April 2014 I would like to share some thoughts on Arthur Murray with the users of this site.
I have read a lot of AM bashing, and a lot of AM praise. I would like to offer what I think is a fair assessment and offer some advice to consumers of Dance Instruction.
My wife and I started lessons at an Arthur Murray studio in the Dallas/Ft Worth area about 2 years ago. We both feel that the quality of the private lessons and the group classes are very high. In fact, we found that the instructors, especially our male and female pair, to be two of the nicest human beings we have known in a long time. They took instructing serious and always gave us well planned out quality instruction. The variety of dances taught, private lesson times, and the group classes are awesome.
Here are some things you need to know as an informed consumer:
Arthur Murray is significantly more expensive than independent studios. In our area this equals about $55 to $60 more per lesson. AM in our area is $135 per 45 minute lesson; other studios are in the range of $75 to $80. Here is the kicker though, AM does not charge extra for group lessons or practice parties. So, there is a valid argument that although the lessons are over 65% more per lesson you can consume all you can eat of the group lessons and parties. If your schedule only allows you to make a few lessons a week then paying the fees for group lessons is much cheaper in the long run (especially since these fees are often less than a meal at McDonalds).
The second aspect should you decide AM is your best option is to realize they will indeed try very hard to get you to go to shows and trips for shows. There are several consumer points you need to think about on this element:
1. Unless you insist, they will try to use part of your lesson time to pitch coming to the show. This means youre paying them $135 bucks to listen to a sales pitch. If you insist they wait till after the lesson to discuss that they will wait.
2. The reasoning will be laid out that preparing for shows allows you to take your dance to the next level or give you a goal to train for like someone training for a marathon. This is actually true it does up your game. But think about this, most advanced choreographed routines for shows looks nothing like a social dance. It is like comparing someone socially ballroom dancing to what you see on dancing with the stars! It is two totally different flavors. If you want to look like a DWTS person then prepping for a show is for you. If you want to dance with people in public who have not trained with you on that routine then it may not be for you.
3. The cost of the shows, especially the ones out of state, is stunning! Price the airfare and hotel expense for these locations separate from the show and you may be stunned at the cost of this adventure. And when you price adding extra heats you may find that for 90 seconds of dance you may pay around 40 bucks a pop for add on time.
4. But the real cost may be in the accelerated private lessons to prep for the show. Imagine going from 1 lesson a week (meaning youre paying about 540 a month) to an extra four lessons in a month and now you have spent over a grand getting ready for a show.
Ok so think about this cost knowing what other options are out there. Youre the ultimate judge of how you spend your money. You should at least be informed. Call around and ask other studios about their rates in your town and see for yourself.
So now moving on to the real issue I have with Arthur Murray. Exclusivity!
At our AM you will not hear people reference dance competitions outside of AM sponsored events. You will not hear people talk about ballroom events outside of AM events. And now I know what happens if you try to talk about these things outside of the studio.
Here is the real life example I recently ran into. I setup a Facebook group. This group had one intention only share opportunities to dance in the Dallas and Fort Worth area. It was intended not to talk about things happening at AM or any other studio. It was to simply say hey, we are going out dancing at XYZ anyone want to come along? It was not intended to advertise for other studios or even our own AM.
Now a few things slipped through. A Groupon for dance lessons got posted. That was more for people to give to a friend on a budget interested in dancing, not so much to lure people away. (We knew of a lot of people who would have loved to come to AM but cannot afford the equivalent of a luxury car payment to get dance lessons each weekend).
A few open events got posted that were sponsored by studios. A few of those events likely would have exposed people to the offerings at other studios. A few of the events were at the same time of the weekly practice party. In my opinion this Facebook group is not like the cork board on the studio wall. I was not posting flyers on the studio wall or handing out information at their place of business. I was doing this completely independent of the studio. I am a grown man. I am free to do this. This is a free market society.
But nope, the owner of my beloved Arthur Murray could not abide. He took my wife and I into his office and had a long talk with us. To boil the argument down he basically said I dont know anything about Facebook and Twitter and that stuff, but here is what my staff tell me, and I simply cannot allow this! I told him what our intention was. He stated our intentions did not matter. He had to protect his studio and his payroll to his employees. He had a business to run.
Well, yes sir, you do. And it is a free market. So regardless of my intentions I am a free man and if I want to post about places to dance I am free to do that. I am also free to stop being a consumer of your services. My wife and I, newly empty nesters in our forties, professionals with disposable income (you would think he would want to keep us) can make a choice that we will take our business elsewhere.
And we can choose to share the facts about what our experience has been. I actually do know things about social media and how to share things online. Dont misunderstand, I do not want to bash them and say they suck because they do not suck. In fact they are excellent dance instructors. You get high quality instruction for the money.
However, when you couple the high price with an open hostility toward basic rights to talk about dancing (on our own time and away from their studio) then you have really crossed a line.
This AM owner disrespected me and my wife in a way that cannot be repaired and has lost a customer. I who was once a person who could not stop inviting people to AM will now simply spread one message be an informed consumer know what is out there as far as options factor the cost to what you personally can afford knowing what the other options are.
And if you go to AM studios and do not want to get belittled never talk or post anything about other studios or ballroom events! If you can live with that then you will enjoy your experience. If you cannot, then think about alternatives. Be an informed dance consumer!
I was wondering was your AM studio pressure you into some package deals? I went to a private studio which had an instructor who worked there before coming to the independent studio. He was told to push some sales onto some of his students if he did not than they would have an instructor who would. He has since moved on that studio I went to, so I cannot say where is now. Anyway, I get the impression from independent studios dance parties are usually goes half for the school and the other half go to the instructors sponsoring the party. At least the Friday's and Saturday's group lesson is a little bit better since the party is included with the lesson. Some do make a pot luck instead of the group lesson. At least the earlier studio that I hinted at, they do have one free lesson on Saturday mornings and had(or have) a door prize which was a free pass to an upcoming party. My first independent school which also the only one that I took lessons from, they had their weekly beginners group lessons were free for paid students. The studio has now at least switched hands over the years and now part of different studio management. They did not offer a free pass to another lesson, but they did do a 50/50 raffle which at that time the parents owner when he won the pot. He would split his share with another person, so they picked a second winner.
There was indeed initial pressure for package deals to events and shows. And there was pressure to set our goals and plans and sign up for more lessons. But I am a strong person and steered out of the pressure without too much issue, but was a little put off by the sales pitch. Especially when they brought in an outside person to review our dance and then she went into more of the sales pitch. All in all though it was not more than I myself could handle. I used to be a salesman and am OK with it. But I could see how a person who is not as adept or experienced as I am could be swayed. You are hailed as a hero, the next "it couple" when you sign up for these events. You want that approval. But man is it expensive... thousands of dollars for out of state events. But in the end, this is not why I am choosing to take my business elsewhere.... as I realize everyone tries to upsell. They are in it to make money. So that aspect really does not bother me that much. I just hope other people make informed consumer choices when they are pitched the upsell!
Your experience of not being allowed to attend or talk about other dance events is not new. I have a friend (we are in Canada) who started at AM, at least 20 years ago. She was so excited about dancing and went to a dance at another location. When she told her instructor about it, she was lectured that she was not allowed to go to another dance without his permission. She thought he would be pleased that she got up the courage to go out when she was just a beginner. She was so shocked by his reaction that she walked out and never went back.
Yeah... I was lectured on how they create a safe environment with no booze or people hitting on my wife. I am 45 years old - I think I can go to a sleazy dance club if I chose too. But the kicker is the place I went to was a dance event where we, in our mid 40s, where the youngest people! Talk about safe... it was. Regardless, a company that I pay for goods or services has no right to tell me I can not go out and use the skills I learned in another setting! So your experience was 20 years ago - mine was 5 days ago. Sounds like it is a mindset drilled into AM owners to protect their turf! Wow
I am so sorry you had that experience. I used to be a student at the Same AM you are referring to. I finally broke free after two years and pursued instruction at another studio with Independent Teachers. I studied hard and am now an Independent Teacher myself.
I can assure you that in the Independent world that doesn't happen very much. In fact, we support one another. I go to other studio events and others come to mine. I even take my students to other studio's practice parties. I have found the overall support between Instructors to be wonderful. I have even performed as a guest with my students at other studio showcases.
If they believe so much in their system then they should not be afraid of other studios. Bottom line is, they don't believe in it, their price is too high. One of my coaches is a National Champion he still only charges $85/hr.
Don't give up, google is your friend. There are a lot more options out there! And several in Fort Worth. Good Luck!
I agree one hundred percent. So far I have seen a very supportive community of students and instructors in our foray outside of AM. I am amazed at how large the Dance community is. There are so many opportunities to Dance without even stepping into a traditional dance night club (not that there is anything wrong with that).
One thing is certain - We will NOT give up! In fact, our passion for dance is higher now than it has ever been despite coming out of a bad experience with one chain studio.
If you haven't already, Try www.Dancemakers.com. They are in Fort Worth.
That is where I take my students to their practice parties. The teachers there are so sweet and friendly. That studio is open to the public so Independents teach there as well. Hope you have found a new instructor.
Dancewithdia - We are indeed in fact going there! And we have found a wonderful new instructor. We are more excited about dance and putting more into our learning both inside and outside the studio than we ever have before!
If you don't mind the drive to Dallas, the Marilyn Myers Dance Connections puts on a dance once a month. This is with a live band and is always well attended. You don't have to be a member to attend one of their dances, the price is only slightly more. There are dance hosts of single ladies. Here's the link if you would like to check out dates and places they go. http://danceconnectionsclub.org/
We joined AM ages ago specifically for social dance and made that clear when we signed our first contract. Over the years we've been invited to attend the medal ball and had done so on two occasions as spectators only. We go dancing socially many times a month and our dance instructor asks us constantly where we've been dancing. He always belittles our dance events with comments like "only old people dance there". The problem is we can go to a Knights of Columbus dance for $25 per person with a live band and a hot buffet dinner while AM charges $125 per person for a sit down dinner and some social dancing after you watch hundreds of 2 minute dance heats. I'm not knocking medal balls, showcase or any other marketing techniques AM employs but they do their best to keep each and every dollar in house.
I too have a certain disregard for AM. It's to bad they pray on people with little or no dance experience. It seems their only goal is for profit and exclude their students from venturing off their "turf". It's true they "groom" you only for their showcases and spotlights. I should know, I am still in debt for the sum of 6k. Having been a student there for two years, I started to venture out to the dance community including signing up with Ballroom dancers to try to quench my incredible thirst for more Ballroom and other dance knowledge, I was told by their Master instructor that all those other studios and sites are "Elitists". I left there as soon as my contract expired and have since had the pleasure of meeting and being trained by the likes of Benji Schwimmer, Jen Lyons , Christine Harvey and the list goes on. When I posted a photo of me and Benji on Facebook, I received a message from the AM studio I had taken lessons from that she was going to block me because I sounded negative in my comment about being able to finally grow in my dance abilities. I deleted them from my friends list.
I only know 1 girl who went back to AM because she could not cut it in the real world competitions. She was told she would HAVE to fix her foot technique and learn cuban motion first. She pushed and pushed, was told she wasn't ready to compete yet, finally her instructor took her. She came in dead last at 2 or 3 comps. She was always 1st place at AM comps. She didn't want to fix her (lack of) technique and went back to the AM world.