Ballroom Dance > Will ballroom studios close after the baby boomer gen pass on?

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by Franz Jostopovich, Nov 27, 2013.

  1. Hustle a thing in the 70's, or was that just in movies & t.v.? I wasn't born until the 80's, so I couldn't say first hand. In the Los Angeles & surrounding areas, ballroom is 90% 50+. This excludes the young competitors who don't mingle. Those competitors take coaching by independent instructors at banquet halls that rent floor time by the hour. Community colleges sometimes have younger people in classes. The big chains like Arthur Murray & Fred Astaire don't have young students, less than 5 enrolled at any 1 time. The big 2 comprise of the older crowd for everything, privates, groups & socials. It's about the same for the independent places. I've been to lots & lots of independent studios, rent by hour venues, recreational centers & the big 2.

    Wouldn't it have to be the young competitors & collegiates of today filling the group classes & social dances at full time ballroom studios 30, 50 or more years in the future? Outside of that, young people today & from the past 25 or so years simply aren't interested in partner dancing. I've been in it for about 10 years & none of my friends or associates seem to think it's cool & this will reflect in the future. Even after today's youth become empty nesters, ballroom won't be something on their list of things they've always wanted to do, but didn't have time for. It wasn't something relevant to their generation. It wasn't part of general culture like it was before. That is, unless they're fanatics themselves, but they're the exception, not the rule & they tell me the same thing. I'm sure ballroom will always be around, It just seems inevitable that the studio count will shrink substantially, as well as pro/am competitions.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2013
  2. dlliba10

    dlliba10 Well-Known Member

    I'm having two issues in particular with your posts. First, generalizations, and second, definitions. First, what you are observing in, e.g., expensive franchises with prices that would deter younger people without as much disposable income and in LA and its surrounding areas, even if accurate, cannot be grounds for such sweeping generalizations as "ballroom is 90% 50+" without stats from other areas to shore it up -- have you seen the studios in NYC? Boston? The Midwest? The practice spaces of the collegiate teams across the country?

    Second, definitions. What group are you trying to define here as the people driving "ballroom studios"? Social dancers? Competitive dancers? People who only take lessons at franchise studios? People who only take private lessons from instructors who rent floor space at standalone studios?

    I don't think it would have to be solely "the young competitors & collegiates of today filling the group classes & social dances at full time ballroom studios 30, 50 or more years in the future" if the people filling the group classes & social dances today were not young competitors & collegiates themselves 30, 50 or more years in the past. Sure, there will probably be a fair few, but I don't think the future of ballroom studios will depend solely on them.

    The economy may change and the overall look of studio culture will probably and inevitably shift around, but I'd be hesitant to predict its demise based on a local sample.
  3. Okay, before anyone gets offended or has issues with my posts. I'm not bashing the "dance sport" life. It's not my intention to say it's going down the drain because it's rubbish... I'm not the census of this & I'm not a know it all. I was just asking opinions...

    So then, I suppose I'm referring to California as it looks now, based on my own personal experiences. As far as disposable income, newer generations wouldn't spend it on ballroom if they did have it. There are plenty of rich kids here & they still aren't enrolling. They have time & money to do plenty of other activities & to go shopping with, so if they wanted to do ballroom, they would. Again, this excludes the youth competitors.

    Today's 50+ clients grew up in a time when partner dance was still ingrained in culture. Half the people on here are in agreement with that much. That's why they didn't need to be yesterdays competitors to be interested in doing something they've always wanted to do but never had time or money. Recent youth grew up freestyle dancing to top 40, hip hop, techno, etc. It's not going to relate to ballroom in the future to them & yes sometimes dance routines are done to untraditional ballroom songs, but that's not my point.

    When I refer to studios, I'm referring to the big franchises & independent studios that are exclusively ballroom. When I refer to the clientele making them thrive & keeping them afloat, I'm referring to students who participate in private, group & social. Without a full schedule at a studio being partaken of, the studio will downsize employees & only operate part time if not close. I'm aware that there's opportunities for supplemental income at some independent studios. Such as rent out to catered type private events which ruin the facility over time, even when maintained regularly, especially the floor when compared to studios that don't. But I'm talking about staying in business as a full time ballroom exclusive studio.
  4. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    Actually, no one has said that except for you. Are you getting "people aged 50+" confused with "people who grew up in the 1950s"?
    jerseydancer and danceronice like this.
  5. *Steve Pastor = modorator

    "Anyhow, dance was once part of "gym class" in grade school, or available as a course to fullfill Physical Education requirements in college. Dance was most often taught by the PE department, and there are dance books written by professors of physical education."

    Yeah, maybe I am getting them mixed up, but I just know they were either teenagers during the 70's or before that, like during the 50's. I thought that would put them at about 50+.

    Will kids today look the same then as senior citizens do now & have the similar interests like partner dancing? I'm not convinced that time & money aren't the main reason for young people not being a part of full time ballroom studios. I'm trying to find out why & what it means for the future of exclusively ballroom dance studios.

    I thought it was just the few studios I started out with, but many owners & franchisees have told me that senior citizens are their bread & butter. I call & ask about the ages of students that might be in a class at some studio I've not yet been to. The owner or employee will tell me it's mixed & it's always the same when I get there.

    I'm honestly not purposely trying to put my foot in my mouth. I'm not trying to preach against the choir either. I'm trying to look at this from the outside looking in, not the other way around.
  6. latingal

    latingal Well-Known Member

    Franz, we're just getting past a thread that was rather contentious on "younger men/older women", so it may be that the community might be a bit sensitized to anything that might be construed as inflammatory, stereotypical, or offensive language. Not that what you wrote was; it's just perhaps we're all a bit scraped raw by the last one.

    Since age was the hot topic in the last hot thread, perhaps we are carrying over here. Can everybody tread a bit gently right now, give people the benefit of the doubt, and not jump on each other for a bit?
  7. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    I concur with your observations, anecdotally looking both in the east and the west coasts.

    I know plenty of young people who start doing some ballroom and switch to WCS or Salsa, no doubt to save money and to hang out with more people of their own ages.
  8. vit

    vit Active Member

    As about social dancing, in my area here in the middle europe, I'm noticing the same trend that started in late 90's, when salsa scene started emerging here. Now, most people under 50 are dancing salsa and not ballroom (as I already described in some other threads). Prices are similar, actually I would say that a typical social dancer is spending more money in salsa than in ballroom, because they are attending more classes and prices of the classes are similar. So in my area, the nature of the dance, more relaxed way of teaching and better quality of teachers seem to be the reasons why most young people are choosing salsa instead of ballroom

    As about competitive dancing here, price is surely one of the main reasons, it's much more expensive than before, so the number of competitors is decreasing rapidly and actually only a few couples left, while several years ago there were several blackpool finalist here. Other reason was also a split-up between WDSF and WDC and disagreements about that in the dance community
    stash likes this.
  9. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    People do not base their likes and dislikes of specific dance on their income. They DO base their ability to pursue a path in dance on their disposable income, whether it is a simple social path of showing up for a group lesson, or a more complex path of technical pursuit combining multiple coaches and such. People enjoy something despite the cost, or put another way, if they like something they will find a way to make it work for them.

    Also, there is only a quasi nostalgic 'historical' view about the previous generations that makes us look back at the past and think that the 'masses' did x or y or z in anything.... The fact that you see something in popular movies or shows of a period does not mean that a majority of people did something or even knew about it. I the case of the near past in dance, ballroom and Latin dancing has been around in its almost present form for almost one hundred years, Argentine tango even longer, etc, but nobody can point to a specific era where 'everyone' or even a larger percentage than a few percent actively engaged in either learning or even being aware of these dance forms in thes preceding eras. It was NOT any different than today, where, although many might be aware of extreme sports or wrestling and even watch or pursue them, that no more than a tiny handful of people do these things, and the ones that you might know of anecdotally, only a few that do something on the periphery.

    I grew up in a era, and in fact made my living, in the disco era, making dance music for people to hustle to, and I do not recall anyone in my immediate circle doing anything more than listening to the music and perhaps once in a while going out to a wedding or a local joint and seeing someone doing a 'sorta' dance to the music. The 'I just do it' freestyle of the 70s was the same as it always was in any era - when you got a few drinks in you you swayed back and forth quasi-rhythmically with repetitious movements solo in a postage sized dance floor.

    The interest in learning dance has very little to do with what their fellow contemporaries do, and in fact it is an axiom of the dance business that 'nobody ever walks into a dance studio to learn how to dance'. These web pages are filled with people relating their experiences with arcane technique or interpersonal situations about dance, but they are not the norm, even in dance studios. People do not decide how good they want to get in dance based on their income or their peers, but might be somewhat affected by it... But if you are interested in learning, you will find a way to be engaged, practicing when you can, finding money and time that works for you.

    The people you watch doing partner dance in the 1950s on tv are a teeny group of people that did this on tv, not what people did on a daily or even monthly basis back in the day. In fact, watching people do things on tv, the passive activity, was the reason they were on tv in the first place. Not because a random camera person showed up at the local dance.

    To be 50 or 60 years old now means you were twenty in the 1980s or late 70s. I do not recall partner dance existing in any amount in either of those times.
    Sania and danceronice like this.
  10. CDH

    CDH New Member

    I think if it were an option at school more people would be interested in it. In my circle of friends outside dance classes I am the only one that goes to them.

    I think Dancing with the Stars/Strictly Come Dancing shows are good for getting people interested, but quite often people seem to do the beginner classes and then drop out. It is interesting to see what will happen in 20 years or so as at classes I am quite often the youngest person there and am 30 which is getting on a bit.
  11. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    IMHO the dance shows do a big disservice to serious dancers since it portrays what they do as a simplistic oneupsmanship contest rather than an interesting pursuit that is more of a long term endeavor. I think people drip out as soon as they see that it is not something they can do in an hour class once a week.
    stash and vit like this.
  12. vit

    vit Active Member

    Thinking further about this, there may be another reason why salsa and ballroom social scene (in my area at least) are different

    In salsa scene, there is big range - from beginner dancers to some very good dancers. Everybody actually has opportunity to ask the follower (and even leader) for a dance, but in reality, beginner won't get much dances with advanced dancers because advanced partner won't be enjoying with him/her. Usually called beginner's hell phase in salsa community. So people are motivated to improve their dancing, just to get more chances to dance with good partners. Actually a kind of similar motivation like in competitive dancing, just that your skills are measured different way

    In ballroom social dancing in my area, most people are dancing just with their regular partners, so they are not motivated to actually improve this way. Some of them are motivated by teachers in dancing schools, who are telling them that they have to dance better to impress the audience, or they even think themselves they are able to impress someone with their bad dancing, but this is quite vague ...
  13. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    Few people can tell if they really like or dislike (to do) something if they could not afford to get into it in the first place. I may very well enjoy travelling the world on a private yacht, but alas I'm not so privileged. Also, having enough partners in crime is often related to affordability, as it's just not fun attending a $1000 per person ball or dinner if only a dozen people can pay to go.
  14. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    The cost of entry to the ballroom world, as you know, is free... A free lesson at your local studio, or a group class at minimal cost at your local 'Y'.
    danceronice likes this.
  15. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    The systems on the continent and in the states are often different. Here in the states, private ballroom lessons generally cost more than WCS/Salsa/etc. lessons, but ballroom has a more developed syllabus and organization (hierarchy?) and has been using pro-am and private lessons as the cash cow for a long time while the other dance groups only dabble with pro-am and don't rely on privates as much.

    Ultimately, the business/economic models/climate will shape the participation factor in terms of age distribution, numbers of dancers, numbers of events, etc..
    Loki likes this.
  16. vit

    vit Active Member

    Yes, I'm aware of the differences. But I wanted to say that the trend is similar although money doesn't seem to be the reason here, as price of ballroom and salsa group classes is similar here, and also the price of the privates
  17. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    For your reading pleasure...
    Of course, none of these people were Baby Boomers!

    Los Angeles 1957

    Western ballroom enthusiasts are astonishingly numerous - and organized.
    Out here it's the Bop and Swing with the teen-agers.
    Business is thriving at the ballrooms, which are enormous.
    Palladium in Hollywood...can accomodate 6,000.
    the Aragon on Lick Pier at Ocean Park...Lawrence Welk...often packs the establishment to its capacity of 5,200.

    Greenock, Scotland 1945-1955

    70,000 inhabitants... fifteen dance hall venues...four of which were capable of accommodating 400 to 1,200 patrons. Dancing was offered on every night of the week at many halls and at weekends in almost all halls.

    Last week talked to some folks and, like most folks, they had no idea what the dance scene was like when Arthur Murray studios (recently opened in LA) were teaching "smooth swing."

    Here's one example

    Los Angeles 1944

    Foreman Phillips took over the old Venice ballroom on Venice Pier, California..with the Los Angeles County Barn Dance and played to a paid attendance of more than 4,200. Since then he has operated the place for weekend dancing- Friday, Saturday and Sunday with Western and hillbilly bands, and has averaged over 7,500 paid attendance with some week-ends running to 22,000.
  18. vit

    vit Active Member

    Obviously there was no TV and internet at the time ...
  19. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    Capitalism vs. socialism contributing to the pricing systems, I suppose. :)

    I instinctively think Salsa and WCS are "easier" to get into as a newbie, but can't be sure because they weren't my first exposure to partner dance. Every dance "style" has its "beginner hell" but some environments are still more accommodating than others. Being able to "buy" that accommodation certainly helps. :)
  20. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    I was a teenager during the 1970s, and am in my 50s now. There was no ballroom in the high school social scene in the 1970s. Saturday Night Fever, which started the Disco "craze", came out in 1977, but sling hustle seems to have taken a while to develop after that, and it never became a standard thing to do the way foxtrot and swing were decades earlier.

    In the 1950s, sure, there was enough ballroom and other partner dancing to support big ballrooms, as Steve Pastor points out. People who grew up then are in their 70s now, though, not their 50s.

    If you're seeing people in their 50s in the studios now, it's because, as others have said, their kids are grown up so they have time and money to spend.

    Sure. That's been true of franchise studios for a long time - I know that in the 1980s, a large majority of their students were retired women. I do think they might be in trouble as those people in their 50s retire in the coming decades, because unlike the current retirees, they weren't exposed to ballroom as kids, and might choose other activities.

    Meanwhile, in this area at least, there are independent studios springing up that specialize in kids or in other age groups.

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