Lesson Efficiency

Ballroom lessons are expensive. Whether you're a college student taking them with a team or doing private lessons, the fees add up quickly, especially when you want quality instruction. Most college teams charge about 100-150 a semester for membership and participation in lessons. Private instruction can range from about 45-60 for Pre-Champ/Champ Student Instructors and about 80-100 for adult instructors (and quite possibly higher, but let's not go there.) for a 45-minute lesson.

So with lessons being so damn expensive, you obviously want to make the most out of each lesson. This page will describe how to get the most out of group and individual lessons.

Group Lessons.
In a group lesson, you usually have around about 5-20 people with one instructor. At times, there may be even more people (Princeton Fall Dance Camp is a great example of that). So, how do you make sure you make the most of the instruction?

Be Early: Showing up late gives a bad impression. You want to show up at least 15 minutes early, if not slightly earlier. Purpose for this is so you can warm-up. In addition, if the instructor is there early, you can try to get some time by asking questions, etc. Note that some instructors operate on a strict time basis and won't teach until they're to teach and when the lesson ends, they end the lesson and leave. But most instructors come early, stay late, and are more than happy to help.
Up Front: Don't stand in the back. Up front, quite possibly right in front of the instructor, is the best place to be. There are multiple reasons for this. First, a dance instructor usually doesn't shout. So if you're in the back and there's a lot of conversation blocking you and the instructor, you can't hear anything. Second, by being in the very front, you can see the moves that the instructor is demonstrating.
Volunteer: Sometimes, an instructor will ask a couple to demonstrate a move. Or even better, the instructor will ask for a partner to help demonstrate. When this occurs, DON'T BE SHY. Why? This is some prime time to get valuable feedback just for yourself. It's like getting a free check-up from the doctor. Would you say no?
Move Around: If an instructor is demonstrating a move and you have a crappy line-of-sight, MOVE to a better spot. Don't just stand there like a silly little statute, move to wherever you need to move to get the best angle. That being said, don't shove/jostle people or completely block their field of vision. And definitely don't get in the way of the instructor.
Questions: If you have questions, ask. Why? Because at least a couple of other people are thinking that same question but aren't asking it. There's nothing wrong with asking questions, in particular because dance instructors sometimes gloss over concepts that they expect you to already know but actually don't. Or for example, something that is intuitive to instructors who have danced for a long time might be completely foreign to a neophyte. Ask away, and they'll answer and clarify.
Partners: If you have a set partner and competitions are coming up, then you obviously want to dance and practice with that partner at lessons. Otherwise, it's difficult to build up the necessary connection. But if say it's a semester away from comps or you're just starting out, then switch partners! Dancing with different people is a great way to learn how to adapt and become a better dancer since people come in all shapes, sizes, and dancing quirks.
The other role: Males are characteristically the leader and females the follower in ballroom. Sometimes, a move will be performed that is identical for both and so there's no problem there. But if there's a Leader part and a Follower part, if you're able to understand your own part first, I would recommend to try practicing the other part. The reason being is that by understanding what exactly your partner has to do, you're able to better understand what you have to do to facilitate that.

Individual Lessons.
Basically everything said in Group Lessons applies here, albeit some things are already in place. For example, nobody's going to be in front of you since you (or maybe you and partner) are already there. Note that the purpose and value of having private lessons is that you will improve at an exponential rate since you're having teaching custom-tailored to your strengths and weaknesses rather than that of a general group.

Finding an Instructor: You want to be with an instructor for a long period of time, just like you would be with a coach in sports, in order to eventually obtain the best feedback. An instructor who's been with you for a while knows your strengths and weaknesses. There are some things to keep in mind when finding an instructor.
Ask Around: If you're trying to find an instructor, ask teammates, check for ballroom studios online, looks at reviews, etc. You want to find an instructor who you can work well with. It's not on the same level as being able to work with a partner, but having a good instructor is very important.
Performance vs. Teaching: This is universal to all subjects, not just ballroom. The best performers aren't always the best teachers and vic versa. Just because so-and-so placed 1st at the competition doesn't mean they are the best teachers. Not to mention, something to keep in mind is that those who do extremely well at competitions have often been dancing from a very young age. That means, to them, certain concepts are intuitive and natural such as weight control and weight shift. But if you're a person who's never done dance before, that might not be the best instructor for you to have since how can an instructor describe something that's only intuitive, that they've never had to put thought into how to accurately describe it? Shop around, and don't settle for less.
Level: Sometimes, an instructor might be not experienced or good enough. In that case, look for a better instructor. But what can sometimes happen is that the instructor is actually overqualified. Now, if you have money, then go for it. Better instruction is always good and great instruction in ballroom doesn't come cheap. But sometimes, having an overqualified instructor isn't the best bang for your buck since you might not be at a high enough level to truly appreciate or understand all that the instructor has to offer
Questions: You know how I said you want to ask questions in group lessons? That is even more so true here. Why? You get to DICTATE the pace. If something doesn't make sense, you take all the time you need until it does. The instructor operates off of what you know and what you need, not the other way around. Slow down, ask questions like there's no tomorrow, and you and your instructor will be all the better for it.