Hey Fitties! I thought I’d follow up yesterday’s post about audition tips with some of the stuff I’ve learned through trial and error teaching Zumba. I made a lot of mistakes back then. I probably still do, but they’ll sort themselves out eventually.

So learn from my mistakes! If you do these, don’t freak out and think you have to stop doing them right this minute. Just start to ween yourself off of them. Some of these things I did just because I was inexperienced and it was only as I got more experience that I was able to stop. Make sense?

K. Here we go!

1.  Stopping too much.  I think I used to stop between each and every song. I’d go over the choreography piece by piece so that my students could really get it. Then I realized that they would pick it up just fine with practice and they were actually getting frustrated with all the stopping and review.

Now I aim for about 55 minutes of music, including warmup and cool down songs. This doesn’t allow for a lot of time for water breaks or choreography breakdowns, so you have to learn to be really fast with the choreography breakdown. Don’t worry, they’ll pick it up.

2.  Not having a playlist set up in advance.  With iPods and MP3 players, it’s tempting to just keep all your music in one folder and just scroll through as you go teach the class. Not only do you have to stop in between the songs (see number 1), but your music list piles up quickly and it will take you forever to find the song you’re looking for.

Pre-plan your playlist in advance and have it ready to go.  I’m not perfect at this — sometimes I’ll realize I packed too many intense songs together and my class is about to die, so I have to change up the order.  Or I’ll get a request for a song that’s not on the playlist so I have to search for it. Or I’ll suddenly get a hankering to do a song that I haven’t done in awhile and that takes some time to find. Still, having the bare bones of my playlist put together eliminates the start/stop/start/stop from class and it makes me look like I have my shit together. If at all possible, try to seem like you have your shit together. 😉

3.  Not keeping extra socks/hair pins/ hair ties in my bag.  That’s actually not true — I DO keep extras in my bag. I just eventually lose them all and then I’m trying to keep my hair out of my face with a stray ball point pen or bumming hair pins off my students.

Try to keep extras in your car or gym bag and inventory your supply from time to time.

4.  Focusing too much on myself.  I really need to see myself in a mirror to be able to dance. For those of you who subscribe to my email list and saw my dance video, I looked a little vacant and confused in the beginning. I’m used to looking in a mirror, not a camera lens. For some reason, I move my body better when I can see what it’s doing.

Also, I’m used to following people in dance classes, so watching other people can be confusing. I’m used to being the student and copying the teacher. It has happened before that while I’m looking around, I’ll forget that I’m supposed to lead and I’ll start following a really convincing student in the front row. 

You gotta look at your students though. First, you’re looking for people who are turning blue and about to keel over on you (hasn’t happened to me yet, knock on wood!)

Second, you’re making sure people are having fun. Are they smiling? Are they sweating?  Noticing how people respond to the music has completely changed how my classes are put together. I put on the songs that make people smile and brings out their mega energy and I skip the types of songs where they tend to phone in it. To figure out what is vibing with my peoples, I have to take my eyes off myself and focus on them.

Third, you are making connections with people by looking and speaking to them. Remember, this is supposed to be fun. Like a party. I’ve never been to a party where people didn’t make eye contact or speak.

5.  Using moves/songs I wasn’t good at.  I have a strict policy: I only do stuff that makes me look good. There are some songs out there that have crazy drums and horns and just… weird musical phrases.  I call them “uneven.” Typically, you have 4, 8 count phrases so you can do moves evenly on the right and on the left. It makes it easy to keep track of music. For awhile there, Zumba was getting fancy and doing things like weird drum interludes out of nowhere. If you’re wondering why we haven’t done Las Mujeres que Bailan Bien in awhile, it’s not because the Tarzan arms were exhausting, it’s that uneven section that comes out of nowhere.

This might not be making sense to you. When you find an uneven song, you’ll know it. Anyway, I don’t do them anymore. They make me look stupid. I don’t like looking stupid, so I only do even songs.

Similarly, I don’t do moves, no matter how cool in theory, that I can’t do convincingly. This is why I have never samba’d in my class. Last week I stole some moves from the Cardio Axe DVD of Brazil Butt Lift, but even those I screw up and it’s not hard core samba. I can samba if I’m copying an amazing samba-er. I cannot samba if I am supposed to be the lead samba-er. So I don’t do it. Why? Because I’d look stupid.

It’s your class, do what makes you look good. If you look good, you’ll have fun. If you have fun, your students will too.

Okay instructors… sound off below about mistakes that you’ve made in the past!  Help our newbie instructors out!