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Private vs. Group Lessons
Answers to frequently asked questions.


On this page, we answer the following:
When are private lessons warranted?
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Group class advantages (beside cost)
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Our overall opinion
Do you offer private lessons?
How much do you charge for private lessons?
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Why so expensive?
Can you recommend someone else?
Scheduling?
Pre-wedding advice
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Wedding first-dance tips
Are you available for doing a lesson before our big dance?
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Free advice to dance organizers
Private parties?

       


Related pages on our web site:
Upcoming dance classes (group classes)


Note: We will not be taking on any new private-lessons students until Fall 2010 at the earliest. We are out of town for the 2007-2010 academic years.

Frequently asked questions:

When are private lessons a reasonable idea?

Private lessons are a very expensive way to learn how to dance; they are much more expensive than group lessons. We think they only make sense if you are learning fast enough to warrant the cost difference. That is, if private lessons cost, say, 7 or 10 times as much as group classes, then you should be getting 7 or 10 times as much out of them. Which means that only rarely are private lessons sensible:
  • Private lessons offer a learning pace that is tuned to you in particular, which usually means a slightly accelerated learning pace over group classes. The more skilled you are, the more true this becomes. (At the absolute-beginner level, there is almost no difference between good group classes and private lessons, apart from the cost.) So for skilled dancers, private lessons are sometimes worth it. For highly skilled dancers, private lessons are definitely worth it.

  • If you have a lousy group-class instructor, private lessons will teach you more. But really, you are better off changing to a better group-class instructor first, and taking private lessons later if still necessary. Ahem, may we point you to our Upcoming Dance Classes schedule?

  • Private lessons are good for feeling what an excellent partner should feel like, because you get to dance directly with the instructor, who, in theory anyway, is pretty good at this stuff. Private lessons are also good for being coached on what you should feel like, since the instructor can give you feedback on a moment-to-moment basis.

  • Private lessons are good for working intensively on details after you have taken some group classes. Usually this involves the details of bedrock technique skills, and sometimes involves little details that go wrong in your leading (men) or following (women).

  • Private lessons are good for intensive pre-wedding polishing, especially after you have taken some group classes. In one or two private lessons, we can polish the little things that aren't fixable in a group class; work on styling (tuned for dancing in wedding clothes); and deal with "first dance" choreography -- how to pattern the moves across the floor to look good.

There are three other minor circumstance in which private lessons are reasonable: (a) Your schedule absolutely cannot accommodate any of the group classes being taught anywhere near you. (b) You wish to redistribute your wealth. We dance teachers are cheerfully willing to assist you in such altruistic endeavors. (c) You are in a desperate hurry. This last case should be extremely rare, because almost the only thing important enough to warrant emergency dance lessons is your own wedding, about which you presumably had some advance notice. 

Group classes have some advantages of their own, besides the lower cost:

  • Group lessons are considerably less intimidating and less exhausting for most people, because there isn't the constant, nonstop spotlight of the instructor's attention.

  • In group classes, you get a sense of the pace at which other people learn, which is reassuring enough that it helps most people learn faster.

  • The early phase of learning to dance simply requires lots of repetitions (in a context of clever and instructive progressions), to let the body acquire an automatic feel for the fundamentals. Doing simple stuff over and over is the very best way to master certain aspects at the beginning. While doing simple repetitions, there is no advantage to private lessons.

In our opinion, overall:

You should definitely take group lessons -- from us or someone else -- before you take private lessons anywhere. The cost-benefit ratio for private lessons is much more favorable after you have the basics under your belt. Of course, we recommend our own group classes (surprise!), but since our group classes are much better than anyone else's, in this case we're just giving you good advice. :-)

Do you offer private lessons?

We offer private lessons, but we have almost no time slots available. We try to reserve all of our tiny number of private-lesson time slots for folks who have already taken our group lessons, for several reasons:
  • It helps us allocate our tiny number of available private-lesson time slots by letting us give priority to someone.

  • We like to stuff you full of basic skills and knowledge at a low price (in our group classes), before we start polishing the details at an extremely high price (in our private lessons).

  • If you have taken our group lessons, we already know you and your dancing a bit, and you already know our dance terminology and teaching style a bit, so we can all be much more efficient in the private lessons.

  • We feel unethical teaching you group-class material at private lesson rates.

Since our group classes are nearly as good as private lessons at the Beginner level -- we're almost unique in that regard -- we recommend that you save the expensive private lessons for fine-tuning after you have learned the fundamental moves and technique skills in our group classes.

How much do you charge for private lessons?

For private lessons, we charge $125 per hour (60 minutes); 1 hour minimum. We do not teach half-hour lessons; sorry. The price is the same for 1 person or 2 people; higher for greater numbers.

This is among the very highest rates in the Boston area. Most dance teachers charge about $60 to $80 per "hour" (usually 45- to 55-minutes) these days. We do not mind at all if you take group classes with us and your private lessons with other folks, although we won't go so far as to recommend any particular other instructors.

Why so expensive? We charge so much for a few reasons:

  • We actually rent our dance space by the hour, and nearly half of your fee goes directly for the extra rent. (Sorry, there's usually no savings if you provide the space, because then we have to take travel time into account.)

  • Our private lessons are pretty darned good: tightly focused, somewhat intensive, extremely effective.

  • The lesson preparations -- yes, we actually do separate preparations for your private lessons -- and administrative back-and-forth usually add up to another hidden hour. Unlike lawyers, for example, we do not charge for that time.

  • Ken used to be a lawyer, and feels ridiculous charging so much less than lawyers do.

Note again that our group classes, vastly better than the average group classes, cost a mere $12 per hour or so. Hint, hint.

Can you recommend someone else?

There are many dance instructors in the Boston area, in virtually every category of dance. Almost all of them are excellent dancers, and a tiny number of them are excellent teachers (a completely separate category of skills).

We do not mind at all if you take group classes with us and your private lessons with other folks, or even if you skip us altogether! But, sorry, we will not go so far as to recommend any particular other instructors. (We used to, but since they never even thanked us, let alone returned the favor, we figured the heck with it.)

Scheduling: When do you offer private lessons?

In general, we are very flexible about day and time, as long as we can all synchronize. Of course, we cannot teach during our regular group classes -- and we do not schedule any private lessons during the first week of a new session of group classes -- so it's a good idea to check our schedule. (See Current dance classes and Upcoming dance classes). Our contact information is at the bottom of this page.

In general, we have extremely limited evening availability, but much more availability in the afternoons.

We are getting married. Will your group classes (Ballroom or Swing) teach us enough, or should we take private lessons?

First, congratulations on your upcoming wedding!

Our group classes will teach you almost enough. For your first dance at your wedding, you probably want something a little spiffier than the usual casual dancing, or at least some coaching on what to do when all eyes are watching. Some folks find it helpful to take one or two private lessons with us (or with any other instructor) after our group classes, for a little choreographic enhancement.

Are you available for giving the "freebie" lesson before our major dance event (campus or corporate)? If so, how much do you charge?

We are available for doing a 1-hour lesson (or more, or less, as you prefer) before major dances, either on campus or elsewhere. We charge modest prices for these events, beginning at $180 for non-profit events and ranging upward, depending on the particular organization and event, and travel requirements. For fees and details, please contact us.

Some free advice to organizers on how to offer such lessons, based on our experience in teaching them:

We know that you are tempted to offer the freebie lesson for perhaps one-half to one hour immediately before the music begins at your big dance. Easier logistics all around, right?

However, we have found that this scheduling usually makes your freebie lesson an almost complete waste of money, if your goal is to have people actually attend the lesson and learn something. This is because:

  • People arrive late to dances, not early. Almost no one arrives early enough for the lesson. We have taught lessons with zero or two people.

  • People are inhibited by the folks standing around NOT wanting to learn anything, and are distracted by the talking and drinking going on around them. The freebie lesson is best held in a place physically separated from all the non-dancers.

  • At your dance event, people are in a Big Dance mood -- a mood of glitter and glamor, a mood for relaxing and having a good time. They are all dressed up and feeling fabulous. They are not in the mood -- let along in the clothes! -- for the completely different mindset of taking a dance lesson.

The one good thing about this standard scheduling is that it is popular with guests, and plays a beneficial psyhological role. Even though almost no one will show up for the lesson, your guests will be aware that they could have done so. And somehow that puts everyone in more of a dancing mood, even if not a single soul actually attended the lesson.

However, we think the best solution is to hold the freebie lesson on a different night from the big dance event itself, preferably exactly one night before the dance. In keeping with the pre-festive atmosphere, the lesson can be in a far less formal setting than the dance -- even a cafeteria or similar space will do.

You will get a larger turnout to the lesson, and the lesson will have a much better atmosphere -- it becomes something like a mini-social event of its own, an informal Pre-Big Dance unwinding and bonding event. It should be exactly the day before the main event, or two at the most; any more than that and people will forget everything. Keep in mind that most big dance events are on a Saturday night, and most people start to get in a festive mood a day early anyway, so the Friday night before the dance is usually pretty good for the freebie lesson. And if people are doing something major on a Saturday night, they probably are not doing something else major on that Friday, so it's available on their calendars. This is especially true for exactly those folks (couples) who are most likely to show up for a freebie lesson.

Do you offer group lessons at private parties, fraternity parties, sorority parties, wedding receptions? If so, how much do you charge?

Sorry, we no longer do these sorts of private parties. To be candid, this is because of the frustrations in trying to teach a genuinely good dance lesson in the middle of a good party. The atmosphere at a good party is just too different from the atmosphere that makes for a good dance class, that is, one in which everyone is willing to concentrate for a full hour on mastering new dance skills. If people don't learn something substantial, we feel we haven't given a good lesson. We hate not giving a good lesson! We mean it when we say on our web site's home page: "We are fiercely dedicated to good teaching as well as good dancing."



Questions? Comments? Suggestions?
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