After having taken lessons from a number of instructors, and given lessons at a number of studios, I now know what I wish I had known when I started. At least I can pass on a few jewels of wisdom to you, and they apply whether you choose to take lessons from me or from someone else.
Do I need a partner? The first thing you should know is that you do not need a dance partner to learn how to dance. Dance studios typically have group classes and many of the students are there without a partner. Also, during group classes students are usually rotated every couple of minutes so you are dancing with different partners. This is good because you get to experience dancing with different people, which means you will learn to be better at leading (or, for the ladies, at following.) If you are taking private lessons, your instructor will be your partner.
How do I get started? The best way to get started is to take some group classes. For this you can either go to one of the local dance studios, or you can take an evening class at a community college or community center. If you go to a dance studio, be sure to try out as many dances as you can. If you take the college class, you will get to experience several different dances. Once you have a good idea of what the different dances are and what they entail, you will also have an idea of what you want to do next with your dancing.
Where do I go for group classes? Three excellent studios in the Sacramento area are The Ballroom of Sacramento, Capital Dance Center, and VIP Dance Academy. The Ballroom and CDC have dance parties on Saturday nights so you can get in a lot of practice. Remember, group classes just do not have the time to address technique in any detail and certainly can not address the specific needs for all students in the class. For that, you will need private lessons.
There are other studios around Sacramento as well, but I can only talk about those with which I am personally familiar. I have provided some links below to several dance studios, many of them in the Sacramento area, as well as other dance resources.
Private Lessons? Do not underestimate the value of private lessons. If you really want to get very far in your dancing, you will need to take private lessons. That is where you will get your individualized attention; you can learn at YOUR speed, and really get your technique dialed in. Dancing well requires the ability to lead and follow; how well one can lead or follow is directly proportional to their level of technique. Whether you want to dance socially or competitively, you will need to develop your ability to lead and follow, and that is technique. Contact me and we can discuss the best path for you to take.
How do I choose an instructor? Just as every student is different and unique, no two instructors are alike. Of course it is important to choose an instructor who is proficient at the dance(s) you wish to learn. However, it is equally important to find an instructor that explains things in a way that is easy for you to understand. If you try one instructor and you don't click, try another one. Or try attending their group classes first to get a feel for their instructional style and choose the one that suits you best. Of course, the more experienced the instructor, the better they will be at communicating with a wider range of students. More experienced instructors also tend to have higher rates. As your dancing becomes more advanced, you will need a better and better instructor. Be sure to discuss both your long and short term dancing goals with your instructor to make sure you are both on the same page and to establish expectations for both of you.
What about rates? That can vary not only from studio to studio, but from instructor to instructor. Group classes typically run from $8-$10 per person. Private lessons in most studios will run from $45-$80 (or even more) for a 55-minute lesson. Dance instructors are not in the business to make a lot of money; they are in it for their love of dance. The better and more in-demand the instructor, the higher the rate. However, even the highest paid instructors don't typically have high annual earnings unless they also have a "day job." One way to minimize the cost for private lessons is to find a dance partner with whom to take lessons; the rates for two are the same as for one in private lessons. The single notable exception to these rates is Arthur Murray Dance Studio. Group classes and dance parties are free, but really are only for students taking private lessons, or those checking out the studio. Private lessons there vary only slightly, from $110-$120 per 40-minute lesson, depending on how many lessons you contract to purchase. This may seem much higher, however, if you attend a lot of group classes this may be a more cost effective approach for you. This information is also subject to change and it is best to contact a studio directly to find out their rates and options.
For experienced dancers: A great place to learn new moves is on Youtube. You can always get an instructor to help you fine-tune it later in private lessons.