Selecting a dance school may be a daunting and difficult deliberating process. Each studio has their own strengths and weaknesses that may or may not be relevant to your individual dance interest. Whether you’re a seasoned dancer, or a newcomer ready to flow with the groove of the music, here are some tricks and tips to keep in mind before deciding where you would like to settle your dance education for the next long while.
For the Beginners:
If you’re new to the dance scene, you’ll quickly realize that one of the most challenging things about getting into dance is knowing where to start.
Put your Head down and understand your Purpose.
There’s a plethora of dance genres to choose from and various dance training programs to consider before making an informed decision of where to go. Why do you want to go into dance?
- Is it a new hobby?
- Do you want to join competitions?
- Is professional dancing in your future?
Truly understanding your dance purpose can help narrow down what type of training program (recreational and/or pre-professional), and ultimately, school is right for you. If you are a parent or guardian with a child who is unsure of whether they would like to dance professionally in the future, you can start looking into schools that will give them the appropriate training and/or option in going into a professional stream.
For the more Serious Dancers:
Those pursuing a career out of dance will enroll into pre-professional programs focusing on ballet or commercial dance (including street, jazz, hip hop, contemporary). To help narrow down your school options…
- Understand Your own Capacity
Do you have the time and energy to choose a rigorous routine? Some schools require you to commit as long as 5-6 days a week, or as short as once a week. Are you willing to make personal sacrifices to attend school?
- How Early is En Pointe Training?
A good dance school will not make dancers start en pointe earlier than 11 or 12 years of age. Bones during this time have not yet developed all the way. Early en pointe can seriously damage the dancer’s feet and growth in the future. Having said this, some programs will train students with the technical skills to help them prepare for when it’s their time to do en pointe. But for reference, an instructor will not make dancers learn en pointe unless the dancer has been properly assessed to have mastered certain dance skills, and have been assessed by a physician.
- Safety Comes First
To differentiate between a good dance school from a bad dance school, look into their facilities. The floor should be “cushioned” or “sprung” in order to help protect dancers from serious injuries in case they fall in routine. Is there accessibility to water? Dance can be an extremely labour intensive activity, which makes hydration all the more important. Are the ceilings and walls in good condition or are they covered in mould? Long term exposure to these conditions can incur health problems, including respiratory issues such as asthma.
Regardless of which training program you choose to go into, whether you’re in it for the long haul or just in it for pure enjoyment, your wellbeing is first and foremost a number one priority.
- Intuitive Instructors
Dance schools and studios rely on the skills of the teachers to form the programs and curriculums. As a result, some may say that schools are only as good as their teachers. A dancer with an impressive performance background may not exactly make an excellent instructor. An extremely talented dancer may have a difficult time understanding how to teach simple movements to younger and less experienced dancers as a result. Here are a couple of tips to knowing whether the dance school’s instructors are good for you:
- Do an Education Background Check
Of course not all instructors require a dance education/training degree to truly teach dance, but this is a good indicator that the instructor has coaching experience, and have been taught how to appropriately instruct less experienced dancers.
- Check Alumni and Current Students’ Portfolio
This may be more relevant to those looking to go into pre-professional programs, however the same can be applied for those going into recreational dance. Dance Schools, especially pre-professional programs, will highlight former students and their achievements after attending their dance schools. These are good indicators that students are able to thrive and grow in the school’s environment. Like in any educational setting, a good measurement of a teacher’s skills is reflected in the students capabilities.
- Do an Education Background Check
You can spend hours researching on a particular school only to realize that the difference can be night and day once you’re finally there. If you are able, find an acquaintance who can give you better insight of the school and staff itself. One of the key points to consider is whether the staff and instructors are friendly and/or concerned enough about their students growth. This crucial piece of information can sometimes only be retrieved after having experienced being under their tutelage, or hearing from word of mouth. If you are unable to find an acquaintance, arranging an appointment with a current dancer and/or their guardian may help clear up your concerns.
Know the Costs
Dance can be costly. For those in recreational dance, you may be spending funds on dance costumes, shoes – especially for tap dance, travel, classes, and more. For those looking to go professional, pre-professional programs may take you away from home. On top of class tuition, costumes, and travel, you may look into funds to cover housing, and other living expenses. Find a school that can help meet you in the middle regarding your financial situation.