Q: Am I the worst dancer you've ever seen?
A: This is probably the most common question I get asked! The answer is - NO! The worst dancers I've ever seen are the people who think they know how, or who know they don't, and never bother to learn. The truth is, everyone, even a professional dancer, sometimes feels awkward and ridiculous learning a new move. But you took the initiative to learn it, which automatically makes you not the worst dancer I've ever seen. Now, get off my foot, and lets try this step again!
Q: What kind of shoes/clothes should I wear to a lesson?
A: Dancing is physical exercise, so wear something you are comfortable in moving. That means things that stay tucked in, if they are meant to be tucked in, buttoned, if they are meant to be buttoned, and shoes that will stay on your feet through all the turning and walking backwards. That said, a dance class is not exactly as strenuous as a spinning class, so don't feel that you need to show up in sweats. As a general rule, partner dancers (especially Ballroom, as opposed to Salsa) dress up a little, while solo dancers (like Jazz, Hip-hop, Ballet, etc.) generally wear sporty, stretchy clothing, which allows one to move and sweat.
Q: What dances should I learn?
A: This is a tough one. What kind of music do you enjoy listening to? What kind of places do you like to go when you go out? Are you learning for a particular event, or just for fun? All of these are important things to consider. If you have a strong musical preference, like if you like Latin, or Classical music, for example, ask your instructor what dances can be done to this type of music. (In case of Latin, you will probably want to learn Salsa, Bachata, and Merengue. In case of Classical, you may enjoy the Waltz.) If you are going to an event where a particular kind of music will be played, like if you are going to a wedding, and you know the couple are big Jazz fans, you should probably look into Swing and Foxtrot. If you are totally up in the air though, ask your teacher to play different music for you, and to show you some steps to see what you may be interested in the most.
Q: How long does it take to be good?
A: This is another question that almost every beginner dancer asks. And the answer is - define good, multiply that by your ability to pick up and retain steps, divide by how many times a week you can realistically practice, subtract the number of dances you want to learn, add your musical ability, and just as your brain is about to explode, name a random number of days, weeks, or months. You should be pretty close. The reality is that everyone has a different definition of good, different ability and circumstances. Generally, any dance studio or independent instructor will allow you to take a single lesson, or purchase a small lesson package to start. And once you try a lesson, or two, you'll be able to estimate yourself how long it will take you to be as good as you want to be.
Q: Should I join a group, or do private lessons?
A: Both have their plusses and minuses. Group classes allow for more interaction with other dancers of your level, so you will get more practice. The down side is that it will take you much longer to learn. It is also easy to pick up bad habits, because you will be dancing with people who basically don't know what they are doing. Private lessons will give you a much more personalized instruction, so you will learn faster, and will most likely develop better technique. The downside is that you won't get as much practice with just the lessons, so unless you go out to dance socials, or have a partner, it may take you a while to get the self-confidence you need to dance with anyone else besides your teacher.