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What does it take to be a dance instructor?


Part of being the best you can be is focusing on what it takes to get there. We’re continuing the “What does it take…?” column, which looks at this aspect of being the best. This month, we’re chatting with swing dance instructor Simon Bressanelli.


How did you become a dance instructor?

I started by volunteering for the community swing dance scene in Leeds. I had been dancing in the city a while, and they gave me a chance to try it out, and it all progressed from there! Since 2012, I’ve been continuing to teach in London for Swing Patrol.


What is the best thing about being a dance instructor?

Those moments when you see that someone has a ‘light bulb moment’ and everything you have been working on in that class fits together. The smile on people’s faces at that point is always brilliant.


And the worst?

Teaching when you are ill and have to pretend you aren’t is pretty difficult.


It seems like most dance instructors only do it part time and have a full-time day job, but you are one of the few who does it full time. What’s your average day like?

I’m very new to the full-time gig, but mostly my mornings are doing the admin side of dance teaching. Planning classes, social media, website updating, meetings for potential work, and training. Then it all really begins from 5 or 6pm when I have to get to classes. Most nights I teach two or three classes, so by the time I get home it is usually about time to collapse on the bed.


Is this something you see yourself doing for the rest of your life?

I find it hard to think in such long-term ways, but if I can get away with it, why not! It’s such a creative job, and it has all sorts of weird and wonderful experiences. At the moment, it all seems very worthwhile and wildly varied enough for me to carry on as long as I can.


Describe the moment when you realised that you were going to go down the road less travelled and enter the dance industry to pay your bills.

While talking to some very high-level dance instructors at a weekend swing dance event a while ago, I realised that the way they spoke about what they did was the way I wanted to feel about my career. Those conversations got me thinking a lot more seriously about making the leap across to the dance industry.


Many people claim they have two left feet or a complete lack of rhythm. Is dance something that can be taught to anyone, or do you need a certain degree of natural talent?

I think it is something that can be taught to anyone. Especially enough to social dance and enjoy it. Some people do take to it a lot quicker than others, and some people find one bit easy and the rest impossible. It just varies. I’ve come across too many stories of people who used to have two left feet (or no rhythm) and are now great dancers to think that there is such a thing as being doomed to fail.


Many of the dance classes I have been to seem to have a surplus of women. Why do you think men are generally less attracted to dance?


That’s really tough. I wish I had a perfect answer to that. Maybe it is a lack of exposure to dance. We don’t tend to teach it in our schools. When I was in school, there was always this emphasis on football, rugby, and athletics for boys. Whilst a lot of women I’ve met through dance, danced from a very young age. I guess it could be a fear of the unknown.


Which living person do you most admire and why?

José Mujica, the President of Uruguay. He’s one of those rare national leaders that actually implements policies that work for the people. One of the few people I’ve read about in such a high position who works for the people.


What’s your proudest moment been?

Graduating from my degree. It was an exhausting and stressful four years, but totally worth it in the end.


What did you want to be when you were little?

There was a time when I really wanted to be a painter, but I just didn’t end up going down that route.


When last did you see the sunrise?

On the side of a mountain in China, we were about to start a daylong trek along Tiger Leaping Gorge. That moment of quiet was surreal.


How do you relax?

I love listening to music and discovering artists and genres that I don’t listen to much.


What do you want to be remembered for?

Putting one hundred percent of myself into everything I do.


Which dance move do you most wish that you came up with?

There is this move in swing dance called the sugar push. It’s really simple in shape but I love the feel of it and the amount of different stuff you can do with it.


Simon is a full-time dance instructor at Swing Patrol, which offers dance classes all over London. For more information, please visit: www.swingpatrol.co.uk

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