Ballroom Dance > Fred Astaire Instructor

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by Monica M, Jan 10, 2017.

  1. Monica M

    Monica M New Member

    Hello, everyone! New to the forum, and I hate to create a new thread, but I couldn't find one that related to this topic specifically.

    I haven't been dancing for very long (altogether, my experience equals about a year), but I have been loving my experience at Fred Astaire, and am intent on possibly changing my career/life direction to give all of myself to ballroom. While my ballroom experience is not extensive by any means, I have been dancing ballet and pointe, as well as jazz and modern, throughout my life since I was 7; so musicality, rhythm, timing, etc. coming naturally to me. In addition to this, I have an BA from a liberal arts college, am young, have lots of energy, a maturity and professionalism beyond my years (others' words, not mine), and learn quickly. I have approached my studio and persisted in finding a studio that would let me trial with them as an instructor-in-training, and they have found me a studio (they don't currently have openings at my studio). My question is, has anyone had experience as training as an instructor with the Fred Astaire system, someone who hasn't come over from Europe having danced from when they were 6? Basically, is this too goo to be true/is my studio just humoring me? Even if so, I would be curious to hear about anyone's experience with Fred Astaire as an instructor. I have done lots of research on this, in addition to several in-depth discussions with studio owners. So, I have a really good idea of what I am getting into, but I would love to gain perspective with others who have experience with the franchise.

    Many thanks in advance! :)
  2. MaggieMoves

    MaggieMoves Well-Known Member

    If you have experience in dance in the past, modern competitive ballroom really isn't all that difficult to pick up. You will still have to work hard to pick it up properly, but you'll face less of a struggle than some of their other new hires. Develop the right technique first and how to apply it in all of ballroom dance.

    Many franchisees don't even focus on people with dance experience, preferring more of a sales oriented role. This is what allows them to stay in business in the long run, and training in the franchise system has focus on this.

    My advice? Focus on both. Work on your marketing/selling and your ability on the floor. This is a great combination to have and you'd be an asset to any studio. Assuming you were born in the US, your sales ability might be your biggest asset to convincing a studio to hire you.

    Maybe some others can weigh in, as I really only had friends that went to and came out of the other main franchise system in the US.
    Monica M and s2k like this.
  3. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    It seems to me like you have a very strong interest in dancing so you should pursue your options here. If there is a studio that is willing to take you on, and you have made arrangements so that you could be paid for your work, maybe you should try it. When it comes to competition dancing, it really does make a difference if you started young. But there are plenty of teachers who started in their twenties and had successful careers.
  4. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    I'm watching two guys get training at the FADS that I dance at. :) One has been dancing longer than the other, but neither falls into the "dancing since 6" category. It can be a terrific system for learning, depends on how seriously the studio/region takes training their teachers...and how much the owners, other teachers, and regional directors have to offer. There is support for dancing, teaching, and learning the business side at all levels (local, regional, national). If you are interested in competing professionally, check to see if the studio is supportive of that. It all varies quite a bit.
    Larinda McRaven likes this.
  5. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Just do it. Learn everything they give you. Take it all in. In several years you will know the industry enough to know whether or not you want to stay in the FADS system, go to an independent studio, or quit altogether. But until then you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
  6. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I didn't do FADS, but I started dancing at the age of 23 with very little prior experience. I started teaching a few years later. I never was much of a competitor, but I'm a very good social and performance dancer. With your background, there's no reason you couldn't do it! Just decide which direction you want to go, and give it your all.
    Mr 4 styles and IndyLady like this.
  7. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    I guess, that would be me .

    Altho I don't know why prior dance training in BR , would be an impediment. On the contrary, the experiences I brought to the "table", were invaluable at the higher levels, to me and my staff/students.
    Learning "their" system, was somewhat of a challenge, particularly the Pro/Am .

    I was a D.D. for both F.A. ( In NYC and other areas ) and A.M.

    The major differences that I needed to change, from my U.K. training, was the approach to the Bronze social levels .

    Here's a caveat ; not all prior dance experience is transferable . Techniques in BR often differ , so , if one has been highly trained in another discipline, then changing to the B.R. world, can/may be an obstacle, initially .

    I do hope you realise that, if you work for a franchise, on a full time basis, your income will be controlled by them.

    I would suggest ( If possible ) to work on a part time basis until you have developed a client base . Some studios , will give you a weekly guarantee for a specific period, and, you will be contracted to the studio, with limitations on your future employment.
    Good luck on your venture..
    IndyLady likes this.
  8. s2k

    s2k Well-Known Member

    Agreed. In my eight years at the studio where I got my start, I've watched dozens of young people answer the Craigslist ad, come in, take the "training class," and as time passes more and more of them drop out until maybe one remains to become an instructor. It's not about the dancing as much as it seems to be about finding out out what makes the potential client tick, and then how that can be manipulated into sales. They did it to me all those years ago when I walked in the door, and now I watch it happen to others. This studio has a whole script; I've watched the training classes practice sales tactics on one another more than they practice any dancing.

    But it works. There's about a three-month revolving door - people come, they stay awhile, and they leave ... but it doesn't matter, because by the time that first influx is leaving, a brand new group of potential clients are walking in the door. This studio is never in a hurt for new students.

    Regardless - I wish you the best of luck! Obviously you have a love of dance and it's awesome you want to make that love your livelihood!
    IndyLady, Purr and Loki like this.
  9. Monica M

    Monica M New Member

    Thank you for the perspective! I am aware of the sales side--and honestly, I think that is really more what the trial period will test, more so than my dancing. I know I love the dancing; it will remain to be seen if I can enjoy, or at least succeed at, the sales aspect. Everyone's contributions have been very helpful--thank you!
  10. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Studios don't exist without sales. It is called "business". And you might as well get comfortable with that up front. Those that don't aren't able to make a living and just quit to find anther career that will support them.

    The revolving door of teachers trainees is because most are weeded out for lack of ability in just a few areas... dancing, social skills, and business skills. The studio is looking for the ability to develop a triple threat in a new teacher.
  11. Monica M

    Monica M New Member

    Yes, and I understand this. And while the sales might be the harder part for me, I still want to give it a shot to see if I can succeed at it!
    RiseNFall likes this.
  12. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    Best of luck!!!!!
    RiseNFall likes this.
  13. s2k

    s2k Well-Known Member

    Absolutely, and rightfully so. The electricity don't pay for itself. ;)

    The other thing I've learned is that some trainees drop out because they need a paying job now. But this particular studio doesn't pay the trainees for the required hours they have to put in to learn both the soft skills and the dance skills, and when they first get students they aren't paid for that either - the studio keeps that money "to pay for the training." How long trainees go without a salary I have no idea. It works out somehow.

    So @Monica M make sure your studio is up front with you about your paycheck and how you'll be able to earn a living as you're going through their process. :)
    IndyLady likes this.
  14. Monica M

    Monica M New Member

    ^^Yes, I have heard this, and I have been, and will continue to be, meticulous about getting clarity about these sort of things! :) Thank you for the reminder!
  15. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    I'm a student at a franchise studio (have been at both FA and AM). I've watched a lot of trainees come and go, and I admit I haven't always been the best at predicting who will fall into which category. And it's not always related to dance background - I've seen people persist who I thought had no chance and some who I thought were getting good at dancing and then just up and disappeared. As others here have stated, the sales aspect is a HUGE part of being an instructor, in some cases more so than the dancing itself. I don't want to start a franchise vs. independent argument, but from what I have seen this is especially true at franchises, which is pertinent to the OP. I've (inadvertently) glimpsed sales charts, reports, goal sheets, etc... that is not a minor part of the job. Your management will sometimes be more concerned that that you are getting Johnny and Sue to sign up for Showcase, Mini-Match, etc. than whether or not they have truly mastered Social Bronze Cha Cha, even though when they walked into the studio they had no interest in doing "events" and just wanted to be able to dance at their friends' weddings (etc). There will be sales goals and quotas you have to meet for both enrollments and events and promotions, and sometimes they will be challenging. At some point, you are very likely going to find yourself asking/pressuring/cajoling a student to partake in an activity or sign up for lessons (anything that involves $$$) that was not in their original game plan, and they won't always respond enthusiastically. I, and pretty much every other dance student I have ever known (not just from my studios), has experienced this.

    I really like Larinda's suggestion to take it in, learn everything you can (whether you agree with it or not) and then assess whether it is something you want to continue. I do hope it works out for you, but if for some reason not, don't let it taint your love for or practice of dance.
  16. Monica M

    Monica M New Member

    Thank you very much for this advice, and once again, a great perspective! And yes, I have certainly (as a student) been on the end of these "sales manipulations", for lack of better phrasing. I was aware of that it was going down as it was happening, though I still would go along with it because I did want it (which is good salesmanship, right? Getting a feel for what makes a person tick, and using that in the sales pitch). Or, sometimes I didn't, and I would just say no. But just because I can recognize it doesn't mean I can succeed at doing it myself--so, we'll see! And not getting discouraged is key here--thank you for the reminder!
  17. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    Sales tip. :)

    As I have said many times in other threads, I am fortunate. I have been subjected to repeated over-the-top sales pitches but never by my own teachers (don't ask). Yes, mine are also part of a business, but their primary tactic is to make sure that they are offering something you want. ;) In the long run, that works better. However, I recognize that not all studio owners see it that way, so, once more, be aware of what the culture is at the particular studio before you sign on.
    IndyLady and Monica M like this.
  18. Monica -

    And, be ready for terrible, terrible students like us (DW & I) who take one private per week, and little else. Some students just don't want and don't care about competing and Showcases, and just want to be the best social dancers possible. Even offered a free Showcase formation team participation recently, we just thanked them and declined. So far, the franchise's best sales pitches after a lesson or even in the "little closing room" have proven ineffective against our apathy.

    Well, they did get us to sign up for more than the Groupon intro offer that got us in the door a few years ago, and so I'll give them that.

    Best wishes to you Monica!
    RiseNFall, IndyLady and Monica M like this.
  19. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    Also, for students like me, who, not grasping the big picture and being frustrated by repeated sales pitches and constantly being asked to spend money here or there, has blown up at people behind closed doors (or sometimes not behind said doors) when I'm at the end of my rope. I'm not proud of that, but on the plus side I pretty much don't get a whole lot of sales pressure anymore, probably because I established something of a reputation due to those conversations. It sticks even though I have mellowed out a lot since then, now that I have a better understanding of everyone's agenda. For example, when I first started taking lessons I was annoyed at how pushy my instructor was to re-schedule a lesson if we couldn't make it, rather than just cancel that week... because I didn't understand that was affecting his paycheck. I also had an instructor who I swear asked me to do something every single lesson (participate in event, help promote something, buy something, etc etc... not just "take a heel lead here") and I finally called him out on that, not very diplomatically. Just sayin', even people who love dance may not respond positively, or even politely to the sales pitches, especially if they become frequent or increasingly high pressure (which may be a function of what your management asks you to do).

    In theory yes... but when I know myself well enough to know that you are trying to use what makes me tick to sell me something... well, this can get tricky.

    To be clear, I am not trying to rain on the parade... just want you to be aware of some of these dynamics so it doesn't blindside you in a bad way.
  20. Rhythmdancer

    Rhythmdancer Well-Known Member

    "Do you want to make you art commodity? Answer that. Because the choice is the most difficult choice you're going to have to make. That's going to guide and effect everything else that you're doing. When I think about how that's shown up in my life, it's shown up in some incredibly beautiful and some incredibly difficult ways. When art is your commodity, when you're just a poet, and you're doing it as a hobby, it's like " I want to show up at this open mic and rock my love poem, you know I'm in love. I want to rock my heartbreak poem because she just left me. Or I want to do my suicide depression poem because I'm feeling down." And now when your art because comes your job, it's like "I've got to rock this phone bill poem" - Sekou Andrews

    It doesn't matter what studio you go to or which teachers you ask. You have to seriously ask yourself, do you want to turn your art into a commodity? You go to teach at a studio with the best sales and dance training programs but, if you aren't ready to commodify your passion, it won't work.

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