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.
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