Yes, you read that right. I learned a really good lesson this week … during a lesson. (OK, make that a coaching session, but it was more catchy saying “lesson.”)
It was a couple of weeks ago that one of my dancing friends asked if I’d like to get a coaching session with Louis van Amstel. Heck, yes, I would! So, we worked it out for the two of us to drive to Charlotte and each take a private coaching session with Louis.
I’m sure you’re probably thinking I’m going to wax eloquent about Louis and how amazing he is … etc., etc. He was very courteous and also a little distant. (very different from my previous meetings with the Ballas men.) We worked on Rumba and it was straight-up fab. In a word, the man is a brilliant teacher.
But here’s the big lesson I’m talking about: Right at the beginning of the coaching session, Louis stopped and said, “You’re not here just to dance are you? You’re really serious about learning — you want to be a good dancer.”
I assured him that of course I was.
He said, “I can tell. OK, let’s talk theory.”
Now, the reason this is interesting is because he seemed surprised by my focus, which at the time didn’t make sense to me. He mentioned a couple other times about how serious I was to learn and that I clearly wanted to do this all by myself. (Um, yeah, these things aren’t cheap, buddy, and we drove almost 2 hours to get here.)
So, I watched my friend take her coaching session and she did great. We were both so excited to gather up our notes, videos and stuff to go change. There was much to talk about on the drive home about everything we had been able to learn. We changed into our street clothes and started to walk out of the studio… (What I’m about to tell you that I observed, I didn’t make a connection about till later that night.) There was a student who was dancing with her teacher at that studio and they were clearly having a session with Louis. I had been watching them warm up a little beforehand and she was a decent dancer. In their session with Louis I saw how she was dancing.
Later that night I realized what I had seen. This lady (bless her, I have no idea who she is) was trying to impress Louis with her dancing. Let’s face it: the guy is a master dancer, teacher and choreographer. No one in that studio could even begin to compare to him.
You get where I’m going with this — lessons and coaching sessions are the times for us confident, accomplished adults (in other areas) to put away our need for affirmation of skill/praise and put on our teachable spirits.
Now, lest you think I’m patting myself on the back for my spirit with Louis, I didn’t go in with that in mind — and I sure don’t make a regular practice of that with my teacher! It just happened because I knew I really, really, really needed to learn as much as I could and pay attention so I could take notes and apply to my practice times. And I got SOOO much out of that lesson time. I didn’t resist or try to show him how I could dance. I just wanted to learn.
|another freakishly huge smile by me|
As a teacher, I should know how valuable this is in a student and how much it makes me want to teach them more and help them. Why shouldn’t it apply to the dance lesson world?
I’ve seen and heard of many students challenging, berating, arguing with, talking down to, dismissing, ignoring, showing off, and even downright walking out on their dance teachers. Sometimes I think we would get so much more out of lesson time if we would put our pride away and just absorb what’s being taught to us. If my college students treated me the way I’ve seen some students treat their dance instructors, I’d kick them out of my class.
I had a lesson with my teacher the evening after my session with Louis and I told him all about what I’d learned. It was while talking about what happened that I realized what Louis was saying to me. Nothing makes a teacher happier than teaching someone who is actively trying to learn and grow.
No worries … you can always show off your skill when you social dance! 🙂 But keep a teachable spirit and the resistance at bay during your lesson time. If you don’t respect your teacher enough to do that … then you probably should find someone else.
Now to keep that spirit in my own regular lesson times … here’s hoping I really learned something this week!