Beginners

This season, the ballet classes that I teach at two very different health clubs excite me. They’re getting good! I’ve made similar attempts at various clubs over the years, but never with this sense of steady success. Having come late to dance myself, I empathize with adult Beginners. images-1.jpeg

I enjoy the analysis and explanation of technique, and that “Ah-ha!” moment that lights up a student’s face when a new concept dawns.

Sure, teaching the fundamentals, the same thing over and over again every week, tries my patience. However, it’s only tedious when I arrive at the studio with plans to set a beautiful step sequence that is beyond the capacity of most of those people who happened to join me that day.

How does an instructor let go of their own expectations?

Beginners require a specific format, different from the intermediate students who are already familiar with basic vocabulary. The new folks progress best with a syllabus set in advance that maximizes repetition; and they need breaks to relax their minds; whereas the experienced dancers benefit from the opposite– a sustained focus. In health clubs, they all attend the same class together.

What do you recommend?

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Marketing Oneself by Season

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However ignoble it may be for a teacher to think of himself this way, ours is a cult of personality. New business, class attendance and private clientele, are best advanced through personal contact. You’ve got to get yourself out there.

I like thinking of my life in blocks of seasons. Perhaps that’s a remnant of my landscape gardening years — just me and a pick-up truck, and sometimes a hunky assistant from the club where I was also employed as a fitness trainer. Planning by season is not just a useful metaphor for a gardener! Less essential for a teacher’s business, the seasons are still romantic and full of ritual. I change the stations of my exercise circuit class on the equinox and solstice; because that dance with the rhythm of the surrounding world somehow blesses the success of all arrangements.

My spring networking effort was going out for after-class drinks with dance students, and organizing group field trips to the Opera House to see the San Francisco Ballet.

Last summer, my self-promotion attempt was to attend a figure drawing salon at an art gallery in my neighborhood, ($20 for 3 hours of live models, meal of appetizers and beer and wine!). I still had to be assertively social. Artists don’t talk much while they work; but , between poses, the appetizer table is ripe with potential introductions, “What do you do?” By participating in the group activity, I didn’t need to push or be disingenuous.

What group activities have intrinsic value to you?

Satisfaction comes from committing to the activities that bring you joy, even if you don’t capture any new business. I like to make such social plans a quarter in advance.

Have you any suggestions?