If you are a social dancer, it is very likely that you participate in the lesson that precedes most social dances. Whether or not you have a regular partner, this gives you the opportunity to dance with many different partners – which can only improve your leading/following. In addition, especially if you already have some experience with the dance being taught, you might try switching to the opposite role, i.e., if you are a leader, you can try following; if you are a follower, you can try leading. This, too, can do much to improve your dancing as you gain a better understanding of the other partner’s role.
The next, but similar, level is to take one or more group classes. This, too, affords you the opportunity to dance with many different partners, while typically focusing on a single dance style for several consecutive weeks and usually has fewer participants than in a pre-dance lesson.
Another group lesson opportunity is to take one or more workshops, which are usually available at dance competition (and similar) events that are – literally – offered around the world. One such event is happening, next weekend, in the Greater Philadelphia area: Philly Swing Classic in Claymont, DE. This event features west coast swing workshops, competitions & open dancing. Most such events require paying for at least a one-day pass to the event (or you can purchase a pass for the entire event) in order to participate in any workshops, which are generally an additional fee.
The next step up is competitive dancing, which requires private lessons. However, it is very important to note that private lessons are for so much more. This is where you get one-on-one attention from the instructor. You can work on technique, fine-tune anything with which you are having difficulty, learn additional moves that are not covered in a group setting and/or, for such individuals as a wedding couple, to work on choreography for a particular piece of music that is not intended to be at a competition level. Another benefit is that scheduling is more to your accommodation.
Which is/are best for you? That is a decision that can best be made by you, with added considerations of cost and schedule. It is also very important to note that your goals – long-term, medium-term and/or short-term – your budget and your availability are very likely to change over time. You might get the competition “bug” and try that for a while or, just the opposite, you might already have some competition experience and decide that you no longer want to pursue that. Similarly, your finances and/or your availability might change.
Therefore, while it is important to determine your goals and then follow through with the appropriate type of dance lesson(s), it is equally important to be open to changing both those goals and, with life changes such as job hours or even job change/loss, changing how you pursue those goals.
Sometimes, things happen in our lives that require adjusting goals on even a daily basis. Be open to this.