Saturday, September 29, 2012

Getting the Most from your Arthur Murray Dance Package

My wife, Blanka, and I have been dancing at the Arthur Murray studio in Montclair, NJ for a little less than a year. It all began as a birthday present from her of a few private lessons, but it has grown into an important part of our life and growth within the Montclair community.

Put simply, the people and staff of the dance studio are wonderful. We have met so many people from different backgrounds that we otherwise would never have met. Our instructors, Gregory and Emma, are simply the best. They are fantastic at communicating quickly and clearly, and giving us maximum value in each 40 minute lesson.

If you are also interested in learning to dance through the Arthur Murray system, or you are in the process of comparing studios, here are a few of the things we have learned that will help you maximize your enjoyment, progress, and value of your purchase.
  • Buy a package of lessons if you can afford it. It helps lower the total cost and increases your commitment to continuing.
  • Stay an informed consumer, and manage your package to make sure you are learning the dances you want. Ask questions and give feedback. You're paying a lot of money to the studio, make sure you feel that you are getting your money's worth.
  • At the same time, I can't emphasize enough how helpful it has been for me to spend entire private lessons just on the basics of framing and leading that are fundamental to every dance. Creating a connection with another person on the dance floor is probably the best part of dancing! Don't cheat yourself out of it by making the mistake of focusing on memorizing steps. That will come at its own pace. The body awareness of your dance frame and the 'other' awareness of your lead (or follow) skills are the most important benefits of dancing - they will extend far into other parts of your life.
  • Take advantage of all the free training that Arthur Murray studios give you. Attend at least one group lesson and practice party a week.
  • Come early to your lesson and warm up. Practice time is also free! This is an important benefit that I don't see a lot of students taking advantage of. You'll get more out of your lesson time if you've warmed up and practiced a bit on your own beforehand.
  • Keep a dance journal. We were told that more serious students did this, and now that we do it also, we can see the benefits. It really helps to review what you've learned, and writing out the ideas by hand helps you remember them better. We haven't got to the point of videoing our steps, but it could happen!
  • Make friends and have fun. You are there to have fun, right? Moving to music is a pure, visceral joy. Everyone else is also there to have fun. Smile at all your dance partners in group lessons. Our studio is blessed with a diverse student body, and I think mutual encouragement is important to keeping everyone coming.

I hope your studio does not pressure you to participate in additional activities. These balls, festivals, showcases, or competitions are completely extra - do them if they make sense to you, at your comfort level. Don't respond to any high-pressure sales tactics, and if you experience such tactics from your instructor or the studio owner tell them directly that it is inappropriate when you've already committed to spending thousands of dollars with them. (I'm saying that I've experienced anything like this at our studio, but I have read some horror stories on the web...)

Tomorrow, Blanka and I dance in our first "Freestyles" and we are thrilled to do it, having passed up several earlier opportunities that were available to us. Now we are ready, and now we will have fun. We've geared up, bought some extra 'bling' for each of us and we're looking forward to showing off our skills and getting some constructive feedback on our progress. It is going to be a great, fun day! I hope you have a lot of fun days during your dance experience, and I hope these tips will help you.