How to get the most out of dance workshops
by Jeff Huang
Unlike normal group lessons, Salsa congress workshops are usually one-time, high level classes that focus on a special topic – styling, complex combinations, footwork etc. Workshops are golden opportunities to learn from out-of-town instructors, and to take away something new and different you might not get on a regular basis.
Let’s talk about how you can get the most out of attending such workshops – what to look for, how to prepare, and what to do afterwards to retain as much as you can.
Before the workshop/congress – do your research!
Workshop schedules are often announced 1-2 weeks ahead of the actual event. This is the time to get to know your future instructors. Check out their YouTube videos, browse their websites, and talk to other people for their impressions of previous workshops! This way, you will know in advance whether you might like the teaching style and dancing style of certain instructors, then pick and choose the workshops you want to take. Be selective – better to attend 1-2 workshops and retain what you learned, then go through 10 workshops and remember nothing.
Before the workshop/congress – Get lots of rest
Workshops tend to be very demanding – you will be taking in lots of material in a relatively short time and, more often than not, it will be physically challenging. Make sure you are well rested! At most salsa conventions, social dance parties run late into the night, but some dedicated dancers cut their Friday/Saturday night dancing short so they can save their stamina for the next day’s workshops.
During the workshop – Focus on key elements / pick your battles
Most of the time, workshop instructors will try to give more than enough material during their given hour. This can easily overwhelm someone who is trying to take everything in at once. My advice is to pick out one or two elements that you like from each workshop and focus on perfecting them. This way, you will be able to walk away with one or two key concepts well-ingrained, rather than 50 different loosely scattered ideas that are easily forgotten.
During the workshop – Ask questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek assistance during class. If you are having trouble during the workshop, it is very likely that you are not the only person stuck. Most instructors will be more than happy to assist you and clarify any problems you may have. Can’t get the instructor’s attention? Most big schools bring helpers/assistants – identify them and ask for help.
At the end of the workshop – Film it
Always bring a camera (or your smartphone – on silent, of course!) to workshops, because at the end, instructors will typically perform a demo of what they’ve taught during the workshop – and possibly more! These videos are for personal use – don’t ever post them on YouTube or Facebook without permission.
After the workshop – Practice!
As always, practice is the only way to retain what you’ve learned! Whether through social dancing or in the comfort of your own home, try your best to make the new moves your own!