A publication to engage the dance community. Learn. Discuss. Contribute. Enjoy.

Transitioning from Student to Instructor

By Talia Rudahl

Have you ever thought about what type of dancer you were when you began your dancing career? I'm not talking about your skill level, but rather your perspective on dance itself. Did you have a favorite dance or style of dance? Did it give you butterflies when you danced with a new lead or follow? I've been thinking a lot about how my perspective on dancing has changed since I started six years ago.

I started as a social dancer and danced once a week at a social club on campus. Dance was what got me through my week, and it always brought a smile to my face even just thinking about going to the studio on Sunday evenings. The first year was exciting but very nerve-racking at the same time, as I was always learning something new--a new dance or maybe just a new move, but either way, I was always stumbling onto a new territory of dance I had not progressed to previously. It felt like a huge accomplishment every time I danced with a new partner or got a move correct without stumbling over my own or my partner’s feet, and I reveled in it.

After the first year, I started getting antsy to learn more but didn't have much of an outlet, so I traveled to the Twin Cities from Eau Claire as often as I could. After about another year, I was given the opportunity to join a newly formed competitive team on campus, and it was just exactly what I needed to fulfill my desire to continue improving as a dancer. I'm a very competitive person in general and am always striving to improve myself, so transitioning to competition from just being a social dancer was the perfect fit for me. When I started competing, my thought process on dancing changed dramatically. I saw how technical and athletic dancing really was. Everything I thought I knew about ballroom was basically thrown out the window, and it felt like I started from scratch again. I started to really develop muscles in my core, legs, and back to accentuate my frame and movement and help my dancing become much more fluid.

I've been a competitor for approximately four years now and absolutely love what I'm doing. Even though I have learned a lot in my ballroom training these last six years, I realize every day that I still have so much more to learn and improve in myself. This is a quality of dance I have grown to love, though many people find it frustrating. There is always room for improvement when it comes to ballroom dancing. You will either learn about yourself as a dancer, how to improve your partnership, or find new understanding in how to do a certain move, even if you have already done it a thousand times before.

Now I find myself recently moved to the Twin Cities and exploring the next step in my dance career, which is becoming a full-fledged instructor. I have been an instructor for our competitive team for the last two years but never quite felt like one, as it was a voluntary position. I still have so much to learn as a dancer that I didn't feel qualified to teach others yet. As I've started teaching at Dancers Studio in Saint Paul, though, I realize that I am always going to feel this way a little bit, but that’s okay, because dance is something that is ever evolving, and I will always be learning. I will never feel that I have all the answers. I'll just do my best to pass on the knowledge that I have acquired so far in my dance career, and as I evolve as a dancer down the line, I know my teaching style will evolve as well.

I'm thrilled to start this new transition in my dance career. Being a teacher isn't going to make me shy away from competing. In fact, I feel that teaching will make me a more well-rounded dancer and more understanding of the competitive community. I’m excited to see what comes next!