What could be better than a free salsa class? Sometimes, it’s a salsa class that’s reasonably priced! For starters, sometimes you get what you pay for. This doesn’t mean all free classes are sub-par quality, but they might be. There are also so-called “free classes” that aren’t free at all. These are the classes that might be offered early in the night at a club, but you may still have to pay a cover charge, feel like you owe the instructor a generous “donation” even if it’s not clearly stated, or there may be a minimum drink requirement. Plus, the odds of you spending money on drinks and food when you’re at a club is so high, it’s often worth the effort of offering a “free class.”
Exceptions aside, what about those free classes that truly are free? They might be offered at a community center by someone looking to give back or improve their skills as an instructor. These might sound like the ultimate freebie, but watch out. Poor quality of both instruction and your fellow dancers might make these free classes worth every (lacking) penny.
How We Perceive Worth
Even a great instructor with the best intentions offering a free class can’t control the quality of your fellow dancers. As humans, we often don’t know the price, value or worth of things intuitively—we consider our past experiences and comparative prices (if applicable) to help us gauge costs. We’re also suckers for marketing and for perceiving something as having a higher value if it’s rarer (diamonds, anyone?). In other words, how we value things is largely manipulated by others.
Unfortunately, we also automatically perceive free things as having no worth. If they had a worth, there would be a price that reflects that, right? We don’t respect things, including dance classes, which come too easily. The same goes for the world of dating. Nothing worthwhile comes easily, which is why we’re so smitten with playing just the right amount of hard to get.
We want to think we put in some effort to win a prize, not that it’s being handed out to everyone. After all, who really wants a participation trophy if we know that’s what it is?
So, Just Skip the Free Classes?
Not necessarily. Feel them out and do your best to block out your natural intuition to consider it “worthless.” Treat this class just like you would a paid class. That includes showing up on time, treating the experience and everyone sharing it with you with respect, and learning everything you can from the class. You might notice that the classes have a high turnover, the instructors don’t seem as organized as paid classes, or that the skill level you’re used to and want isn’t quite there. In almost every case, none of this is the fault of the instructor—and it can’t be controlled by him or her.
The instructor might very well be the best teacher you’ve ever had. Consider them carefully, and ask yourself if this is an opportunity to learn and better your practice. If you need some motivation to make the most of these classes, keep in mind that free classes often don’t stick around for long. There’s the rarity you might need to see this free class as the value-riddled gem it is.
Create the Worth for Yourself
You can always step up to the plate and ask the instructor if they accept donations, or if there’s another way you can show appreciation for such a gift. For example, helping to prep or clean up, offering help with PR efforts, or any other barter you can offer is an excellent way to spread good karma and get more involved in your local salsa community. This might even be the platform that takes you from student to teacher! Grow, don’t exploit, and you might be surprised at just how valuable this experience is.
If you’re the one considering offering a free class, tread carefully. You don’t want your students to view your efforts as lacking value. Instead, if your goal is to really offer an affordable option, offer a sliding scale or a low donation based class. Even one dollar can make a class seem infinitely more valuable and interesting. Try out different prices and approaches until you find the best fit for you, and the optimal avenue to give back.