Sometime ago, I received an email from the studio asking me to put a review on Yelp. I think this was a form thing that they do from time to time in the hopes of getting more positive vibes out there. They probably figure that I’ve been at the studio so long that I would have nothing but good things to say. Problem is that I’m nothing if not objective and any review I would have provided would contain the good, the bad and the ugly. I figure that would only be fair. But I never went through with it. Since I have a lull in actual dancing and felt the need to put something out there, I’ve decided to do my review here. This is a general summary of my impressions of working with the Famous Franchise.
- They are expensive, but they will teach you to dance – I guess this is the bottom line. I’ve seen a lot of students with all different levels of natural ability and they’ve all ended up being able to do something. Do they all end up as brilliant and beautiful dancers? No, of course not. But, given that a large percentage of the general public doesn’t know how to dance, they are ahead of the curve and will stand out among their non-dancing friends. And, they can turn out some real good dancers. Come in with some natural ability and interest and they will bring it out of you. Just remember, it ain’t cheap.
- You will meet a lot of nice people. This is going to be true of any studio. There is a natural bonding thing that happens among dance students. After all, we are all there for the same reason and we all know that it isn’t a cheap hobby so there are always things to talk about. And, when you see someone struggling, you can remember when you were there and it tends to bring out the supportive nature that most of us have. I’ve seen a lot of friendships develop and some of them will carry over outside the studio. It is a very good social outlet.
- You will probably like your instructor – but don’t get too attached. It is probably a combination of training and personality, but the instructors will generally go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Never underestimate the simply power of having several people at once greet you as you walk through the door. At times, I’ve felt like Norm from Cheers but it does go a long way towards creating a bond. There is something special about the student/teacher relationship especially when you are working one on one. It is easy (maybe too easy) to get attached to your instructor. The bad news is that unless they are an owner or competing, they probably aren’t going to last a long time. I think you can make a good living but only if you push and that can be physically demanding. Not to mention the hours suck and there is a lot of mandatory training. Just not something a lot of people end up doing as a career. Be prepared for multiple changes if you stay for any length of time.
- There will be all kinds of subtle pressure. OK, dancing is beautiful and special and fills my soul with happiness. But teaching dancing is a business and staying in business requires keeping students and getting them to do more. Take just one lesson a week, and they’ll push you to take more. Sign up for just a few dances, and they’ll push you to add new ones. Don’t want to do the events, they’ll push you to do Showcase. If you do Showcase, they’ll push you to do a solo routine. Eventually, they will start pushing you to do one of the larger events. None of this is evil and if you say No, they do back off – for the moment. Just be aware that they want your name on the dotted line for a whole bunch of lessons. Again, to be fair, you may find that you really enjoy showing off and you may find a dance that suits you and you may find that competitions are right up your alley. But, you will be pushed to do more.
- Use the group classes and parties. Some studios will charge by the class. At the Famous Franchise, these are considered part of the lessons you buy. If you don’t do the groups and practice parties, then you are missing part of the experience. The only positive hear is that you can do a group class every night even if you don’t have lessons every night so there is always a reason to go to the studio and see your friends. I suppose if you were only taking a lesson every other week and coming to all the group classes, they might take you aside and encourage you to take more lessons since you aren’t really supposed to be able to do that.
- Be prepared for forced fun and silliness. I don’t get this part totally. It could be that they need to break down your barriers to get you to do some of the technique you need to do. It may also be a way to help establish a bond between you and the studio. But, twice a year, they run a series of themed parties where you are encouraged to dress up and they will often have silly, dance related games as part of the process. It can be very elementary school like and some people really eat it up. If you are not inclined, there will be pressure to have fun. Again, you can say No and stay out of it but it can be difficult.
- You will get a chance to work with fabulous dancers. The Famous Franchise does produce its share of good dancers. A lot of them end up as coaches or traveling consultants so they go from studio to studio and you can get coaching lessons with them. (Yes, there is an extra cost) I will say that this is a mixed bag. A lot of times, the coach doesn’t know you and hasn’t seen you and so it takes time for them to see what they need to teach you. Also, if you don’t know the coach, you don’t necessarily know what they are good at so you may want help in Rumba from someone who competes in smooth. Not saying it won’t happen but you might not be getting the most out of the experience. My instructors have tried to pick appropriate dances. But you will also find that some people you will click with and some you will not. All in all, it is great to have the opportunity but all that glitters is not gold.
- It can be difficult to remain in a studio once you get out of Bronze. Unless you are at a studio with instructors who remain for a long period of time, the number who can actually teach Silver and above is limited. That can make it harder to advance especially in a smaller studio with a limited number of instructors as you’ll end up fighting for time. Tough when you want to compete and really need the time to get routines down. They are happy to take your money but just know that advancing in Silver and beyond may be much more difficult than getting through Bronze.
- If you compete, know that you are going to be pushed towards Famous Franchise events and that they are probably much more expensive than other comps. I say this based on what I’ve read about what other people have paid. I believe if you work with an independent instructor, that you have to pay something for them to attend. That gets rolled into the cost at the Famous Franchise. I know students who have competed at other events but that is at the discretion of the instructor you are working with.
Should you go with the Famous Franchise?
Well, I think that depends on your goals and your budget. For a couple looking to be able to dance socially and maybe meet some like minded people, I think it is a very good option. It is probably what they do best. If you are a performer and don’t have an opportunity to get on stage anymore, then it isn’t a bad option either. The Showcases give you that opportunity and they love people who do solos.
But, I really think that if your heart is set on competing and you are driven, then it isn’t the best place to be. Better to find an independent studio or instructor who you might be able to count on for a long term relationship. Also, you won’t have to deal with the subtle pressure to do all the silly things that you probably don’t have an interest in doing anyway.
See, I’m way too wordy to do a YELP review.