The top seven things to consider when choosing a dance studio.
1 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. But, be aware that many people like to claim titles and accomplishments. Examine those claims carefully. If they say they belong to a society, that does not necessarily mean they have received any accreditation with that society. It may have no more meaning beyond a club type membership. Also when someone claims to be a "Top Teacher", keep in mind this is very relative to circumstance. Some individuals claim to be "Top Teacher” or have “Numerous Awards" coming from a studio of a few staff members. And the "top" could mean for one week’s teaching time. When someone claims they have had training from top/world class trainers, make sure you clarify what they mean. Sometimes this means they had a single coaching with a particular coach, and not that they have done or completed a training curriculum with those coaches.
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 3) Does the studio have a curriculum 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. When inquiring what curriculum they teach from, make sure you investigate what they are talking about. If they were "trained" by a studio or company who has patented or trademarked their methods, and they are using that curriculum, they are violating federal trademarks and patents. 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 reassuring, is it?
4 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 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. When considering other options for dance lessons, keep in mind, if you are paying an individual, they are most likely considered an independent contractor by the IRS. Therefore you may be legally responsible to issue them a 1099 after you have taken over $600 in services. Check with your CPA and attorney to make sure you are covered. Cheaper doesn't necessarily mean lawful. And you most certainly want to make sure your hobby is not putting you in jeopardy with the IRS. If you are paying a studio, they are responsible to pay taxes, and no 1099 is necessary. However, if a studio has not provided you with an enrollment agreement, they have no legal obligation to provide you any service, and could claim your money was a gift. It would be nice to believe this would never happen, however it has. The FTC governs the practices of franchises and monitors them. Accountability is a good thing for the consumer. Also, find out if the facility offers refunds and under what circumstances. 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 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. Many independent instructors like to make claims they cannot substantiate. Buyer beware. Know what and who you are getting. If someone is no longer part of a credible organization, it may be for a reason you had not considered. Ask yourself, do you want to purchase a teacher's time, or a curriculum and proven-trademarked method of learning and accomplishing your dance goals? The answer is not the same for every individual.
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.