It seems that in every workshop, there’s some very recognizable dancers who come out to play. Whether it’s in weekly classes or congresses, you’re sure to find these dancers around the world and in every style.
1. The Questioner
You guessed it – the Questioner has a question about everything. Whether it’s foot placement, connection, or some tiny detail about which muscle engages on count 2.5 of the pattern, they will have a question (or 10).
Sometimes, the questions are so obscure or off-topic that the teachers are not able to answer them. But, every once in a while, the Questioner becomes the savior of the class when they ask that really simple question everyone else was too embarrassed to ask.
If you identify with the Questioner: Pick your questions wisely. If it’s a very specific or off-topic question, save it for the end of class or for a private lesson. In group classes, keep questions tailored to things everyone can use.
2. The Freak-Out
The Freak-Out spends the majority of the class hyperventilating and near tears (even if only internally). The anxiety in the air is palpable near the Freak-Out. They feel that there is no way that they’ll ever get the movement; they’re just not ‘good enough’.
Rather than dance, the partners of the Freak-Out spend the majority of the class trying to calm the person down. You’d figure these people would be too anxious to dance – but, they keep trying. And eventually, they stop freaking out (as much).
If you identify with the Freak-Out: Take space to breathe. If you need to sit out for a rotation or go grab some water, do it. If you need to ask your partner to go through a movement slowly, do it. Unlike many of the student types, you need to create space for you to learn at your own pace and be comfortable. You will be just fine. And yes, you will ‘get it’.
3. The Frustrated One
The Frustrated One is similar to the Freak-Out, except the Frustrated One gets angry about the thing they can’t get yet. Sometimes, that anger is self-directed. Other times, it manifests as a pervasive, negative energy towards their partner.
The Frustrated One is one of the most difficult to deal with, because they often direct negative energy towards their partner. This is especially problematic if both people get frustrated, or one has low self-confidence. It rears its head even more when a person is hungry or tired (frequent states at congresses and events).
If you identify with the Frustrated One: Let your partners in on the secret. When you feel the frustration building, tell your partner that you’re feeling frustrated. That way, the partner doesn’t feel attacked if you seem short. You should also give yourself room to breathe, and take your time rather than try to move fast – even if your pace is slower than the group.
4. The Joker
The Joker makes a joke out of everything. Often, it’s a dirty joke. Sometimes, the Joker in the room is also the teacher.
These dancers can be great ‘comic relief’ on serious topics, and can boost the class morale during ‘boring’ drills… when in moderation. But, sometimes these dancers spill into being a serious distraction. Or, they can create discomfort with people who do not appreciate their brand of humor (particularly if it’s dirty).
If you identify with the Joker: Continue lifting spirits – but be very aware of the ‘line’. Cross it, and you might derail the workshop, or alienate some of the more serious people in the room. Jokes are great – in moderation.
5. The One Who Thinks They Get It
They come into class with great ego. And, that ego stays. After one to two attempts, this person thinks they’ve got the movement perfect (and any mistakes are their partner’s fault). The One Who Thinks They Get It may be very “patient” with their partners – but that patience still blames their partner for all the mistakes. Put simply, the focus is always on the other person to improve.
These students often take workshops far above their dance level. While challenge is great, aiming too high can leave other students frustrated with the person – and a teacher may not be able to progress the class.
If you identify with The One Who Thinks They Get It: you need to get yourself a reality check on your dancing. Most people who are actually in line with this type don’t know that this applies to them. The best thing these dancers can do for their learning is to recognize when their ego is over-inflated. That way, they can bring their expectations back down to earth and really learn something.
6. The One Who Actually Gets It
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the people who are absolutely gifted at workshops. After a few passes, the movement is actually working – even if it defies common-sense that they grasped the concept that quickly.
Sometimes, it can be a relatively inexperienced dancer. For whatever reason, the movements just ‘click’. But, these dancers are prone to pattern-ruts. Their ability to synthesize material can lead to an over-reliance on learned patterns on the social floor.
If you identify with The One Who Actually Gets It: You’re doing well. This is a great place to be – but it can lead to egos or pattern ruts. Make sure you cultivate your own creative abilities, and avoid only doing exactly what was taught in class.
7. The Expressionist
This is the person who abhors structure in favour of ‘expression’.
Instead of coming to class and learning the technique, they loudly exclaim that the structure of the dance is too ‘confining’. They don’t want to keep their shoulders still to fix their frame – it’s expression. They don’t want to stay on rhythm – there’s other things in the music!
Their focus is on what they feel is free interpretation. Very often, these people feel an affinity for things like contact improvisation or Fusion, where they feel free of rules. But, unbeknownst to them, there are rules and technique there, too. They just don’t know about them yet.
If you identify with the Expressionist: Make room for technique and serious study. Dancing is fun and wonderful – but without the structure, you jeopardize your partner’s safety and your own ability to grow. I promise when you learn what frame and structure can do, you’ll love it. It just takes some investment to get there.
8. The “Steacher”
Instead of coming to class as a student, this person is more preoccupied with teaching everyone else how to do the movement or technique. Give them a partner, and they’ll explain exactly what they think is wrong (regardless of whether that thing is actually incorrect).
In another variation, they may be preoccupied with identifying how it ‘feels off’, and insist on calling the teacher over to correct their partners at every opportunity. In all situations, the feedback is never self-directed; it’s directed at their partner.
If you identify with the “Steacher”: Spend time in class figuring out what you can do better. There are ways to give constructive feedback, but it requires a co-operative approach. This means that both partners need to assume there’s something that they can do better. For example, if you can’t feel a lead, say “it would help me go there if I could feel a bit more direction.” Then, it’s something they can do to help you, rather than a thing they’re not doing right.
9. The One in La-La Land
“Rotate partners!” the instructor calls. But, this partner is off in La-La Land. Maybe they’re thinking about the move. Maybe they’re intensely studying the structure of the walls nearby. But, regardless of what they’re doing, they’re not present in the class.
Other features include forgetting items in every class, and frequently rotating in the wrong direction during partner switches.
If you identify with the One in La-La Land: Cultivate your ability to pay attention when the teacher talks. It will help your growth, and ability to understand the material.
10. The Notetaker
This person takes prolific notes and videos – of everything. About 10% of them actually use the notes and videos they take.
They prefer recordings from multiple angles, both with and without descriptions. They also will never be caught dead without memory on their camera, and a notebook & pen.
If you identify with the Notetaker: If you actually use the notes and videos, carry on. If you don’t, either decide to use them, or devote that energy to in-class learning. Sometimes, being present in the moment teaches you more than standing behind a notepad or camera.
11. The One Who Doesn’t Trust the Teacher
This student loves to compare everything that each teacher has ever said to them. And, they’ll tell the teacher exactly why they think what they’re teaching is wrong.
Some teachers try to defend their points. Some explain how certain concepts aren’t mutually exclusive, or why others have a different way of approaching the same concept. A few just say “…..no. Let’s continue.”
Of course, this student raises a confusing question in the mind of the teacher: why are you taking classes with me if you don’t think I know what I’m doing?
If you identify with The One Who Doesn’t Trust the Teacher: Learn to choose teachers who you believe in. If a teacher doesn’t mesh with your style and approach, find someone who does. Or, if information given to you by another teacher doesn’t ‘jive’ with what you know, ask a teacher you do trust about it. Very often, you’ll find that the two ‘opposite’ pieces of information are both accurate – and sometimes even mean the same thing!
12. The “Perfect Student”
There’s some people who are just really easy to teach. They learn well, they have a great attitude, and all the other students love dancing with them. When they give feedback to partners, the Perfect Student avoids blaming the partner – and involves the teacher when a problem really does need help. Very often, they also help lift their partner’s spirits, diffuse frustration, and manage bad behavior.
The Perfect Student isn’t necessarily the most talented or the fastest learner. But, they pay attention to what is said, and work hard to apply it. Teachers don’t fear giving feedback, because they know it will be taken as constructive criticism – rather than being taken personally, or completely disregarded.
If you want to identify with the Perfect Student: The great thing is that the Perfect Student mentality can be cultivated in every individual. It may take work – especially for people who get frustrated or overwhelmed easily. But, it is always within reach of every student.
No “Bad” Students
There is no one in a workshop who is intrinsically ‘bad’ at learning. But, there are people who have certain walls, defences, or insecurities that prevent them from becoming the best student they can be.
For example, ego, blame, or frustration is often a cover for insecurities. Some people feel very judged when they’re failing or doing poorly at something new – so they ‘puff up’ to try to cover the cracks. Often, this gets directed at their partners.
On the other hand, some people have internalized a feeling of worthlessness or low expectations so that they don’t get ‘let down’ if they fail to do something right. So, they fail to full commit to learning. After all, there’s nothing to be let down about if you don’t really ‘try’ (or so they think).
Others simply want to be noticed. They want to be praised or stand out – so they ask questions or consume the teacher’s time as a way to validate themselves. If they get a one-on-one compliment or comment, it means that someone important has taken an interest in them.
Regardless of what types of students resonate with you, you’re capable of being a great, positive force in any workshop or class. Cultivate the great student in you, and you’ll see bigger gains in your learning and reputation.
What is your recommendation for a student who finds them self in a workshop significantly outside of their ability and understanding? I want to learn, but I don’t want to diminish the other dancers experience.
Generally speaking, there’s a few options:
1. Move to a different workshop, if available;
2. Sit and watch instead of actually doing the workshop; or
3. Explain to your partners what’s going on, and see if you can at least get part of the movement down.
Generally speaking, students are sympathetic to people who *know* they’re in over their head and are trying their best. They’re *not* sympathetic to people who think they’re great, but are terrible.
Of course, the best way to avoid these situations is to figure out what level you fall under *before* you get to the event…
I’ve been in that type situation where the level was significantly higher than I expected. Due to a lack of people at the workshop that could accommodate 4 levels, they just decided to teach one class – Advanced (and I was just at low Intermediate at the time). In retrospect, I should have left right there and then but I stuck it out until near the end where I got so frustrated that I had to leave, feeling quite angry. I had no doubt that I could learn the moves that they were teaching, it was just taught at a pace which was too quick for me to handle. I assign some responsibility at the teachers as well for not handing the situation with the lack of people attending the workshop.
I gained valuable experience from that incident and took more control of what I wanted to learn. Just last week, I was in an Advanced class where one of the patterns demonstrated at the beginning of the class was too complicated for me to learn at the time. The instructors weren’t much help, changing moves in mid class and not being responsive to my questions. I felt that the more I struggled, the worse it would get for me, plus it would drag the rest of the class down, so I just decided to walk out. I’ve done many classes with these instructors successfully before, but it wasn’t working for me this time around. I don’t feel shame in walking out – I’m honest with myself about what type of student I am and how I learn.
To sum up, if you feel you are in over your head, leave the class, take some time to reassert yourself, then try again next time, either with the same teachers or somewhere else. This has worked for me.
Yeach. I remember such workshop too. It was hard experience 😀
Unfortunatelly I also blame organizers a little. It was a workshop for not so well known dance in our community. So someone asked in the fb event, if it is suitable also for begginers. Unfortunatelly the anwers was “yes, they can come too” because they probably wanted to fill the workshop at any cost and get more money. When I came there and saw that many of the “students” on this workshop were teachers of yoru dance studio it was obvious my presence is a mistake. 😀
They totally skiped basic steps and went one figure and pattern after another. It was really painfull experience. I stuck to the end. But did not gain much knowledge. Luckily the followers were patient with me. But since that experience, I try to better investigate the levels of the workshops 😀
As always your articles are well written and on point! I’m not sure whether most of your research comes from your own experience and thoughts but they are in line with my thoughts on the same subject matters! Keep up the good work!
Not mentioned under Note-Takers is the way they cannot focus on what the teacher is trying to teach because they are too busy trying to video. This then follows them taking up additional teacher time as they have to be guided through everything that they missed in the group explanation.
Some of the best workshops I have been in the teachers have stated at the start “No videoing during the class, we will do a demonstration at the end that can be videoed”. I’d like to encourage more teachers to do this.