10 Dance Tips for Beginners to Crush Their First Classes

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You’ve decided to dip your toe into dancing and now you’re revved up and ready to take your first class. Congrats! The first (ahem) step is overcoming trepidation to try something new. But before you start to plié like a professional, read on for a few beginner tips that will help you get into a rhythm.  

Start with the basics.

Don’t dive into a professional-level lesson right away. Begin with a basic or beginner drop-in class to get comfortable and set up a strong foundation for yourself. Many studios offer introductory dance series where you’ll learn with the same group of students for 6 to 12 weeks. Don’t feel discouraged—every dancer started as a beginner. You’ll rise to the higher levels eventually!

Get the right gear. 

It’s important to dress appropriately for dance class, no matter what style you’re taking. Typically, this means form-fitting clothing—so the teacher can see your “lines,” or the way your limbs fill the space—hair pulled out of your face, and proper shoes. Hip-hop and contemporary rooms tend to be more lenient in terms of wardrobe. You don’t necessarily need pink tights and a slick bun for ballet, but refrain from starting your pliés in socks, baggy shorts, and a crop top. They say “Dress for the job you want”—even though you may not be auditioning for a performance, it doesn’t hurt to show up looking like a professional.

Don’t stand in the front.

Yes, you read that right. You might think you’re being eager by inching your way front and center. But it’s actually disrespectful to stand in the front of the room when you’re new. In some cases, the teacher might even send you to the back. But they’re not being cruel. You don’t know the warmup or the flow of the environment just yet. Scooch toward the middle or back so that you can see yourself in the mirror but also follow along. Once you’re comfortable with the vibe of the class, slowly make your way forward.

Don’t ask questions prematurely.

Hold your questions until after the instructor has taught the entire section of choreography. He or she may get back to specific details, go over the steps again, and answer your question along the way. Questions are important, but—if you can—save yourself from interrupting the flow of class. 

Listen to feedback.

Apply corrections from the instructor immediately and take every other dancer’s correction as your own. For example, if the teacher reminds another student to point their toe on their flick kick, make sure yours is pointed, too! You’ll get more out of the experience if you try to absorb as much information and detail as possible.

“Love the fight to get it right.”

We love this quote we got from DJ Gray, professor of practice and associate area head of Indiana University’s musical theater program. Don’t get hung up on what you can’t do. Rather, let your current weaknesses motivate you to get better. Dance is an art form; you’re not going to master it overnight. Always remember that the joy is in the work and the process, not the destination.

Be respectful of your surroundings.

Stay off your phone (this should be a given), don’t dance or talk on the sides when other groups are center stage, and be careful going full out when the studio is crowded. “Spatial awareness is everything,” says Carissa Fiorillo, a swing on Broadway’s “Aladdin.” “You don’t want to be the one who whacks another dancer in the nose!”

Don’t try and get it all at once.

Jumping into your first dance class can feel overwhelming. It also might take a few attempts to learn the warmup, if it’s choreographed. “If coordinating arms and legs together feels like too much, focus on one before you meld the two together,” adds Gia Mongell Binner, on-location director for the Commercial Dance Intensive.

Expect to be sore.

In dance, you use every bit of yourself, down to the most miniscule of muscles. Trust that it’s normal to feel sore the day (or even a few days) after your first class…and in muscles you never knew you had. Drink lots of water, stretch, use a foam roller, and relax in an epsom salt bath to recover quickly.

Keep going!

Don’t get discouraged if you messed up the choreography, fell out of your pirouette, or rushed a tap step. This is the point in your journey where you should make mistakes and learn from them. Ask yourself: How can you pick up the choreography more easily next time? What techniques will help you sustain your pirouette longer? How can you lay back and relax into the rhythm of the tap sequence? 

Keep all these tips in mind when you sign up at your local studio. But ultimately, remember to treat class like class. It’s not an audition or a performance. You should feel safe to fall down and get back up again. Dance like nobody's watching. Dive into the art form for you.