Dance Lessons Then & Now – Some Differences

The question, “What is something in an old dance studio that people wouldn’t recognize today?” comes from As someone who’s been around dance studios for a long time, I’ll give it a shot. Let me think way back to the early 1970s when I began taking dance lessons and eventually started teaching at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in NYC.  

Here are some of the differences in ballroom dance lessons then & now.

Lesson length

Where the ballroom dance industry standard of today is a 45-minute lesson, that was not the case in the old days.  Lessons were 1 hour which included a 5 minute turn-around time (so basically it was 55 minutes long with a 5-minute potty or smoke break…yes we smoked).


This is the big difference between then and now.  To begin, in the main ballroom no one would consider going to a music machine and changing the dance.  There was a sequence that played and we all worked around it. It consisted of two of each dance beginning with Foxtrot. It played without stop until the final song which was the Paso Doble.  Didn’t need to ring a bell to let us know the lesson was over, just waited for the Paso Doble.  

So, there’s that.  Not so weird, I don’t think. However, I’m pretty sure it’s been a while since a ballroom dance studio used one of these.

dance lessons then & now we used a reel to reel tape player
Reel to Reel Tape Player

Check out this post by Paul Rance, “How to Use Reel to Reel Tapes“.

You might think that it would get boring hearing the same music hour after hour, day after day. To a certain degree, that’s true, but it was also comforting. For one thing, you knew where you were in the lesson without watching the clock. Further, you didn’t have to stress about other instructors changing the music. As a matter of fact, the repetition was soothing and helped make a day of teaching go more smoothly.

I hope you enjoy reading the Dance Safari post, “A Great Ballroom Dance Teacher is a Gem” to find out the secret to finding the best teacher.

ballroom dance lessons then & now still need a great teacher
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