Dance schools in NYC

Here are some observations about dance schools in Brooklyn and the New York city area. These are things I’ve noticed, and have also been brought to my attention by my students.  I guess you can call them pet peeves.

Dance schools in NYC at our Park Slope Brooklyn dance studio.

Park Slope dance studio in Brooklyn NY.

Please stop advertising your school at one price, and then when a student comes to register,  hit them with a registration fee. If you advertise one price, that should be the price. Not, oh plus $20 for registration.  I’ve noticed many Brooklyn salsa schools doing this recently.  This is deceptive.  So, if a school does this, watch out.  They also tell you it’s a one time fee.  But, if you don’t go for a few months, then start up again, they will hit you with this registration fee again.  Guys, Be up front with the pricing.

Should you really be charging for music? These are your students. If they are asking for some salsa, bachata or tango music, have them bring a CD and burn them some songs. Do you really need to sell them it? They are new to this whole salsa, tango, or whatever dance scene it is.  They want music to practice to. Give them it, and help them out.  Squeezing every dollar out of a student is not the way to do business.

Telling students they will be great salseros or tangeras in no time flat.  This is over the phone, without even having meet the student.  No school or teacher can tell you how long it’s going to take for you to be good, or even decent.  That depends on you. Students often ask me how long does it take to get good at Argentine tango, or become a great salsa dancer.  The answer is, I don’t know. I’ve had students who after a few classes were dancing nicely, and other students, after months, still struggle with the tempo. Honesty is the best policy.

Pitting one dance style against another. I’ve actually heard a studio owner in Manhattan asking out loud, during a Milonga at her studio: “Why would anyone want to dance Argentine tango? It’s so slow and boring.” This studio primarily teaches swing, hustle and salsa. They have a Milonga once a month. So, according to her, swing, hustle and salsa are great and Argentine tango isn’t.  This is like saying Impressionist painters are better than Cubist.  They’re just different.  If you dance salsa in Rueda there’s no reason to put down LA style salsa. If you dance Argentine tango in close embrace, don’t bad mouth open embrace. Try not to have such a parochial view of things. If you want to get really good at any one dance, embracing all styles will help. The best salsa dancers usually know a few different styles. The best tango dancers usually also know ballroom and many know ballet. Being able to include different techniques and styles from one dance into another will help you become a better dancer.

This is for the salsa schools. Too much focus on salsa shines. I have students that come from other schools, and maybe they have been dancing for a year.  They know 60 shines.  Wow! But they can’t follow or lead a simple copa or check turn the right way. Unless it’s specifically a salsa shine class, try focusing more on leading, following, technique, and musicality.  This is what partner dancing is about, not splitting up and doing shines. You should have great Cuban motion and contra body before you learn 60 shines and triple turns.

Roping students into a performance class and then after a few weeks telling them they need to pay an additional price for the costume that you have marked up double. A student told me that this happened to her in a belly dance class she was taking. She was told that she couldn’t do the performance unless she bought the costume. Nothing about buying a costume was said at the beginning of the class cycle. She dropped out of the class. Again, be upfront with the pricing.

Too much Focus on steps and patterns. Better to teach how to lead and follow then how to do a pattern. Better to teach technique, craft, musicality and style then a complicate step. Once you know this, you will be able to follow any pattern. Many student tell me that the school they used to go to taught really complicated patterns, but as soon as they left the class, they forget it all. Focus more on technique and less on steps.

Advertising a class as advanced and then letting anyone join in. A student told me about an advanced Argentine tango workshop he went to where half the women there weren’t able to do a proper boleo. Some didn’t know how to do it at all. If you promote a class as advanced, it should really have only advanced students. Allowing intermediate or beginners into the class isn’t fair to the real advanced dancers. If all schools started doing some of these things, it would make things a lot better for all.

Comments

  1. I love this post! This is the reason I got involved in the Black Belt Salsa system! For years it was all about patterns that I’d never remember, all the while I could barely hold my own through a basic CBL. And let’s not even talk about how long it took me to learn styling. I danced for years like my right arm was in a cast! Now I have a studio and I teach my ladies simple styling from day one and I teach my guys how to put different moves together. Its awesome!
    However, as far as burning copies of music, I can’t agree w you there. Dance studios could wind up biting big financial penalties for doing that because of music license issues. They should just give students their playlists and let them purchase the music themselves. Unless they have some sort of arrangement where they can legally sell the music themselves.