Taking classes at Arthur Murray


Well-Known Member
Arthur Murray studios, Fred Astaire studios, Dunkin' Donuts, Carl Jrs, Olive Garden, PF Changs, Speedy Muffler. All franchises. duh.

She wasn't saying something negative here, it was a comment regarding how some franchises are better than others. Jeesh!

JohnLL said:
I don't care for your "McDonalds" comment (not that it really matters) and wonder how you would like it if I associated your studio or instructor with a fast food joint which is why I'm asking about your personal experiences with AM.
speaking of AM i just left there and they tried to change me $300-$400 dollars a month which will get me a whole lot of group classes but only 1 private lesson every other week. Yeah right, I could by a car on $300 a month....they must be crazy if they think i will pay that for dance lesson. Lucky I have a backup studio.
For me it comes down to working with the right dance teacher, and not about picking the studio with the right name, franchise or not. I would look for teachers based on how well they dance and how well they teach. The studios or groups they are affiliated are not part of the consideration. The good ones can teach out of their own basement if they want, and I’ll still take lessons from them.

The more relevant question is how to pick the right dance teacher as beginner. I don’t think I could tell who’s a better teacher when I was totally new. And if I were to walk into a studio, the chance of them signing me up with the best and most in demand teacher is not good. Most likely I’d be stuck with a teacher with a lot more free time and a lot less ability instead. So what’s a beginner to do? I don’t have any great answers. What I can suggest is depending on your dance goals, to attend the local social dance parties or competitions, and ask the people who do well there for recommendations.
OH boy where do I begin

I've been at AM now for 2+ years. And while they can get in on occasion some truly great instructors and coaches, they never stay. Also I've been at AM schools in 3 different cities and two states (NY and TX) both pretty much the same and know an instructor outside.
They prey on wedding couples, empty nesters, and people with low self esteem. Plus they have a tendancy to "grab random people off the street" and try to make them instructors. Most often they are not dancers or even educated for that fact. (I'll get to why that's important in a second). I've just reached the point where at party the other night there is no one I could really dance all out with besides my instructor. Unfortunately in this area they know their the only studio and charge accordingly. So I'm in a bind as to what to do.
On the educated front, it's prolly a bad word to use. Well versed would do better and here's why. The manager of my studio tried to tell me one day that there is not internaional rumba or cha-cha. And would throw in my face how she'd been dancing 10 years. It was at that point I lost what little respect for the AM system I had. She would always get mad because I made comments about their comps being a sham because everyone places and does well. So they just take the AM syllibus at face value and really don't look outside the world their spoonfeed to see what's going on.
Comments about the moves your exactly right (I don't know who said it) esp here. They play this game of oh your not ready for the next level, but if you sign up for X lessons we can get you there. Now in some cases that's true, we had a newbie show up to a silver lesson so it's nice to help keep the pace of instruction seperated and consistent. But When your school only has 3 "silver dancers" after 5 years umm it's time to re-evaluate.
Having an interest in psy work (for my job) I love watching the mind games they play. It cracks me up, the pressure tactics, ego building. I want to fall over laughing some days because it's rudimentary psy ops (sry military terms) done really badly and people fall for it!!

Oh you shoudl see the hostility I get when I even mention collegiate comps or USA dance comps, and people ask how much do those cost. I answer turthfully and the manager is giving me looks that could kill.
And they keep pressuring me to do Pro/Am comps. Umm I'm not paying for your vaccation to barbados for one. Two Pro/Am dancing artificially inflates your level of dance, I would rather work thru the partner issues, travel troubles, new steps, perfectin technique and get there on my own knowing I'm better for it.

I think really the AM/FA schools are not instreted in being real studios that build up a competitive core. They would rather chase the high $ value targets of wedding couples and empty nesters (which conicidentally are usually around 50 when the kids move out). They aren't interested in dancing in a competitive way, which is fine. But don't lie to the competitive dancers and try to say you are.

The best is how they (AM/FA) won't open their syllabus. And talking with anyone there is pointless (they have no business education to rationalize about it). I liken it to the difference between Micro$oft and Open source. They could standartize the market and still make money off teaching it. But won't, which is why Latin/Standard will always be the more highly regarded styles. Albet I find rhythm/smooth infinately more fun and playful.

In all I like having access to the socials esp for newbies because you learn to lead or follow with tons of differnt people and styles. And just the general social aspects. But after a point unless your studio is an exception you cannot really push your dancing at a chain.


Well-Known Member
We work with an with an independent coach who rents floor space, and then we also belong to a FADS studio. We we first enrolled 6 months ago we made it clear that our goal was to work with an instructor in international standard, for the purpose of preparing for independent comps. They had no problem with this, and this is in fact what the instructor does for us. Once when we had in interest in doing a FADS competition our instuctor suggested this was not for us and we had to talk him into it!. The owners who are prior pros encourage us in independent comps. They explained to us that they like that we can demonstrate to guests that your normal couple can be taught and be successful in advanced dancing.

After many years of danicng at independents I was aprehensive going to a chain studio... I absolutley found that they are not all the same and that owners can and do run and manage thier studios differently. I know with certainty that some chains do take advantage of new dancers yet we are close to out of lessons with FADS and we will purchase again. I think each chain has to be assessed on its own mertis.
Great feedback Syru_Dancer (what does that mean??).

I'm sure one chain studio is not the other, but it's stories like that, that are so common coming from am and fa experiences.


Active Member
I suspect in many cases (not all, of course) that people who are already plugged into the "outside" dance world could find a franchise studio near them that works for them. If you know your options its easier to avoid be pushed around/pressured -- its even easier to avoid feeling like you're being pushed around/pressured. If you don't get "defensive" when discussing programs/packages/dance plances, its easier to have a good conversation with your teacher/studio owner in the first place and it won't trigger the "must make sale instinct' as much in them.

I also suspect its easier in areas where there are multiple franchises and independents co-existing. When there are a lot of options; competition helps to keep them honest and in this age they have to expect people to at least do minimal internet searches to price compare as much as possible. Most indpendent studios are very open about their prices so people will know those before ever talking to a franchise in those markets. In areas where the competition between studios is less and/or the competition is very recent the trend to be secretive and aggressive about non-information/mis-information is going to be strong -- the existing studio feels its livelihood is threatened.

If all you know is your franchise, you are likely to feel exploited when you find out about the way the outside does thing, even if you weren't. Every little thing will seem bigger and worse, sometimes overshadowing even the big things.

All the franchise studios I've been to (about 4) have always been very decent to me, the sales pressure at one was a little intense -- if they hadn't been trying to sell me the exact package I already knew I wanted I probably would have been very upset and left. They've always known that I was an "independent" in that I have received training from outside their franchise system; but they also knew that I was looking for a "home" for my dancing. I don't proseletyze at the studio about the "outside world"; though I do answer questins when asked (often by the studio owner/teachers in hearing of other students).
icering said:
speaking of AM i just left there and they tried to change me $300-$400 dollars a month which will get me a whole lot of group classes but only 1 private lesson every other week. Yeah right, I could by a car on $300 a month....they must be crazy if they think i will pay that for dance lesson. Lucky I have a backup studio.
Again, this just goes to show that all franchises are different with different pricing structures. The AM studios in my city price by the "unit" with each unit being one private, one group and one party. So you would never have an uneven amount of one type of class. Most of the instructors have been there for years, and there are many students with a wide range of ability (including a fair number of silver students)

I didn't think to mention in my previous post that I'm in a city with both AM and FA franchises plus a number of private studios. There are also dance clubs that host events open to all as well as nightclubs where students from various studios can regularly be found. I bet that the competition in town keeps some control on prices and keeps everyone honest.

That said, I didn't shop around like I would now after I've been doing this a while and reading these forums. I got lucky that I found a place that is a good fit for me (for now, anyway). Hopefully, the experiences (good and bad) outlined here will help others know what questions to ask. And, jsut like buying a car, you should never let yourself be pressured...take the information down, go home, think about it and compare.
SexyMan2Cha said:
Great feedback Syru_Dancer (what does that mean??).

I'm sure one chain studio is not the other, but it's stories like that, that are so common coming from am and fa experiences.

Oh haha

Syracuse University

The instructior I know, worked at both schools AM/FA believe it or not (don't ask long story). That being said, you should hear some of his stories, albet in his case 95% of the bad stories were from AM. I'm being really polite by comparison. I wish gas wasn't so damn expesnive, I'd drive out to rochester.

NielsenE said:
I don't proseletyze at the studio about the "outside world"; though I do answer questins when asked (often by the studio owner/teachers in hearing of other students).
Yes I don't "proseletyze" either, however when people ask how you did or where I competed it comes up. And again still the looks.
What really annoys me about it is how they try to hide the outside world, by either berating it or pretending it doesn't exisist. Especially when other university students come in. Which I evnetually hear about cause those same students usually wander into out open social practices.
I've been very open and said, look I know what pro/am is (and to me their not really pro's, but I bit my tongue on that one) and I'm not interested; for various reasons. Now when they continue to push, is when my male ego kicks in and I punk them down. So they get a shot accross the bow (a polite politically correct answer), continue to push, hehe then I have fun.
I started dancing ballroom this past January, but did plenty of shopping around for a while before settling with Arthur Murray. At first I was looking at just smaller studios because I didn't want to get into ballroom dancing for just the social aspect, I wanted to learn so down the line I could choreograph routines and possibly do exhibitions and competitions (yeah I know lots and lots of years later... I'm willing to wait). In the end I did go with a franchise because after the introductory lesson there (and I went to a couple in smaller independent studios close by home) I felt most comfortable at AM.

The manager and all the instructors are incredibly nice and supportive and know that I'm not there for the social aspect of dancing (though weeks down the road that eventually developed). Since I am paying for my lessons out of pocket we set up a monthly payment plan that is open ended enough so that if I leave I could do so.

Currently I'm only a third of the way through the AM Bronze I program and although I know the steps and timing and etc in my student binder I also know that I still need polishing in stylization and technique before completing Bronze I and heading into Bronze II (I'm coming in with dance experience in ballet, tap and modern).

What AM was able to do that I didn't feel with other studios was build the social and fun aspect of dancing for me (I'm not a very sociable person to begin with). Their Spotlights and other outings are good ways to ease into the social / partner dancing atmosphere for someone that 1) doesn't have a partner coming in and 2) isn't used to dancing with someone.

As for the instructors, there are a couple of instructors that actually came in after I started, however they were not allowed to teach students for at least a couple months. During this time (from hire date to two months later) they are required to learn the basic school figures / steps for both the men and women parts. The time spent "working" in the studio is practice time. After these two months they are examined by the manager of the studio (or someone higher up the food chain) and if they pass this examination they are finally able to teach students. However, the only students they are able to teach at this time are those that are just starting out (aka introductory / foundation). Once those students reach the "Bronze" level they are moved to one of the more experienced instructors. The new instructors in the mean time they are also required to continue to learn and grow and study the dances going through Bronze and further up the ladder and at the end of each level they are examined again by the manager of the studio or someone higher up the ladder.

So when a new instructor is teaching students, chances are they are teaching a new / beginning student. Then again this is at the studio that I dance for... it's quite interesting when you're at the practice parties and you're dancing with the new instructor and you know you could dance a little better... but to me it's better practice on my end because I'm forced to focus on following, because let's face it, when you're dancing in a social setting, chances are you won't be with someone that would be in the same level as you.

Some of these instructors are part-timers and typically they spend at least an additional two hours at the end of each day every day to work on their own steps, lessons and practice... so while we as students only have a lesson a week or so the new instructors have lesson after lesson and are practicing everyday in order to move through the ranks...

at least... that's what I've observed in the past four months I've been there =P

personally i see myself dancing through Arthur Murray's Bronze program, this way I've built up enough confidence in my following and will have just started working on perfecting my technique and stylization. After which I plan to shop around for more independently run studio so I could start participating on the non-franchise circuit... since i don't have a dance partner =( But that isn't for another few years... so we'll see what happens.
Ok, after reading all that, here’s my two cents:

When it comes to franchised studios… I have heard many stories… good and bad. I have heard that AM competitions are judged on how much you pay, and not necessarily how well you dance (quote came from a former AM instructor who got out of the business and tried to regain his amateur status after making the “biggest mistake of his life” by going pro via AM instruction). I have heard from franchise studio teachers that they don’t feel that they are really qualified to teach cuz they don’t know really what they are doing. At the same time, I know of good instructors from each. Instructors that are passionate about dancing and dedicated to teaching, and improving their own dancing as well, a friend that is one of the commenters on this forum is one.

I have heard of people’s displeasure at their AM or FADS instruction, but at the same time, I’ve also had good experiences from AM and FADS lessons and teachers, some better than others. I am a fairly aggressive student and learner, so I have always walked in knowing what I wanted to learn. Those who are new and walk into a studio saying, “I want to learn how to dance” sometimes can be susceptive to manipulation. But I have always come in saying, “there are the concepts, figures, and things I want to work on today” and I always ask lots of questions if their information contradicts another instructors. Most of the time, I get everything on my check list in a lesson. One FADS studio only let’s me accomplish half of my “to-do” list in a lesson because the instructor feels that I am too overzealous with my requests. But another FADS instructor at another studio can run through my week’s worth of list in one lesson with “well you pick up stuff fast, what’s next on your list?”.

It is true that each franchised studio is different and is dependant on who runs it. But at the same time, there is regularity in franchises. I can imagine that it must be difficult to maintain a level of “regularity” across the board for a chain dance studio. Getting students, keeping students, keeping a steady income… these are all factors a business owner must consider in addition to teaching dance. It is difficult to balance. One wants to be a great teacher and keep dancing affordable and make their students love to dance, but at the same time… they need to keep a steady income into the studio so it can stay in business… which means they might need to pressure people to continue with their lessons. Sometimes this can be done by incentives (learn bronze 1, then you can move to bronze 2) or by punishment (if you don’t plan on learning bronze 2, get out of my bronze 1 class, you’re wasting my time).

I can see where a lot of people are coming from with the “six week wonders” phrase. I know a few. But what better way to get more people to join a sport/social activity than by having cute “eye-candy” as a reason to go? Come on… ballroom represents romance. If the instructor is a hottie… wouldn’t you want to take more lessons and show up at the studio more? (Actually, there is a scientific study on attractive people being good dancers, it has something to do with symmetry, and how symmetrical people move/dance better, and are more aesthetically pleasing… hence, beautiful people are good dancers, don’t you just love nature? It’s like circular.) All fun and jokes aside… Franchised studios do have a purpose in the world of ballroom though. They introduce the masses to something amazing a fun. The common average person truly enjoys their experience. Those who want to branch out into more advanced instruction will. These franchised studios in America are best for American style ballroom. Their syllabi is American. You can find a good national champ instructor at a franchised studio… that can teach you all the dances. Franchised studios get people dancing, then as people get more into it, they will start expanding their horizons, and going to things like dance camps and dance festivals where they will learn from world renown instructors and take all they learn and piece it all together. They will come back and ask their teachers questions that everyone answers differently, and then start to decide for themselves what the answer is. Ballroom is ever-growing, always expanding, and always changing. It is interpretive. Ballroom will become what we make it. The competitors now will shape the future of ballroom. It isn’t dictated by one teacher, or lots of teachers, or even an association. Ballroom is beauty in a fine form. People know what they like to see. Ballroom will mold to that. It’s like Darwin’s theory of survival. Ballroom keeps evolving. Remember old English partner dances? Not quite socially “cool” in the modern age, even though it was “all the rave” back then…

About regularity with other teachers… you won’t find the same kind of “structure” but you can learn any move you want. A true professional knows all the figures to most major syllabi. You can set your goals and which syllabi you want to learn from. Or the teacher will have a general idea and that idea will change as you grow and learn. It’s kinda like an artist… he sees what he has to work with, and teaches you according to what you have to work with and what works for you the best. It is an experience. Structure isn’t always best. If you have a hard time learning step # 3 in Bronze 1, or something like that, then you are stuck on that forever… and can’t move on, but you know that you can live just perfectly fine not ever doing that move, with independent instructors you can chose the figures that you like best and put that in your personal repertoire. Your teacher will (or should) work with you, and not dictate your learning, but rather guide it. You can make your own check list of any syllabi you chose to learn (ISTD, NDCA, DVIDA, etc…), and even create your own “book”. Check out the Dancer’s Notebook. I can’t paste the link here, but you can search for it (google “Dancer’s Notebook”).

Oh, and AM and FADS have American versions of International dances, like Samba, and Paso (which is funny as hell… American Paso… you should see it!). And to my knowledge, Bota Fogo isn’t part of the American Samba syllabus that they use. Hence the unfamiliarity with this commonly familiar move among new AM/FADS instructors.

There is a sort of culture that develops around each studio as well. It’s like a small community that builds. There exists a community in competitions as well… Collegiate competitors is another form of “community”. Studios have a social dance “community”. People are drawn to a studio because of the social atmosphere, and stay because they continue to enjoy it.

In other places, your level of moving up either depends on your competition results, or your level of proficiency of foundation concepts… like, if you can do all the basic concepts, you are out of “newcomer”, if you can get the simple general dance concepts (like cross body lead, promenade position, etc…) you are bronze proficient, if you can get the slightly more complicated things (like slip-pivot, shadow position, etc…) you are silver material, and if you get the more advanced concepts (like … uh, I’m lacking examples cuz I’m not there yet… but my guess would be good clean technique in everything… oh, oversways…) then you’d be gold. And then there’s open stuff where a lot of flexibility, understanding of body movement and complete and total partner connection, musicality, and etc are key. This isn’t saying that bronze dancer’s don’t have some advanced concepts like connection, musicality, or that a social dancer can’t choreograph fancy open routines by the steps and put on a good show. Many competitive dancer’s call themselves at a certain level based on their comp results that put them there. Social dancer’s don’t really categorize themselves in that way. But even comp results aren’t really indicative of how good one is at dancing. A dancer who hasn’t officially “pointed” out of bronze by ribbons, could possibly dance gold or silver and do very well. A gold dancer who got there by being a good competitor, may not have a lot of bronze foundations down. Judges even admit that the best dancer doesn’t always win a comp. It sometimes is the best performer.

(2 Part post ... continuation)

One of the reasons the istd syllabus is designed the way it is, is because the figures in bronze set the foundation for things you will build upon in silver, and then more so in gold. When you look at the pre-bronze syllabus in some USISTD American smooth things, you might say “holy cow, that’s newcomer?” (like the American Tango corte to roll out) or “why is that move in here, it’s pointless” (like American Tango Basic B outside partner, seriously, if anyone has a good explanation as to the purpose of that move, besides setting up the concept of outside partner for newbies, please tell me! I like knowing why moves are the way they are, and understanding the purpose and history behind them all. Like today, I looked up the word “telemark” and found the history on it. In like Norway or somewhere, there was a border that was jagged, curvy-like, and in skiing, it’s going down hill curving, and turning gracefully, well… I put together all the ideas of that, and now I understand a Telemark, and why it’s done, and how it’s really used. That was so cool to know.)… yep. So, all the moves have a purpose, there is some “structure” and reason behind the syllabus. It’s like a course syllabus… gives you goals, and sets the agenda for instruction in your “class”.

Some studios let you come in and practice for free if you are a student there (one FADS studio I took some lessons at let me and didn’t charge floor time). Other studios charge an average of $10 floor fee to practice per hour, or let you be a “member” for a yearly or monthly subscription fee. Depends on the studio. In terms of how many lessons and how often… really depends on your goals, and how much you compete and how quickly you want to improve, or just how quickly you learn. If it takes you a while to absorb things, no use paying lots to learn the same thing many times… practice more.

Sorry this post is so long and seems to jump around topics a bit, I was just responding to comments as I was going through them. Hope the original poster found the input he/she sought.

it's true. some McDonald's *are* better than others.” ß really?? They all seem the same to me… but not all franchised dance studios seem the same to me. I like some FADS better than others, mostly cuz of the ppl that go there, or teach there. You experience depends on so many factors. How well the social dancers lead, how you like the teacher that works with you, the friendliness of the admin staff. I’ve also seen an independent studio that I thought was run worse than I could imagine a franchised studio could be run. The teachers were great, but the policies and general atmosphere wasn’t pleasant.

Also, while it can be said that a beginner can’t tell who the “good” teachers are, it is also true that a beginner could also not fully appreciate how lucky they are with getting a truly good instructor, and then realizes it when they are more experienced and go through more instructors.

And ya, why do AM and FADS keep their syllabi so closed? It’s like they lock them up in safes… all other syllabi are public knowledge… why are theirs so “special” and hidden from the rest of the world? Are they trying to create their own little dance community of people who only know and can dance their steps? Like an exclusive club for those who pay to learn “their way” of dancing? Ballroom should be a social thing, for everyone… it’s universal. The language of dance, it’s like the language of love, anyone should be able to understand it, read it, live it, learn it, and love it. And enjoy it with anyone else.

I’m “independent” with my learning, and sometimes I think I want to find a “home” for my dancing, but at the same time… I like learning from many different sources and creating my “own” version and idea of it all… making it my own. Taking the concepts I get from everywhere and creating what ballroom is for me. Course my own body just naturally does that anyway. The teachers I like best are the ones that help me use my natural talents and abilities and grow from that, not the ones that force a certain way or technique. Because technique is different for each teacher, opinions differ per judge. I like teachers that take complicated things and explain them in an easy way, rather than the teacher’s who make you feel that you can’t even do a simple thing right.
Ben & Shalene started out as FADS instructors, and I think Ben even may have owned one at one point.

EDIT: Jesse DeSoto and Jackie Josephs are FADS certified as well, if I'm not mistaken.


Well-Known Member
PasoDancer said:
How many "real pros" today started, or had a "brush" with a chain studio? I"m curious.
You haven't lived til you've seen Bill Sparks in Arthur Murray's old "Dance Magic" video series. Absolutely hilarious.


New Member
PasoDancer said:
How many "real pros" today started, or had a "brush" with a chain studio? I"m curious.
A *lot*. But the best of of them did not come in as "six-week wonders." Many of them were already highly ranked in Europe and came to the US to work at a AM or FADS because those organizations sponsored their visas.

Bob Powers & Julia
Jonathan Wilkins
Darius & Jolanta Moisteka
Sasha & Olga Bylim
...to name but a few

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