Dance Studio Guide

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Once you’ve taken the plunge into wanting to take some Ballroom Dancing Lessons – the first questions will be where, and how? There are several types of studios in the US. Most of them are “independent” and offer a variety of dances per a large accreditation organization. Or, the studio may be part of a franchise system such as Fred Astaire Dance Studio or Arthur Murray Dance studio. Some studios are very into competitions while others just focus on the social aspects of dance instruction – be it for an upcoming wedding, a social event or just for entertainment. Some studios even teach Wheel Chair Dancing!

Before you search out a Dance Studio, ask yourself some good soul searching questions: Why do you want to learn Ballroom dancing? Do you have a partner? Must you have a partner? Do you like to Compete? How much can you afford to spend per month? Does the studio offer group lessons as well as privates? How long have the teachers been there? Is the Owner active in the studio as an actual dancer/instructor? Must I wear Ballroom shoes?

Once you’ve asked and answered these questions of yourself, you are then ready to look at studios in your area. Don’t be afraid to travel a little since the studio choice will be very important.

Some questions for the Studio?

Ok, you’ve done your research and found several studios in your area (you’re lucky!) All of the above questions will help you determine what questions to ask the studio. Personally, I feel an “independent studio” will have more to offer and won’t be quite so expensive? Why? They aren’t tied into a National Franchise that takes a percentage of the receipts, can be very competition oriented, yet not “over the top” with that and usually are well established in the community.

If you are getting into Ballroom to enjoy the social aspects, several items are key. Do they offer group lessons? Even if you have a partner, this is a great way to learn all the different steps and rhythms. Group lessons are much easier on the wallet! Plus, group lessons are more social by their very nature – you will switch dance partners throughout the lessons. If you are a single person, group lessons are a great way to learn about it, meet lots of great people and perhaps someone special!

A very important financial question is how they want to be paid! AVOID a studio that wants large amounts of money at a so called discount – especially from a teacher itself! There are too many horror stories from people all over going in for a lesson to find the studio has closed or the “teacher” is no longer with the studio and has your money!! If you want to pay lots of money up front, be sure it is with the STUDIO and not the teacher – course, still no guarantees on that either. Good studios will work very well with you on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Just avoid any long term contracts! Do they have competition costume rentals available? Do they have dance shoes available? How large is their dance floor for “socials and parties”?

What kind or type of dancing?

There are all kinds of reasons to start Ballroom Lessons – your wedding is coming up and you want to actually dance with your new spouse, you like the social aspect of dancing, you want to compete, or perhaps, you want to become a teacher?

If it is for your wedding – just learn a nice easy basic dance that both of you can handle – a swing dance is always good and fun! Wedding plans are enough stress on both of you already – don’t add dancing to the mix – make it something you both will enjoy and easy – your guests will still be impressed!

Group lessons typically start as a “sampler”. That’s a six week one night a week class with a different dance each time – Waltz, Foxtrot, Swing, Cha Cha, Rumba and perhaps a Salsa? It really won’t matter. You’ll know by the end of the 6 weeks how you like dancing. First things first though – we ALL started with the classic “2 Left Feet”. Do NOT let that hamper your enthusiasm to learn and enjoy dancing. Once you get past the 6 week sampler, then they typically will do a month of each dance to start expanding your steps, rhythm and knowledge so you start to look good out there! Your group lessons will just progress from there. Salsa dancing is becoming extremely popular.

Private Lessons are great because you get 100% attention from a dedicated instructor, just for you and your partner (you can take privates as a “single also”). Privates can advance you quicker into the mainstream of dancing – but will cost considerable more also! Some instructors are very strict on form, posture and steps; others are more into the steps itself. Here’s where we start to get particular. If you feel you want to compete more than social dance, you must have an instructor that knows all the fine points of competitive dancing and can teach it well. If you are interested in the social area of dancing, the “steps” will become more important to you. However, once you have memorized and learned the steps, you will want and need to learn the finer points of form, styling, posture, etc.

OK – I’ve learned some dances – now what?

Most of your larger metropolitan areas will have a good size ballroom dance hall that everyone goes to. Since New York is a huge Ballroom Dance Area, there are plenty of large dance halls for social dancing. If you are in Philadelphia, there is a huge dance hall called “Stardust Ballroom”, just across the river into NJ in Bellmawr. The best night there is Friday. Get a free group lesson from 7:30 to 8:15 and then dance the night away until midnight for only $12 a person.

A large dance floor is a must! The more you enjoy dancing, the better you’ll get. Then you’ll find you like to actually take LARGE steps! Small dance halls won’t cut it! Usually members of your group class can be encouraged to go out for a weekend night of social dancing – after all, isn’t that why you dance!? Basic rule at a dance hall – if you are asked to dance – you DO (unless you don’t honestly know the steps). It is a great atmosphere to just dance! Feel free to ask any one sitting if they want to dance. The same goes for you, if you are sitting and asked to dance – get up and dance as though you know someone is watching – you’ll dance better!


write by Piper

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