Ballroom teachers needed - no experience required

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

  1. DancePoet

    DancePoet New Member

    Most people coming into the ballroom dance lessons for the first time will have little if any idea that an instructor is experienced or not. They likely figure that if they are going to attend lessons that the instructurs know more then they do, and that's likely correct no matter what the teacher's experience level is. I am thankful I was as lucky to start out with an experienced dance teacher, and she is educated as a teacher, too. (That is not to say this is a must because I am sure there are plenty of those who have a teaching degree that are not good at instructing as well as plenty of dance instructors who are outstanding without a teaching degree.)

    However, when one is no longer new to dancing lessons, it likely becomes more important as to who one has as a teacher. Example, now that I know a little, no matter how darn little that may be, when I seek someone out to teach me Argentine Tango I'll be looking for an instructor who has a positive reputation with experience.
  2. Jmatthew

    Jmatthew New Member

    Exactly my point. Whether you've been dancing for 10 years or 20 minutes has nothing to do with your ability to teach dance. You can either teach or you can't. Someone who's been dancing for 10 years AND knows how to teach will teach better than someone who is weak in either area, but a million years of dancing won't help much if you're a crappy teacher, while being a great teacher can make up for an only moderate or less amount of dance experience.

    the only question in my mind, assuming you can teach, is whether or not your ahead enough of the clientelle you're seeking. If you're a complete n00b and you're trying to teach people who have been dancing for 5 years, you may find yourself at a loss and quite embarassed when your students know more than you. If you've been dancing for a year and are teaching to the wedding crowd, assuming you can teach decently, you should be fine.
  3. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    True, however I would think that ideally a teacher would be able to guide a student on a fairly direct path towards reaching their dance goals, without taking too many wrong turns. If the teacher also has much still to learn about core concepts, then even if the students follow comfortably far behind, they may still be following along on a bunch of unecessary dead-end side trips.

    A really good teacher can look at the highest level dancing, and distill the key ideas down into a form useable by the newest beginners - saving a lot of time by skipping common approximations that are sort of workable, but not really viable ways of dancing in the long run.
  4. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    They have to charge the usurious rates they do in order to maintain that big advertising budget. :)
  5. robin

    robin New Member

    I think it's actually particularly important for a new dancer to have a good teacher. The difference is that an new dancer has no way to compare and might not *realise* whether a teacher is good for them or not, that doesn't mean it's not important.
  6. etchuck

    etchuck New Member

    A new student needs to have a teacher who is able to walk them through dancing as one would need guidance walking on a 4-inch balance beam. There should be a rapport that the teacher has in providing and instilling confidence in a new dancer.

    Experience certainly helps a lot when it comes to teaching dance, but I cannot underrate the importance of personality. One of the instructors here with whom I really am impressed I first met when she was teaching for only 2 years. I never took a class with her myself, but many of her students really loved dancing and I saw them out social-dancing every weekend. Certainly she's one of the better teachers that I know when it comes to introducing dance to new people.

    As you get more advanced, you then start to seek people who are more technical with their dancing. But that first teacher who pats you on the back or will take the time to work out your obstacles... that's a teacher I really enjoy having as my first dance instructor.
  7. ratherbdancing

    ratherbdancing New Member

    I disagree but I understand why it is done with the whole hiring a person to become a teacher when they have never danced before thing. If you are going to insure that they continue training even after they start teaching that it is one thing. And i do think that its necessary to have some less advanced teachers to handle the wedding couples etc. But I dont think that that should be half of your staff. I don't believe that it is a positive reflection on a studio when you have junior students go out on the dance floor and they are more advanced then half of the teachers working at your studio.
  8. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    A little of it goes to that... I bet the most part though is that a dance studio in a commercially attractive location can be pretty expensive to keep open. The business may only be part time, but if it's not renting space by the hour from someone else who uses it during the day, then full time rent has to be covered by proceeds from an evenings/weekends activity. One can dislike that part of the dance industry, but can't really condemn it if it's part of what keeps the doors open for other sorts of dancing.
  9. Another Elizabeth

    Another Elizabeth Active Member

    Why not, if that's what your market is? If the bulk of your students are "wedding couples etc.," then it seems to me that the most sensible thing you can do is maintain an appropriate staff for teaching them at a reasonable rate.

    There are plenty of dubious practices in the ballroom dance industry, such as pressure sales tactics, selling outrageous numbers of lessons in advance, intentionally slowing progress in order to sell more lessons, etc. But providing low-end teachers for the low-end market doesn't seem to be inherently bad to me, especially if you don't use deceptive/fraudulent practices to sell them. If you're worried about people getting fleeced, the best thing you can do is try to make sure that the various lower-cost options are well publicized. But if, for example, a wedding couple decides that they're willing to pay for lessons in a primo downtown location with a teacher of dubious credentials, because it's convenient for them and will be good enough for their purposes, why not?
  10. ratherbdancing

    ratherbdancing New Member


    If that's your market then I guess that's fine, but with all of the studios I am associated with thats not the case at all. They are all highly competitive studios, but they do have more teachers that are better for the wedding couples/ beginners then for students who would be interested in competition. When they started hiring the less-experienced teachers they did not realize that that may hurt them in the long run when students come to them and want to compete and they don't have enough teachers for their students to be able to do that.
  11. DancingMommy

    DancingMommy Active Member

    What is the turnover rate for those teachers? I mean, how long do they staty at the studio. I know that IME some of those teachers don't stay very long - they suffer burnout or disenchantment...
  12. KevinL

    KevinL New Member

    Are the newbies dancers who have never taught ballroom, or newbies who have never even danced? It would seem to be a bad idea to hire someone to teach if they had never danced and couldn't keep a beat, but I'm sure it has been done.

    How short is "short"? Hiring someone the first of December and having them start teaching the first of January seems a little short, although I'm sure it happens regularly. How long does it take to become a "Rising Star Champion?" Shouldn't it take that long to become a teacher? Not if you don't intend to teach anyone beyond beginners who might never dance after whatever event they are preparing.

    How intensive is the training program? Sure, that month-long "wait" above doesn't sound like much, but what if the new teacher practices/studies 8 hours each day? Couldn't that be a good place to start? Especially if the teaching program covered a mixture of technique and patterns. (Not that I think non-dancers could physically handle 8 hours of classes/dancing a day, but it's possible.)

    Sure, there are lots of situations where this works well. Take the large portion of the country that due to low population density doesn't have dance studios. Isn't _anyone_ with an interest in dancing qualified to teach, if there is no-one else available? Sure, they might end up teaching something "wrong", but if it gets people out dancing isn't that the main goal?

    How often has a student gone home and showed their friends how to do a dance step? It happens all the time. Is the quality what you would expect from a professional, well-trained teacher? No, obviously not. Should new dancers have to pay a premium price for substandard teaching? No, of course not. But it does happen.

    ====

    When I started teaching I had been in the Metronome Ballroom's Teacher Training Program for a year, where I danced 10-12 hours a week. A large part of the program was learning patterns, but we also learned the basic technique underneath the patterns, and we studied how to teach what we learned. Was that enough? Not really. I know that I was underprepared when I started teaching (and I know that I'm still underprepared for many aspects of dancing), but there comes a point where learning to dance and learning to teach dance should overlap. If you spend ten years becoming an expert dancer and then become a teacher you can dance wonderfully, but you can't necessarily teach better than someone who has been dancing for a few months.

    As others have said, dancing and teaching dance are different (but related) skills.

    The best teacher (in my mind) is someone who knows enough technique not to screw up a student, is open and friendly and who encourages people to dance and enjoy themselves. For those few students who want to progress down a competitive tract this kind of teacher might not be the best choice, but for the majority of dancers having someone supportive, educated and enthusiasic is incredibly helpful.

    Kevinl
  13. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Wedding prep classes seem like a pretty unique part of ballroom... I'm guessing it's not so much about teaching a person to dance, as it is about helping a couple learn to cooperate on something about which they may have very different feelings and comfort level. That's an area where a bit of targeted training in how to work with a couple might be a lot more beneficial than a few years of contemplating ballroom technique. Given what the rest of the wedding industry seems to charge, a few hundred $ on a sequence of "dance" classes may not be unreasonable.

    Where I have a problem with this kind of thing is when that niche activity becomes the primary public face of ballroom dancing. There need to be more readily available sources of really detailed dance training for the minority of students who want that, rather than the wedding prep, social intro, or pro/am competiitiion packages that are widely advertised.
  14. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I'd have to say that I have more of an issue with how these studios are run than anything else. I have recently had two wedding couples that defected from AM. One couple learned ONE foxtrot step in their first, 45-minute lesson. At their second lesson, they learned one more, and so forth. These people were actually pretty quick learners (she'd been a ballet dancer all her life) and were capable of learning more quickly than that. At the end of their 5 lessons at AM, they were subjected to this diatribe about why they needed to buy this huge package of dance lessons. At the end of their 5 lessons with me, they had a nice routine with an entrance and an ending and a congratulations. They were much happier! They may not come back, not being that interested in taking ballroom up as a hobby, but a sales pitch wouldn't have convinced them to come back, either. Guess who they'll recommend to their friends and family?

    The second couple, interestingly enough from the same studio, would learn 4 or 5 dances in each lesson! How can you get anything out of any of the dances that way? They also got the big sales pitch and bailed. At the end of their first 5 lessons with me, they bought 5 more. They still have 2 or 3 on the books and will be back when they get settled.

    I understand they need to pay their rent, but at this particular studio they are not in a prime location and as far as I have seen the studio is not that fancy. Our studio is much larger and more expensive to maintain, but we are able pay the rent based on bringing in a lot of people and making them happy enough to stay and refer their friends. Our instructors are well-trained and are expected to continue that training, and we charge less than half of what AM charges for private lessons.
  15. Porfirio Landeros

    Porfirio Landeros New Member

    From the perspective of the studio owner, hopefully long enough to pay for their training. ;-)

    I know the Arthur Murray contract was one year, or you owe them money for your training. Then after that, there was a time frame covering a covenant not to compete against them.
  16. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    So? If they actually wanted to learn to dance, that would be plenty to cover. Perhaps the couple in question (and most wedding couples) want a quick routine they could fake, but starting with just a step or two and actually working on them before going on is generally a better way to learn dancing.

    It does look like there were some problems in the situation described, which may have included intentionally slowing the pace to drag things out. I just object to the idea of covering only one step in a class as proof of slowing the pace - if covered in the right way (which it was probably not) one step could be ample material to start with. To this day I use only two steps in social foxtrot...
  17. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    One more thought:

    The problem I have with teachers who learn the steps in the back room and then go out to teach a class (sorry Larinda, nothing personal), is that they don't know where the dance is headed. I think this is important: beginning dancers are taught a little differently than advanced dancers. Dancers of all levels need to know why they use their feet they way they do, why they hold their arms that way, how to lead and follow, etc. They also need to know that certain things may change as they progress through their dancing so that it's not a big surprise.

    I was a "no experience necessary teacher" about 9 years ago. I'd been dancing for all of 3 months when I entered my teacher training program. This program consisted of taking group classes. I got a couple of hours of private "teacher training" with the other trainees, but not nearly enough. I cringe today thinking of the kinds of things I taught my students. When I realized that this wasn't the job I wanted, that I didn't know enough about dancing to admit to other teachers that I taught, I went back to being an amateur for several years. I've been back at it now for three years, as of September 1st. While I'm not at the level to teach competitive couples, I do a great job with the bronze syllabus and wedding couples. I'm proud of that, and I'm working on my silver syllabus so that I can teach that some day. I take private lessons when I can and attend advanced classes when I can. Sometimes, I have to teach steps that I learn the day of the class because I've never done them before and it's a new class or I'm subbing for another teacher or something. BUT, I have the dance knowledge now so that I know all the important stuff--lead, follow, body movement--so it's just a matter of learning the foot placement, etc for that step.

    Anyway, I just thought I'd put that out there so you'd see where I'm coming from.
  18. DancingMommy

    DancingMommy Active Member

    Unfortunately, it isn't their rent that is killing them.. It's the blankety blank franchise fees! from what I remember, they have to fork over a HEFTY percentage of their take to the corporate office AND get all their printed stuff either provided (for a fee) from corporate or get it printed on their own using an approved printer/logos etc. Also, all advertisements have to be done through corporate. :roll:

    Franchising can be a way to go, or it can kill you. lollicup.com is one of the few franchises that doesn't rake their business owners over the coals....
  19. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Thanks for confirming what I've always thought, DM. That it's the middle and upper managers in charcoal gray suits (not necessarily first line dance teachers or franchisees (meaning studio owner/managers)) who are increasing the costs.

    That only makes sense. Why can independent studios (who also pay rent, insurance, salaries, etc.) afford to stay open while charging reasonable rates, while franchise studios can't? The only major difference I can see is the frachise management structure... unless I'm missing something. Am I missing something? (No sarcasm intended. I really want to know. 8) )
  20. DancingMommy

    DancingMommy Active Member

    This is where I am right now. I just don't feel right about calling myself a teacher when there is SO MUCH I don't know. When I know it (and I'llknow when that is), then I'll pursue it again. For now, I'm happy being mommy and working on myself.

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