4 people dancing in sunset

06 Jun, 2024

Four Methods of Learning Social Dancing

Latin dance
Anna Koliber

Anna Koliber

Alles Walzer? Forget waltzing! Vienna's Latin dance scene offers a mix of Salsa, Bachata, Zouk, and Kizomba. But how you learn dancing reveals a lot about your personality, budget, and social approach. Meet the dedicated disciple, the workshop wanderer, the online autodidact, and the festival fanatic. Their examples show that there's a perfect social dance learning style for everyone in Vienna.

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Learning to dance Bachata, Zouk, Salsa or Kizomba is like gaining skills in a new language, except with two left legs and awkward bumping into people. But how you choose to learn can be as diverse as the steps themselves. According to my observations as a social butterfly in Vienna, there seem to be four types of dance students, each with its own set of quirks and benefits.

“Part of the family” aka “dedicated disciple”

Meet Susi. She has been with the same dance school for over a year now and absolutely loves it! This dancer is a creature of routine, hitting the same studio like clockwork. She's the one with the most impressive footwork, her movements smooth and confident. Susi keeps paying for monthly passes, religiously attending daily classes with her beloved instructors. Although “beloved” is not quite the word. She worships her instructors, seeing them as queens and kings of the dance scene and only goes to socials organized by her school - nowhere else! It would be disloyal to dance anywhere else. Being a part of the family means everything to her. That’s why she even started styling her hair and dressing like the instructors she admires. Actually she lost some of her old friends as all she wants to talk about is dancing.

Reasons for choosing this approach

  • Learn Progress: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ - Consistent practice and personalized feedback lead to super fast and impressive improvement.
  • Efficiency: ⭐️⭐️ - Focused learning with minimal distractions.
  • Costs: 💰💰💰 - Regular class fees in a professional but expensive school and potentially additional private lessons.
  • Time Invested: 🕰️🕰️🕰️ - Daily commitment to classes.
  • Opportunity to Make Friends: 👫 - Regular interaction with classmates and instructors fosters connections. They are a family. 😀
  • Compatibility with Work: 🏢 - Good, as the classes are in the evenings, after work. 
  • Compatibility with Family Duties: 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦👎 - Requires finding childcare or coordinating schedules with family members. But since Susi is single and fabulous, free evenings are not a big deal. 

Max the workshop wanderer

Max is a butterfly of the dance scene, flitting from one workshop to another, collecting knowledge and inspiration from various teachers. He knows everybody and can high-five DJs at any Latin party. This flexible “tonight here, tomorrow somewhere else” approach gives him a chance to meet pretty ladies, especially in trial and beginner classes.  He's the one with the most diverse skill set, able to switch seamlessly between Salsa, Bachata, and Zouk. The man is also the one boasting about his collection of “private dance meetings”. But his bank account might not be as happy as his… feet, and the dancing progress might be less linear than Susi’s. Still, Max wouldn't trade his eclectic experiences for the world.

Reasons for choosing this approach

  • Learn Progress: ⭐️⭐️ - Varied perspectives can be enriching, but consistency may be lacking.
  • Efficiency: ⭐️⭐️ - Requires travel and planning between workshops (since they happen to be in different parts of the city and often on the same nights).
  • Costs: 💰💰 - Varies depending on workshop fees, but generally from 5€ to 25€ a workshop.
  • Time Invested: 🕰️🕰️ - Varies depending on workshop schedules and travel time, but generally a lot of flexibility. 
  • Opportunity to Make Friends: 👫👫 - Opportunities to meet new people at each workshop. Especially beginners. The prettier the better ;)
  • Compatibility with Work: 🏢 - Moderate - Can be flexible depending on workshop schedules, but generally good, as only travels in Vienna are required.
  • Compatibility with Family Duties: 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 - Good! Max is single and likes to keep it that way. Workshops across town during weekends or evenings? No problem!

Sophie the online autodidact

Sophie is a single mom with low income. She’s also a self-sufficient soul, learning through online tutorials and practicing with her dance buddies at socials. She's the one with the most control over her learning pace and budget, often found in her cozy apartment, perfecting her moves with the help of YouTube and online communities. While she might miss out on the personalized feedback of a traditional studio, Sophie thrives on the flexibility and independence of her chosen path. She is free to go to socials spontaneously and tries to learn whenever she gets a chance.

Reasons for choosing this approach

  • Learn Progress: ⭐️⭐️ - Can be self-paced, but requires self-discipline and access to reliable resources.
  • Efficiency: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ - Flexible - Can be adjusted to personal schedules.
  • Costs: 💸 - Can be free or require minimal subscription fees.
  • Time Invested: 🕰️ - Flexible - Can be self-paced and adjusted to personal schedules.
  • Opportunity to Make Friends: 👫👫 - Requires active participation in online communities and social events.
  • Compatibility with Work: 🏢⭐️⭐️⭐️ - High - Can be self-paced and adjusted to work schedules.
  • Compatibility with Family Duties: 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦⭐️⭐️⭐️ - High - Sophie works around her family commitments and tries to dance whenever her kid is with the other parent. 

Franz the festival fanatic

Franz is a weekend warrior, dedicating his entire vacation (yep, 25 workdays a year) to intensive workshops and social parties at dance festivals in Spain, Greece, UK, Germany, Turkey or even North Africa (looking at you, Habana in Tunisia!). He's the one with the most immersive experiences and the most epic dance stories, often regaling his friends with tales of his latest festival adventures. He is proud of all the dance videos with world-famous Bachata and Salsa stars - Daniel & Desiree here, Ataca and La Alemana there.  But his progress is… not so great, as he tends to sleep and party more than learn. It’s punctuated by long stretches of "normal life," where he patiently waits for the next opportunity to immerse himself in the world of dance.

Reasons for choosing this approach

  • Learn Progress: ⭐️⭐️ - Intensive learning bursts, but gaps between festivals can hinder progress.
  • Efficiency: ⭐️ - Significant time commitment for limited learning periods.
  • Costs: 💰💰💰 - Festival passes, travel, and accommodation are SUPER expensive.
  • Time Invested: 🕰️🕰️🕰️ - High - Intensive learning during festival weekends, lots of time spend traveling. 
  • Opportunity to Make Friends: 👫👫👫 - Immersive environment encourages socializing and making international connections. Plus what happens in Italy stays in Italy, right?
  • Compatibility with Work: 🏢👎 - Requires taking time off work for festival weekends (as travel is mostly on Fridays and Mondays).
  • Compatibility with Family Duties: 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦👎 - Requires taking time away from family for festival weekends.

So, which approach is the best? Sticking to one teacher/school, running to a different workshop every time, learning at home or traveling to festivals? I personally tend to mix and adjust, depending on the level of private and professional stress, but generally speaking, flexibility and cost efficiency are a big plus. Ultimately, the best approach depends on your individual goals, preferences, and lifestyle. So, put on your dancing shoes, choose your path, and get ready to sweat your way to Salsa, Bachata, Zouk, and Kizomba mastery!