February 2018
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Thinking of taking dance lessons and a bit intimidated? Don’t worry! We all start somewhere with new things, and our job at Chicago Dance is to make your experience as comfortable, challenging and fun as possible!

Below is a number of questions and questions first time dancers often ask. We want you to walk in that first day and feel ready to enjoy the dance lesson process.

Remember, this first step is the big one – once you walk in, it gets easier from there!

How many times have you been at a function and thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could go out there and command the floor and impress others?” Be honest! Remember, dancing is a social skill, and others will react accordingly to your abilities. Never miss out on a chance to dance and look great again!

Everyone has to start somewhere when learning something new. The most important thing is to go to the FIRST class. And in just a few lessons, we’re confident from our many year of experience with students just like you that you’ll have more passion, confidence, and style on the dance floor – and everyone will know it!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I get started dancing?

A: Getting started is easy. The first step is to schedule an introductory private lesson or sign up for a group. During your Introductory Private lesson, your instructor will determine your current level and recommend an appropriate course for you to continue. Get started today!

Q: Can I really learn to dance?

A: Yes. Dancing is as easy as walking once you are taught how by an expert Chicago Dance instructor. We teach simple, basic elements, from which the steps are derived. In our 40 years, tens of thousands of Chicagoans have been successfully trained at Chicago Dance.

Q: How much do private dance lessons cost?

A: Tuition varies, depending on a number of factors e.g., how good you want to be, what dances you want to learn, and your dance schedule. After that lesson, your instructor will recommend a program and will be able to answer any questions, so you will have the knowledge to make an informed choice.

Q: Will I look ridiculous?

A: The most important thing to remember is that everyone feels that way. Also, when you come in to your first lesson, we’re going to take care of you – we’ll work to your level, and build your confidence and knowledge from there. Remember – once you have even ONE lesson, you’ll know more than most people! In that first class you will start learning techniques to make you a more elegant dancer. And even with one lesson, you’ll feel more confident about hitting that dance floor!

Q: What Dances Go with What Kind of Music?

A: Music recognition and finding the basic beat is a stumbling block for many beginning dancers. First off, not all music is danceable. Being able to identify dance rhythms and tempos is only part of learning to dance. It’s also important to understand the distinctions between various dances and why they should be danced differently.

Q: How do I sign up for the group classes?

A: If you want to do it in the quickest way possible <a href=”https://widgets.healcode.com/iframe/enrollments/cb57617009/”>click here to get started!</a> or simply give us a call at 312-337-9503. Or you can visit our studio or send us an email.

Q: Do I need a partner to learn dancing? Do I need my own Partner? Are you required to bring a partner for group classes?

A: No, partners are not required. In private lessons you will dance with your instructor if you are taking lessons alone. IN group classes, we encourage all our students to learn to dance with a variety of partners. In fact we prefer to randomly assign partners during class and rotate frequently to diversify everyone’s dance experience with new people. This has been proven to be one of the best ways to learn to dance, and it’s a lot of fun, as well!

While dancing is an excellent forum in which to socialize and meet people, whether you are taking dance lessons because you enjoy dancing and want to learn how to do it well, or are you attending to “find” or “meet” someone, will make a big different on how well you do and your commitment to “sticking with it”.

Q: Are you required to rotate partners during class?

A: No, it is not required, but we highly recommend it. If you rotate, you will gain more value from the group class experience and have a better chance to meet some great new friends. In fact learning to dance with all different kinds of people actually helps make you a more versatile dancer. If you decide not to rotate, please let the instructor know before the class starts.

Q: What kind of shoes should be worn?

A: The best shoes are dance shoes! However, chances are you can find something appropriate in your closet at home. When it’s time to invest in a pair of dance shoes, there are a lot of styles to choose from. If you do not wish to purchase dance shoes:

Wear a pair of shoes that you would wear to go out dancing. A sandal with a moderate heel (2 – 3″) that remains secure around the foot (no flip-flops). Choosing something with a bit of a heel will help to put your weight on the ball of your foot. Use your judgment in choosing the right height of heel – even an inch will help to shift your weight, but you are probably better off without your 3″ stilettos. Even if you usually wear a platform shoe to add a little height, stay away from them for dance class. A thinner sole will help your contact with the floor, and greatly minimize the risk of twisting your ankle. A shoe with a closed toe (as opposed to an open sandal or peep toe) takes the pressure off your partner if he accidentally steps forward with the wrong foot. You’re going to be stepping forward and backward, so avoid slip-on mules and backless shoes.

For men, Chicago Dance suggests a dress shoe with either a leather or smooth plastic bottom. Dance Sneakers are also available for both men and women; however, traditional sneakers with a rubber bottom are not recommended since they provide too much traction and will impede turning. If you wear a sneaker, use one with little tread, such as a Van’s or Keds sneaker. Basically, your instructor will be happy if you don’t wear running shoes (in the summer, don’t wear sandals). A pair of ‘dress’ shoes (basic oxford style laced shoes) is perfect. Like your female counterparts, a bit of a heel is good (half an inch will do it) as is a leather sole (as opposed to rubber which tends to stick to the floor). Basic rule of thumb – if your shoes squeak, choose a different pair.

Q: What kind of clothing should be worn?

A: Truly anything is acceptable. Some of you will attend class right after work and won’t have time to change clothes, while others prefer to be comfortable and wear jeans. Although our studio is always maintained at a cool, comfortable indoor temperature, you’ll want to be able to remove items such as sweaters, sweatshirts, or other warm clothing as you warm up dancing.

What should I wear to my first dance class?
Wear something you feel comfortable in. Remember – you’re going to be moving, so you want to wear something that facilitates movement rather than restricts it. Wear something you feel good in. Dance is beautiful – and you want to feel equally as beautiful or handsome as the dance you’re doing. Dress for the temperature. For your first class, you might want to layer with a jacket or a sweater you can remove if you become too warm. Dances with a faster tempo are more likely to make you warm up more.

Q: How many people are usually in each class?

A: Chicago Dance limits dance class sizes to a maximum of about 25 (aside from students doing make up classes) to ensure the best environment for learning. We try to have an average class of approximately 10 people so we can provide some individual attention during group classes.

Q: What is the difference between Private and Group Lessons?

A: Private lessons are taught one on one with only the student (or the couple) and the instructor. Group Lessons are held in a classroom environment with an average of 5 couples. Private lessons are very flexible and can be scheduled whenever you and the instructor are available. Group Lessons meet at a regularly scheduled time each week. Due to the nature of a Private Lesson, they are more expensive ranging from $47-$107 per hour. Group Lessons start at around $15 per lesson for a 50 minute class.

Q: Which do you recommend: Private or Group Lessons?

A: This is by far one of the most asked questions by people starting out. This depends on your goal. The easiest way to answer it is to look at some different variables:

In general, Chicago Dance recommends doing a combination of personal instruction and group learning. Private Lessons work well if the you want a more intense session & to learn a large amount of material in a short amount of time. Group Lessons however, are a more relaxed, fun environment where you can enjoy a social atmosphere while still learning a great deal.

Some other variables to consider:

Level of Experience
If you’ve never taken dance classes before, you can start with an Introductory Private Lesson or in a Group Class that is at an Introduction level. Group classes are an inexpensive way to find out what it’s all about, in the company of classmates who are in the same boat as you. If you’ve taken some dance before, see if you can find an advanced group or private lessons allow you to move at your own pace. Chicago Dance also offers an inexpensive Introductory Private Lesson to help you get started if private lessons are the better choice for you.

People have lots of reasons for wanting to take dance classes. What you hope to accomplish will help to inform what kind of class you take.

The pressure of having to do a “first dance” in front of family and friends is enough to send most couples straight to the nearest studio for help. If you want a first dance loosely (or strictly) choreographed to a particular song, go for private lessons. Your instructor will help you identify the proper dance for the song you have chosen, teach you the basic steps, and help you come up with a beginning, middle, and end. You should be able to accomplish this in 4 to 15 one-hour lessons. If it’s a wedding invitation that’s got you heading to your local studio, a group class is just the thing for you. Don’t leave it to the last minute though – it can take 2 or 3 months of group classes before you are comfortable. If you are caught with little time, private lessons can be scheduled at your convenience.

If you want to experience ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ or at least would like to be headed for the competition circuit, you’re looking for private lessons. You’ll get the individual attention of the instructor, focus on what’s important to you, and move at your own pace. You’re also going to need to practice more than once a week, so additional group lessons are a good idea.

Social Dance
If your biggest goal is:

  • being able to say “yes” with confidence when asked to dance, or
  • feel confident with some knowledge and smooth moves,
  • being able to get on the dance floor with that special person in your life,

a group class is a great place to start. It’s already a social atmosphere, you will meet new people, and if you don’t come with a partner, you’ll likely get the chance to dance with a few different people. Of course, we can also prepare you for social dancing on private lessons too, especially if your goal is to specifically dance with a special someone or if your time is less flexible.

Group classes run when we offer them – end of story. We schedule group classes when most people can attend (otherwise, we would go out of business really soon), but not everyone’s schedule is the same. If you’ve got flexibility in your schedule, chances are you’ll be able to attend one of the group classes that is offered. If you’ve got only one hour a week that’s free, your best bet might be to take private lessons.

As you might have already guessed, the cost rises as the student to teacher ratio decreases. If you’re on a budget, group classes are an inexpensive way to get dancing, and a small low-risk investment if you’re not sure you’re going to be dancing for the rest of your life. Private lessons (which are the same rate whether it’s just you and your instructor, or you and a partner with your instructor) are going to cost you more, but are well worth the benefit you’ll be receiving: the undivided attention of your instructor, convenience to schedule the lessons around your schedule, focusing on what is of interest and benefit to you, and moving at your own pace.

No matter whether you choose private or group lessons – take that first step and start dancing!

Q: Does Chicago Dance have dance parties?

A: Yes, Chicago Dance has salsa dance socials on every last Friday of the month. The Salsa social is a mix of Salsa, Merengue, Cha-Cha, and Bachata music. Every social starts with a dance lesson followed by a full night of dancing. There is also a Milonga (Argentine Tango dance social) once a month, usually the first or second Saturday of the month.

Q: Are Chicago Dance instructors or dancers available for hire?

A: Yes, Chicago Dance entertainers can be hired for private events by contacting us at 312-337-9503.

Q: Can you just pay for individual group classes instead of registering for 4 weeks?

A: Yes, but only some classes are available for “drop-ins.” Most classes are progressive and require a 4-week registration. Also, there are some great discounts for registering for the 4-week class even for the classes available for “drop-in.”

Q: Which dance style should you pick?

The short answer is – try everything! They’re all fun, challenging, and rewarding, and you really can’t go wrong by doing any style of dancing. There are some elements of each to consider when choosing which to take first:

“Traditional” ballroom dances such as Waltz and Foxtrot are suitable for weddings, galas, and events with big bands.

Latin dances, the “short dress” dances, tend to be more sexy, upbeat dances, and suitable for the music you’d find on a cruise, or at a tropical resort.

Salsa, Bachata, and Merengue are required for people who want to go out to Latin clubs.

Q: How do I choose a good Studio? How do I choose a good Instructor?

Where and with whom you dance can play a big part in your enjoyment of the activity. Some of choosing a Studio is plain old common sense, but we also have a few tips you might not have thought of.

When you start dancing, you’re likely to plan on once a week, but as you get more involved, you might find yourself at your studio two, three or more nights a week, so location is important. Most people try to look for something that’s close to home, and with good reason. If you can’t find something in your residential neighborhood, look for something near where you work. If you’re going to have to drive a bit, see if you can find a studio with nearby restaurants or other attractions. A bit of a drive is easier to manage if you make a night of it, rather than just your one-hour class.

Most of the time, you get what you pay for. If you go too cheap, you probably won’t be getting a very good instructor. Generally, group classes in Chicago are between $10-$20 per class. The rate for private dance lessons in Chicago with an acceptable to excellent dance instructor range from about $65 to $140 a lesson.

Reputation and Experience
New doesn’t always mean risky, but reputation can help you make an informed decision. If a studio has been around for a while, that is a good sign. Also check the reviews and word of mouth.

Qualifications of the Instructors
If you are looking to compete, either as an amateur couple, or with your instructor as a Pro-am, then you should study with teachers with a competitive background.

Q: I've been dancing for a while and I'm ready to buy a good pair of dance shoes - how do I choose?

The first ‘specialized’ item most people purchase is a pair of dance shoes. As any competing amateur or professional can attest, a good pair of shoes can make all the difference in the world. Since getting the right pair is important, and there are lots of shoes to choose from, it’s worth the time to do a little bit of research before making a purchase.

Women’s Shoes
The first question you need to answer is “what kind of dancing will you be doing in these shoes?”

If you’re only going to be doing “Traditional” Ballroom Dances, you’re looking for a Court Shoe. A Court Shoe looks like a standard pump, with a closed toe and a closed heel. There aren’t many variations in Court Shoes, but you will have choices about:

  • [icon type=”chevron-circle-right” class=”fa fa-li accent”]whether or not you’d like a strap across the foot
  • [icon type=”chevron-circle-right” class=”fa fa-li accent”]color
  • [icon type=”chevron-circle-right” class=”fa fa-li accent”]heel style & height

If you’ll only be doing Latin Dances you’ll want an open-toe sandal. There’s far more variation here, so be prepared to look through more options. Main variations are:

  • [icon type=”chevron-circle-right” class=”fa fa-li accent”]a solid band across the front of the foot vs. a strappy look
  • [icon type=”chevron-circle-right” class=”fa fa-li accent”]the kind of strap: straight ankle, t-bar, cross-foot, or convertible
  • [icon type=”chevron-circle-right” class=”fa fa-li accent”]the color
  • [icon type=”chevron-circle-right” class=”fa fa-li accent”]the fabric: satin, leather, suede are the most common
  • [icon type=”chevron-circle-right” class=”fa fa-li accent”]the heel style & height

If you’re looking for a shoe to do “double-duty”, opt for a “social dancing” shoe. You won’t find many on competition dance floors, but they’re perfectly acceptable for an evening out, and save you from having to switch shoes between dances. These are a ‘hybrid’ between a court shoe and a latin sandal.

Practice shoes are most often used by teachers, and other dancers who will be dancing for many hours in a row. What they lack in style, they make up for in comfort. They usually feature a lower heel, are laced, and are made of breathable fabric (either perforated leather or mesh).

Men’s Shoes
Like Women’s Shoes, Men’s Shoes vary primarily by use, although to the untrained eye the differences are trickier to spot. Unlike Women’s Shoes, there isn’t as much variation, so we hope you like black!

Men’s Ballroom Shoes look very similar to Men’s Dress shoes. Usually an Oxford or Gibson style, most shoes are black, with a one inch heel. There is some variation as to material – the most common choices are leather or patent leather, but you may find some suede, nubuck, or patterned leather (crocodile, or grained).

Men’s Latin Shoes usually have a higher heel (1.5″ compared to 1″) and have a more distinct “dance shoe” look to them. As with Ballroom Shoes, you have a color choice of black or black.

For both Ballroom and Latin shoes you will find some with a split sole – this allows for greater flexibility (especially when pointing your toes) but at the loss of arch support.

Social Dancing shoes aren’t as popular for Men as they are for Women, but serve the same purpose – being able to dance Ballroom or Latin dances without having to switch shoes. While still primarily black, they sometimes have “fun” patterns – crocodile, stripes, or weaves.

Men’s Practice Shoes, like Women’s, often feature “breathable” fabric – usually perforated leather, but are otherwise very similar in appearance.

Q: What's in a heel?

I know what kind of shoe I want, but it comes in a variety of different heel styles and heights. How do I choose?

Choosing the Right Heel Style and Height is a mixture of aesthetics and functionality. For increased stability, go for a shorter heel, or one with a wider heel tip (the part of the heel that touches the floor). Each brand of shoes has different names for their heels, but here are some common characteristics:

a ‘flare’ or ‘flared’ heel (like a flared leg on a pair of pants) narrows in the middle, and widens at the floor

A ‘Cuban’ heel is stouter heel, with a generous base at the floor

a ‘slim’ heel is like a ‘flared’ heel, except it continues to narrow to the floor

Most women’s dance shoes have a 2″ or 2.5″ heel. If you know you don’t like a very high heel, opt for something a little lower.


Are you ready to make a move?