What is the best way to learn how to dance forró? Is there such a thing?
Yes, some methods can be more effective than others when it comes to learning how to dance forró, but we need to understand that each student is unique in his/her way of learning.
One method can be great for some students and not so good for others. It has to do with various things, ranging from accessibility to classes, instructor style, student's personality, social aspects, or even price.
I compiled a list of the best and most used methods of learning to help you decide what works best for you! All methods have their pros and cons, and have the potential to help you develop your skills and have a lot of fun.
1 - Parties and concerts.
Many new forrozeiros take their first forró steps at parties, trying to imitate other people dancing and learning by trial and error. Most people that take this approach are more interested in social interaction, trying to make the most of a party.
The time duration is usually much longer than a class, so you have a lot of time to dance and practice.
You can dance with people with very various styles and levels of experience (depending on the event you are in).
It is all about socializing and having fun.
It is "free" (you are paying for the event/show).
It is not the very best place to experiment with new moves that might "not work". Most people in parties have a "party mindset", they want a dance that "works".
Nobody is actively teaching you (unless you have an experienced friend who is teaching you a specific move).
You will rarely get any feedback or suggestion on how to improve. And because of this, there are good chances that you will develop bad habits.
Often times there is not much space to be doing moves/sequences that require more space.
You need certain social skills and confidence to invite or be invited to dance. This can be a challenge if you are a beginner.
My opinion: Parties and concerts are amazing for the social aspect and for you to be able to dance to live music, but it is not the best place to learn new movements. I strongly recommend my students go to parties for the fun of it, to learn how to adapt to different partners and practice their moves and musicality.
Related link (events in NYC) - https://www.forronewyork.com/events
2 - Group classes and workshops.
This is likely the most common way for people to learn and develop their forró skills. This is how I learned back in the early 2000s. For about one year would go to classes 5 times a week, and then go to the parties to practice another 2 times a week.
You will be surrounded by other students who are there with a similar purpose: to learn and have fun in the process.
You will have one (or more) instructors demonstrating and teaching moves, as well as giving some kind of feedback to you.
The class will commonly have a theme or movement in focus, so you can truly use your time to develop that skill.
You can practice over and over each movement with different partners.
It is a space designed for this kind of activity.
It is a great way to get to know people in your dance community and be part of a group.
It is usually not expensive. (you are not paying alone for the room and time of the instructor, costs are shared by a group of students). Just as an example, here in New York, our regular 1h30min classes cost $20 and you can get discounts if you buy a package of classes and/or if you are a Forró New York Association member.
You depend on the instructor available in your city and you will not be the one deciding what will be the focus of the class. This can be good or bad, depending on the instructor.
You depend on the other participants in the class. This can be great if you have a fun group of students and people with similar experience level as you have, but if you are in a class where there is no other student with the same level of experience as you, or if the vibe in the class is not so good, it can be a big negative.
My opinion: This is my number one suggestion if you have a good instructor in your town. It is a good balance between instruction, feedback, social experience, practice, and price.
Related link (classes and workshops in NYC) - https://www.forronewyork.com/classesoverview
Watch below a video-blog about our Wednesday classes and party in Manhattan.
3 - Private lessons.
The direct relationship between teacher and apprentice is likely the fastest path to learn any skill (along with practice).
You can have the full and direct attention of your teacher.
You can decide what you want to learn and work on.
You can have custom exercises and practices created by your teacher for your particular needs.
You can practice with your instructor.
You don't have other people to practice and socialize with.
It is usually more expensive than a group class.
My opinion: This is the best way to learn exactly what you want and optimize your time. It is the most expensive option but it is usually the fastest way to improve. Private lessons with a good teacher can make a big difference in your dance.
Related link - https://www.forronewyork.com/private-lessons
4 - Online
Today, more than ever, online alternatives to learn are in high demand. There are a few different approaches you can take regarding distance learning (which I will discuss in another blog - click here to read).
You can do it from wherever you are.
You can access content produced anywhere in the world.
You can do at any time you want (considering "on-demand" content).
It is not in person, so you don't have the opportunity to dance with other people the way you would in an in-person class.
There are some challenges when it comes to instructor feedback and participant interaction. (it varies method by method, I will discuss this in another blog).
Additional consideration: you depend on technology and production quality. I recommend you choose your classes having in mind how it was recorded and edited. This can completely change your experience as a student.
I also recommend you to play the class on a TV or other device with a big screen and good audio. A poorly recorded class played on a small screen with bad audio (like a smartphone) will result in a not so good experience for you.
My opinion: It is wonderful that we have this tool today! It does not replace other learning methods, but it is a great way to be able to learn from the distance! It can also be very useful to complement other methods and serve as support and practice time. Topics also tend to be a little bit different, since the medium has particular characteristics.
There is no "one way" of learning and each experience will teach you something different. The combination of various methods - in complementary ways - tends to be the best way to learn and experience the forró culture as a whole. The important thing is to find what works best for you and not be scared to experiment with different things. Make the most of each situation.
I hope this was useful for you to understand the options you have and maybe guide to chose what approach you want to take. In the end, it doesn't matter what method you chose to use, the important thing is for you to have fun in the process.
About the author
Rafael Piccolotto de Lima is an experienced teacher. He is passionate about arts, a doctor of musical arts, and a Latin Grammy nominee as a composer. For him, all forms of expression are somehow related. Based on that premise, his interest and work have a wide spectrum: from a tail tux at a concert hall, to the dance shoes at a worn-out dance floor. Born in Campinas, São Paulo - Brazil, now he lives at the Hudson waterfront, looking at the south of Manhattan.
YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/rafaelpdelima