As the owner of a brand new dance school, the process of putting together all the required equipment for dance and ballet studios is still very fresh in my mind. The following is a list of what is needed in each dance studio:
- Marley or other vinyl floor covering. This is the preferred dance surface for ballet, modern/jazz, and tap instruction. There are several manufacturers of vinyl dance flooring products. Most come in 5-6’ wide rolls in lengths up to about 100’. Marley is usually rolled onto a hardwood floor and “floats” on the floor without any adhesive other than special vinyl tape used on seams and edges. Since the marley is not permanently affixed to the floor, it can be rolled up if needed for a performance in another venue. One important thing to note is that rosin cannot be used by ballet dancers on marley – the rosin damages the vinyl surface and is very difficult to remove.
- Sound system for CDs and/or Bluetooth connection to a iPhone/Android device. It is essential to have a sound system with a remote control so the instructor can easily repeat sections of music as needed.
- Barres, either wall mounted or standalone. Please refer to my post on barre construction for more detailed information.
- Wall Mirrors. Mirrors should be mounted on at least one wall (preferably two adjoining walls). They should start as close to the floor as possible, but even young dancers can see their feet from anywhere in the studio as long as the bottom of the mirror is lower than about 15 inches from the floor. The top of mirrors should be 6’ minimum from the floor.
- A small table for instructor’s notebook or other instructional materials can also be used for the sound system.
- Large wall clock. Dancers and instructors need to know class start and end times.
One of the most important pieces of equipment in a ballet school is the barre. As we were planning Opus Performing Arts, we thoroughly researched all available options for ballet barres. In the end, we decided to make our own barres for the following reasons:
- Commercially available barres are expensive. Typically, a professional grade 12’ barre costs between $400-$1000 for a free-standing model, and between $300-$600 for a wall mounted version.
- Our experience with commercially available free standing barres is that even the highest quality models eventually have failures at the connection points.
- We wanted barres that were absolutely rock solid and would last “forever”. We believe that most commercial free-standing barres are too lightweight and “flimsy”.
- We wanted a barre system that was flexible enough to meet the needs of our school’s schedule of ballet classes for many age ranges as well as modern, jazz, and tap classes.
In order to give Opus the maximum flexibility in our class schedule, we decided to build two free standing 12 foot barres for each of our two dance studios. We chose free standing barres so we could (1) have dancers on both sides and (2) orient the barres as either one long 24’ length ot two parallel 12’ lengths. Since (unlike commercial barres) we have no need to dismantle the barres for shipping, we decided to eliminate joints (and hence the possibility of joint failures) by using steel tubes and welding the joints.
The exact specifications of the barres are as follows:
- Tubing material is schedule 40 1 ½ inch steel black pipe. This pipe has an outside diameter of 1.9”. The use of 1.9” diameter tubing (a) makes welds much stronger and (b) is very comfortable to grip
- The top of the barre is 12’ long and is 42” above the floor
- The legs of the barre are an inverted “T” with the “feet” (i.e. the part of the leg that lays flat on the foor) being 2’ long.
- The top of the barre overhangs the legs by 18” on either side. This allows for easy moving of the barre.
- We decided to have a lower barre welded between the legs at a height of 32” for our younger dancers
Schedule 40 pipe is available at most steel suppliers (search “steel pipe cityname”). The pipe comes in 21’ lengths, and the steel vendor will usually make one cut per pipe at no additional cost. I had the pipes cut into 12’ and 9’ lengths to minimize waste.
Our welder had no trouble fabricating the barres. Included in the fabricating was thorough de-burring of all the exposed ends. The result is a smooth, rounded edge that does not require any type of end cap.
After our welder completed the barres I purchased rubber feet (1.5” diameter and 1” thick) on-line and bolted them to the ends of the “feet” of the barre. This has worked extremely well in eliminating damage to the marley in our studios.
To finish the barres, I first sanded the surfaces with 180 grit sandpaper to smooth out the horizontal gripping surfaces and prep for painting. I then sprayed with Rustoleum textured black paint. Three coats resulted in a beautiful finish that resembles powder coating at a fraction of the price.
Dancer response to the barres has been uniformly excellent. Though heavy (they weight about 60 lbs each) two young dancers have no trouble moving them into the center and back up against the walls when needed. We have had no issues with the fixed heights of the barres.
Total cost for 4 barres was about $450 in materials and $400 for welding services, for a total cost of $850, or $212 per barre.
No matter what future goals you may have in terms of dance, it is important to carefully research and find a school that will best meet your child’s needs. Not all dance studios are created equal, and with no licensing or regulatory system in place, buyers should definitely beware. A poor program can not only create bad habits that are hard to correct, but can also discourage students and possible cause injuries. The following are nine points to consider when selecting the best possible dance experience for your child.
1. Teacher Qualifications
Finding qualified teachers is the most critical element in the search for a dance studio. Exposure to a poorly trained instructor in the early stages can lead to injuries and bad habits that are hard to reverse. Many ballet and dance schools employ teachers that have dance experience, but do not necessarily have training as dance instructors. Ask where and how the teachers were trained themselves. Look for someone who has danced with a professional company, has a degree in dance or holds certifications in a reputable teaching syllabus that allows a teacher to know what, when and how to present a technique.
2. Structured Program
Look for a structured program for each level, with a defined curriculum based on a recognized teaching methodology such as Cecchetti, Vaganova or Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) for ballet. (In some cases a school may have their own internally developed syllabus.) The school should have an evaluation process in place to insure students have completed the curriculum and skills for their current level before promoting them to the next. Placing a child at a level that is inappropriate for him or her is generally counterproductive.
3. An Educational Focus
The purpose of a dance school is to ensure your child’s continuous, safe growth as a dancer. While performances can be a fun and important part of that growth, a serious school will not let it replace a basic emphasis upon building a strong, technical foundation. Some recreational schools tend to devote the majority of their class time to preparing for the annual school recital or other performances, rather than firmly establishing proper technique.
4. Do your homework
The internet is a great way to find a list of options for schools in your area, but it is essential to visit any school that interests you in person, and ask to observe classes as well as the general school environment. Try to set up an appointment with the artistic director or other faculty member to discuss your child’s situation.
Ballet training provides the best foundation for any dancer, but even those focusing primarily on ballet should try to take more than basic technique and pointe class. A serious dance school will try to provide a well-rounded curriculum by offering a range of classes such as Modern or Jazz.
6. Class Size
Smaller class sizes mean that students will get the highly individual attention they need. Dance is often an exercise in patience, as gradual adjustments are made for each student over the course of many months and years. Classes with more than about 12 students make this level of detailed attention harder to accomplish.
7. Developmental Readiness
Young children from three to six years of age are usually not ready for formal ballet instruction and should instead be encouraged to explore Creative Movement and or other suitable beginning classes. Qualified teachers can evaluate your child to determine the proper program for their age and level of dance development. Beginning to train with pointe shoes is a specific milestone that must carefully evaluated for each dancer in order to minimize the risk of injury. An experienced eye is needed to determine that sufficient training, muscle/strength, and bone development has occurred to avoid permanent damage to the feet and ankles.
8. Disciplined Environment
One of the benefits of ballet training is learning that a disciplined approach to mastering any complex skill is essential, and a serious ballet school should provide all the elements necessary to promote a sense of disciplined study as well as a positive learning environment. Classes should start on time. A dress code with regards to leotard and tights, proper hair styles and neat shoes indicates that behavior in class and other aspects of the schools policies are taken seriously.
9. Appropriate Tuition
Tuition costs and performance or costume fees should be clearly communicated to you before your child enrolls. While price is important, schools with higher quality instruction will generally be more expensive.
There will be a live simulcast of the Bolshoi Ballet performing The Legend of Love at the Regal Barclay Village Theater on Sunday, October 26 at 12:55pm. The Ballet is approximately 3 hours long. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for children.
More informations at:
Dance, like any other profound human endeavor, requires time, commitment, effort, and discipline. That fact that it is difficult to become a good (or great) dancer is precisely the reason that it is worthwhile.
In this way, dance is like mathematics, chess, tennis, or architecture. The tools that a young person learns in striving to achieve their goals in the world of dance will be of equal help in any field they ultimately choose to apply themselves.
Click here to link to an article by a professional ballerina that articulates these ideas - I thought it was well written.
I'm Allan Redstone, one of the co-owners of Opus. I'll use this blog to post news items about Opus, as well as dance and music related items that may be of interest to our school community