I’ve tried to make my classes as warm and friendly as I can, and as a result, I teach a range of ages and abilities. Some women come with health problems, some have mental health issues, some haven’t exercised for a while, some are getting over an injury. Some ladies have never danced, others danced as children, some dance still. Some are in their twenties, others are in their sixties and seventies. Having felt shy and nervous in a fitness class myself, I have tried to apply small changes to my classes to ensure that everyone feels comfortable as soon as they walk through the door.
First of all, all newcomers are greeted and welcomed to the class individually and are given the opportunity to speak to me and ask any questions, before the class starts, in a private conversation. I have found that most inhibitions can be laid to rest in a private conversation before the first class and this then allows all of the new ladies to enjoy their class, without worrying about what they are about to be asked to do and whether they think they will be able to do it! I also then introduce them to the class at the beginning before we start dancing so they are then welcomed by everybody and not just by me.
Secondly, I only choose music that we can sing along to! Personally, I can’t stand dance music or remixes – I want to dance to the songs I grew up with, the songs my dad used to play at the weekend from his vinyl collection and those I hear on the radio. So in class, we dance to music from the 50s through to the 00s and I try to mix it up as much as I can so that all of the ladies in the room get to dance to songs from their favourite era. I make it clear too, that the class playlist is always open to suggestions – I’ve choreographed Quicksteps and Jives to favourite songs suggested by my class members and they have gone down so well that we go back to them time and time again!
Thirdly, I do not dance on a stage and I dance with my back to my class. I dance on the floor with my ladies because I don’t want them to feel like I am looking down on them. I want the atmosphere to be one of dancing with friends, not that of teacher and students. I dance with my back to the class partly to keep the atmosphere right and partly because some ladies find it hard to mirror steps – they prefer to copy what I do. I’ve been in many classes with the instructor facing the participants and although it didn’t bother me really, I did see so many women getting hot and bothered because they were making mistakes and felt as though they were being scrutinised. At the end of the day, my aim is to have the whole room dancing, feeling happy, and I believe that neither of those things would be accomplished if my ladies felt under pressure to be perfect. Yes, I want them to learn the steps and try and master technique so that they get the best out of the workout, but truly, we all know that none of us is about to be called up to perform on Strictly Come Dancing. So, as long as they all keep moving, have a great time and want to come back the next week, I am content.