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Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by Jongleur9418
4/13/2013  1:33:00 AM
We are a couple who have been learning ballroom dancing for about two years. Our goal is to be good social dancers with occational competitions. Which way is more efficient in learning? Studio or private instructors?

Any advices? Thank you in advance!
Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by belleofyourball
4/13/2013  12:20:00 PM
I think it depends on the studio and how you like to learn and how good the pros you have chosen happen to be. You will need at least some private lessons to fix real issues and to make faster progress. I honestly wouldn't consider competing without one-on-one with an instructor who knows what they are doing. If you are just going to mess around, have fun and not care how you do...then you can get enough out of group classes.

When I first started dancing I spent alot of time in group classes and learned plenty...now its a waste of my time and energy....and though I mostly work with a professional I still supplement with higher level coaches...who have taught me things he couldn't get through my thick skull.

I have danced for many years and there are still things to learn...you will continue to learn and grow long after you thought it was impossible to have anything left to learn. Dance is magical that way. I think I am doing so well and then I suddenly have a breakthrough that changes everything. For that to happen you have to work with the right people. That means the right location for you....the right teachers for you and people who have real live experience dancing in the direction you want to go. That takes research and trial and error...and be extremely careful if you go with a chain. Sometimes you may find someone good....but the majority of people are just a step ahead of you which isn't really enough to make them decent teachers who can charge at the rate they do. Sadly until you've been dancing for a long time you might not know enough to tell when a person isn't skilled enough to be working with you....which is why a lot of people only work with people who consistently do well in real competitions (Ohio, Emerald, Millenium, Nationals...etc.)

Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by jongleur9418
4/13/2013  5:58:00 PM
Belleofyourball, thank you so much for your insightful advices!

By studio vs. private, I meant independent instructors vs. those hired by a studio. We have been learning ballroom dance at a chain studio for up to 2 years, basically with 3 private lessons (2 separate and 1 together) each week, plus some group lessons and practice parties. We also occasionally have had travelling coaches. We've attended a few low-key competitions, but ironically still felt not very comfortale as social dancers (I mean not just mess around). But since we never had any private instructors, we don't have comparison in terms of efficiency (time and money). As for the package with the studio, we do like the group lessons for new patterns and the parties to dance with the teachers and more advanced students. But the learning process seems slower or less focused than we would like.

Any suggestions?

Thanks again!

Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by belleofyourball
4/13/2013  7:46:00 PM
Parties and the like are to keep you coming...they make them fun on purpose....so you keep coming and keep paying. I did work at one major chain and began my dancing at the other....so I have been there and I know what they do and why they do it. It is about money. They will not advance you at an appropriate level due to their in-house rules to ensure they make money. They tend to be extraordinarily more expensive then an independent instructor. There are a few really good teachers in those chains but there are also a lot of duds. They also tend to keep you at in-house comps so you feel like a 'winner'.

I would certainly recommend an independent instructor with a good track record. If you are competing he or she needs to be a competitor who has a history of winning (at real comps...no in house chain competitions). If you are looking to be good social dancers I would certainly recommend group lessons which have a group practice at the end of every lesson. It will give you more opportunities to dance with many dancers with different styles and levels of ability and grasp of steps...and that is cheap. Social dancing=group classes....competitive dancing=private lessons. I can almost guarantee you will come out at a much better financial place then you are now.

It took me nearly a year to unlearn all of my bad habits from my chain days....and I was dancing with the trainer of all dancers for all of the studios in a major metropolitan area. Get a good independent instructor and you will never be sorry.
Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by fkilani
4/14/2013  1:39:00 AM
I'm not as experienced as other guys who give you advice, but I've tried 4 studios and one independent instructor and this what learned:

- the method of teaching provide by some studio or some private instructor doesn't suit everybody.

- if you join a studio for a group class within first month on of staff advice you to take private lessons , change the studio because credible instructor will advise you continue with group lessons at least three months.

- if you feel that you are struggling in group class and you told the instructor and she didn't give you a time fix a lead/follow or Foot position not even 2 mins after class, given that whatever learned in class you fail to do on club's dance floor, you should change studio.

- if you feel that the instructor pushes you to take more private lesson than you want to have and if you feel that he/she is delivering more promise than he/she should then you should change instructor.

as for chain dance studios, belleofyourball has a point so don't join chain studio unless you exploit other options and you found really great instructor who works in it otherwise you won't get what you are paying for.

I ended up in a chain studio and I found that its teaching suits me very well but if you are in a chain studio and feel that in doesn't suit you then try other option. and remember finding good studio or instructor requires trial and error.
Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by ballroomchick
4/15/2013  11:07:00 AM
I've experienced both.

I was with Arthur Murry's for a SHORT awhile and they were all about that $150 - 40 min lesson. They were there to milk the cow as long as possible without providing much technique to what was being taught. 40 mins of a rumba box without the ability to explain HOW my under instructor wanted me to move - REALLY??? - pretty expensive.

I was taking group classes at an independent ballroom studio too. I went early and watched instructors working with their students. I was NOT impressed with the ones who "cheated" on steps (walked by the student) but wanted the student to execute the properly.

I heard one instructor telling his student couple he couldn't figure out what they were doing wrong in their rumba. ???

There were other good instructors who provided fantastict instruction. Answered questions. Sat on the floor to move/show proper foot movment when needed.

I also went to the showcases this studio held and watched how the instructors presented their students. I was surprised, some showcases were all about the instructor while other showcases were about the student. Then there was the showcase by the instructor who could figure out what was wrong with his couple's rumba. .....I was embarrassed for that couple. Their "costumes" were appalling and the number was like they had had no instruction at all. They would have been better off if they had dressed as though they were going to a social dance.

I have been happy with the instructor I chose. He makes showcase about the student, NOT himself! The showcase tells a story to the music, NOT a bunch of random school figures. I like how he teaches his students. I pay WAY under $100 a lesson depending upon how many lessons I buy at one time. AND the lessons are a full hour! I'm also responsible for floor fees of $10 to $15 per hr. That all still adds up to less than $100 each lesson.

My instructor and his wife are 5 time Rhythm Champions.

The Arthur Murry instructor told me I would NEVER be able to place in competition -I was too tall. He came to this conclusion when he and the studio manager (also an instructor) tried to compete outside the Arthur Murry Family. They placed dead last, each heat, in every type of dance. Their conclusion, they were the tallest dancers so THAT was the reason. This is SOOOO false. Had they been able to execute the steps in smooth properly they should have been able to place high do to their height.

(Oh and FYI - my instructor is 5' 11')
Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by lorenabravo
4/15/2013  5:10:00 PM

The effectiveness of a teacher will have nothing to do with their status as an independent or an employee. A good teacher is a good teacher. That being said, some studios control their teachers more than others and certainly some studios put a premium on a person's ability to sell rather than to effectively teach. The only way to know who is right for you is to give them a try. When you sign up for a lesson, be sure to clearly outline your goals so that they know what to focus on. Since you are in the try-out stage, just take a lesson or two, and don't commit to anything further until you've tried out all the people you are interested in. Then, take a day or two to sleep on it, and then make your decision.

This will help you find the actual teacher that you like. However, you have to keep in mind that there are things that a studio can provide that an independent teacher cannot, and visa versa. An independent will probably be a lot more flexible than a studio employee, as they have to answer to no one other than themselves. They may or may not be able to offer package deals, accomodate to your schedule, and may even be willing to drive out to your area. That being said, a studio can provide a social setting that an independent cannot. A studio has parties and events and functions that will allow you to meet lots of other dancers and provide you with many opportunities to dance socially. Take Arthur Murray for instance. it is very true that the level of instruction is usually quite bad. Arthur Murray is not a place to go to become a champion dancer. That being said, if you want an amazing social scene, these people know how to entertain. You will pay through the nose for it, but you'll have some fun, but probably not advance much as a dancer. I liken it to joining a country club.

The reason I bring all of this up is that you must be clear on what you are looking for. If you really just want to improve your dancing abilities, try out a variety of teachers, and unless the studios create problems (such as squeezing you to take more lessons and such), there isn't any good reason to not try out studio teachers in addition to independent teachers. If you need a good social scene to go with your lessons, your task will be a bit more tricky as you will probably be better served with a studio teacher, as it will give you access to studio events (although many studios let non-students join their parties too!).

Forgive me for the long post. I do hope you find someone that will help get you where you want to be. Best of luck!
Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by jongleur9418
4/16/2013  12:38:00 PM
Thank you all for the inputs! Your experiences and advices are very helpful!

Yes, to compare the studio staff with the independent instructors, we are talking about the effectiveness. Thank you Lorenabravo for your comparison!

To my experience, the chain (franchised) studio creates a closed enviroment (I do like their social aspects as well as some good teachers) which ensures you at the very begining that this is the best place to learn ballroom dance. Most students here rarely think about to look around to have a comparison, let alone to try different instructors. Or, whoever did perhaps had already gone.

As for the effectiveness, we have consumed 150 private lessons ($130-150 each) plus a dozen of coaching sessions, and we haven't yet completed bronze 1 for our program (origianlly 6 dances and added 2 more later). The inefficiency is very obvious. I was just partially taught Cuban motion after 150 private lessons.

The trick is this: In spite of the inefficiency, when you see people around are in a similar pace, you would accept it, though with frustration.
Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by dvunkannon
4/24/2013  3:13:00 PM
I've had both independent and chain studio experiences. The lessons leading up to my wedding were through an independent studio, and my wife and I now dance in an Arthur Murray franchise.

Certainly the independent studio lessons cost less, but I felt I learned less as well. There was less clear instruction and breakdown of the steps, and more rote memorization of a series of syllabus figures.

In contrast, our current AM experience is very good. We take advantage of 2-3 group classes for every private lesson, so the average cost per minute of floor time is lower. We also attend the practice parties to get more time dancing and enjoy ourselves with other dancers of our level. So the non-competitive, social part of the chain studio experience is working well for us. We enjoy the master classes with visiting instructors, and are happy with our progress.

We finished a 6-dance Bronze 1 program in about 50 private lessons, with plenty of emphasis on Cuban Motion! We thought we were slower than other dancers in our studio, because we were a couple. Other dancers in the studio have advanced to Silver in the same time frame, working almost entirely through private lessons.

My wife and I have no great desire to compete, either in in-house or open competitions. We dance to create beauty, not collect trophys. I'm doing my first Showcase routine right now, and I am enjoying the opportunity to work on choreography. My instructor is very open to listening to my ideas (and explain why they don't work sometimes).

If you really want to compete, I can't see how you can do it without a personal instructor. Just be clear on what is really motivating you to dance. To me competition = stress, which is not fun. Add up all your entrance fees, costuming, travel, etc. to do an apples-to-apples comparison with your studio experience, not just hourly instructor charges and floor fees.

Enjoy your growth!
Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by vic
5/9/2013  10:46:00 PM
I am a private instructor and I also worked for dance studios. They are ok to learn the basics but to not learn Cuban motion before 150 lessons whey of milking it. You should be working on Cuban motion with in your first 10 lessons.
Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by dancer1978
4/19/2013  1:04:00 PM
I would like some insight to this, as well. I am part of FADS and have been there less than a year. I really get along well with my instructor, and don't want to switch to someone else, but I feel like I could be doing better than I am. I don't think it's entirely my instructor, but I'm not sure if I'm getting taken there. I had no idea, when I joined the studio, that the cost was so high. Dancing has been a passion/desire of mine my entire life, but I question whether I'd get better instruction...or better quality (not sure how to state it) teaching if I went to a private instructor. It's nice to get the hi's and great to see you's when I walk in the door, but I'm realistic enough to know I'm not that great of a dancer, despite being told I have "talent" I worry that I'm getting b.s. from the company as a whole, but not necessarily from my teacher. I feel like he is a straight shooter. I just wonder if I could learn dancing without as much cost and maybe less b.s.

Words of advice or thoughts?
Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by ladydance
4/19/2013  2:09:00 PM
The chain studios are super friendly because they know it is harder to leave when you think you are hurting someone's feelings. As for being told you have 'talent', they tell everyone that. Friendliness is not only found at a chain school. Independent studios ( I manage one) can do friendly. We make an effort to greet everyone who comes in, we know their names and their stories. We have world class coaches come in to teach at a much lower cost than you pay for your FADs trained instructor. We are inclusive, anyone can come to our parties and we do not poach other studio's students. Our students can go anywhere to dance and we will not make them feel guilty. Most importantly, we do not hold anyone back. Not everyone progresses at the same rate and good dedicated dancers can move on quickly.
Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by electroshka
4/25/2013  7:00:00 PM
Independent instuctors/studios are definitely the way to go. Knowing several europeans who have worked for franchised AM & FADS that have quickly moved on from this type of studio all say poor things about these types of facilities.

First of all, all their employess are made to learn a script. So don't feel special, they say the same script to every single student that comes through the door. Plus, most of the teachers that are hired with experience(for $10/hr) are forced to train the 'newbie' teachers that they hire off the street with no experience.

Go see for yourself at a NDCA sanctioned competition. When you watch the pro/am you will see that the independent instructors are winning and placing at the compeition. The AM & FADS students tend to be the 'heat fillers' and are sub-par when it comes to proper technique & styling.......which explains why AM & FADS shelter their students at their own events.

Most 'good' independent instuctors will give you better treatment as they tend to stay longer with students in the studio, give them more attention, charge less, are honest about your dancing, and typically have their students best interest in mind. These instuctors are running their own small business. Just make sure you find someone with proper training.

Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by lorenabravo
4/30/2013  4:35:00 PM
To reiterate, and perhaps clarify the points I made earlier in the discussion, just because a teacher works for Arthur Murray or Fred Astair does not mean that they are a terrible teacher. However, the odds that you will get someone experienced are much lower than if you go to an independent studio, because AM and FA both hire kids off the street and train them for a couple of weeks before allowing them to teach. In other words, they may only have a teeny bit more training than you yourself have.

Now, some of these same kids end up really dedicating themselves to their craft and become good teachers with good understanding of their craft. Be aware though that these people are advancing because they take the initiative, not because the corporate does all that much for them (although I hear that FA is better in that regard). Additionally, every franchise is different. There are some overarching rules that apply to all of the studios in each system, but there is a lot of room for each franchisee to run there business as they see fit. There is an AM in Sherman Oaks that is very good because they provide real professional training for their employees and they keep them for years at a time, rather than having a high turnover.

Back to your situation. It might be worth poking around a bit to see how long your teacher has been dancing to see if he really has any experience. Regardless of whether or not you do that, take some time to think about what your personal goals are, and then lay them out for your teacher. You should always do this no matter who you take from so that your teacher can be as effective as possible with their lessons. Once you have laid this out for him, ask him about how he thinks he can most effectively get you there with as little money as possible. It is not an unreasonable thing to ask. Obviously, the more ambitious your goals, the more time, money, and effort it will cost you, so don't expect to win the US Open in a year on a single lesson a week.

Your teacher will let you know if your goals are unrealistic (i.e. win the open in 3 months if you're still learning your bronze patterns), and you need to be flexible in that regard. That being said, if he can't give you a good reason as to why your goals are unrealistic, or give you at least a semi-concrete plan of action, I would consider going somewhere else.

If you do go elsewhere, be aware that not every great dancer is a great teacher. Don't be wooed by world titles and such. When in the tryout period, again, let the candidates know what you goals are and have them tell you how they believe they can get you there. Take in to consideration how tangible the information is that they give you. Can you replicate what you were taught the next day?

Finally, don't discount the fun social things your current studio provides, if that is important to you. Bear in mind that what you are really paying for is an awesome social scene. If this is important to you, it might be a good reason to stay, or just make sure that if you go elsewhere that you make sure that they provide you with a good social scene too. People get very caught up in the competitive aspect of ballroom, but that's not the main motivating factor for many people, and that's a good thing!

Okay, sorry again for the long post. I hope this was helpful, and best of luck with your dancing!
Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by terence2
5/2/2013  3:30:00 AM

having coached in AM and Freds over the yrs,as well as Indies, it always depends upon studio location and the staff.

There are never guarantees, no matter the experience of the assigned teacher.Background in teaching, may also be irrelevant. Finding a suitable teacher has alaways been trial and error .
There are good ,bad, and great teachers to be found in many studios; the larger the area, the greater the selection.

Before committing, try class work at different studios, watch other people dance, ask them where they were/are taking lessons .

AND, be quite specific what you expect from a lesson ( " we " are not mind readers ! ).
Re: Studio vs. private instructors
Posted by khrsr1-dance
5/4/2013  6:41:00 AM

Hi, there are studios made up, as a whole, of independent instructors. Its the best of both worlds! I work along side of some of the best pro's in the u.s and we are all independent. We pay floor rent, and the studio owner offers group classes and host partys that the instructors attend. You can have your cake and eat it too! However, even though these types of studios offer partys and group classes, its not there bread and butter. They make their living off teaching you to dance, not by breaking out in song every time you walk through the front doors! If you can live without needing constant attention, and want quality instruction, then I would start looking for studios like this. I encourage my students to not only attend our partys, but to attend as many dance events as they can find. Beware of studios, or teachers that discourage you from this. A confident teacher, or studio will not fear losing their clients to other studios. This will speak volumes in reguard to their teaching ability! Also keep this in mind when looking for your "perfect match" in a teacher, there are tons of great dancers out there, but far less good instructors. A teachers personal body of pro-work may not best speak for their teaching ability. The best instructors, are also the best students, so look for a teacher that is always hungry to add to their own education! A teacher that is constantly spotted getting coached themself on how to better their craft will always be better than one with an inflated ego of selfworth. Really watch how they communicate with you, and their peers. You have to see if their style works for you, just like any relationship. Hope this helps...Cheers, and good luck...
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