I‘ve been a beginner in a lot of classes over the years. I’ve taken hip hop, ballet, and tap classes that were far above my skill level. It’s frustrating not being able to keep up. And I don’t want to make an ass of myself.As a dance teacher, I can tell you most everyone does fine in their first swing dance class.

But I’ve tried giving the “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine,” advice, and it doesn’t work. Beginners still worry about looking stupid, so telling you not to worry is pointless.

Instead I’ll tell you what I do when I’m a newbie:

Find out what to wear

One fear we have as beginners is that we’ll look stupid before we even start dancing. (Imagine an adult taking their first ballet class.) This is pretty easy to remedy.

Call or email the studio or instructor. Ask what clothing and shoes most people wear. If you don’t have what they suggest, ask about alternatives or where you can go shopping.

Watch some videos

Don’t take our precious Youtube for granted! Get on it and search “beginner [name of class]“. Watch a few videos the day before your class. It will be a huge relief to recognize some of the moves you saw in the videos. And it could easily give you a leg up.

If you feel like you need the extra help, use it. Then after class, you can go back and watch the beginner videos and say, “I did that!”

Prepare yourself for failure

I know what you’re thinking. “But I want to do well, not look like an idiot!”

Failing is funny! There’s a whole blog about it. The truth is that failures make for good stories. I took this break dancing master class once that was way over my head. I was the only girl, too—I think my stomach spent most of its time in my esophagus.

I decided before the class to just play it cool and do my best. Sure enough, I more or less failed to perform each and every move. Surprisingly, the guys were really encouraging and helpful. My “play it cool, do my best” attitude got me props from the guys.

Now, how boring would that story be if I’d said, “I took this break dancing workshop once. I was perfectly adequate.”?

Wouldn’t in have been even better if I’d knocked out one of the guys by trying a head spin?

All you have to do is prepare yourself for possible failure. After you’ve made peace with the possibility of major suckage, you can play it cool. That will allow you to do your best. Which means you’ll probably not get a pie in your face, or something equally embarrassing. (But wouldn’t that be a great story?)

Give vocabulary words the right kind of attention

In swing dance classes, these’ll be things like step, rock step, and pulse.

These are often familiar words, but here’s the trick. Rather than assigning these terms or ideas the first definition that comes to you, put them in a new category. Label that category “Needs more investigation.”

By refusing to put new ideas into a box, you remain open to learning more about them in later classes.

You may get anxious or overwhelmed when you hear an onslaught of new terms. Think of me in that break dancing class. I was constantly like, “You want me to do what now?” And then, “Screw it. I have no idea what that means, but here goes.”

You’ll get better at just diving in, but there needs to be a first time.

Ask a question after class. Just one question. This isn’t the time to get a mini-private lesson (unless your instructor invites it).

You ask a simple question to connect personally with your teacher. We tend to watch out for you more when you show a real interest in learning to dance. And that’s great for you!

For example:

“Where can I get good music to practice to?” (Most teachers have musical recommendations prepared.)

“Do you have any suggestions on how to practice on my own?”

Any question that can be answered in about a minute is good to ask.

Lastly, and most importantly:

Remember to breathe!

It’s so important, I made it bigger.

The first thing you do when you get stressed out is get chunky, irregular breathing. You may find that you hold your breath while trying to do a difficult move.

Obviously, that’s no good.

Get into a habit of reminding yourself to breath. Take a deep inhale and delicious exhale. You’ll find that this practice resets your body and lowers your stress level immediately.

If you need to do it 10 times per class, so be it. I have days like that.

Remember, it could always be worse. Look around. There’s always someone who struggles with something that’s easy for you. Try cracking a joke to ease their anxiety. Then you’ve made a new friend too!

Pulled from https://rebeccabrightly.com/survive-dance-class/