Ballroom Dance > Experience at Arthur Murray and Questions about Indie Studios in DC

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by PhantomK91, Oct 4, 2017.

  1. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    So they are fairly comparable..
  2. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    In todays dance world, Indie may imply teachers who rent space, so prices charged may vary with each teacher. And yes, they wiil offer multiple choices for dance .
    Locale also affects price charged .
  3. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    I coached out of there in the early 90s. A VERY impressive dance scene..I remember the FA studio opening and it had invited all the Indies.. very unusual.. Props to them ( I went to the opening )
  4. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    I had a price shock when coming to the UK to teach. Priv. lessons ( not with world class profs ) are any where between $45 and $ 65. I only charge $ 45/50 ( small town prices )..
  5. PhantomK91

    PhantomK91 New Member

    Thank you for the breakdown of the different types of independent studios. Initially my question was about finding independent teachers, but these answers have given me a lot of great leads.

    Since many of non-franchise studios around here do appear to charge as much as the AM I attend when you factor in group classes and parties, I wanted to ask if you (or anyone else reading this) would recommend going to an indie studio and focusing solely on privates and dance parties/socials, eliminating group classes from my schedule. This would save me about $150 from a 10 class set at Dance Bethesda, for example.

    Maybe other independent studios or teachers around here do charge significantly less than my AM and it's just not advertised, so I will do some more investigating. I'm willing to invest in this hobby but I just want to get the most bang for my buck.
  6. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    Once more, it's going to vary a lot. Good group classes are definitely worth the time and relatively minimal expense, so it's going to depend on what you run across.

    Do you go to social dances not connected to your AM studio? If so, ask people you dance with about their experiences and where they're taking lessons (if they are).
    Dr Dance and bia like this.
  7. Mengu

    Mengu Well-Known Member

    Depends on the group class, and where you are in your dancing... Starting out, I did all of my learning in group classes (granted they were collegiate), and continued them after I started doing privates. After a while, if it's a group class that focuses on teaching new steps and groupings, I find it's not very critical, because with private instruction I can absorb the content of such a 45 minute group lesson in about 5 minutes. But I love group classes that focus on drills, because it'll actually get me to do things that are harder to muster the discipline to do by myself.
    Loki, flying_backwards and bia like this.
  8. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Right, The word "independent" is fuzzy. Used mostly to indicate either a studio that is not a franchise or a teacher that is not employed by a studio but is instead a free lance or self employed teacher.

    Perhaps we as a community could start using free-lance instead of independent teacher to help reduce the confusion.
    tangotime and danceronice like this.
  9. bia

    bia Well-Known Member

    I'm not from the area and don't have personal experience with franchises, but my impression is that the price differences stem mostly from differences in flexibility. If you want to use all parts of your contract (privates, groups, socials), and you're happy with your teachers, a franchise studio can be a good deal. And for a beginner, all of those things are clearly valuable: groups mostly for learning steps and getting to know other dancers, privates especially for technique, and social dancing for lead-follow and floorcraft development and for fun. The issues arise when someone doesn't want all parts of the contract or wants more control over which teacher(s) they have. It may be a beginner dancer who just can't afford private lessons so wants to center their learning on group classes plus socials. Or a more advanced dancer who finds that they're not getting much out of step-focused group classes any more and wants to just do privates. Or someone who decides to focus on competition or showcase dancing and doesn't care about going to socials much. Or someone who finds that their current teacher isn't a good fit for one reason or another and wants more control over that choice. In those cases, looking outside a franchise (whether to a non-franchise studio or to an independent teacher) makes sense.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2017
    IndyLady and Caroline Skipper like this.
  10. MaggieMoves

    MaggieMoves Well-Known Member

    WARNING: Wall of text ahead.

    1. Private lessons at independent studios & teachers are typically less expensive. The teachers are also generally vastly more qualified as well...

    2. Group classes at franchise studios are run at a very basic level. They really only cater to students that have been there less than a year. If you're a fast learner you may get tired of these very quickly.

    3. Social parties at franchises are typically run much different than at independent studios. Most independent studios will charge 15-25 dollars for a 3 hour social... maybe more, maybe even less. I think there's one around me that charges 6 or 8 bucks for it too. While many franchises have socials that are free as long as you are taking lessons - the second you start taking more than one lesson a week that price advantage will drop.

    I'll use the NYC area as an example:

    Studio 1: Charges 150-175 USD per private lesson, depending on the amount of lessons bought. Each lesson runs every 45 minutes at the studio, so in reality they're 40-42 minutes long. Group classes & parties are free as long as you take one lesson per week or more. They typically run about 2 group classes per night Monday through Friday, and 2 parties throughout the week which run the same duration as private lessons.

    Studio 2: Charges 115-135 USD per private lesson, depending on the amount of lessons bought. All private lessons go for 45 minutes. Group classes and parties are 15 dollars per, but they also have "memberships" which I think are about 150 dollars a month.

    Studio 3: Charges 75-95 USD per private lesson, depending on the amount bought. All private lessons go for 50 minutes. Group classes are 15 dollars per, but you can buy a package of 10 group classes for 115 dollars which works like a punch card. Parties are 15 to 25 dollars per party, but run for 3 hours, longer in some cases. This studio also allows independent instructors to rent space from them, at a rate of about 15 bucks per 45/50 minutes... but they also have unlimited practice memberships as well.

    What do all 3 studios have in common? They're all "chains." As in, they have more than one location.
  11. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    I have to confess, this made me laugh.

    This is very much a ymmv situation. The studio I attend, a former AM but now a different franchise, has always held group classes for all the levels. Patterns and associated technique at all levels as appropriate. I've been there for years, but I find the groups helpful as refreshers or fresh perspectives on steps that may be buried in my brain and fuzzy. There is another franchise around here too whose group classes cover the gamut of levels.

    This is one thing I really like about the studio I'm at - it has three locations, all of whose parties are on a different evening, plus a rotating Saturday parties. So if I had no other obligations I could go to 4 parties/week. Generally I attend 1-2 a week. Occasionally 3 in a good week.

    Pricing (I'm in the Midwest):

    The franchise studios I know of charge $100-$150/unit (lesson + group + party). I'm not aware that they closely monitor group/party attendance relative to lessons, ljs no one has ever told me I can't come to party. 45 minute blocks, so essentially 40 minute lesson.

    One independent studio is around $85/lesson (I think), group classes are $10 each and they run a group/party every Saturday for $10. Another studio, it depends on the instructor (I think they operate more like independent contractor/floor fee style), and they run group class series that are about $10/class, as well as a similar group/party every Friday night that is $10 or $15.

    OP, it doesn't hurt to play the field a little to figure out what structure and which community works best for you. Franchise studios get a bad rap, but they do have some advantages IMO, one of which is often a closer-knit community. Independent studios can sometimes (yes I know, NOT ALL independent studios) be a little fractured as everyone is kind of doing their own thing and not as naturally conducive to developing friendships with other dancers. You just have to figure out what is important to you and where best to find it.
    RiseNFall, Loki and MaggieMoves like this.
  12. PhantomK91

    PhantomK91 New Member

    I appreciate the thorough breakdown in your explanation. I can definitely see how group classes at franchises could grow stale for a fast learner (though I haven't gone through a full cycle of bronze level classes for a given dance, so I can't say for sure the material gets repetitive).

    And the time of the group socials is definitely a factor. I didn't realize they ran that long so that is certainly an advantage.

    Now, I plan on doing research based on all this useful information, but I do have a few more questions.

    If I wanted to find independent teachers (not just smaller studios), would I usually have to go to a studio to meet them or do independent teachers usually advertise online?

    My last question is going to be much more subjective but I'd still love input. If my primary motivation is being a competent social dancer (no particular event coming up so no strict deadlines) and money is a big factor right now, would it be wise to stop taking privates for a while and just do group lessons and socials? I do eventually want to take privates in my dancing "career" but will I plateau quickly if I decide to forgo private lessons for a while after maybe a few more months taking them at AM?
  13. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    That's going to be a very personal decision. You'll certainly progress faster with regular private lessons, but I believe that starting with mostly group classes and socials is a perfectly viable route to take. When I was starting, I signed up for my studio's unlimited-group-class-plus-socials package which defined the vast majority of my dancing for a year and I really have no regrets about having done so.

    Regarding finding independent teachers, you can sometimes find them online. My advice though would be to become at least a semi-regular at several studios in your area. There's likely a good bit of cross-over between the folks who frequent the socials at the various open studios and before long, you'll be part of the general dance community. Those folks will be your best resource for advice on who to take from.
    RiseNFall likes this.
  14. MaggieMoves

    MaggieMoves Well-Known Member

    That's the problem with independent teachers. It typically is more difficult to find them. What I would suggest the best way to do it is to find a "dancesport" studio near where you live and take group classes. Many independent teachers teach group classes as a foray into getting more private lessons for themselves.

    Otherwise, it's just word of mouth... and for some independent teachers that is all they need. With that case you'll just have to go to the independent, or more independent studio, and ask around.

    Group lessons can be great to build a base on, but most groups aren't centered around technique... which is what will drive you to get better and better. If I were pressed for money and I still wanted to have regular lessons, I'd "front load" on group lessons and follow up with private lessons every other week or 3 weeks to make sure I was performing the right technique. There's nothing wrong with practicing by yourself either. Learning how to practice properly by yourself can take some time too... which a private lesson could give you better insight on.

    See above... I think a mix is probably the best solution. Heck your AM even may let you take lessons every other week or every 3 weeks (especially if you're a man/leader) and take as many group classes and parties as you want.
  15. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    You have a better picture of your finances and what you can afford. If you really can't afford the privates, then you shouldn't be taking them. As far as being a competent social dancer, that depends on how competent is defined. Over the years of my own social dancing, I have come to realize that oftentimes a new social follow can't tell the difference.

    Case in point was a follow who commented that a certain leader had gotten worse -- she started her dance career dancing with him and thought that he was wonderful but after a break of a few years she saw how bad he was. I doubt that he got worse, it's that she got better.

    Technique is what makes things work. But technique is not emphasized in group classes. But I take both private lessons and group classes. Group classes I take to add patterns, but add them to my social repertoire only if I can figure out what the lead is. Group classes are also a means to drill technique in the presence of another human being. I think you may have already paid for a package of privates. If that's the case then get as much technique as you can and take notes so you remember and then apply them if you have to drop back to privates.
  16. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    Depends on the teacher IME.
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  17. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    It depends more upon the level of the group..( or should )
  18. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    OP, in your specific situation I would consider taking the introductory and then intermediate International Style ballroom classes at the University of Maryland Arts and Learning Center. If you can handle all the college kids. ;)

    Dan Calloway is one of the best.
  19. PhantomK91

    PhantomK91 New Member

    Thanks for the suggestion! I'm an alumni of UMD and I think I'd like to check out that program next semester. I think the next step for me is to start getting out there to local social dances.

    All the input is greatly appreciated!
  20. I don't mean to come off as bitter. I like Arthur Murray. They treat me well. I love dancing and I'm so glad I discovered it.

    However, I feel like I'm treated differently from the other students. Let me explain.

    The students at my dance school are usually older. By older, I mean in their 40s and 50s. And about 60% of the students are female. We all know it takes longer to train a male dancer at leading. A female beginner student will be able to dance pretty well in the hands of a skilled male lead but it takes a lot longer for a male lead to be able to lead effectively.

    There's only 2 other younger guys at my school. One of them is married. The other has a girlfriend. I'm the only guy who is single.

    I think my dance school knows this and tries to take advantage of it. I notice they periodically ask me how I'm doing and say encouraging words. I'm one of the clients who can potentially stay long-term and thus be one of their long-term customers.

    The female dance instructors are all physically attractive and I think it's part of the business model. They know they're attractive and they know single guys are vulnerable. Don't get me wrong. There are older male students who are in their 40s and 50s who are single as well but they tend to be the divorced type who are content being single. I'm not making assumptions here. I know cause I befriended some of the older male students at my school and they told me such.

    Also, I'm Asian so even though I'm 34 years old, I look like I'm 27.

    Again, I'm not trying to be pretentious or arrogant here. I just want to be treated like everyone else. But I find they pay special attention to the younger men who are single.

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