How many lessons to take?

When it comes to your first dance, you determine your success by how much you’re willing to commit to the learning process (i.e., number/frequency of lessons, hours of practice, etc). Just like all the other details in your wedding to which you’ve dedicated time and money, you decide how your first dance goes: do the bare minimum or kill it; have a fun, elegant, playful (whatever adjective works for you) first dance or hold each other and sway like you’re at your high school prom. Our job as dance instructors at Ballroom Dance Chicago is to get you looking as good as possible in the amount of time you give us to instruct you.

Learning to dance is like learning any new skill: it takes time, effort and a lot of patience and positive thinking. But that doesn’t mean preparing for your first dance is stressful or boring, like sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher lecture; learning to dance requires movement (duh), which is inherently enjoyable, and connecting (physically, emotionally and psychologically) with the person you love most – your fiancé. Every student who walks into Ballroom Dance Chicago says that preparing for their first dance was actually the best part of their wedding preparation. In fact, we continue to grow as a dance studio because we have so many wedding clients continue to take dance lessons well after their first dance. Rather than seeing dance lessons as another task to check off your to-do list, you can see lessons as a fun way to spend time together and enjoy a new hobby in the midst of, what is often, a demanding time in a couple’s life.

All the feel-good, dancing-is-great, warm fuzzies aside, you still want to know: how many dance lessons do we need to take for our first dance?

This is an extremely difficult questions to answer because there is no easy, canned answer we can give you. Think about anything you’re skilled at (or comfortable doing in front of other people). You’ve put a concerted effort into advancing your skills. Let’s apply this question to another skill – playing an instrument (we do this because most people have learned, or attempted to learn, an instrument at some point in their life). Imagine asking a musician how many lessons and hours of practice it would take to feel comfortable playing guitar in front of people. Any musician would say, “as many hours as you can possibly dedicate,” because the process of learning an instrument requires time and practice. Essentially, the amount of time you spend in lessons and practicing will directly correlate to the amount of success you have when playing in front of an audience. Dancing is no different. This isn’t to say that at Ballroom Dance Chicago we expect all of our clients to be professional-level dancers. Instead, and to put it simply, we want our clients preparing for their first dance to understand that there’s no shortcut to learning to dance.

Many of our new first dance clients have the initial mindset that “adequate is great!” or “we just don’t want to fall!” The issue with this mindset is that you’ll only get as far as you can imagine. Think about it this way: no one goes into cooking for a dinner party thinking, “I hope this soufflé is just ok” or “I hope my roast is just barely edible.” Instead, people go into the process thinking: “I’m going to cook the best meal I’m capable of.” Granted, some things might now come out perfect, but it’s about putting as much effort into the process as you possibly can. Coach John Wooden says that “success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” If you’ve decided to include the first dance in your wedding, you should dedicate time and energy to it, just like you have for every other detail of your wedding. Keep in mind that you don’t have to have a first dance. The first dance is a tradition, like many other aspects of a wedding, and you can choose to include it or not. We recommend skipping the first dance if you’re not willing to put your best effort forward. That doesn’t mean there’s a specific amount of time/energy required. Rather, what we’re saying that you should give the learning process 100% of your energy for the time you’ve dedicated to it. In the end, you’ll be the ones performing your first dance in front of all of your family and friends and we wouldn’t want you, on this very important day, looking unprepared or sloppy.

Plenty of dance studios offer “first dance packages” promising that you’ll learn a certain amount of information in a certain amount of time. They’re misinformed. Individuals are unique. Couples are unique. Visions for first dances are unique. Songs are unique. Dance styles are unique. And teaching and learning styles are unique, too. If you buy into the idea that a certain number of lessons is right for you, as well as every other couple preparing for their first dance, you’ll be disappointed with the learning process as well as the end result of your first dance. You, as individuals and a unique couple will have a distinctly different experience from everyone else learning to dance. The process of learning to dance should adapt to your unique qualities. We think you should start the process and have a couple of lessons before you make any commitments about time/money, which is why our lesson packages are customizable to whatever number of lessons work for achieving your goals. The best thing to do is just get started and see how you feel! You don’t have to have a sure plan right away. We’ll sit and chat before your first dance lesson so that, as a team, we can figure out how to reach your first dance goals.