Ballroom and social dance studios offer several different services for various demands and/or needs, and demystifying what those lessons or services are can help you, as a new student, get the best value from any dance studio's offers (and gain insight on what we do at our studio). The following are the general services offered in this industry for new students...
Services Typically Offered by Studios
Private lessons or classes - these are one-on-one instruction services, e.g. one instructor and a student or studying couple. This is, by far, the fastest and most effective method of learning to dance. The vast majority, if not all, of social or ballroom dance studios offer this key service. It follows this is also the primary source of any dance studio's income, and has the most overhead associated with it. Often times a private lesson can run anywhere from 20 minutes, half an hour, 45 minutes (the industry norm in Cleveland and Ohio, as well as across the US) and hours. After one or several introductory lessons, the cost for private lessons can increase significantly, mainly due to the aforementioned overhead. It is not unusual to see costs of $120 or more for a single private lesson at the bigger chain dance studios, but can be less with independent schools and individual instructors.
Also, one should note that dance schools have different ideas about the length of a lesson. Some practice on a 40 minute (45 minute) schedule, and others practice on a 55 minute (hour) schedule. Some practice in increments of 1/2 lessons. This is something to note in terms of value, as well.
Group lessons or classes - there is one instructor for a group of people, teaching step patterns or figures, or aspects of one dance or technique (e.g. hip motion in a Latin dance). The overhead is generally quite low for this service and costs can range from "free" (if purchased with a package of private lessons), to $20 or so, and possibly higher, depending on the class and studio. Generally the class is 40 to 55 minutes long (depending on the school and their scheduling practices). Group lessons can be a good supplement to skills learned in a private lesson, but difficult to gain any strong or automatic skills in, if taken on their own. (It can happen, but usually over a very significant amount of time. You can compare this to your speed of learning in school in a class room vs. a private tutor.)
Dance studios are not unique in this service. Many schools offer such classes to the general public, and many dance venues and social clubs also offer these services for the same or better rates, and in some cases higher, depending on the venue. Either establishments can offer classes taught by a specialist in the subjects offered.
Practice Parties and social dances - Although considered "classes" in some studio advertising, they are essentially open-dances. Many ballroom dance schools have in excess of 2,000 sq. ft. of dance space - although that doesn't have to be typical (remember most social dance settings are not necessarily on large dance floors). In such a space, one can hold weekly or bi-weekly dances, and more often than not, are open to the general public. Instructors may or may not be required to attend these gatherings. Costs for these can range from "free" if one is a student at that studio on a private lesson package, to a $10 to $15 cover charge.
However, again, dance studios are not unique in this service. Many social dance clubs offer regular social dances and they can be quite large and in decent venues, and cost no more than noted above. For instance, in Cleveland, our local amateur dancer association offers a monthly class, including a group lesson for under $10 with a qualified instructor. This is one of many I know of in Cleveland, OH.
(What I consider to be a good and balanced article on the cost of ballroom dancing can be found here: http://www.examiner.com/article/the-cost-of-ballroom-dancing-an-honest-approach-to-the-question.)
It is useful to note that in advertising, the services above can often lumped together into a general term "classes" or "lessons" in an effort to make their offer appear more appealing and attractive to a new prospective student. I have seen some cases where the value of a deal is "boosted" and made to look significantly higher than what its actual value is. For instance, a $480 value, may in fact be broken down into 5 "lessons" which would be 2 half private lessons ($120 total), another 2 "lessons" which is are group classes (but marked at the same rate as a private) and another "lesson" which is really a practice party or social dance (again marked at the same private lesson value).
Is this bad business practice, or purposeful intent to mislead? I can't really say so. This form of advertising isn't any different than a cable company offering exceptionally low cost internet service, to then find it has a data cap or very low speeds. My own point for bringing this up is more to indicate it can be a bit difficult to determine the best value for your money when you are trying to compare services and value from the various offerings from dance studios, strictly on a "value of money saved" or "deal" basis. So, I offer that the real important thing to be aware of is the fact that no one learns to dance in one or two easy lessons. Like learning how to drive a car (as an example), one did not just sit behind the driver's seat and go, we hope. It took months of regular learning and practice to navigate and handle a car. Dancing is similar in that it starts with basic skill and expands on that with time and practice. So, if you are looking to gain any level of competence, understand it is a "time" proposition.
Of course, there are other aspects to consider as well; experience, knowledge (typically determined by certifications), recommendations, and so on. I personally believe the actual value "is how affordable dancing will be beyond the special?" So, consider the on-going regular costs of the studio outside of the initial "deal", accordingly.
Rhythm & Grace Ballroom Dance Studio primarily offers services with me, and my introductory package is more of a "get acquainted" opportunity to determine if I am a good teacher for you, and if this ballroom dancing-stuff is a good fit and something you would like to get better at. Should you decide "yes" to the above, I am not that much more per lesson.
I structured the studio in such a way as to minimize any overhead passed on to my students so they can spend less and get more out of their dancing. At present, I do not offer practice parties primarily because I feel that dancing is best done "outside" at the many venues and events put on by dance venues. I personally feel many studios can tend to make their school more of a "social club" and I cannot say that system really benefits a student who desires to learn social dancing. There is so much more opportunity and reward to get out and meet new people and enjoy the skills they have learned, out in the real social dance world.
I do not presently offer group classes, outside of advanced dance workshops, but may likely begin offering group lessons, however, as demand for such becomes apparent in our area.
To sum up, I hope the information that I provided will help you navigate the offers out there as you begin dancing, and can approach the subject a little more educated. Feel free to contact me with any questions. If you are in Cleveland, perhaps you might even consider giving my studio a try.
Wishing you luck,