Learning a new skill is always difficult (for most of us, anyway.) At the very least, it expands the mind and opens up entirely unknown territory of thought and process. We’re usually left feeling a little vulnerable in those early stages.
That’s why, when it comes to learning salsa and bachata, Kevin Qin is such a blessing. Not only is he patient and kind, but you can tell that his engineering mind has broken down and reconstructed every step of the foot and every twist of the hand and translated it into something that can easily be understood by anyone who happens to saunter into his class.
And that quality is exactly what has made Kevin one of the most popular instructors at A Time To Dance and in all of San Diego!
It was an absolute delight to sit down and chat with Kevin about his never-ending quest to improve as a salsa and bachata dancer and teacher, what keeps him motivated, and even how he originally thought salsa music was super annoying. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: When did you first start learning to dance and why?
Kevin: A friend of mine dragged me to a class at UCSD in 2009. I just kept going.
After about a year, I thought, “Ok, now I’m intermediate!”
But then, I went with a few friends to Cafe Sevilla for the first time and the dancers were doing things I didn’t know how to do. I wanted to learn to dance how they danced in the club. It was eye opening and motivated me to learn more.
Q: What got you in to teaching?
Kevin: I started taking classes at A Time To Dance and the teacher at the time, Tulane, always brought me out to assist her and explain moves to the students. Eventually, there was an opportunity to teach a Saturday class.
I was unsure about teaching since I was about a year and half into taking classes there, but agreed to give teaching a beginner class a try. Seven years later, I’m still teaching that class!
I also have to mention Juan Hernandez of Juan-2-3. I trained with him and also assisted him in his classes for some time. His instruction is always well structured and full of details. Once he discovered I had a passion for teaching, he gave me a lot of mentorship on how to approach teaching.
Q: You have a reputation for giving very thorough, detailed instruction. Where does that come from?
Kevin: I think part of it is just my nature. By trade, I am a software engineer, so there’s this innate quality in me that is very detail oriented. I am very observant.
In terms of the actual teaching, a big part comes from learning from other instructors. I myself always take classes. Not only has that helped me learn different methods from different instructors, but it helped me understand what kind of learner I am and what kind of instruction works for me. I wouldn’t say that I myself am a very quick learner. I’m actually on the slow side.
When I teach, I try to get in the shoes of the students. What would be the best way for me to explain something so that they will be able to connect to it?
I’m a much better teacher now than I was five years ago. The passion that I have for teaching drives me to want to get better. It’s not just something that I do. I genuinely enjoy doing it. It’s truly satisfying to pass on knowledge and see the growth in others.
Anyone can be a teacher to somebody. While that is true, to be a teacher to the mass is not easy.
I always strive to be a better teacher. When I take dance classes, besides learning the material, I take mental notes on how the instructor explains things. Nowadays, there are so many resources online. From time to time, I’ll watch videos, not so much for the content, but to see how they will teach something that I already teach. They might do something differently or better that I can use in my class.
Q: Do you have a favorite teaching moment or accomplishment?
Kevin: I don’t know if I have an actual moment, but it is gratifying when I go out social dancing and people come to me and say, “Thank you! I’ve taken your classes. I’ve learned a lot from you!” Just hearing that is like, wow, I made a positive impact and maybe I did something right. That makes me feel good.
And then you watch them dance and make sure!
Kevin: It’s also gratifying to see former students of mine advance through their salsa journeys to the point where they are now traveling and performing.
I have a young teammate who actually came to A Time To Dance as a 7 or 8 year old with her sister. She would just watch her sister take my class. I remember walking up to her and getting her to try a few steps with me on the dance floor. Many years later, she actually became my dance partner in a few performances with a dance team!
You never know how each person’s journey is going to play out. Maybe you don’t ever see them again or maybe you see them years later, or maybe they even become your dance partner.
Q: It came full circle. Can you talk about the classes you teach at A Time To Dance?
Kevin: I teach salsa and bachata at A Time To Dance. On Tuesday I teach the progressive bachata class and on Wednesday night I teach the progressive level 1 and level 2 salsa. I also teach a Saturday beginner and an intermediate salsa class.
A Time To Dance gives me the freedom to structure the lessons. Because of that, the lesson plans that I develop for the progressive courses are something I really enjoy teaching because they allow me to teach the way I want to teach and, even more so, I think students benefit and grow so much from it.
I’ve been an instructor for a long time and I see a group of students start as beginners, get better, move to the next level, then the next level, then maybe join teams, and then there’s the next wave of students. I see that quite a lot. I do believe those who have gone through my courses have gotten the right preparation to move on to whatever is next in their dance journey.
Q: Do you like salsa or bachata more?
Kevin: I have a strong passion for salsa, so if I was given only one, then I would take salsa.
Actually, my very first exposure to salsa music was years before I started taking salsa lessons. I had a friend who, every time I would step into his car, had salsa music playing.
Back then I was into electronic music. When I heard his salsa music, I thought it was annoying!
I don’t speak Spanish and I didn’t understand what the songs were about and thought it sounded very busy, so I’d always ask him to switch it to something else. I really didn’t like it.
Now, salsa music is probably the only music I play in my car. It’s because of the music that I am drawn to the dance more.
I like the dance form of bachata. I like the music also. But it doesn’t give me the type of pulse that salsa gives me.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
Kevin: I appreciate the opportunity given to me to teach. There are so many amazing dancers out there who are much better than me and many of them may not have the opportunity to teach. I am very fortunate to be able to teach students who also appreciate it.
My advice to people is that if they have a passion that they want to share, specifically with teaching dance, they should give it a try. You don’t have to be a world-class dancer. Like I said earlier, anybody can be a teacher to somebody. If you are able to pass that knowledge to people and people learn from you and get something out of it, that is a very valuable thing.
I feel my purpose is to pass on what I have gained as a dancer and a teacher with no reservations. I’m going to pass on everything I know to my students so that they themselves can spread the joy and can all enjoy it together.
Kevin Qin is an accomplished salsa and bachata instructor at A Time To Dance. His popular 4-week progressive courses begin on the first Tuesday (bachata) and Wednesday (salsa) of each month.
You can also purchase the Unlimited Classes Membership for just $69/ month to take all of Kevin’s classes (and more!).
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Kevin is the best Salsa dance teacher for On 1, great interview Heather and great pictures.
I miss the studio and dancing!