Ballroom Dance > Taking classes at Arthur Murray

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by Donchik, Apr 25, 2006.

  1. Donchik

    Donchik New Member

    I am 26 and my fiancee is 27. We have been taking Ballroom classes at Arthur Murray for the last 6 months. We don't just take them to get our wedding dance. We want to excel at Ballroom dancing in general. We espessially focus on Tango and Rumba.

    However, Arthur Murray experience is becoming very frustrating. First of all most of the students in school are on average 50 years old. We don't feel enough competition or inspiration in that sense. Basically we don't learn from any other students cause they can barely move.

    Second, we feel like our teachers are not pushing us forward but slightly holding us back because it's all connected to money. The more classes we take, the more money they get.

    Third, we wanted to compete, but then we found out that competition costs from 4K to 6k. We found out that everyone can compete and everyone places. When we told out teacher that 5k is too much, he said "well, may be competitoin is not for you". That really offended us because it felt like competition is based on ability to pay, not to dance.

    An example of why we feel our teacher is holding us back: after 50 classes out teacher still insists that we are not ready to tango in close body position. I mean we are of course, far from perfect, but I don't understand why we can't practice in the position that we suppose to take in the end. He makes us tango on about 8-10" from each other.

    I want to know if other people have any comments, thoughts, suggestions experiences regarding what i said here.

    Thank you
  2. wyllo

    wyllo New Member

    Sounds like it is time for you to shop around. Amateur couples in general are very lucky that there is a growing network of affordable competitions for them to attend (depending on where you live). Entry fees range anywhere from $25/person to $125/person for amateur competitions.

    Google "USA Dance" and look at their competition calendar for events in your area or check out colleges near where you live to see if they have a ballroom team that hosts competitions. You might even be able to take low cost lessons with a college team (some of the teams allow non-students, some don't. Depends on the college's student org. rules). Also call around to other local studios and see if there are any that have amateur couples that compete or instructors that cater to students interested in competing. Good luck!
    WildE likes this.
  3. Laura

    Laura New Member

    The fact that the students you see average 50 years old isn't why they can't/don't move. I've seen plenty of dancers that old or older dance in competitions and look lovely. No, the problem is the quality of instruction and motivation they are receiving. It sounds to me like it's time for you to move on. Find another studio and find another teacher, someone who knows how to coach beginner competitive couples.

    Competitions for an amateur couple in the US don't cost thousands of dollars to enter -- this is just a sales/marketing tactic employed by your studio. An adult non-student couple can enter a competition held by a University club or team, and it only costs about $25 per person for all the entries they can dance that they are eligible for. Or you can enter competitions sanctioned by USA dance and pay between $25 and $150 per person to enter. Or you can enter competitions sanctioned by the NDCA and pay between $70-$250 per couple to enter. None of these are even close to the thousands of dollars that your Arthur Murray teacher told you.

    Depending on where you live and what style you dance, you could find yourself in a competition with three or four rounds! That means that everyone dances, then the judges pick a certain number of people to come back for the next round. Then everyone dances again, and then the judges pick people to come back again. Say you start in a competitive event with 21 couples entered. There would be three rounds: 21 couples -> then 12 couples -> then 6 couples. The judges rank the couples in the final in order, placing them 1-6. That's a lot of competition and can be very challenging, exciting, satisfying, and fun.

    I view with extreme distrust any program or teacher that tells you that you need a certain number of lessons to achieve a certain level. A good teacher will work with you at your own speed, going faster some times, going slower at others. It's difficult to pick exactly how long it takes to "get" something because it depends on the ablity of the student to absorb information and then execute on it, it depends on the ability and knowledge of the teacher, it depends on the students' natural talents and ablilities, and it very much depends on how much and how effectively the students practice on their own time. So anyway, when looking for a new teacher don't end up with someone who says something like "if you take 40 more lessons then you'll be ready to compete."

    There's a whole world of dancing out there besides Arthur Murray. Some AM (Arthur Murray) studios are very good, with excellent teachers and open policies that don't keep the students insular and bound to their studio. Others are more like yours, or worse. Shop around and see what else is available to you. Try a bunch of different teachers at different studios. Talk to the heads of each studios about your goals and have them suggest teachers to you. Go watch a local competition, be it collegiate, USA Dance, or NDCA, and ask the couples you like who their teachers are and where they dance.

    Good luck! You're getting involved with a crazy world that is often wonderful and sometimes heartbreaking, but usually is what you make of it.

    Here are some links to help you find out more:

    USA Dance
    WildE likes this.
  4. Katarzyna

    Katarzyna Well-Known Member

    I would recommend going to another studio. Competition doesn't have to cost you more than $100 for both of you to enter...
  5. Porfirio Landeros

    Porfirio Landeros New Member

    The pricing they're giving you for competitions is to one of their all-inclusive Franchise competitions (the XXXX-o-rama, etc.). I say "their" because only their employees and students do these events - they're closed to the rest of the competition world (and there is a BIG world out there).

    Most of us here compete in the non-franchise world, which means we go to competitions sanctioned by USA Dance (for amateurs) and the NDCA (professional, pro-am, and amateur).

    With NDCA and USA Dance competitions, you deal directly with the orgranizers. I compete in one style (American Smooth), and an NDCA competition typically costs around $100 for us to dance and attend the session we're dancing it (registration + tickets). For a USA Dance event, it can vary, but I'd say around $40 for tickets/registration. These are not all-inclusive events though, so you have to pay for your meals, hotel, etc.

    If you feel like you don't fit into the demographic of your studio, you can see if the local University has a ballroom dance club. They usually welcome members from the community. Also, USA Dance has amateur-run, non-profit chapters all over the country (

    For lists of the NDCA and USA Dance competition calendars, you can checkout (the events section),, and
    WildE likes this.
  6. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    I would only repeat everything Laura has already said...costs can do have some control...and there is no set pace for are never harmed by shopping around IMO....and also regarding older folk...if you go to a few comps you will see folks who can move bigger than you in their 50s b/c it really has nothing to do with age...finally, my only caveat would be, there is some merit in dancing out of close contact at first beyond merely keeping your progress slow so that you will buy more lessons, still there is merit to being in an environment that has some other competitors so good luck in your search...and welcome to DF
  7. icering

    icering New Member

    I feel you 100% I am at an Aruther Murray studio right now as well and I am 19, and like you said the average age is 45-50 and its all money driven I have had some of the best instruction of Slasa and mambo on the 2 but Arthur murray has there own way on the 1. It cost $650 dollars for 6 private lesson and 6 group classes. I barely learn anything here and they only show you so many moves according to how much you pay. They go by bronze 1, bronze, 2 bornze 3 etc. When I learned on 2 in NY I wnet from bronze to Intermediate in two week and now on week 3 I am advanced doing competition combos. At Arthur Murray on week 2 they were still teaching the basic foot work and cross body lead. But on May 8th I will be at a new studio for a about $500 dollars cheaper. I have my last Murray class on Thurs. Then in May I switch. I can't use any of my NY moves. But its not all bad though, it was a good intro to all dances, not just one. I do nknow basic Tango, Rumba, Merengue and Cha Cha. But for the money I paid i could have skipped those because it will cost me $1300 to get proficient. At the other studio in the area they go on a open and closed enrollment so I didn't make the class last time but I be sure to make the deadline this time around. Its only $105 for 2 hours every monday, Or $70 for one hour.
  8. Donchik

    Donchik New Member

    regarding Arthur Murray

    Thank you all, for your comments and replies. It does seem like we need a new teacher. He is also getting pissed that we took few classes with another teacher at the same studio. So our teacher is contradicting everything the other guy said. And he basically almost gave us an ultimatum: we either take classes with him or with another guy, but not both. I think that's very unprofessional.

    I apologize if my commnet re:50 year olds offended anyone. I didn't mean to say that you can't dance at 50. We had some pretty elder teachers come in and I only wish i could move like them. Having said that, it is still a fact that on average it is harder to learn to dance when you are starting at 50, simply due to the physical reasons. (I think 26 is pretty late too, i should've been doing it since I was 5). At 50 it's harder to raise your leg, it's harder to bend, etc, etc. The other thing is that most people at that age come to dance studio to socialize and relieve their stress from work, children, etc. So they are basically there for a different reason then we are and that's somewhat annoying us.

    Fascination, I have noticed that you are in Chicago. Can you recommend some specific place/dance studio in North suburbs?

    Another question: how would you evaluate that you are ready to dance in close body contact?
  9. icering

    icering New Member

    ^^^ the thing I would do is: get some tango videos, if you need help I can find you some really good ones that you can preview before you buy. They practice with those and when you get to the other studio, if you are taking private lesson demonstrate what you know and the new teacher should help you. If they don't work on a pay per move basis like AM.
  10. SexyMan2Cha

    SexyMan2Cha New Member

    Sounds like classical arthur murray to me. I remember calling different studios before I started taking classes and am was super expensive. The people on the phone agressively talked me into to taking out my credit card, fortunately I had just enough common sense left to hang up.

    I've heard so many horror stories from arthur murray and fred astaire studios (from both students and teachers). The common practices of franchise dance studios would make a great nova documentary, with ballroom dancing being so populair right now.
  11. Donchik

    Donchik New Member

    Yes, there is a constant pressure to spend more money. Spotlight Ball: $90. Competition:5K. Classes is pretty muc h about $117 per private class which lasts 45 minutes. And we are constantly pressured into committing to more classes. For example if we wouldn't commit to Bronze II level they would stop showing us new moves in the middle of Bronze I level. (Each level is from 70-90 private classes).

    The way they serve it to you is that since we are not planning to continue, they would spent time polishing what we already know.

    But it's just psychology, of course, you want to learn more. You don't want to stop at where you are.

    P.S. We are able to cancel out classes at any time. Thanks god, it's not on prepaid basis. At least our payment plan is.
  12. wyllo

    wyllo New Member

    Donchik, I just sent you a PM with some instructor contact information. (Even though we're in Madison, we take additional coaching in Chicago.)

    The Chicago USA Dance chapter is hosting a competition on May 20 in Arlington Heights that you might want to check out. Information is available at It would be a good way to see how an amateur competition works if you have never been to one.
  13. JohnLL

    JohnLL New Member

    So before this thread goes to crazy ripping AM and FA a new one I just want to put my two-cents worth in. I cannot speak to FA as I have only ever been to one FA studio for one lesson one time in my life (but it was a nice lesson!). I have been dancing at Arthur Murray since '97/98 (I forget exactly when). Last year I made the big step and started teaching part-time. I only teach 2-3 nights a week but I'm usually out dancing 5 nights out of the week anyways. So now that you know where I am coming from...
    Donchik I am sorry about your bad experience with your studio. My particular AM studio has been great to me over the past 8 years. I doubt if I would still be dancing if not for the support that I received from everbody (students and teachers) at my studio.
    I realize that a franchised studio isn't the best fit for everybody. It all depends on what your goals are and what you want to get out of your dancing. However, as was mentioned earlier on this site, every single studio is different. How a studio is run depends entirely on the qualifications, experience and integrity of the owner of your particular studio. A bad studio isn't bad because of its name its bad because of the people that own/work/run it. Definitely shop around and find a better instructor Domchik because you shouldn't have to put up with that kinda crap from anybody.
    As to common practices and high-pressure sales tactics. I can honestly say that in 8 years I never felt pressured to sign-up for more lessons than I wanted or was ready to use.
    Just my experiences with AM and thought I would share some good ones with everybody for a change instead of all the negative stuff that tends to get said whenever this topic pops up.
  14. mamboqueen

    mamboqueen Well-Known Member

    Yes, I think it is worth mentioning that all of the franchise studios are not alike and we shouldn't paint them all with the same brush.
  15. SuzieQ

    SuzieQ New Member

    Nor should we paint all 50+ year olds with the same brush!
  16. JohnLL

    JohnLL New Member

    I can think of one particular 50+ lady at my studio who definitely gives my 25 years a run for there money. :)
    ocean-daughter likes this.
  17. HCMikeC

    HCMikeC New Member

    Just an FYI...I am currently a student at AM and have been directly and indirectly taking lessons there for 6 years (I am 25 now). I have never felt any pressure to continue there if I chose not to. I have enjoyed a lot of success competitively (mostly at amateur collegiate events) and I owe thanks to the Am studio and its wonderful support group. I plan to continue my training there as long as I enjoy it and contunie to improve.
  18. icering

    icering New Member

    I will say AM gave me the confidence I need to get to the next level on my own, but I can't afford to stay with them and now that I have gone on my own nobody in the class can keep up with my moves So I feel out of place now.
  19. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    okay...where to start...#1 any instructor who is that insecure is not a keeper IMO...I do what I pro knows where my loyalty is...because he deserves it as a person and a teacher

    #2 you didnt offend me about the age people have an easier time learning than unfit folks IMO and the older one gets the more time one has had to become unfit....(just my opinion)...mainly what i hear you saying is that they have very modest social goals which is fine but not useful to you...which is fair enough

    #3 I know nothing about what is in the N suburbs but I can give you some excellent downtown reccommendations...I am to the southeast of the loop...I will try hard to pull it together and pm you soon though probably not today...I want to make sure I get names with studios correct first

    #4 I assume you are dancing AM/AM so it is hard for me to address the contact issue w/ you but I know that my pro felt that I'd better be able to maintain my own balance and move fairly big with balance on my own before he was going to subject himself to closer contact....admittedly, IMO it is easier in contact if you are dancing w/ a pro...and that is why a bit of both worlds standard and smooth are very good as well......I don't think there is a pat answer to your question...just fair enough to say that there are reasonable reasons pro and con for any particular moment in time....if you trust your instructor(and he/she merits your trust) you wont have to worry much about that
  20. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    also, I know nothing about arthur murray, but I do know that one should never over generalize...and that the issues noted herein are not exclusive to franchises

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