Yes, but is it art? Teaching beginners versus advanced students to dance
Many of us can relate to the experience of learning to dance. Curiosity, no matter how sincere, doesn’t ease the confusion that strikes when the music starts to play and you realize you don’t know which foot you’re supposed to start on.
Many of us have probably also had the experience of pushing through this phase – maybe in dance or some other realm – and enjoying the rewards of basic competence, proficiency and even mastery.
Some people who master a particular style of dance choose to go back and start from the beginning as teachers, helping new students get their feet under them. They find teaching beginners especially rewarding. Other teachers, however, would prefer to keep their distance from the stumbling and repetition inherent in learning a new skill and prefer to coach advanced students on highly technical moves and the finer points of performance.
David Vinson, a swing dance instructor who runs the Eight Count Magic dance studio and teaches a beginner Lindy Hop class at the Denver Turnverein, compares learning how to dance to learning how to walk in terms of how elemental and foreign it can seem at first.
Vinson loves the thrill of witnessing the “aha” moment when a new student starts to get it.
Jennifer Booth, a competitive ballroom dancer who has taught for years at Booth’s Dance Denver, brings a different perspective. Booth emphasizes the rewards of getting past the basics and working with professional dancers to perfect the details that will catch the judges’ eyes.
Earlier this month, Vinson and Booth sat down with CPR arts editor Chloe Veltman to discuss the experience of teaching beginners to dance – the upsides, the downsides and everything in between.
You can hear their full discussion on Friday's arts show on the radio at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. or listen online.
This segment is part of the CPR Arts Bureau's ongoing discussion series, "Yes, but is it art?"
The series brings together people with different relationships to art – not just experts, but also those who simply love going to museums or magic shows, those who devote countless hours to making collages or singing carols, and those who would rather wait in line at the DMV than attend a dance performance.
Each segment will use a particular Colorado cultural phenomenon to get at some of the deeper questions underlying our engagement with art. What is art, what is it for and what role does it play in our lives? Our goal is not to find a single answer to any of these questions, but to revel in the disagreement.
Becca Schonberg is a lawyer, translator, and independent producer living in Denver, Colorado.