Why Do Dance Teachers Take Dance Lessons?

posing with dance friend

Me with my friend Shala Marie in NY last May learning and dancing and learning more!


My last two posts were about two amazing dance teachers who are influencing me now.  More than one person has asked me, since I’ve been teaching for more than three decades, am I still taking lessons.  There are so many aspects to that question that I thought I’d address some of them here.

Dance exercises the body and the Mind


One reason is that dance is one of the best forms of exercise both for the body and the brain, but not when you’ve been doing it for years and it’s second nature.  When I go out dancing I like to dance every number, but I don’t get tired.  My younger partners are panting and I’m not breaking a sweat, but trust me.  I’m not in better shape than they are. I’m just more efficient.  My brain is relaxed, too.  It has already absorbed the information and knows what to do effortlessly.  I have a lot of fun but I don’t get much exercise.


The classes I wrote about are (relatively) new dances for me.  The ways of moving my body in these styles are challenging and the choreography is mind bending.  It’s thrilling when I finally get a particular way of moving in Samba or nail a really complex routine in latin rhythms that don’t follow the familiar count of Salsa but constantly change cadences.  I sweat plenty and I have to challenge my brain not to quit on me.


Plus, it’s just plain fun, and that’s the bottom line when it comes to dance.

Becoming more of an expert

So that’s the reason for learning dances that I don’t teach.  What about the dances I DO teach?  Well, here’s the thing about dance.  There is ALWAYS more to learn.  When someone comes to town who is a master, I want to take advantage of them.  I can always sharpen my game and learn new things.  And that’s exciting.  Keeps me humble, energized, and fresh.


When I was deciding whether or not to quit dancing in the TinaMania show, a friend told me that I should stay because nothing keeps you sharp like professional dancing.  He had a point, but taking classes from exceptional teachers does that as well.  Human beings are learning machines.  We’re wired that way.  When we stop learning, we’re dead.  For me, the most fun thing to learn is dance, and there will always be more dances in this world than I can learn in a lifetime.


by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Do Justice to the Culture Whose Dance You Are Borrowing


Jacqui Barnes

Jacqui Barnes dancing in Carnival

Dance teachers in my present

I wrote a post a while ago about dance teachers in my past who influenced me.  I’d like to write now about teachers who are influencing me now.  Yes, dance teachers do still study.  It never ends!

Brazilian Samba

I am lucky enough to be able to study Brazilian Samba with the great Jacque Barnes.  Just getting the footwork is challenging enough in this beautiful dance, but that’s not enough.  “Don’t just go through the movements,” Jacque tells us.  “Do justice to the Brazilian people and their culture.  Put your soul into it and make it your own.”  


What I love about working with Jacque is her passion for the music and the culture that created the dance.  You can’t help but pick up that passion and feel inspired to let the music move you.


When I was in Europe studying the delightful European swing dance they call Boogie Woogie, one of my favorite teachers once said, as if she was eating chocolate, “I just LOVE every step!”  That’s the spirit of Jacqui’s Samba classes.


Everyone learns differently and some people get the feel and style before they get the footwork.  But most people first have to learn the mechanics and then can put their attention to the styling.  I’m like that, but I’m constantly inspired by the effortless grace of Jacqui and her advanced students, so that as I learn the footwork, I also get the feel of how the movement relates to the music and can throw myself into the spirit of it all.

Ballroom vs. Street Dance

If you don’t understand the difference between Ballroom  Samba and Street Samba, it is this.  Ballroom dance has a styling that infuses every dance in it’s genre.  Even though there are many different Ballroom dances, they all look kind of similar.  They no longer have the feel of the original culture and have often, as in the case of Samba, morphed into a dance that bears little resemblance to the original.  There is a unique styling to the genre of Ballroom Dance and it infuses every dance in that category.  


Street Samba is unique to the Brazilian culture.  It’s not a partner dance and I don’t teach it.  I just do it for fun and to broaden my skills to keep myself sharp.  If you are intrigued by the dances of Carnival, and are lucky enough to be in the bay area, I encourage you to take advantage of Jacqui’s expertise and supportive teaching style.  Maybe I’ll see you in class!


by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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