Teaching Ballroom & Latin is one of the best jobs I have ever done and definitely my most favourite style of dance to teach. But it has been (and continues to be) the biggest challenge I have ever done. Like all the best things that have happened in my life, I started teaching Ballroom quite by accident.
We have had some amazing Ballroom & Latin dance teachers at the studio over the years – Bethan, Don and Laura, who became a wonderful friend. Laura built up a popular class of ballroom dancers on a Thursday evening. She was such a great teacher and I used to watch her classes, see how much fun her students had and think “I’d love to teach that”. But I’d never trained in Ballroom so I forgot about that. But then Laura moved away to study in Leeds, and we were left with a position to fill. I’d had a few lessons by then as I was interested in trying it, so I offered to (temporarily!) cover the class until we found another teacher. I promptly had some lessons with Don, who despaired of me – after 60 years of ballroom knowledge and experience teaching world champions and then he was reduced to teaching me how to walk!
And here came my first challenge – Ballroom and Latin is NOT Jazz, tap, ballet or like any other style of dance I had ever done. Great. I had to forget everything I had ever learnt including all the things that were second nature and re-learn how to dance. But I loved it. It is perfect for me as it has exactly the right mix of geeky learning, technique and performance. I could show off AND learn facts! It ticked all the boxes for me!
So then I had to go on a mission to find a ballroom teacher who had enough patience to teach me to be a ballroom teacher. With Andrea Wellbelove as my partner in crime, we tried out a few different classes and eventually she suggested we try a teacher down in Portsmouth who she had heard about through a friend at an Argentine Tango class. He turned out to be the perfect teacher – he was patient enough to put up with me being rubbish most lessons, he made me laugh and was such an inspirational dancer, he made me want to get better. Challenge number 2 – his studio is 50 miles away. Not really the best situation for regular lessons but I made it work. A few years (and quite a few exams) later I started to teach more classes, private lessons, parties and found that despite all the challenges it was throwing up, teaching Ballroom and Latin was just the best job ever.
And it still challenges me now – it’s definitely the gift that keeps on giving! For one, even with Strictly Come Dancing, it’s not the ‘coolest’ style of dance that people want to try, so it can be a tricky class to get new dancers to come along to, especially if their other half doesn’t want to dance. Then there’s the challenge of being a solo Ballroom teacher. It’s a NIGHTMARE! Not only do I have to learn ALL the steps for ALL the dances (10 in total, plus a few more if you include Argentine Tango and Salsa) but I also have to know the steps for the men as well as the ladies. I now know why ballroom dancers become couples – god, it’s SO much easier to just teach one or the other! Then, how do I dance with all the solo dancers in the class and teach? (Insert massive thank you here to Helen Cave and Gareth, plus my amazing taxi dancers Julie & Steve!). Oh yes, and let’s not forget the extra special challenge of being a Ballroom teacher in Surrey. Lovely big ballroom you say? Ha ha ha – yes that’ll be £4,000 per hour thank you. Hmmmm….right then, I’ll just fit this dance into a studio that’s only one fifth of the space we need. No problem.
And finally, the biggest (and bestest!) challenge of them all. My son! Dancing and teaching Ballroom while pregnant was fun (!) but the logistical challenge of trying to fit everything in now I have a family is…what’s the word for it? Fun? Stressful? B****y impossible? Yep that’s the one! I’d originally planned for it to take 5 years to get my professional qualification. Ha ha ha ha ha! I’m now 9 years in, and thanks to COVID haven’t had a lesson since December 2019 and am not expecting to have another for probably another 6-9 months. But this is nothing new, even before I had Leo I sometimes went for up to 6 months without a lesson because life got a bit crazy, and even though those first lessons back were so painful (both mentally and physically), I never wanted to give up. And I am still fully prepared for it to take as long as it takes and I can’t wait for that first lesson back…even if I have to practise walking. Again!
We can’t wait for Katie to help us Step back into the Strictly Swing of things as soon as we can. If you can’t wait until a studio class Katie currently leads ballroom lessons on Zoom including one off dance specials – please get in touch here for further information.