How Ballroom Studios Typically Work
Time and time again, I have heard comments from wary students that go something like this:
“I went to Studio X and took their $35 special, and as soon as it was finished, the price for the next package of lessons jumped up to $200 [or $2000, or whatever]. They really reel you in with that introductory price and then stick it to you after you’re hooked…”
Perhaps this isn’t you. If it isn’t, you probably don’t really need the information on this page, unless you’re just curious about what my response is.
In person, I feel it’s most appropriate to honor the feelings of the person with the concern. On a webpage, though, let's speak a little more candidly.
First off, studios are in business to make a profit, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Second, most consumers like to get a deal, and there’s nothing wrong with that, either.
Perhaps the disconnect is when a consumer feels that the deal price is all they’ll ever want to pay for the product or service being offered. It’s okay to feel that way, but it’s not okay to condemn the product/service provider for charging their standard rates/fees on a day-to-day basis.
Are studios really trying to “hook” unsuspecting folks into depleting their life savings for a year of dance lessons? I can’t speak for all of them, but I’m certain that the reputable ones have far less nefarious plans.
The bottom line is that dance studios are expensive places to run. Square footage in a good location with pleasing amenities and good parking. Running the A/C at 68 degrees for 10-12 hours a day - imagine doing that at home and what it would do to your electric bill, especially for 1500, 2500, or 4000 square feet needing cooling. Personable, skilled, well-trained staff who, like most employees, insist on being paid. And all the extras – sodas and snacks at their events, administrative support, fees for the privilege of playing music in their facility, etc.
If you’re starting to think, “Hey, that’s their problem,” – well, no, it isn’t. If you enjoy taking lessons at a place with all the amenities, you have to be prepared to pay for the amenities. Some hotels have a “free” breakfast buffet and a lazy river; others have a vending machine and not even a kiddie pool. You get to choose which one you sleep in, and there will almost certainly be a difference in the price you pay and the experience you have.
So it comes down to two basic things. One, studios are probably giving you a first-timer break off their regular rates because they sincerely want you to give them a try, and they’ve learned what price point makes it feel like less of a gamble for you. Two, if you really dig it and really want to continue enjoying their service, their staff, their atmosphere, and their amenities, then you’re going to need to join the club called “paying what everybody pays because this is what it costs.”
If that just isn’t feasible for you, some studios may offer packages at smaller price points, which usually consist of fewer services, but still good instruction (i.e., fewer private lessons than you wanted, or group classes and parties only, etc.). Your level of participation will be up to you and what you can reasonably afford. Being a member of a reputable ballroom dance studio is an experience like no other, and if you have the means, I encourage you to enjoy the rewards! Just keep in mind that no one expects you to take out a second mortgage just so you can take ballroom dance lessons - so don’t do it! Take group classes for a while if you need to. Make studio friends with whom you can practice at outside events. Etc.
And lastly, go with your gut. One studio can be pricey and perfectly ethical. Another studio could have the lowest rates in town and have everything you feel you want. Or you could get that weird feeling at the pit of your stomach from either. It doesn’t matter if I have the wallet for a Rolex or a Timex; if the people running the place make me feel uncomfortable, suspicious, or pressured, I’m not buying there. Ballroom dancing is fun. It is joyful. Do business with people, in places, that make you feel that way, too.