After 10 years as a dance instructor at Arthur Murray, and innumerable encounters with students who had less than fabulous experiences learning to dance at other venues, it became apparent that there was a need for some guidelines. Although every prospective student is looking for something different, there are some common traits that anyone should look for to make sure they are getting a quality ballroom dancing experience. Whether you want private instruction or group classes, whether you are a beginning dancer or one with experience, here are seven things you should consider when choosing a dance studio.
1) Are the instructors certified? By what governing body?
Certified Instructors are trained in their craft and understand the proper way to impart information to you and to eliminate bad habits from the beginning. There are various certifications available to dance instructors – the most credible being the World Professional Dance Teachers Association and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. An instructor who has undergone the rigorous training required to become certified certainly demonstrates a level of commitment, passion, professionalism and excellence that will translate into your learning experience.
2) How many instructors are available for you to learn from, and does their schedule accommodate yours?
Learning to dance well requires consistency in your lessons. If your instructor becomes ill or injured, will the studio be able to supply you with an equally accredited instructor who can follow through with your program? Are the instructors in the studio on a full-time basis? Are the hours of operation convenient for your schedule?
3) Does the studio have a curriculum or syllabus they can show you that outlines their method of teaching?
A good studio should have a scholastic approach to your learning; a system that makes learning the dances fun, fast and easy. Be on the lookout for a teacher who asks you “What do you want to work on today?” You are investing your money for a professional instructor to teach you a skill that you do not know. What would you say if your doctor looked at you and said “Well, it looks like you have a broken bone, how do you want to fix it?” Not very re-assuring, is it?
4) Is the facility suitable with proper floors and a music system?
A dance studio should have a special floor that provides added cushioning for your joints as you dance. It also should be well lit, with an up-to-date sound system. Beware of dance lessons that are taught in a garage, living room, or other non-dance specialized space. The atmosphere of the studio should make you feel comfortable and at ease. The room should be equipped with mirrors to aid in your learning.
5) Does the studio provide you with clear cut cancellation policies and billing procedures, etc. in writing?
There is a lot of hype out there about contracts. Keep in mind that a formal, written agreement is used to protect the client as well as the business. It will help to avoid any confusion by having the policies and agreed upon services in writing. Also, find out if the facility offers refunds and under what circumstances. A good studio should be okay with smaller tuition payments for only several lessons at a time. Also, ask about the longevity of the studio. How long have they been in business and how long have they been at the current facility? Unless you feel totally comfortable with the studios policies, or are dealing with a franchised studio, do not pay for an exorbitant number of lessons up front.
6) Do the instructors / management help you to set realistic goals and follow through on helping you achieve those goals?
Search for a dance facility that feels more like a school than just a place that gives lessons. Look for a studio that offers private lessons, group classes, and social dance sessions. Notice if the instructors appear to work well as a team? Do they communicate and listen well? Dancing well takes time, and a professional staff will help you understand just how long it will take you to reach your specific goals.
7) How many other studios are there where you can use your lessons?
If you travel, move, or otherwise, does your studio allow you to transfer your lessons to another location? How many other locations do they have? Does the company have a standard and system of teaching that allows you to continue your learning in another location without missing a beat? Although this may seem like a small thing to consider, many jobs today are transient and it can be nice to have one thing that stays the same in a world of change!
Remember: you are investing your money into dance lessons and into yourself.
Do not make your decision based on price alone, you often get what you pay for.
If possible, see if the studio offers a sample lesson so you can make an educated decision based on experience.
Do not be afraid to ask these questions. A good studio will not shy away from answering your questions thoroughly and without hesitation.
Protect your investment by choosing wisely the first time.
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