How could a free salsa class possibly be a wrong choice? Numerous studies have shown that (surprise!) humans don’t value anything that’s free. Even if a class has a single dollar attached to it, suddenly it’s more valuable. Beyond the value aspect, it’s a lot easier to skip a free class even if you’ve signed up and committed to going. That might not sound like it will impact you as a student, but it will. Do you want to be the only one to show up to a class, or feel awkward with just one or two other people attending? Of course not!
Obviously, there are many more risks as a teacher. You might think offering a free class is a great way to get new students and let them test out your studio. You may think giving free classes is a fantastic way to give back to your community. New teachers often consider it an avenue for becoming better instructors. While all of these are true, that doesn’t mean much when your students don’t show up, don’t value the class, or don’t respect your time.
Giving It Away
This doesn’t mean all free classes are poor quality or won’t sustain. There are certainly exceptions, and in the salsa world we’ve created a loophole. Classes are often offered for “free” at salsa clubs and salsa nights. You may or may not still have to pay the cover and/or a drink minimum, but those are truly fees you’d be paying anyway. It’s often the best of both worlds. Students get free classes, they’re likely to show up anyway if they planned to dance that night, the club owners might draw a bigger and earlier crowd, and the instructor usually gets paid via a cut of cover charges while also getting in some teaching practice.
Still, that’s not really a free class. A free class doesn’t come with fringe benefits like a club afterward, cover charge or drink minimum paid. Truly free classes are very risky. If it takes place in a studio, that’s a lot of overhead. Studios are expensive to operate! In many cases, well-meaning teachers ultimately opt for a discount class or donation-based class because those consistently get more students in the door than with a free class.
For anyone looking for a free class, you still have options. There are many online videos (psst, like the ones we feature) and even live instruction options that you can score for an affordable rate or free. Some teachers offer Skype lessons, and taking a video class can be much more comfortable for salsa dancers who are overwhelmed or nervous in a group setting. Group classes aren’t for everyone. In some cases, a potential student might not live anywhere near a salsa class or doesn’t have a schedule that fits with local studios.
Don’t write off any type of class, in person or virtual, just because it’s free or seems suspiciously low cost. Of course the price of the traditional studio class goes up in metro areas because supply is meeting demand. You’ll be paying a lot less in a rural area with a single struggling studio than in the big city! However, you’ll also want to think about not just quality of instruction, but quality of the atmosphere, when picking your class.
When Free Shows
Sometimes it’s a bit obvious that a class is free. There’s not the same quality of lighting, music system, crowd and even instructors. You don’t always get what you pay for with salsa (but sometimes you do!). If you’re not loving the environment, instructor, and the majority of the other students, it’s unlikely you’ll stick around. Free classes can have a high turnover rate, and the lack of quality of the atmosphere can have a lot to do with it.
There are some students who really shine with free classes. They’re frugal, financially savvy, and can get past that mental hump of thinking free equals sub-par. These students are few and far between, but they can really make the most of the opportunities around them. Anyone can increase how frugal they are, and it’s definitely worth practicing. Check out the free classes in your area, keep an open mind, but also remember there are affordable options online, too!