In the world of Salsa lessons (and with many other styles as well) beginner dancers are keen to take intermediate-level lessons, intermediate dancers are anxious to get into the advanced class, and advanced dancers want to learn the pro tricks. The Pros? They focus on fundamentals and the details of what one would learn in the beginner class.
There is an inevitable social status associated with the “level” at which you take classes (which is the main reason I’ve done away with the traditional levels at Salsaholics). But if everyone – even those studying at an advanced level for the subject matter – could approach whatever their learning with a “beginner mindset,” we’d all be able to learn and develop far more effectively than being tied to a level-label. What is a beginner mindset? It is the mentality of openness, curiosity, a lack of preconception, and a joy of discovering something new, even within skills previously learned.
I once met a dancer who wanted to join my class. They told me they had completed Intermediate Level 3 at some dance school or other. I invited them to attend the Foundation class at Salsaholics – “just to warm up,” mind you – and then stay for the Repertoire class, assuming they would be comfortable with the material in Foundation. In Foundation (as we often do) I spent some time reviewing the inside (counter-clockwise) travelling turn. The “Intermediate Level 3” student was surprised and delighted to learn what turned out to be the very first time they had actually been taught the mechanics of such a commonly used move for followers. I was happy for the student that they had chosen to embrace their “beginner mindset” and be open to the invitation to attend the Foundation class. In doing so, they realized they yet had much to learn, despite the status label given by the other school.
I love learning (and teaching) fancy turn patterns – and we do indeed cover those in our Repertoire class each week at 8:00. What I’ve noticed is that the students who do best are those who build the fancy learning on top of Foundation learning, and continually strive to become a stronger dancer overall, with great skills in the basics of either follower or leader.