Ballroom Dance > Taking classes at Arthur Murray

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

  1. DancingJools

    DancingJools Member

    My experience has been with non-franchise studios and teachers only, and I think it is worth mentioning that these have their own share of problems and pitfalls. Sometimes, reading threads like these makes it look like independent studios and teachers are trouble-free. They aren't. If a person is comfortable in a certain dance situation, I say leave them be. And dancing is not really an "investment", though I have spent on my dancing more than the cost of a shiny new Jag XKR. It is a hobby and an entertainment and a treat to oneself, and a social activity. No one needs to defend their choice to any one.
  2. saludas

    saludas New Member

    In syllabus books, there is only one 'level' for bronze, one level for silver, etc. You can see all the syllabi that is used throughout the world (that's why it's called 'international') and a typical American syllabus here:
  3. jekyblue

    jekyblue New Member

    A note from the boonies...

    After lurking here for months, I'm ready to speak up. All of you who are in metropolitan areas with plenty of studios to choose from are lucky be able to check them out and compare them for quality and cost. Perhaps I'm in the minority here, or the others in my position are just lurking as well – but there are areas of the country where there is not a choice of what studio you choose. If you want to dance, you choose what's there to start, and if you get hooked, you find a way to pay the cost and work around the limitations.

    I live in an area where there is only one studio, and it was FADS until the last year or so. Here's a case for FADS and AM: our studio owner made it clear that he selected this area because the FADS franchise map showed a big glaring empty space as far as ballroom dance studios in our area. He started out with no competition, and he still has absolutely no competition 10 years later. I imagine that there are a number of other franchise studios out there whose owners chose a wide open spot after learning the ropes of running a studio and fighting against tremendous competition in their “home” areas. How many of these areas would have absolutely no dance opportunity if this didn’t happen? Even in the bad studios, people are learning basic steps that may allow them to enjoy social dancing, so I have to think this is a good thing.

    My home studio definitely needs competition, and I’m not particularly happy with them right now, but I can’t say it has been an all-around rotten deal. They have never been particularly high pressure, nor have they placed limits on what they will teach when. They’ve provided everything I wanted or needed as far as social dancing. Though it has perhaps taken me longer than it might have taken elsewhere, these folks did begin to teach me to dance and provided an introduction into competition – though it left me longing for more.

    Unfortunately, the studio went independent over the last year. Here’s the second case for FADS and AM: for good or bad, they provide a structure for studio owners to build their business around. In this case the owners really needed the structure FADS provided. They have not replaced that structure with any new version that makes sense, and the whole student population is suffering for it.

    Right now this place has only one instructor I would recommend without hesitation. It hasn't always been this way -- they've had some good people in the past, but it's hard to find good instructors willing to make the commitment to stick it out while building a client base. (Though if anyone is willing to try it out here, let me know: the market is really ripe.)

    Just so you know: it's not a matter of commuting a bit to find something better or cheaper. The closest area with a choice of studios is a 5-hour drive away ... and that's after being generous with the speed limit in good weather on clear roads. My temporary solution: I've been importing an instructor from afar on a regular basis and splitting the cost with others in the same boat. Those of you questioning $75 per hour for a local instructor should see my bills lately! Addiction can be quite costly….
  4. johns

    johns New Member

    From what I've seen as a student at an AM studio:
    D=2 (for bronze 4, the last of the bronze levels)

    In addition to the school figures, there are often variations, the number of which is not generally consistent. From my experience, these either show different ways of using the main component of the school figure or introduce concepts that will be taught in more detail later.

    - John
  5. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Welcome to the ranks of active posters jekyblue, and thanks for that excellent post! :cheers:
  6. DennisBeach

    DennisBeach New Member

    You mentioned you never go out dancing. Have you tried Willowbrook, in Willow Springs, that seems to be the prime dance location in Chicago area and may not be a bad drive for you. It would give you a chance to meet other dancers and probably also get some leads on teachers in your area.
  7. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    The Willowbrook Ballroom is kinda cool. Went there last spring with my old dance partner on a Sunday afternoon and had one of the best times ever. Of course, a lot of the fun was just getting to dance with her again.
  8. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    is that where alex and katja are?
  9. wyllo

    wyllo New Member

    Nope, they own North Ave. dance studio in Villa Park.
  10. cl5814

    cl5814 New Member

    I wanted to know about AM specifically. Will check the link to see if i find FA or AM there..... thanks
  11. saludas

    saludas New Member

    good luck - they are very secretive about their 'steps'...

    Oh, and on another note, can anyone tell me why dance steps are so secret, outside of the $$s? How do they 'judge' Am style in a comp if nobody is allowed to know the steps?

    I understand that there are 31(!) steps in bronze alone....
  12. Kitty

    Kitty New Member

    i think someone posted there are 10 steps for bronze, 10 for silver and 10 for gold.
  13. saludas

    saludas New Member

    No, there are 31 steps in bronze, a similar amount in silver.
  14. sunderi

    sunderi New Member

    This is a rough estimate . . . but in one level in Bronze, (Bronze I, say) we might have, say, 10 - 12 (or more?). It's about the same in each bronze level, and that's an estimate, and it's not the same for each dance, or for each level, but that's about right. So, there's probably about 40 steps total in Bronze, including all of the variations.

    In all of silver (silver 1-4) there are 10 steps and 10 variations, for a total of 20 steps per dance.
  15. sunderi

    sunderi New Member

    Allow me to clarify: the entire Bronze level has 10 "school figures" which are the steps we require the students to master to move to the next level. The other steps are "variation". Those steps are available to all of the students, at the students/teachers discretion. Slower students often choose to skip the variations to move ahead faster, while some students want to be sure to learn every step we offer for them.
  16. cl5814

    cl5814 New Member

    Thanks everyone. Very informative.
  17. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    Have to be careful here-- being a current coach and former employee of a/m -- will give you some sound advice-- first-- any teacher that does not expose you to body contact after intial lessons needs to look for another job !!-- i can justify cost to a cerain extent but at you ages-- you need to be with an independant school who will cater to YOUR needs -- comps are expensive no matter which route you go -- if local-- all the better-- best place to get your feet wet -- expand the number of dances you are learning so they encompass both divisions ( gives you more choice ) if I knew your location-- i maybe able to direct you -- or-- check out your local scene
  18. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    There's some legitimate difference of opinion about this. Some teachers want contact and are willing to temporarily accept a broken frame or badly arched back to get it. Other teachers want a full frame, and are willing to let contact develop over time as body alignment and carriage skills reach the point where it can be achieved without breaking the frame.
  19. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    to chris--- on the a / murray way

    Chris-- you are getting to hung up on the tech side of teaching --- having taught beginners for 50 yrs -- trust me-- there is no dissention among us pros as to when close contact should be --this may may be more acceptable in class work and even then I stress the importance of why it is necessary -- never had a complaint !! -- Like all teaching-- it depends on the approach -- any one would be a fool to believe that one can achieve the truer " blending of a couple when there is distance between them. This so typical to the american approach to teaching-- mainly due to the fact that most teachers ( if you can call them that ) have zero practical exp. before being thrown into a lesson-- and thats the way that they dance !!-- i have coached in more chain schools than i care to remember-- and each time i have invariably come across the same problem-- after due explanation-- the problem was generally resolved-- and -- every but every lady commented on the difference in lead -- Surprise --Surprise -- and --as an amatuer-- on what do you predicate your knowledge ? --- You need to get perspective on the teaching of social american style -- it is not meant to develop dancers into competitors-- more an avenue of escape from the daily grind-- if they so desire-- then yes -- i will stress more on the finer points -- let me give you a quote by a world famous dancer--Alex Moore --yes -- that A. moore-- He said " After one yr of teaching-- I suddenly realised that not everyone wanted to be a competition dancer "--- you--as a comp. dancer --- like most -- seem to come from that perspective ( am judging this by your articles -- some of which i could question at length ) Remember my knowledge is empirical --born thru many yrs of trial and error .I should also add-- that I would never force anyone into that dance position if they felt uncomfortable ( oddly enough-- that usually came if at all from the younger clientele ) The irony of this-- is this-- it is always more difficult to teach someone the incorrect way first-- and then go back and try to change it --particularly if I were not the teacher -- i run into this quite frequently . ( p.s. fred astaire chain does the same thing )
  20. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    I have firsthand evidence that there really is disagreement on this subject between fully qualified teachers. A number of highly respected, ISTD certified teachers keep their students apart for the first few years, to stress body and frame alignment and awareness. In work with their former teachers, I've found the core message behind this to be even stronger - though obviously achieving it via complete and constant seperation is a fairly beginner thing.

    It's not the distance, it's the ability to seperate one's own balance from the sense of where one's partner is. Dancers trained this way tend to be almost hyperaware of their partner's position - whears dancers pushed into body contact early tend to confuse their balance with their partner's.

    That's good, because many teachers essentially do force it. When body contact is created as a result of a good body alignment and frame connection, it's very non-intrusive. When it's created as a substitute for that, it's extremely intrusive. When it's a result of everything being right, it's also unecessary - the slightest desire for more space by either partner is easily accomodated, since contact only happens if both invite it. But when it's a substitute for alignment, contact is mandatory - because with insufficient information in an unaligned frame, once contact is lost there is nothing.

    Social dancers have no problem dancing without contact. Good competitors can work with it or without it with hardly a difference, because they feel their partner's presence in so many ways. It's intermediate competitors who've come to rely on it as a crutch who are helpless without it.

    Another way of putting it - when the body is trained to move in partner-accomodating ways, it's not very hard at all to maintain contact or at least the visual appearance of it. But when the body is not yet comfortable assuming the necessary shapes, simply forcing it against another might communicate a few of the ideas, but won't really solve the problem - especially between two equally inexperienced amateur competitors or social students.

    There are worthwhile reasons to close up gaps, and worthwhile reasons to fill out the frame - both have their costs and benefits, and it's innapropriate to make blanket statements about a teacher's qualifications without at least seeing some of the students to whom they are making their recommendations.

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