Find yourself another studio. Pronto. Soliciting for "donations" or pressure to purchase a huge block of lessons is totally out of line. There are good places out there, but you're also going to hit a fair share of con-men. Take the time to thoroughly check out other studios and/or teachers. Take a group lesson, talk to the students. Bottom line is you are responsible for yourself--
Wow what a sleaze bag! You don't hit students up to put on YOUR competition.
Asking you to buy a block of 50 lessons is a red flag warning especially if you've told this instructor cash is tight.
If your instructor is an independent - there should be a price reduction on block levels of lessons. Now if this is Arthur Murry you may have 30 lessons on the book, but never be surprised if they pressure you to buy more. They love to tell you "in 30 lessons they are not sure how far you will progress or if you plan on staying longer. So if you want the better instructor you need to buy more."
There is no reason you should be "friends" outside the studio. You don't hang with your hair dresser, manicurist or your massage therapist out side those "store fronts" do you? If you see them at the mall or grocery store your pleasant, but your not best buds.
Like was previously posted START LOOKING FOR A NEW INSTRUCTOR/STUDIO NOW!! Keep this search to yourself and use up what lessons you have on the books. Stick to your guns and say NO each time you get hit up for more cash. It's really sad how a few bad apples can really tarnish an entire industry.
Your are right, ballroom dancing for competition is an expensive hobby. Most of us REALLY have to plan our year of dance carefully and budget carefully. You don't need any extra help on the financial drain.
Thanks to Seraphina and Ballroomchick for your quick and good advice. Instead of giving up dance, I am going to look for another teacher/studio. I was afraid that these HUGE donations were expected in the industry. I love dancing and have been so sad just thinking about not dancing/learning. And, I am going to take some group lessons so that I can network and learn more about studio etiquette. Your advice really helped. BTW - this was an independent studio/owner/teacher asking for $$$.
As everyone else suggested, leave that studio and instructor and go somewhere else. I might suggest that you stay away from AM and FA. They put a lot of pressure on their students to lay out great sums of money. Do not buy in advance unless there is some benfit to you. At my studio, for example, the only package we offer is buy 10 lessons, get one free. We only inform students of the option once and if they decline then they pay by the hour and it is not mentioned again. Paying by the hour actually brings in more money than the package, but many clients like to make one big purchase and forget it for awhile. We realize it is a large sum of money so we thank them by offering the extra lesson. Be up front when money becomes an issue. I encourage people to talk to me if they are uncomfortable. I guess it is easier talking to me, the manager, rather than the instructor or owner of the studio. Sometimes, we will find them a partner to split the cost of private lessons or steer them to groups if the cost of privates is too much. Competing in the pro-am division is ridiculously expensive and again I would suggest you be clear about what you can spend.
The USA Dance chapter in the city where I live offers inexpensive weekly dance classes taught by professional instructors. You can take one class or many, no partner required. Each month there is a different instructor teaching different dances. That is NOT the best way to learn dancing (a few beginner or slightly above beginner classes in a dance), but it is a great way to survey several instructors and find one with whom you would like to continue lessons. If you can find anything similar where you live, I recommend it highly.