Ballroom teachers needed - no experience required

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by pygmalion, Aug 6, 2004.

  1. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    This came up in conversation a few times yesterday (thanks DancePoet aka SPS and DancingMommy)

    Just curious what everybody thinks about this practice of some dance studios -- hiring total ballroom newbies and turning them into ballroom teachers after a short training program. Pros? Cons? From the studios, new teachers, and students' perspectives. Are there situations where this practice works well? Thoughts, anyone?
  2. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I think this is an unfortunate practice, partially because I have to fix the mistakes of these teachers! Someone with no previous dance training who gets only a few weeks of training is not qualified to teach dance. However, I can see how some busy studios need to get their teachers from somewhere, so it can work IF:

    1. The teacher trainee has previous dance experience of some kind. They will know how to move their body and how to learn dance concepts. They will learn faster than someone with no experience at all.

    2. The teacher trainee must be put through a rigorous and extensive training regimen. Some studios have training several hours every day, and if you don't show up or learn the material within a specific amount of time, you're out.

    We had one trainee at our studio when I was a trainee that the previous director had unfortunately hired (they were friends, I think). After months and months of training (the trainees met once a week for two hours, but all of us except her were dancers already and just needed to learn the required syllabus steps), this girl just wasn't getting it. She wasn't studying and practicing on her own, she wasn't attending other teachers' classes (this was suggested for the extra practice and to observe teaching techniques) on a regular basis, and when she did attend classes it was the advanced classes instead of the beginning classes she needed. I finally had it out with her because I was sick of wasting MY training time reviewing simple steps for her again and again. She left shortly thereafter. Our current director is a wonderful person and dancer, but she's a bit of a softy.
  3. DancingMommy

    DancingMommy Active Member

    From the perspective of a one-time student of said brand of teacher....

    I think the breaking point for me came when my teacher left the studio abruptly after his initial 2 year contract was up.... I was in a group class being taught by a teacher who had just graduated from the "back room" - she had been in group classes with the rest of us "pre-bronze" dancers. The class was Samba and she was teaching a timing that was all WRONG! I called her on it during class and asked why the timing was going the way it was when our former teacher had taught it the "other" way. She told me not to ask questions :!: and not to question her authority :!: WHAT THE H-E-Double Hockey Sticks?! :?: :!:

    I'd been dancing since I was 4 years old (almost 20 years) at that point, and I kinda stared at her with the raised eyebrow look, but I let it go...
    :twisted:

    After leaving that studio and working with DanceMentor as an AM for a brief moment in time (think "blink of an eye") with a well reknowned Pro-Am coach in Atlanta, I ended up working as a receptionist at the indie studio DanceMentor taught at. That was cool. Until the night I was asked to fill in as a teacher for the beginning swing class (ROFLOL!). I was told that all I needed to do was teach "Side Ride Rock Step, Side Ride Rock John Travolta, Side Ride Rock Wipe Your Brow" and all would be well.

    I ended up being slightly trained to teach. So I taught part time and worked the front desk during the day. That was the life. :) I loved it. We went through major upheaval in the studio resulting in a management changeover and getting a new director. He was very good and actually taught the teachers. I respect him for that. After 6 months, I ended up relocating to Florida and teaching for an indie studio here.

    That studio was insane. The owner was an egomaniacal son of a jackal who treated his female teachers like we were working his street corner. I kid you not. I felt like I was being pimped. I stuck it out for 2 years because I didn't want to leave my students in the lurch. I had no less than 6 couples I taught every week. For a newbie teacher, that isn't so bad. The downside was that I got a lousy $8/lesson. But the STUDIO got $85/lesson. Yeah. For a beginner teacher. Uh huh. In my defence, I spent HOURS between lessons working on the syllabus so that I could teach them how to DANCE. For every lesson I taught, I had 4 hours of practice (non-paid). Then I had mandatory training sessions from 10-11pm every Weds night (yay). I was the only one paying attention, so it made for LONG training sessions. I was also the only other person who worked a day job to be able to afford to teach dancing. :roll: In fact, I was always up front with my students - if I didn't know the answer or a specific technique, I would always tell them I didn't know and I'd get back to that on their next lesson. I could not stand the thought of having it said about me that I didn't know what Iwas doing and all I wanted was their money (especially as I wasn't getting much of it).

    I have stories I could tell about that place that would curl your hair, folks.

    One of the reasons I don't teach now is beacause I don't know everything I feel I need to know before I can confidently take the floor as an authority. Sure I can follow with the best of them, and sure I have a pretty large lexicon, and sure I can pretty much teach a full bronze syllabus in American Smooth & Rhythm, but I owe it to any student I might one day have and I owe it to myself to be the best I can be. Until then, I will serve no dance before it's time.
  4. G809

    G809 New Member

    Ohh...

    So I thought the advertisement "Teachers Needed, No Experience Necessary" meant that they did not need experience teaching, not that they did not need to know how to dance!

    Wow, that's pretty crazy! It seems that such a lack of training would be immediately obvious, perhaps even to beginner students, no?
  5. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Re: Ohh...

    Often, yes. Unfortunately, some studios are more interested in bringing in and churning out as many students as possible and aren't concerned about quality.
  6. Porfirio Landeros

    Porfirio Landeros New Member

    Until ballroom dancing is more widely accepted as a separate dance discipline in university dance departments (not leisure arts or rec departments), I really don't see what other U.S. source there is for entry-level ballroom teachers.

    If more people can major in ballroom dance, then they can start at a studio as a mid to high level instructor, which works out for both the studio and the teacher, since the studio would be less responsible for the cost of initial training, and have someone that can instantly make them money; the teacher will be worth a higher wage, so he/she could be better paid.

    But for now, you have to rely on recruiting unexperienced [ballroom] dancers for entry-level positions. So, I think it's up to the studio to be sure they don't let a new instructor take the floor until they have tested out on an acceptable program.
  7. DanceAm

    DanceAm New Member

    Ben and Shalene, Stephen H. not sure about Larinda, John King, many astounding professionals started out as these "new" dance teachers without any formal dance training or at least Ballroom training. The story I got was Stephen's roommate started teaching and used Stephen to help him with the West Coast Swing.

    Is it a good thing or a bad thing? I don't think it really matters because it is just how it is done. For advanced social dancers and competitive amateurs to prop themselves up by showing off in front of other students making it harder for new teachers is really just showing your own inadequacies. If you feel the teacher did not teach you anything in a group class, correcting them in front of everyone is not the best way to handle it. If you want your money back, I am sure someone would listen to your reason.

    I think that many don't understand how much training it takes to learn and teach both parts. But in the US, there is just not enough good amateurs to really fill the need for teachers, much less, give up amateur status.

    This is by no means the best way to develop a body of teachers, but it has had its successes that we must admit to as well.

    I am not a teacher, and at my studio, I feel I am a better dancer than all but 2 or three teachers, but most of the teachers do an excellent job of teaching and the new ones have great potential. But if I started teaching, I would have to do it full time, that would mean a pay cut, then of course, loss of amateur status, then I would have to deal with students who think they know more than I do. Then I would have to start staying up later and sleeping until noon everyday, wear black all the time, eat my dinner in the 10 minutes between lessons. Spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on dance costumes and shoes. Pay over a hundred bucks an hour for coachings that I have to go to another city for. Dance Bronze Foxtrot over and over and over again.

    I am sorry but I just don't think talking about this helps anything. Taking pot shots at new teachers is just too easy and doesn't change the dance world in the US. Kicking chain studios in the butt, that is OK, but not the new teachers because you never know where the next big name will come from.
  8. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Ballroom teachers don't have to be competitors. There's a huge market for social dancers and wedding couples who never make it past bronze. There are plenty of teachers who took lessons for years for the social aspect, then started teaching, who can teach to this market...that's what I do. We have a couple of people at the studio who are starting to gear up to do the same thing.
  9. Jmatthew

    Jmatthew New Member

    I start teaching my first class on Monday, and I've been dancing for about a year and a half, but not strictly ballroom at all, my main focus is going to be swing.

    But since my market is social dancers and the wedding/prom crowd, I'm not worried about my experience level getting in the way TOO much. I'm way more worried about my lack of teaching dance experience than my actual dancing abilities.

    Anyway, I guess my point is I figure it depends on who the market is. It doesn't take much to teach bronze waltz to the social dance crowd, someone who's been dancing 4 or 5 hours a week for a month should easily be able to teach well enough ahead of a class of social dancers.
  10. DancingMommy

    DancingMommy Active Member

    Jmatthew -

    "It doesn't take much to teach bronze waltz to the social dance crowd, someone who's been dancing 4 or 5 hours a week for a month should easily be able to teach well enough ahead of a class of social dancers."

    I would disagree with you here: if you can't teach the concept regardless of how well you can dance it, then you shouldn't be teaching. I think that saying 20 hours of dancing being "enough" to stay ahead of a group of beginners is WAY oversimplifying it.

    There's a WORLD of difference between being a competent dancer and a competent teacher. My husband is a FABULOUS dancer. I've been privileged enough to see his evolution from a social to competitive dancer over the last almost 6 years. He is a LOUSY teacher! He gets overly frustrated when you don't "get it" fast enough. He and I are on par with regard to ability (and I've been dancing for over 20 years!). He's a quick study - what can I say.

    Also, a class of social beginners may contain those who are crossing over from one discipline to another (I should know, I was one). I knew more about body movement than some of my "beginner social teachers". that can be a problem. ;-)

    Rarely is anything as simple as it seems. 8)
  11. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    DanceAm, your story of Steve's beginning is accurate. And yup, I was one of these "new teachers". I was literally learning in the back room and be teaching the same information minutes later. On occasions when I travel to my home state I run into some of my former students. I can't see that my being a "inexperienced teacher" harmed any of them. I wouldn't trade my beginnings in the business for anything....

    Everyone is a low man on the totem pole and has to work their way up in their chosen profession. How is this any different than a new hairdresser when you go to a salon...we all start somewhere.

    If you are a student and feel that you know more than your teacher, then simply leave the class or ask for a different teacher.
  12. delamusica

    delamusica Active Member

    There are ways of making this kind of hiring work, although I'm sure that not all studios pay as much attention as they should.

    The studio where I'm a receptionist recently hired two teachers with no dance experience - they had to be at the studio studying every evening, and pass two tests (one on dancing, one on teaching) before they could teach. And now that they've passed, they're only allowed to teach the most basic level classes and brand new students (like people learning their wedding dance and whatnot) until they pass more tests. Even now that they're teaching, they still receive regular coaching from the other teachers and are constantly practicing.

    However, I think that a good, quality studio should continue to coach and test ALL of the teachers, not just the brand new ones.
  13. jon

    jon Member

    When I was a poor undergraduate and wanted my hair cut, I went to the Pasadena City College cosmetology school and got it done by a student for $2. Sometimes the student was near the end of their 1,500 hours (or whatever the exact figure was) of required experience and did a great job, sometimes it was a bit... iffier. The key is that my expectations were set correctly: there was no guarantee of premium quality work, and concomitantly there was no demand for premium rates. So I was happy.

    When I can get a private lesson from a world-class swing dance champion who has been teaching for 20 years, and has won multiple Feather awards for her teaching, for less than the ballroom studio instructor who's been teaching for a couple of months, something is seriously wacked out in the ballroom system. Specifically, it's a system all too frequently optimized to bamboozle credulous people into paying way too much money for dance lessons from unproven teachers, and there are way too many credulous people willing to do it.
  14. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    When I was new, and was assigned to a new teacher, I started inquiring about the cost. They said, "Well, how much do you think it will cost?"

    Earlier that day I had created a brochure for the 5-time Olympic gold medalist for skeet shooting. I told them that he charged $50 per hour, so I doubted that it would cost more than that.

    "One second, David...let me go talk to the manager"
    :lol: :lol: :lol:
  15. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    :lol: :lol:

    That's called your sales pitch backfiring. :wink: :lol:
  16. Purr

    Purr Well-Known Member

    What is the Feather Award? What are the criteria and/or categories? What does it mean to be the recipient of a Feather Award?
  17. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Many of the top ballroom people (both competitors and teachers) actually have quite reasonable rates, but they aren't really providing the same sort of service as the "luxury retail" style of dance experience promoted to the general public.
  18. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    The problem is that the luxury retail instruction providers are the ones with big advertising budgets. so they intercept a lot of business long before people could conceivably find out about the much higher quality instructors that are out there.
  19. jon

    jon Member

    It's a prestigious annual set of awards in many different dance categories, voted on by dancers. It means that the winners have favorably impressed a whole lot of people. The creator (Cay Cannon of Jitterbug Magazine) has described FA as the Oscars of dancing.

    Here's an example of the (swing dance specific) categories from about 8 years ago - only reference I could find on short notice:

    • Best Overall Male Swing
    • Best Overall Female Swing
    • Feather Audience Choice Best Classic Swing Couple
    • Best Showcase Swing Couple
    • Best Over 50 Swing Couple
    • Most Popular Male Swing Teacher
    • Most Popular Female Swing Teacher
    • Most Oustanding Swing Dance Choreographer
    • Best Lindy/Balboa Couple
    • Best Swing Couple Under 18
    • Best Swing Dancers Outside USA

    I'm not sure if the FA are still running - I think Cay may have passed away some years ago.
  20. jon

    jon Member

    Very true. Nobody in the former group needs to act like a gigolo to attract and retain students :)

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