Every dance studio will want you to learn a variety of step patterns in several or many dances. This is not a sales gimmick and is actually a good idea. To be even a fairly competent dancer, you should know at least a half-dozen step patterns in the more popular dances. However, in the beginning, with material being shoved at you at a very fast pace, it gets extremely confusing to try to learn several dances at a time.
BEST: Concentrate on one dance and master the first several basic moves. You must understand that learning to dance is physiological. You first put the material into your conscious mind, then work it out to your extremities through vigorous repetition and practice. No dance teacher will ever be able to "make you" into a dancer. You make yourself a dancer by taking lessons and constant, never ending practice.
Dancing is nothing but pure mathematics. I like to call it "number crunching." The real key to learning quickly is to thoroughly understand the "rules" and "why" things are the way they are rather than just trying to learn a bunch of meaningless step patterns. Step patterns, i.e., where your feet go, are the first thing you learn, but in the overall grand scheme of things, the least important.
Unless you have a specific dance in mind you want to start with, I always recommend working on East Coast Swing in the beginning. Of all the rhythmic, or "fast" dances, it is the easiest to grasp the basics and begin to see progress more quickly. You are changing weight rapidly from one foot to the other, primarily keeping your feet and legs under your body. This is what's fun and enjoyable. Once you have developed your skills in this version of the swing, it's a very simple matter to learn Cha Cha. Many people are under the misapprehension that slow dances are easier to learn. This is not the case. Slow, or "smooth" dances involve long strides in all four directions which require a highly developed sense of balance and control.
My recommendation for the beginning ballroom student is to master the basics in East Coast Swing, Cha Cha, Rumba, Fox-trot and Waltz. With no more than that you'll be able to attend any social function and be one of the best dancers in attendance. After you have a firm grasp of those dances, and still want to learn more, take lessons in Tango, Samba, Mambo, Merengue, and the very popular West Coast Swing.
If you are a child of the 70s, you might want to learn one of several versions of the Hustle which is done to disco music. For the beginning country/western student, you'll need to master the basics in Two-Step, Waltz, East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, Polka, Three-Step, and Cha Cha. Yes...they play Cha Cha music in country/western nightclubs and do it in their competitions. Again, concentrate on one dance at a time until you can perform the basics without thinking about what your feet are doing. Then, and only then can your instructor teach you the intricacies of leading, following, putting it to the music, connecting the step patterns together, and start working on the styling. None of this is as easy as some folks might lead you to believe. But it's worth every second, every minute, and every hour you spend learning! I guarantee you it will change your life for the better!
ONE FINAL NOTE
Class (group) instruction is the best, most affordable way to be introduced to basic step patterns, along with timing and some of the leading/following techniques you'll need. The only serious drawback to group instruction is the varying speeds at which the individuals in the class learn. A group class normally progresses just slightly faster than the slowest learner.
All professional dance instructors usually tailor their instruction somewhere in the middlenot as fast as the fastest, nor as slow as the slowest. Should you wish to get into more advanced material, including styling, advanced footwork, arm movements, etc., may we suggest at some point you arrange with your favorite instructor for one two or more private lessons. While the cost of private instruction is more than group instruction, you can be taught at your own pace. And the specialized things that are more important for you to know can be taught during these sessions.