5 Tips for Learning to Dance on a Budget – An Article by Kelly Rice

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dollars and Cents

Okay, so the economy is not doing so well, your 401K has tanked, and you are counting every penny you can hold on to.  Believe it or not, this can be the perfect time to go out and learn how to dance.  Below I am posting an article written by Kelly Rice, a local freelance writer and friend of Ritmo Bello, who approached me with some ideas for learning to dance on a budget.  I hope you enjoy her article and feel free to leave any comments you have on this post.  

John ;-)



5 Tips for Learning to Dance on a Budget – An Article by Kelly Rice Kelly Rice

If your finances have recently gone through an adjustment, chances are, like me, you have come to find that many things you enjoyed before you simply can’t afford anymore and have placed them under the list of “unnecessary expenditures.”  With an unprecedented drop in the US economy, it’s only natural that we are going to reprioritize our spending, but things that bring us joy in times of financial stress, especially those that don’t have to contribute to our monetary anxiety, shouldn’t be ignored.

Dancing is one of them.

Studies suggest that dancing can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, increase flexibility and fitness levels.  Like other sports, dancing releases endorphins which can make a person feel better, creating a great outlet for any pressing economic unease.  No matter your age or experience, dancing is something that can benefit your mind body and soul and believe it or not, it is possible to do it without draining your wallet.

With that said, here are a five tips that can help make dancing a realistic and affordable adventure regardless of your personal budget: 

1.  Jump in and Get Involved: Take Group Classes

While certain dances like Ballroom dancing are out of reach for us mortals who can’t or aren’t willing to spend all our extra money on $100/hour lessons, weekend competitions that require plane rides, hotel fees and entry fees and sequined outfits, there are ways you can avoid spending a lot of money while still transforming yourself into a good dancer.

Numerous dance studios provide group lesson for about $8-15/hour.  Usually purchasing a package will allow you to receive a discount.  Some examples of San Diego-based studios that offer great deals are: Culture Shock, Champion Ballroom and Cheek2Cheek Dance studio just to name a few. 

If Dance studios are still too much of an expenditure, try checking out your local YMCA University or Community College, where in San Diego semester-long classes are as cheap as $20/unit.

Group classes are great if you are not yet comfortable enough to go out and brave it on the dance floor.  Introduce yourself to the teacher and other people in your class.  Knowing that you will be showing up tells them that you care and they’ll hold you more accountable when you miss a class, keeping you inspired to keep coming.

Average Monthly Cost: $50 (based on two lessons per week)

2.  Get involved in the Community

While taking lessons (especially private lessons) are usually the most efficient and most helpful way to get started, money can often be an obstacle.  If taking even group classes a few times a week isn’t viable for you, look for community colleges or YMCA venues for special deals on group classes.  Take advantage of special club nights where a lesson is often included in the reasonable cover price of $10.00, $8.00 or, if you get there early enough, it’s often free! This is a chance to meet other dancers both new and seasoned and then by all means stay after the lesson to practice your newly acquired skills!

Meetup.com is an excellent place to stay on top of new and established lessons, clubs and venues.  Registering and joining specific dance groups means you will be regularly notified via e-mail when those types of events and special classes are being planned.

Average Monthly Cost $40 (based on going out twice weekly)

3.  Practice Everywhere

In front of the mirror, in line at the grocery store, with a friend or with someone you’ve just met, the only way to develop that muscle memory is to repeat basic steps, movements and patterns until they become as natural as walking.  Sure you might look silly when you spin out of your cubicle seat or cha cha your way to grab your drink at Starbucks, but you’ll be the envy of your friends when they finally get to see you on the dance floor.

Don’t be afraid to ask people to practice with you, as well.  While you start picking up a new dance you are bound to meet people who would love to show you a few moves, even if they aren’t a teacher.  Maybe he/she can help you in an empty corner of a dance venue next to the people who aren’t dancing.  Who cares if they watch you.  Learn to tune other people out.

Average Monthly Cost: $0  (if you need space, most studios will let you practice for $5)

4. Watch other Dancers

Seriously.  Whether you are perched at a seat at the bar with a mojito in hand watching Mr. Fancy Pants you so envy spin the brunette beauty you dream about being good enough to dance with, or just sitting at home watching youtube videos, there is a lot you can get out studying other dancers.  Like a surfer watching waves or an NBA player watching a basketball game, there are thousands of combinations out there and no way to ever know all of them, so why not learn from others and benefit from watching them.

The advantage of watching live dancers is that you can pick and choose who you want to watch at the literal blink of an eye.  Are you interested in the polished look of the teacher from the lesson earlier in the evening or are you intrigued by the guy in the corner who seems to be inventing his own movements, possibly a fusion from another type of dance?  Learn from other peoples mistakes and see how they recover from an attempted spin or move that went awry.  You can also look at the dancers and see who you’d like to dance with in the future.  It doesn’t take long to tell who is out there to dance and have fun with anyone, who is serious about only dancing with a certain partner.

While watching live dancing is probably more exciting than studying videos, the advantage of the latter is that you can watch dancers on video whenever you want.  A lot of dance teachers out there have great instructional clips online.  Another pro about videos is that you can pause, rewind and replay as many times as you want.  If you are a visual learner or trying a new move you cant quite understand, this approach certainly beats paying for a professional to explain it to you. 

Total Monthly Cost $0

In that vein, however, sometimes there is no substitute for a few classes with a professional to give you a “leg up.”

5. Set up a Trade. 

If you have a skill that you can trade for dance lessons, what better way to get great one-on-one classes with professional teachers.  Maybe he/she needs a new business plan, a website, legal advice, professional studio photos, nutrition help, a costume design, etc.    If you have a trade-able service, market it!  Chances are there are teachers who are also unable to pay for a service that you can provide them.  Private classes are amazing chances to get one-on-one instruction, correct bad habits, improve posture and balance, and expedite your progression as a dancer. 

Total Cost: Depends on the trade

Sure there are cons to dancing.  As in any physical activity, sweating is unavoidable and the occasional heel stab or mistaken turn that ends up in a bumper car-like collision can be uncomfortable, but compared to the multitude of health-benefiting pros, they are quite little in the big picture of things.  Dancing is a life-long investment you can enjoy at any age.  Once you begin the dance journey you might surprise yourself how much pleasure it can bring to your life.  An observer might see you simply moving your body and smiling, but to you the outside world momentarily ceases to exist as you experience flashes of dancing bliss.

About the Author:

Kelly Rice

Kelly Rice is a freelance writer and web designer, health coach, and substitute teacher.  She has her Masters of Fine Arts from California College of the Arts and since then has lived and worked abroad in Uruguay, Argentina and Puerto Rico.  Recently she moved back to San Diego and is enjoying learning to dance salsa.  When not writing, teaching, coaching or designing websites, she likes dancing zouk lambada, reading good fiction, cooking and contributing to the CouchSurfing Project. 


The views expressed in this article are strickly those of the contributing writer and not necessarily those of Ritmo Bello.  Your comments and opinions are welcome on this post.  Thanks!


John F. Bello

Meet John ;-)

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