Here is how to determine how to get the most from
dance lessons. Above all you need to alternate your lessons with dancing
outside the lessons. Dance lessons and dancing build on and benefit each
other. Lessons give you patterns to get your body moving knowledgeably
in nightspots. Dancing in nightspots gives you the experience to get more
from your lessons.
Here is a set of links to a 1992 article by the Federal Trade Commission on dance studios.
at Victor Eijkhout pages with a more extensive treatment (and mentioning the Kansas City lawsuit but no details - early 80's - "when 2 women in Kansas City cried wolf after they came out of the ether" - This franchisee is not the current franchisee. He was no longer a part of Arthur Murray after that case but continued on his own with the same business methods. Arthur Murray chains dropped contracts in favor of agreements which could be dropped if the student changed his or her mind.), at PDF from USABDA,
What You Get per Lesson
Low cost (Expect $3 to $12 per hour or even
free - usually at nightclubs)
What You Don't Get per Lesson
Truly advanced dance instruction - i.e. concentration
on nuances and other finer points
What You Get per Lesson
Higher cost (expect $45 to $65 or more per an
hour with 40-50 minutes instruction)
What You Don't Get per Lesson
Many partners to hone your skills
If you take private lessons make a point of getting yourself to group lessons and also to nightclubs clubs where you can dance. If the private lessons include group lessons make sure that you get to all of the group sessions you can. Otherwise you'll only have learned how to dance with your instructor which is not the reason you are taking lessons.
All lessons are more effective when you are also putting the lessons into practice. Nightspots where you can dance will give you practice with less-predictable music to dance to. With knowledge gained from such experience you will get more from your lessons.
In between is dancing with many partners in group lessons. As with any dance lessons, the music is easier to dance to and picked out for dancing and you can get the experience of dancing with persons of various abilities. Some dancers will help you, others you can help and some you will just learn from anyway.
Social Hopes and Money Pressures
A number of people have had anywhere from uncomfortable to downright unpleasant experiences with prices or sales tactics for private lessons. Usually this occurs with some contract studios(the studios that have you sign a contract). Normally these studios try to have you sign another contract before the current contract is done. And normally each succesive contract is 1) for more money, 2) for a somewhat more advanced program
Where written agreements are involved look very carefully. In particular look for the conditions under which you may cancel the agreement. Just how binding is the paper? At what point do you owe the full amount of the money specified. Can you get back money you've paid when you choose to drop further lessons. Can you just cancel the whole thing and pay no more? Arthur Murray's, for example, will do just that. As a result they prefer to call the paper you both sign an "agreement" rather than a "contract."
Also, although the price per hour may seem high (by normal wage standards) you may be getting more than just 45 minutes to an hour of instruction. The price may include parties and group lessons (and you most certainly should take advantage of all of these items - they are further learning tools). Also remember you have individual coaching time with one person. One person spends an hour attending only to you. Compare that to the normal clerk waiting on many persons in an hour. That means high labor cost per amount of output. The studio or instructor must not only pay a normal wage it must also pay for all the overhead.
Often a studio will have introductory offerings, so many hours for free or so many hours at a low price. They are hoping to get you to go for the next offering and then the next and so on. This is normally legit but this is also where they can really play some "games" as one dancer told me in describing her reaction to the repeated requests to sign for another set of lessons. Another dancer told me of being isolated in a room with several sales people pressuring him to sign. He told them to let him out or else! I've heard of much worse. That was some years ago but it hasn't all stopped.
Just about the time (summer 1998) I had begun thinking dance-studio contract horror stories were old history I heard another dancer tell about having already agreed to $2,000 of lessons and the dance studio was asking for yet another $6,000 worth. He told me he just couldn't afford that and that it would be a good year before he managed (at his rate) to go through the $2,000 worth.
I would tell you the name of the studio (the same one in each of the three cases) except that 1) I have no way of comparing the number of students horrified to the total number of students, 2) the dance studio mentioned has a very high volume meaning that the number of sticker-shock problems increases as the size of the same percentage increases and 3) I've also talked with any number of dancers from the same studio who tell me they are happy with their arrangement and have been for some time. So who am I to tell them otherwise?
Nonetheless, this kind of story gets spread around in the dance community and in the community at large. This is very unfair to the other dance studios who are not involved in such practices. They all get tarred with the same brush. It is also unfair to persons who wish to dance but who have been stung by this sales practice and are afraid even to try this again. So do check. They are not all the same.
Contract is not a bad word. The dance studio agrees to provide you with a certain amount of instruction. It is also usually a higher level of instruction with individual attention than you will ever get in group sessions even when the group teacher is top notch. If you have a good idea of what you wish to learn, private lessons can be the perfect match for your needs.
Often enough the never-danced-before person is also trying to improve their social life and this person has decided to make a genuine effort to do so. But the friendly atmosphere of a dance studio is also a professional atmosphere and should never be confused with personal friendships. If you were looking toward dancing to produce your life partner or a string of dates don't think your instructor is included in that category (this thinking does happen from time to time).
You are not girlfriend and boyfriend. Studios have rules about that for good reason. Your instructor is a professional teacher, not a professional companion. A good studio (most of them) are very careful about this touchy area. Likewise, if you feel a school ploys you with friendship to get you to sign a contract, don't. And do tell them how you feel about this. It may just be a mis-understanding but both of you deserve to be able to state how you feel. That alone could clear up difficulties.