If you’ve only taken solo dance classes like hip-hop or jazz before and are wondering if social dance classes like salsa or bachata are right for you, or vice versa, I’m going to try and explain the differences between them. Yes, in solo dance classes you dance by yourself and in social dance classes you dance with a partner, but there are more nuances to that. This article can also be helpful for someone who has never danced before and needs guidance in which direction to take. Let’s go!
Social Dance Classes
Examples of social dance styles include salsa, bachata, merengue, kizomba, Brazilian zouk, west coast swing, Argentinian tango, forró, samba de gafieira, and many more. I define social dance here as a partner dance style that you can dance at dedicated dance parties or social events where dance music is played.
Social dance classes tend to be more low-impact, meaning your pulse doesn’t go very high and you might not even break a sweat. In some countries, people show up to social dance classes in their work clothes. This is due to teachers often spending a lot of time on explaining and talking. The focus tends to be on learning following and leading techniques, rather than using and exploring your own body.
It does depend heavily on the instructor though. Some do a proper warm-up, constantly remind students to keep a good posture and let their students move and dance more. Definitely try and look for a teacher like that! However even if there are chatty instructors, students compensate with going to social dance parties where they dance non-stop for hours.
The social aspect is the real feature here. During the class you change partners every few minutes, so you get to know all your peers. After class you might all go to a social dance party together and continue dancing and socialising over there. In addition to that, you can travel abroad for dance festivals or find local parties in your destination. This provides a cosy community feeling.
You Should Take Social Dance Classes When:
- You want to dance together with someone
- You like a specific music style and want to learn to dance to it (e.g. salsa, bachata, zouk)
- You want to join social dance parties (e.g. salsa parties) and be able to dance there
- You like the social aspect and want to meet many new people and make new friends (all over the world)
- You and your significant other want to take on a new hobby together. (You can tell your instructor that you don’t want to change partners during class.)
Solo Dance Classes
Solo dance styles are for example ballet, jazz, hip-hop, locking, heels, k-pop, shuffle, reggaeton, waacking, vogue. By solo dance I mean that you are in control of your own dancing and there is no physical leading or following happening.
Solo dance classes are a great way to exercise and burn calories, since you are using your whole body from head to toe. You can dance with full energy without having to adjust to your partner. Complex movements train your body control, balance, and muscle strength.
In this type of class you are usually dancing facing the mirror, so you can see yourself and fix any mistakes. This also means that you improve faster.
Any social dancer who is serious about improving themselves and working towards the advanced level, will need to take solo classes in addition to social dance.
Solo classes usually include learning a longer choreography, so there can be more thinking and memorising involved. Sometimes when the instructors move on too fast, it can get frustrating. Leaders need to think a lot during social dance classes as well, but memorising a 2 minute choreography in a solo dance class is something else.
In the case where the group goes to competitions or performs together, the team spirit could develop as well. However it’s more rare for drop-in solo classes for adults to have a strong community vibe like in social dance world.
You Should Take Solo Dance Classes When:
- You like a specific music style and want to learn to dance to it (e.g. shuffle, k-pop, afro)
- You want to have a fun type of exercise that increases stamina, strength, body control, balance, mobility, posture and more.
- You want to learn to express yourself through dance
- You want to improve your dance skills for social dancing
- You want to have complete control over how you dance
Again, I want to say that a lot depends on the instructor and the school. However the general experience I have had throughout the years has been that solo dance classes will teach you to control and strengthen your body and become a better dancer, whereas social dance classes will mostly teach you how to dance together with someone, lead or follow your partner and offer lots of opportunities for socialising. Which one of them do you feel drawn to at this stage in your dance journey?