Group Classes

Then again, the advantage of group classes is it's fun, it's social, you're going to meet people who can potentially become your friends and you can go out dancing with them also. When you first go out dancing, the first few times, at least, if you have a support system, a group of people who are also learning and will go out with you and you can dance with each other, that gives people a lot of confidence and that can really help people have the courage to go out dancing and have a good time while you're there.  

You know, in bigger cities, you go out social dancing and it can appear as if everybody's a professional dancer. It can be very overwhelming and intimidating. So bringing a support group is a great thing to do and a group class is where you are going to find those people to go out dancing with.  

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Scheduling-wise, if it's impossible to do the group program schedule, then yeah, of course, privates would be potentially a good option for you. Alright, so let's say you're in a large city and you have access to everything. You have access to great structured group programs and you have the funds and the time for private lessons, which should you do? Actually, I would still say start with the group programs because of the social benefits. But supplementing that with private lessons can really expedite your learning and make a huge difference.

Group Classes and Supplemental Private Dance Lessons

Even if you don't have the funds for infinite private lessons, even if you just do maybe five with your instructor, you know, take group class for, after about your fifth week, you could start supplementing it with private lessons to lock in these details and clean up these little details, right? Perhaps in group class, you're able to dance with the instructor a little bit and if they're a good instructor, they're going to give you feedback during that time. 

Alright, now just imagine constant feedback with a great instructor through the entire lesson on every single little adjustment that you need to make. I mean, it's absolutely the fastest way to learn and honestly, unless you're in a really great program, there are a lot of details that you might not ever learn or ever get feedback on unless you're doing private lessons.

How Private Lessons Transformed My Dancing

Just my personal story is that I always wanted to do, well, I grew up in a small city and my options were kind of limited up there. When I came to Los Angeles, you know, I really wanted to do private lessons and they were way out of my budget. I mean, I had, I was literally homeless when I moved to Los Angeles. I had no money for private lessons.  

Eventually, as things got better, I was able to afford some private lessons. When I did that, that actually is what led to the biggest transformation in my dancing in my entire journey. I had already been dancing for maybe 12, about 12 years when I started private lessons. I had learned in many different countries and performance teams and competing and classes and structured programs and different styles of salsa.

I had done a lot of training. I was really passionate about it, but then I started doing these private lessons every single week with actually a world champion. So very, very qualified instructor, and coach also for competing and it made a huge difference. I mean, the time that I really locked in so many of the great details for my dancing technique, at that time it was salsa, was with that instructor.  

Then just recently, for example, I went to Spain, I'm always training, always looking for new ways to improve. Spain is where sensual bachata comes from, right? So some of the best sensual bachata dancers in the world are over there.  

I did a bunch of private lessons with some of these top instructors and the feedback from those lessons is deeper than anything I would ever get in a group class. So supplementing with private lessons can be really powerful. I definitely recommend that at some point, even if it's just a few lessons, whenever you are able to. All right. So, hopefully, that's helpful. As I always say, fall in love with the process of learning to dance and everything else will naturally fall into place. 


Salsa and Bachata Classes in Los Angeles 

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The academy offers both private lessons and group classes in salsa and bachata to fit your learning style and schedule. Whether you seek the tailored guidance of a private lesson or the fun atmosphere of a group class, find your perfect dance experience with us.

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