Ballroom Dance > Taking classes at Arthur Murray

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

  1. Indiana_Jay

    Indiana_Jay Active Member

    I would posit that any dance studio, chain or independent, that claims it's mission is not to make money is either doomed to bankruptcy or a stranger to the truth.
  2. tendancer

    tendancer Member

    ugh...I wanted to avoid chiming in on another hackneyed AM thread, I'll just say this:

    * complaints about AM certainly seems to be a pretty recurrent theme. Back in the day when folks still post on Dancescape :D 5/6 years ago there would be one of these long threads seemingly every few months, and it continues to be that way till now on this board

    * while it's best to not generalize, that's certainly what one would call a recurrent pattern, and an indication there're a fair amount of bad AMs out there--after all we don't see complaint threads about FA or independent studios pop up as frequently, and when they do the experiences delineated seem less impassioned than the AM ones

    * personally, I think there's something inherently broken with the AM "system" and the way they've decided to best achieve profitability. It's not a system friendly to helping their students become the best dancers they can be. It's like the dance equivalent of selling variable annuities--vast majority of the time it's meant to cater to the financial interests of the commission-earning salesperson and the firm, even if they know it's not to the best interests of the client. Part of it is AM's contractual insistence on "unit" pricing (1 private 1 group 1 "practice party"), sales pressure on packages, heavy cancellation penalties, etc. All made more unseemly because the nature of the business is that dance coaches are in a position of authority/trust; and as AM caters more to dancers with a social goal far more than the competitive crowd, their clientele is prone to contain more emotionally vulnerable situations ripe to be exploited.

    * while not all; certainly many AMs are guilty of the famed "hiring people off the street to be instructors" practice. Combine that with the apparent veil of secrecy (e.g. proprietary steps, non open-to-public socials), and Superamas where half the folks seem to compete in a 3 couple heat and everyone goes back to the studio a winner/finalist, and a level'ing system where folks being generously granted the right to learn e.g. proprietary "bronze III" steps seems more correlated with the amount $ paid to the studio than actual talent....these are all the sorts of things--no they don't occur at all AM studios, but they do happen and happen often--that invite an askance eye from an observer, and a theme that seems to pop up again and again on AM threads.

    Of course there're good AMs out there. However, if for every good anecdote there's at least one bad one; then at some point one has to wonder: with all the *very* similar complaints that arise about them all the time, perhaps the "good apples" are more the exception than the norm.
  3. tanya_the_dancer

    tanya_the_dancer Well-Known Member

    I just looked into a few comp programs I have, and based on the ones which have a list of participating studios, there are very few AM and FA studios listed. For example, out of 1-page list of studios for each comp, HOA had none of those, St Louis had 3 AM and 1 FA, Chicago had 1 AM and 4 FA, and the rest of the list appeared to be independent studios/individual teachers. I don't know if it is a regional thing, or has to do with the fact that AM and FA have their own closed competitions, or it says something about AM and FA turning out competitive dancers, but it looks like that AM and FA studios did not participate much in these Midwestern comps.
  4. quixotedlm

    quixotedlm New Member

    I've no experience with chain studios,and have only dealt with one independent studio. I like that place, and still take occasional classes. Loking back into the first year I learned there, they certainly coaxed me into signing up for plenty of private lessons that didn't deliver enough bang for the buck.

    -> the classes were more expensive than other places, comparable in quality and shorter (45 minutes, which almost always translated to 39-41 minutes)
    -> after i had a certain amount of rapport with my instructor, i was subtly made aware that it was important for her to fill the private class calendar, because her pay depends on it. and then it was suggested to me that perhaps i'd like to sign up for a package of 25 classes (and that they'd throw in 2 extras for free).
    -> many of the private classes didn't have a clear agenda, and the instructor came in without much preparation or a pre-thought out plan. many a times, the classes were just glorified practice sessions.

    every one of the issues i've listed above is as much my fault as it is the studio/instructors fault. the only difference is that as a newcomer into the world of partner dancing, i had almost no perspective on anything at all. I simply trusted my studio and instructor to do the right thing, and not remain complacent in allowing me to pay more than i needed to.

    Initially, i had no idea that 45 min classes were too short, or that the quality of instruction was only comparable to what i could get elsewhere for cheaper, or that it was possible to get 'practice' in other public forums that were dedicated for practice and that i didnt' need to spend an expensive 40 mins in a private class with my instructor to get that. I was also too naive to notice her lack of preparedness or agenda in many classes. After growing to a certain point, its obvious to me now that I've probably given away more than $1000 to the studio on which I got no returns.

    I'm not bitter, but I'm certainly not taking any more privates there. I certainly learned all my basic skills there, and every time I'm complimented on my good leading skills on the floor, I thank my instructor in my mind. I even think of her as one of the most influential people in my lives, and I'm grateful to her for introducing me to a wonderful passion, and doing a great job of converting a guy with two left feet into somebody more capable. I enjoy myself very much every time I dance with her. But all the good feelings aside, the studio probably won't get my business anymore. As a student, I'm happy. As a consumer, I think they are in breach of the spirit of honesty.

    JANATHOME Well-Known Member

    I dont think that you can look at a comp program and determine how many participants are FA or AM students or waht they are turning out.

    I take lessons at FA, and our sole purpose with this FA instructor is to prepare us for independent comps. When we register for the comps we do not register under the FA name. FA (or at least the one we attend) holds enough of its own closed comps that they do not travel to independents as a group. Even so, it does not mean that the FA chains are not producing competitive dancers.
  6. tanya_the_dancer

    tanya_the_dancer Well-Known Member

    Well, I was looking at the comps which I attended and which are more geared towards pro-am dancing and this is something I've noticed.
  7. DennisBeach

    DennisBeach New Member

    We took lessons at FADS for 5 years and did not participate in comps or shows. But they seemed to be focused on their own competitions and shows. They do have quite an array of both. They would have announcements before each lesson and it was always about their own comps and showcases.
  8. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    ya know...all ya really have to do if you are looking to compete, is look around and see if there is anyone else with those goals who is doing well at local independent comps....if the answer is no, well then, beware...I echo most of the sentiment just can't generalize, but it is wise to take a hard look at the situation and the dancers that the studio is putting out...are there tons of open dancers who still can't stand up straight but know lots of fancy steps? are they marking?...over time it can't all be unfair judging....good studios whether independent or franchise, whether profitable or not, aren't that hard to identify

    JANATHOME Well-Known Member

    Yes, I would have to agree, you are not going to see to many pro-ams from chains attending independent comps. I have only danced amatuar and as a result I sometimes get tunnel vision!
  10. tanya_the_dancer

    tanya_the_dancer Well-Known Member

    I wonder why.
  11. wooh

    wooh Well-Known Member

    Are the instructors prohibited by their contracts from competing outside the system? Or is it just that it's not as profitable for them to do so? (Ex: going to an AM comp, they can take 10 students and make 10x money where for an independent comp, only 2 students would go and they'd only make 2x money?)

    JANATHOME Well-Known Member

    I think the main reason (At least in New England) is that FA holds thier own comps once a quarter. It seems for the majority of students that once a quarter seems to be the maximum amount of comps they would like to do.(if that) There just does not seem to be much of an interest of the pro-am students to attend independent comps in addition to the FA closed comps. Us, having worked with independent instuctors for quite a few years before going to FA, our interests remained with the independent comps.
  13. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    they aren't prohibited...we have an instructor from the studio I left (b/c my pro left when it became a franchise) who has a lady who doeshn't compete on sundays for releigious reasons so she couldn't do the franchise comp, so they did the local independent comp...but I would imagine that they push their comp more...and most folk have to be choosy for financial reasons
  14. reb

    reb Active Member

    Originally Posted by JANATHOME [​IMG]
    Yes, I would have to agree, you are not going to see to many pro-ams from chains attending independent comps.

    It can be hard to see unless one is in the situation itself, in part because there are varying practices. I was familiar with AMI where there were different practices among studios (it's important to point out that these are franchises, which leads to variety within a chain):
    • Some AMI studio owners encourage/support their teachers/students to compete in open competitions
    • Some AMI studio owners discourage/disallow their teachers/students to compete in open competitions
    For studios (within a chain) among the latter, the students are shielded from the open (real) world. I started in one such AMI studio and worked with the studio owner (or so I thought) to be able to compete in the open with my teacher. After a looong time, I realized that I was being given the run-around and he was not going to change his otherwise successful business practices - he chose to lose me rather than run the risks as he saw them, such as teachers losing even more students on the open market, etc.

    As has been pointed out, there are many reasons to join and enjoy these studios and their closed competitions are scheduled wall-to-wall for the fun and enjoyment of each student. For many people, these closed competitions are better for them.

    At Ohio this year, I look forward to running into some wonderful AMI owners/teachers/students whom I met at their closed comps - unfortunately none from the SoCal studios.
  15. It may be true that there are not many AMI students who go to independents but it is not true of FA.
  16. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    As reb has pointed out, boith AMI and FADS are franchises and no "rule" covers all of the studios within either one! While it is true that I have seen more FADS than AMI dancers at various NDCA comps, this varies from sudio to studio, location to locations, and competition to competition. Also not to be neglected here is that there are many independent studios that never take students to anything but in studio comps either, and these are even smaller than the frnchise sepcific FADS & AMI events (which can even be fairly sizable).
  17. DennisBeach

    DennisBeach New Member

    I would think money is one big issue. If they have the quantity of students, they can have their own comps and make money preparing students for comps and holding the comps.

    Desire to keep their students out of contact with independent competition may also be a factor. If students go to comps and see some teachers whose students are doing well and doing really neat routines, that would cost them students.
  18. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

  19. chachabelle

    chachabelle New Member

    Lessons at Arthur Murray

    At my "former" AM studio, competing with my Pro at an outside comp was not an option - nor for anyone else, except the am/am couples. The final straw for me was when I attended a wedding where my Pro and his girlfriend (now an instructor) were there and my Pro refused to dance with me - even once.
    So the light bulb finally went on (I am blond). After spending tons of money (800+) lessons over a 3 yr period, 4 comps (AM) at $8K each, it became quite obvious that I'm no more than a walking dollar bill to the studio. Really, how rude and cold can you be?

    I do admit though, they are not all like this. I travel extensively and have had lessons at other AM and FA studios and it's a totally different environment. So, this walking (or should I say dancing) dollar bill has had her last lesson at my original studio. I take lessons now at an independant studio and love it. Any when I travel, I will continue to frequent the AM and FA studios that I've been to before.

    So for now, I'll stop discussing my "former" studio, because it has turned out to be a total nightmare. I will not go into the other illegalities of it all.
  20. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Wow. :(

    I never have understood the rationale of teachers who refuse to dance if they're not being paid for it. Pretty rude, IMO. Not only that, it risks alienating folks, like it evidently did in your case.

    Pretty dumb. What does it take? 3 minutes?

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