Well, the honest answer is, I don’t know.
But that isn’t very helpful, now is it!?
I suppose you can never really know what will happen on a coaching session (or any other life experience) except that each one will be different not only because they may be with different coaches, but also because you will be at a different place in your dancing journey each time.
I thought it might be a good subject to cover for someone who is presented with the opportunity for a coaching but who isn’t sure what it might do for them, especially in light of the increased cost of a session.
I guess that is as good a place to start as any – the financial aspect of it. On coaching sessions the student not only pays for the coach’s time, but also for their instructor’s time as well. This can lead to sticker-shock, but hey, there is nothing inexpensive about ballroom. I’ve kind of just accepted it now.
That being said, I also see great value in coaching sessions. I’ve has some wonderful interactions with a few coaches and have come to understand steps with more clarity. Having the perspective of an expert observing outside the dancing can be immensely helpful and for me it has been worth the added expense.
Now, I don’t claim to be a coaching expert, not by any means. I’ve had about 6 sessions I believe. One with Igor Suvorov, two with Ron Montez, one with Paul Holmes, one with Linda Dean, and one with Debbie Avalos-Kusumi. Each was different and I learned different things from each coach.
One of the most basic lessons I had really has more to do with making the decision to have a coaching or not. What I mean by this is that it may not always be worth the time, effort, and cost to indiscriminately take coaching sessions. They are a rare opportunity for me so I like to take advantage of them when I can. However, my first coaching session was with Igor Suvorov. Inna and Artem brought him in to the studio and sessions were offered to students as well. I didn’t know anything about this Igor guy but I wanted to absorb anything and everything I could. The thing is, Igor specializes in Standard….a style I don’t dance. Back then, I did a little of it, but had barely any experience in it at all. We worked on just getting into frame the entire time. This was awesome, actually. I suddenly became aware that my then-instructor and I had skipped the most basic foundation of beginning to move together. It was a great experience and I learned a lot. In retrospect, however, I would probably not get a coaching from this particular coach again simply because he doesn’t focus on the styles I dance. I am inexperienced in his area of expertise and I’m working on other things. Though any dance lesson can help and contribute to my knowledge base, the truth is, that I’d lose a lot of what we covered because I wouldn’t use it regularly. So my first recommendation is this – consider who the coach is and if their area of expertise aligns with your goals and styles of dance.
I’ve experienced the coaches I’ve encountered as being very helpful and knowledgable. They give lots of feedback, and will tell you what they like and don’t like and offer suggestions how to change things. I think it is important to remember, especially as a beginner, that they are there to help but not to stroke your ego. They are not there to gush about how amazing you are, but will give you honest input on things you can be doing better. It is up to you to be open to this treasure trove of information, as well as discerning about what you accept. I just mean by this that there are many different thoughts stylistically on how to execute certain steps sometimes and seeing multiple coaches with different opinions, not to mention the opinion of your instructor, can become like too many cooks in the kitchen. Ultimately, you and your partner will have to incorporate those aspects that work best for you while respecting the danceform and it’s proper foundational technique.
Maybe it is for this reason that most professionals work closely with only one or a very limited number of coaches. They want to really forge a relationship with that coach and to grow under their guidance. I honestly don’t know if my experience is typical or unique when it comes to coaching sessions, especially since I’ve never been a part of a studio system. I suspect coaching opportunities may be more regular or widespread and maybe even with the same people multiple times. It is possible that even pro/am couples, especially higher level pairs who dance in open scholarships, work with one particular coach in a manner similar to the professionals. I’m personally not really on a level that would warrant such dedicated coaching but I do know at least one Amateur gal who has regular coachings with the same coach all the time.
So what can you expect on a coaching session? Hopefully an investment of time and money and effort that helps move you forward. And, well, part of that is up to you. You have to be discerning about who you choose to work with. You have to be open to feedback. You have to be willing to do the work.
Also, it is a great way to gain some wisdom and experience as well as to be exposed to paragons in the ballroom world, people who may some day be adjudicating while you dance. Perhaps having worked with you and to see the improvement you have made will make the difference in a ranking. Who knows?
As always, please chime in with your experiences and expertise.