Private lessons vs. group classes and DVD's?

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by freeageless, Mar 24, 2011.

  1. freeageless

    freeageless Active Member

    I have been taking group classes for about 5 months. I have also been using the Dance Vision DVD's as an aide. I find the DVD's very helpful. I go to an independent studio. I have never taken private lessons. Naturally they keep telling us to take private lessons. I assume that is because that is where the money is for the studio and the instructors. I am a male, and I am only interested in becoming a good social dancer. I have absolutely no interest in competitive dancing. The prices for the private lessons in the area I live in is $80 per lesson on up. I find the group classes and the Dance Vision DVD's a good combination. Would the private lessons in my situation really be worth it? I don't have unlimited funds, and there are a lot of other things I could spend that money on. Also, from what I have heard from other students, they continually want you to take more and more private lessons. Any and all responses would be appreciated.
  2. jofjonesboro

    jofjonesboro New Member

    If you're happy with the level of skill that you're acquiring through classes and DVDs then forget about private lessons, especially at the price which you mention.

    If good social dancing is your only goal then you would most likely consider private lessons for one of three reasons.

    First, if you find a social partner (i.e. someone who will attend dance parties with you) and you two want to accelerate your development together.

    Second, if the women with whom you dance socially regularly complain (however sweetly) about certain aspects of your dancing, such as too weak a frame, or poor timing, or poor execution of basic figures.

    Third, if you consistently feel that you just aren't learning enough figures in the classes. Classes seldom reach the level of advanced figures.

    Other posters will doubtlessly add other reasons.

    If none of these issues concerns you then keep doing what you are now. Above all, keep dancing.

    When you can afford them, private lessons with the right instructor can be great - especially if you have a partner to take the lessons with you.

    jj
  3. freeageless

    freeageless Active Member

    Thank you very much for your response. I have tried to talk my wife into taking the group classes with me and she refuses. She is probably one of the few women I have ever know that is not interested in dancing at all. Since she is not even interested in group classes, she is also not interested in the private lessons. Also, I think I have managed to stay at least up with the students in my group classes-and in some instances ahead of them because I have the instructional DVD's. The videos have been a tremendous help because they allow me to practice the steps from the group classes at home-obviously solo.
  4. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    As usual, it depends. You have to decide what's good enough, and how you can get there from here. It also depends on the group classes. I have been in group classes where the instructors give specific feedback to individuals, which is what you pay for in privates. And I've been in group classes where that doesn't happen, or it simply isn't possible because of the size of the class.

    Here's how I would adapt my recommended strategy, based on what you have said, to get the most for your money learning to dance socially.
    1) Learn the figures from your dvd's, and practice them until you know them.
    2) Practice the figures in a controlled setting in group classes.
    3) Dance at socials as much as you can to get practice leading. It will be difficult at first, because you have to remember figures, plan your choreography, and deal with traffic all at the same time, but there's no way past that hump other than doing it.
    4) Get videos of your dancing, so you can compare what you do versus what you think you should be doing.
    5) Private lessons to work on technique only. Good technique can make a big difference in how your dancing looks and feels.

    Happy dancing.
  5. suburbaknght

    suburbaknght Well-Known Member

    There will be benefits to private lessons, but that's almost besides the point. If you are happy with your rate of progress without private lessons then you don't need them, regardless of how much they might help.

    Now that's a bit of an oversimplification. I would advise taking one private lesson to see if you like the experience and find the cost/benefit ratio worthwhile to you. If you Should you decide to continue private lessons, based on what you've described and our previous conversations, I would either suggest only sporadic private lessons, with each intended to focus on some specific aspect of you're dancing (i.e. "I've been having problems producing the forward movement in foxtrot the instructor describes in group classes. I'll set up a private lesson to focus on that movement.") or an arrangement for regular private lessons but deliberately spread out (i.e. once every two weeks to once per month).
  6. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    normally I am a big proponent of the concentrated quality of private lessons regardless of your goal...but...if the studio is inclined to be pushy and if you don't have a partner, I would actually be wary...because dancing consistently with a really good partner is an addiction that one needs to guard against of the one can't finanace it...particularly if there is a good deal of persueding that goes on...
  7. Mengu

    Mengu Active Member

    I just wanted to say, in my opinion, there really isn't that much difference in the learning process, whether you want to become a good social dancer or a good competitive dancer. Either way, the key is you are trying to become a good dancer. As a leader, we have to learn how to lead in either world. Group lessons usually can't go in depth on how best to do that for each step. You kind of learn the patterns, learn where your feet go, you do it enough times to gain confidence, and you can get going with a partner. Maybe there will be some explanation of technique. The DVD's might go a little more in depth. But the feedback from someone who actually feels your lead is not something you can get from a group lesson or from a video.

    To give an example, occasionally my instructor will tell me what she's feeling, I'm like, okay, I fix it, no big deal. She says that wasn't very different, here, let me show you what you're doing. Then she leads me. Then I swear I will fix it for good and never do it wrong again, because on the receiving end, it really feels terrible, it is a BIG deal.

    Without either a partner knowledgeable and bold enough to tell you, or a private instructor, "fixing" doesn't happen on its own. Lacking that feedback, all that happens in group lessons and solo study, is reinforcement of potentially bad habits, especially at the earlier stages of learning.

    As an amateur with no vested interest in teaching private lessons, I would highly recommend saving up some money to take the occasional private lesson, even if it's once a month. I would not use much of that time learning new steps, but fixing steps you already know. Your social dance partners will be glad you did.

    Ideally, you might reverse the process, learning steps from a private instructor, and following that up with group lessons for drilling. However, in most environments, it's not feasible to do it this way, especially if you have a more limited budget.
  8. freeageless

    freeageless Active Member

    Fascination, thank you. very good comments. This independent studio, and the instructors are pushy. In almost every group class and Friday night party, the instructor's always tell us: Be sure you take the "special." The "special" consists of a free private lesson. Then they go on to state, and there is no obligation to continue after the "free lesson." However, from what I have heard, they try to make you feel obligated ie., perhaps emotionally obligated. Perhaps in an addictive way. What really turns me off about the private lessons is obviously the cost, but also the constant harping on us students to make sure we take advantage of their so-called "free private lesson." I can see saying it once or twice. But do they have to say it in every single group class and party they have. It is almost as if the instructors are desperate.
  9. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    I don't fault them for trying to push it...and, as I said...there are wonderful things about private lessons with qualified persons...but that is precisely the problem...pretty soon you feel at least somewhat attached to that person...care about their income...and the dancing is wonderful ...and you realize how much better you are getting...and the next thing ya know you're running a lemonade stand and selling your firstborn to pay for your habit...not saying don't do it...just saying; you've been warned
  10. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    *yes*
  11. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    so agree....LOL!
  12. nucat78

    nucat78 Active Member

    +1 on all of the above comments. You really have to look at your goals and your resources and determine what gets you the best return on your investment. And, frankly, you also need to factor in how your wife feels.

    I have experienced pushy private teachers and studios that apparently try to get you emotionally hooked and / or make you feel obligated. It can be irritating, but you can always decline, one way or another, and stick with group classes.

    I have found DVIDA DVDs to be quite helpful for reviewing syllabus figures which might have been glossed over in group classes. While we do not compete, my partner and I do take a private lesson once a week, mainly to improve our technique.

    Just my experiences and I most certainly would not give up.

    BTW, I sent you a PM.
  13. jofjonesboro

    jofjonesboro New Member

    I never got to that part. :(
  14. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Another perspective. +1 to what Mengu said. When I used to attend a studio several years back, there was a guy who attended socials with us. He got laughed at quite a bit and often avoided because his lead was so stiff that it was painful. Without any prompting, he would proudly tell anybody that he learned everything he knew from videos. Ya think?

    Not suggesting that your lead is anything of the sort, ageless. I do think it's possible to learn or at least reinforce figures using videos. They're a great tool. But they can't tell you how your lead feels to a partner. And, depending of the size of the group class, it can be difficult for an instructor to give individualized feedback and attention to each student, assuming they even want to. Sounds like your teachers want to sell lessons, in which case there may well be aspects of your dancing that they're not giving attention to, in group classes.

    Just throwing something out there rhetorically. I wonder if there might be someone in your dance life that you could partner with, socially, and split private lesson expenses. I'm not assuming that cost is an issue. You haven't said that's the case. You sound to me distrustful of the hard sell, ,which I understand. But, if cost is an issue, finding a buddy to share expenses might be an approach that helps.
  15. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    actually, he does note that he doesn't have unlimited funds and has many other things he could be spending his money on...your points however, are good ones imo
  16. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Oh. Hmm. Yes I read that, but didn't interpret the lack of unlimited funds as a money issue. I figured few if any of us have money to throw away. I guess I misread. :cool: Eh. *shrug*


    I do agree with nucat, though, it all comes down to the cost benefit analysis.
  17. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    meh...mebbe I mis-read as well...I just took it as a concern over dropping the $80 bucks and having competing demands ...bottom line is that I certainly agree about the value of privates...but also see how they might not be ideal for him...another thing to note is that I know lots of guys who take privates who are totally delusional about their capacity to lead...precisely because their lady pro always knows what they led :)
  18. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member


    Yep. :)
  19. freeageless

    freeageless Active Member

    Pygmalion,

    Thank you for your thoughts on this matter. I had mentioned in another thread that I am splurging. Next month I am taking a Crystal Cruise. This is a luxury cruise line that has 2 professional ballroom dance performers on board. Their names are Lizl Jooste and Mark Sasnovski. I looked up their biographies on Google. They appear to be near championship dancers. I note that they perform competitively at among other places Blackpool-which I hear is as high as you can get. Crystal Cruises has told me that I can use onboard credits to pay for private lessons. I have enough onboard credits to pay for 7 or 8 private lessons. I intend to take those private lessons with Lizl Jooste. I have been thinking about what questions to ask her. I had not thought about asking her to evaluate my lead, however, thanks to your excellent suggestion-I will. As I think I mentioned earlier, most of the students and teachers at this studio are in their 20's and 30's-and they are not married. I am retired and in my mid 60's. Most of the students appear to enjoy dancing with me-but who knows. I notice that a few students seem to shy away from me. I figured it was because of my age; and or, because I do wear a wedding ring. But again who knows-maybe they just don't like my lead. In any event, I think that it is an excellent suggestion-and as I stated I will certainly ask Lizl Jooste her opinion of my lead; and, how it might be improved. I thought about asking some of the women in my class who seem exceptionally friendly if they might want to split the cost of private lessons with me. However, I don't know if I am ready to see my marriage end over this. If you have any other suggestions or questions for me to ask her about my dancing or anything related to it, please let me know.

  20. rbazsz

    rbazsz New Member

    Freeageless -- I used to scoff at private lessons for exactly the same reasons you listed. What I learned is that privates are really necessary because often I know the right thing to do, and I think I'm doing it, but I'm not. It's hard to see ourselves in an objective fashion.

    Sometimes I am amazed what what I can learn in a private lesson. The problem is that most follows can't tell you what you are doing wrong but they can tell you when you are doing it better than before.

    My advice is this (and my budget is more limited than yours): There is never an immediate reason to take privates -- unless you need to prepare for a special event or competition. So, hold out for special deals. Instructors will always give them if you are patient enough. Like for instance they may give a deal of 4 lessons for 1/2 price. When they do tell them that you will do it if you can buy 8 lessons at the discounted rate instead of 4. If they need cash they will do it.

    The groups and DVDs are great so use them before a private. There is no use wasting expensive time on things you can learn outside of the privates.

    I have found that shopping for lessons is just another form of horse trading.

    Take the free lesson to see if the instructor is any good, and then tell them you really enjoyed the lesson and will buy some privates as soon as you can save some money. Then -- be patient!

    Also heed the warnings about becoming addicted. I have to constantly resist the urge to take more private lessons than I can afford or need. I feel like a junkie.

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