Arthur Murray Dance Studio of Dallas and Plano Manager’s Forum: What is a check-out and why is it important?

You’ve all heard the buzz in the studios about the upcoming Medal Ball celebration. Your teacher has probably mentioned checking out to you. This week, we decided to ask our esteemed panel of managers for an explanation of what all the fuss is about. Read on…


Sarah: Think of Checkouts like a final exam and graduation mixed with a quality-control check and coaching! Wow, sounds like a lot of great stuff doesn’t it?! IT IS! 

   Ever want to know how you are doing? Would you like to keep track of exactly what you’re learning and why? Do you ever want to know WHEN you’ll actually OWN what you’ve been learning!? Checkouts do exactly that, plus a graduation celebration when you’re through!

   From the day you stepped in to the studio, your teachers have been preparing you for the real world. In order to do that, you must learn patterns that will help you navigate in any social situation you’ll find yourself in. Our Chart is compiled of a list of patterns chosen and ordered by a team of “Jedi Masters of Dancing” that are constantly working to know what’s cutting-edge socially. (I guess I have a lot of Star Wars examples (-: ) From lesson number one, you are being taught exactly what you need and in an ingenious order to make life easy for you. The teachers will prepare you to be able to show the patterns to a third party (your supervisors/managers in the studio who have had many many years of experience learning, teaching, and preparing students of their own for this checkout). You will show the pattern without the aid of your teacher, so don’t miss your group classes! The supervisor/manager will then give you feedback and a couple pointers on how to make it even better/easier.

Once you have completed your checkout you are signed up for an honor dance at our graduation party called MEDAL BALL. This is a social, congratulatory, fun event centered around your achievement!

   Why is this so valuable? Think about school with no tests. Or a road trip with no billboards or mile markers. All of a sudden, what was intended to be a growth enriched and progressive process becomes aimless and ineffective. And if we are being honest with ourselves, we all grow when we have to study, press in, and be under pressure to complete something. Just like when you clean your house for special company versus just picking it up slightly when you get home after a long day of work and no one to impress. The outcome is completely different, isn’t it? You will remember more when you HAVE to. And when you can remember something and execute it successfully, you OWN it! Mission Accomplished!

THAT, ladies and gentlemen, feels GREAT and every student, no matter how “good” they want to get, deserves to feel this level of accomplishment! Enjoy the Journey!


Ian: Checkouts are a great was to demonstrate to yourself how much you’ve learned in a way that you can actually see and feel!  Knowing that you did it and mastering the steps that you never thought you could when you walked in the door is monumental!  And once a year, the Arthur Murray family joins together to celebrate our achievements in the studio with our annual Medal Ball. Whether you’re a brand new student who finally stepped outside your comfort zone and joined the studio, or you just lost the last of those 10 pounds you were trying for, or you reached Silver (at last!), Medal Ball is a time to celebrate your graduation from one milestone to another in your dancing career!  




Nikki: I get asked all the time if a student HAS to do a check-out or if they have to do a check-out in order to go to Medal Ball…  The short answer to both questions is No.  HOWEVER, I do highly recommend doing a check-out as you progress through your levels.


The main reason for my recommendation is so that you can prove to YOURSELF that you know what you are doing.  It’s easy in the chaos of life and dancing to actually realize that you are learning something along the way.  A lot of students view themselves as the non-dancer they have always been, no matter what their team of teachers or executives say.  And the reality is, we can only say so much before we turn into the Peanuts Parents and students just don’t hear us at all.  A check-out gives you an opportunity to be in the moment, do a figure to the best of your ability, and to recognize that maybe your teachers were correct when they said, “you got this!”  I have NEVER seen a student upset after a checkout, but I have seen 100% of students smile, stand a little taller, and feel great about beginning the next level in their learning!


Ok, so that’s all great, but what is a check-out exactly?  The check-out is a time when the student needs to demonstrate that they have an understanding of what step the examiner is looking for.  It isn’t a vocabulary test, so it isn’t important that you memorize step names, and to be perfectly honest, as an examiner myself, we also aren’t looking at how you begin the figure, or end it (as long as that isn’t the component we are making sure you know!)  Each figure is there to teach you something important that you will need in your future dancing, and as long as you can show us THAT component, you are good to go.  For example, if I ask to see Promenade Swivels in Rumba, I am looking to see that somewhere you do Swivels in Promenade position…  But lets be honest, dancing isn’t about doing each step off the syllabus exactly the way it’s written, it’s about being about to do different components and having FUN with them!


Check-outs aren’t nearly as scary as we think they are…  Sometimes we just put too much pressure on ourselves to get steps JUST RIGHT, and really, there isn’t any need for that.  Have some fun, know that it’s just about proving things to yourself, not to us, and relax!!!


Justin: A checkout is a benchmark of progress in your dancing journey. To fill in that picture, let’s look at the Arthur Murray program.  The Arthur Murray system is called the Medalist System because the levels progress through Bronze, Silver, and Gold. As you learn your Bronze 1 material, you will cover both figures and techniques that serve as the basis for building other levels. The syllabus is designed to inter-relate between the dances and levels, but it’s important to recognize the progress you make as you work. It’s very easy to get caught up in wanting to be a “good dancer,” and to always want to “be better.” But as you work towards your ultimate goals, you have to acknowledge the steps you achieve along the way.  Consider a marathon- obviously you want to complete the 26.2 miles that represent the race as a whole. But if you beat yourself up as you run, because you aren’t at the finish line yet, what good does that do you? Or you only recognize how much you haven’t covered yet, instead of focusing on the fact that you have 5 miles completed, then it can become discouraging or overwhelming. So a checkout serves as a structured reminder of the measurable progress you make on your way to becoming the type of dancer you want to be. That being said, at the point that your teacher says you’re ready for the checkout itself, you already know what you need to know. The actual checkout is usually more about proving it to yourself then the teacher checking you. It is often more like a mini-coaching, with feedback to use in your next level. Celebrate your progress with a checkout, and then party with your fellow students at Medal Ball, where we get to recognize your achievement with everyone!



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