Group Classes vs. Private Instruction vs. Video Dance Lessons

The Pros & Cons of the top 3 methods for learning how to dance

Group vs private vs dance lesson video instruction

Before jumping right in and taking dance lessons you should take a few minutes to read up and understand your options a bit better. You may or may not be aware, but there are many different ways of learning and many different situations where it can take place. There are three main ways people learn to dance:

  • Private Lessons
  • Group Lessons
  • Dance Lesson Videos

Each option has pros and cons, some more than others, and you will find the information below to be a valuable resource as you make your decision.

Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of Private Lessons, Group Lessons and Dance Lesson Videos, starting with the most affordable, yet least effective option:

Group Lessons

Group dance lessons usually consist of one or two instructors and anywhere from about six to a hundred people. In group dance lessons there is no standard for minimum or maximum class size. The group setting differs from private lessons and dance lesson videos in that the information is general and not specifically tailored to your dancing as an individual.

The pros

  • Price:    Group lessons (this doesn't include dance workshops) are often more affordable than private lessons or videos and can run anywhere from about $3 to $25 per class (in a club) and usually there are no contracts or long-term commitments. In a ballroom, they're often part of a package and not sold separately; however, if they do offer them separately they'll run anywhere from about $5 to $50 per group class.

  • Socializing:   The social benefits include meeting other people interested in social dancing, getting a chance to dance and practice with a number of partners throughout your evening, not being the center of attention or having an instructor watching every move you make, and having the ability to watch and learn from the others in the class. Interacting with other members of the class is another perk to group lessons and can often become a decent option for a Friday or Saturday night date.

  • It's Everywhere:   To your left, right and in front people are there dancing the same dance and you may be able to pick up what you missed by watching those around you. You may even be able to ask someone other then the instructor if you fall behind.

The cons

  • Low Success Rate:   Although the most common option for beginning dancers, group lessons often leave students more confused and with lower confidence at the end of each class. The lessons often begin with an overview of the dance to be taught and quickly lead directly into "okay now let's try it together". First time dancers are quickly lost and it takes the instructor a while to get to you and lend you the crucial one-on-one support you need to get back on track. Try your best not to lose track again as you will likely begin to irritate the overwhelmed instructor who will only take longer and longer to get around to you. If you do manage to get and stay on track beware of other students looking to you for advice, slowing your progress as you stop to point out where they have gone wrong.

  • The 'Switch-a-Roo':   So you're back for round two and have done some practicing only to find that the instructor is teaching a different dance tonight or different steps altogether. That's right, this is a very common practice with instructors of group lessons and it's intended to give you something to work on and feel good about (as everyone wants something "new"), but keep in mind that you'll likely forget the previous week's lessons and be lost as to how to put it all together. Group lessons are a great way for instructors to pick up new students as the material is often presented in a way that will confuse people into believing the only way they can learn it is by taking private lessons (don't forget, this is a profession too).

  • Teacher Skill:   There are no true requirements for teaching group classes. In ballrooms, it's not uncommon for instructors to be teaching group classes after only a day or two on the job. In clubs, you'll often find instructors who, just recently, were in the class as a student. Club owners are notorious for finding "good dancers" to teach their classes because they're a whole lot less to pay at the end of the night and they fill the "instructor" for their advertised "dance lessons start at 7pm." Other times, Some instructors are, or once were professional dancers, but this does not have anything to do with how they teach. The ability to properly convey the basic principles such as rhythm and timing is a talent in and of itself. Patience is a must when working with beginning dancers and some instructors simply do not have it. Seek out past or current students and ask them about the instructors the studio or club retains.

  • Practice:   Unless you have the rights to record your lessons on video, they're over once the instructor leaves and you will not be able to look back at the lesson and touch up on areas you may have missed. What you learned (correct or not) during the class is what you get and what you're going to be practicing from until the next time you're available for another lesson. That said, be sure to take mental notes of every possible element of instruction or you will likely find yourself very frustrated by time your second lesson comes around.

  • Convenience:   You're at the mercy of the studio or club's schedule for group lessons. They will not work around your schedule so be sure to clear those nights on the calendar. Can't make a class? Be careful, especially if your classes build on the previous lesson. In this case, missing one class could land you in spiral of confusion and anger.

  • Refunds:   Unheard of. If you go to a group lesson and determined it's not for you afterwards, you will not be given a refund. If you're at a ballroom and have purchased a package, you'll have to check the language in the contract to see what, if any, you're eligible for if you decide to stop your lessons.

Private Lessons

Private lessons usually consist of one or two students and one instructor. The private setting allows you to get tailored instruction to fit your dance styles, habits, or shortcomings. You can learn to dance in a relatively short period of time with private lessons if your budget will allow it and your instructor knows what he or she is doing. Private lessons are common in ballroom dance studios as well the freelance Swing, West Coast Swing, Country, and Latin circuits. You can also find freelance instructors in your area who often have an hourly rate that is less expensive than a local ballroom. There are many reasons people take private lessons, but whatever the reason, 'privates' can be extremely beneficial if you end up with the right instructor.

The pros:

  • Success:   Private lessons are what most beginner dancers perceive to be THE way to learn to dance, and they certainly have the potential to be very successful. In a one-on-one atmosphere you will be able to go at your own pace and stop the instructor to ask questions as you please. If you're lucky enough to find an instructor who truly knows how to 'teach' and isn't bound by studio constraints (how much they're allowed to teach you per hour), you will undoubtedly learn how to dance.

  • Convenience:   Most private lessons are scheduled in a studio at a time that best fits your schedule. It's often difficult to schedule privates in the early evening hours due to dinner breaks and group lessons. As for the top instructors, their availability is not so accommodating due to their schedule, so be sure book your times as early as you can and as far out as you can afford to ensure you're locked in.

  • Privacy:   Most people take private lessons so they can learn at their own pace and not have to worry about dancing or learning how to dance in front of others.

  • Dance Partners/Health:   Some people take private lessons strictly to have a partner to dance with in a social setting, while others do it for the health benefits, in the same way that people hire personal trainers at a gym to walk them through their daily workouts.

pros and cons of group classes, private lessons, and dance lesson DVDs Videos

The cons:

  • Price:   Point blank, they can get very expensive, ranging in price from $50 to upwards of $200 per hour, however most ballrooms or instructors have package deals where your average price per hour comes down quite a bit with a long-term contract. For those who take lessons regularly, compete and do exhibitions, it's not uncommon to spend tens of thousands (in many cases, much more) on private lessons.

  • Teacher Skill:   There are very few "teaching certifications" dance teachers can attain, so this one's a bit tricky. Beware! Being a good dancer has NOTHING to do with how someone can or does teach. Teaching is both a talent and a skill and the ability to properly convey the basic principles such as rhythm and timing as well as pieces like posture, footwork, hand & body positions is critical. Patience is a must when working with beginning dancers and some instructors simply do not have it. Seek out past or current students and ask them about the instructors talent as a teacher.

  • Practice:   Unless you have permission to record your lessons (some freelance instructors allow this), they're over once the hour is over and you will not be able to look back at the lesson and touch up on areas you may have missed. What you learned during the lesson is what you get. Be sure to take mental notes of every possible element of instruction or you will likely be only slightly more skilled on your second lesson then your first (what really happens is that you lose about half of what you learned).

  • Refunds:   Highly unlikely. If you purchase a $3000 package deal for 20 lessons and realize after your third that it's not working, you will most likely not be given a refund for the remaining difference. (Be sure to check before signing up). Be sure to read the language carefully to ensure your lessons are with a particular instructor instead of ANY instructor.

  • Different Instructors:   Unless you're going to an instructor on the side, most ballrooms or studios do NOT sell dance lessons with a particular instructor's name on them. You purchase the lessons through the ballroom/studio and they, in turn, employ the instructor. This gets tough when your instructor is on leave, is fired, or is no longer available to work with you (depends on what rules are in place). Your lessons are with the studio and they want you to "use 'em or lose 'em", if you will. On rare occasions (and if you're REALLY fortunate or demanding) you'll be able to specify (in writing) a particular instructor and clearly state the cancellation policy if he or she is no longer available.

Dance Lesson Videos

Group lesson vs private lessons vs dance lesson DVDs/videos

A third and increasingly more common approach to learning to dance is through dance lesson videos (DVDs). Though some of the social benefits are not present with learning by a video, or DVD, there are many other benefits that can be derived. First and foremost, you’ll get structure and documentation when you do it on your own. Second, you’ll be able to learn on your own time and set your own schedule. Third, you’ll be able to visualize and conceptualize the dancing as you go by looking at pictures or video of what you’re learning. When you first start out in dancing, you’ll be creating what’s called muscle memory.

For learning or reinforcing the basics the right way to pave a road for future learning, it’s best to have some type of reference material to go back to that has the exact information you’ll need on it. Learning on your own is much more affordable and less time- constrained than learning in either group lessons or private lessons, but it is best to use it as one type of instruction and not the only one. Supplement either private or group lessons with DVDs from a reliable instructor, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you feel confident in the dance world.

The pros:

  • Price:   Dance Lesson Videos range from about $10 (you often get what you pay for) upwards of $300-$500 for true mastery packages on individual dances or styles. When compared to group or private lessons, dance lesson videos are a much welcomed expense.

  • Convenience:   Once you receive your videos you will be able to watch them whenever you please, with or even without your partner if you need to touch up on a few concepts. A huge advantage over group or private lessons is that there's not a set time the lessons start nor a particular time they end, whether or not you 'get it'.

  • Location:   Great news! You won't have to spend time & gas to drive to the ballroom or club across town. Just move some tables and chairs aside and kick your dance lessons off as soon as you're ready.

  • Practice:   Once you finish your first lesson you will likely need some practice. With dance lesson videos you can just pop the DVD back in and skip ahead to where you are having trouble or the review section to go through a mini-lesson of sorts. You also don't need your partner to do so.

  • Success:   This varies and you should always check reviews to ensure the instruction is solid and what you're looking for. As long as you purchased DVDs from a reputable instructor you should have no problem learning how to dance with DVDs. You can always pause, rewind and fast forward so you never have to miss a beat or ask the whole class to stop while you catch up. If you don't do your research and choose a DVD from an instructor who does not properly understand the overall concept behind teaching on DVD you will find yourself more frustrated than ever. The easiest and quickest way to check reviews is to visit amazon.com or E-bay.com and look for 'verified purchase' or 'Real Name' reviewers to weed out some of the 'made-up reviews'(see Shawn Trautman reviews on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Shawn%20trautman . When reading the reviews, think about what the reviewers are saying and visualize your own successes based on the objective parts of their reviews.

  • Money-Back Guarantee:   There's a reason most dance lesson videos don't offer a money-back guarantee: they'd go out of business. Only a handful of companies are confident enough in their product line that they offer a full money-back guarantee. At ShawnTrautman.com, the guarantee is simple, if you're not completely satisfied with your DVD, simply return it within 30 days (*to ensure intellectual property violations are limited, only one DVD can be opened on multi-packs to be eligible).

The cons:

  • Questions anyone?:   Your instructor is pre-recorded, you will not be able to directly ask a question. However if you choose a well made DVD such as those made by Shawn Trautman all your questions will be answered without having to ask. However if you do have a question you can contact Shawn via email or phone as he is often in the office. Make sure that if you do purchase DVDs somewhere else, someone is available to answer your questions.

  • DVD quality:   Not all DVDs are created equal: often times instructors will get their gear from the local department store, set up a tripod and film in the comfort of their own living room with poor lighting, audio and bad camera angles. Shawn Trautman's DVDs have all been filmed within a studio with proper lighting, professional audio mics, and multiple camera angles and have been professionally produced by a team of talented individuals.

  • Refunds:   99% of dance lesson videos are non-refundable once purchased unless there is some type of defect. This is because the return rate would be so high that the companies would go out of business or the instructors would lose money. Check out the company's return policy on their website and if you can't find one you can assume they do not allow returns. The return policy will also reflect the company's confidence in their products. Shawn Trautman DVDs are 'Success Guaranteed', meaning that you wont just be 'satisfied', you will have success or you can return them!

  • Shipping:   Be cautious when you purchase videos online as some companies only ship once a week (some every two weeks) and others may have the videos on back-order. All videos on ShawnTrautman.com are in-stock and ship same day Monday thru Friday. ShawnTrautman.com is directly overseen by Shawn himself under his company Dance Videos Direct which has maintained a Better Business Bureau A+ Rating for over 6 years.

Ready to Dance?

You've weighed the options, did your research and you are ready to begin taking dance lessons with Shawn's #1 Rated Dance Lesson Videos. Now you simply need to know where to start. You likely have a dance in mind such as West Coast Swing or the Country Two-Step so use the links below to find the videos right for you:

Shawn and Joanna Trautman Dance lesson Videos vs group and private lessons

Not sure which dance to start with?

Shawn has over 100 DVD packages to choose from so if you're not sure where to start that's okay, here are some recommendations:
If you are interested in Country Dancing check out the Country Western Starter Pack, the Two-Step Basics 3-Pack or Country Dance 101.
If you are interested in Ballroom Dancing check out the Ballroom Starter Kit or Waltz 101.
If you have no idea where to start Shawn recommends the Slow Dancing Starter Pack for beginners as it is a dance you will be able to utilize at any event and it is very easy to learn.

Questions?

Call us directly at 1-877-326-2301 Monday thru Friday 9am to 5pm.
Or reach us anytime during the week via email by clicking here.

Thank you for reading, we wish you the best of luck and hope to see you out on the dance floor!