August 19, 2016 | by Kate Patrizio
So you think your kid can dance? Hulafrog talked to owners and directors of some of the best studios throughout the country and they know just what to look for when choosing a great dance school.
Dance helps a child build physical fitness, self-confidence, and an appreciation for the arts. Whether you think your dancer is Broadway bound, or you just need a positive way to channel that extra energy, involvement in dance can yield lifelong benefits. That’s why you should take some time to find a dance school that fits your child’s needs using this expert advice.
1. Take A Trial Class. A good dance studio allows you to take a trial class before you register to make sure you and your child are comfortable in the environment according to Leslie Breen, owner/director of Dance DynamiX in Malden, MA. Personally, she encourages “incoming prospective students and families to come in and try as many classes as they want in a week with no obligation.” This allows families to get a feel for the dance studio before making a commitment.
2. Talk to Current Families. Sheryl Linfante, owner/artistic director of Ocean Dance Force in Manasquan, NJ advises that studio directors should be happy to give you contact information for families that currently attend the school so you may ask questions and get opinions. If a director is not willing to offer that information you should be wary and definitely check out online reviews on third-party web sites.
3. Know The Teachers’ Qualifications. Caitlin Sloan, school director and class instructor at School of Missouri Contemporary Ballet in Columbia, MO highlights the value of properly trained teachers. “Ideally, a qualified dance teacher will have a college degree in dance, a professional career in dance, and/or a certification from a nationally accredited program.” A teacher without the appropriate background will lead to poorly trained dancers as well as an increased chance of injury.
4. Put A Spring in Your Kid’s Step. A well-designed dance studio, “featuring sprung floors and professional dance surface” is an important factor in choosing a dance school says Lisa Hamor, owner/director of the Los Angeles Art Collective in Los Angeles, CA. Sprung floors help absorb the impact to dancers’ bodies while doing leaps and jumps. Mirrors and barres should be present to make dancers aware of proper body placement during practice.
5. Seek A Low Teacher to Student Ratio. Class size is key emphasizes Meredith Mast, owner/director of Storybook Ballet in Madison, WI. Dancers, especially young students, require hands-on instruction, and a low teacher to student ratio will insure that your dancer will get the attention he or she needs. In her school, Mast limits class size and has two teachers for every class in the three to eight-year-old range.
6. Ask About Curriculum. Linden McPherson, owner/artistic director of Pacific Dance Center in Redondo Beach, CA states a dance school “should have a set structure and curriculum to help navigate your child’s education”. There should be assessments set to measure your child’s progress through levels of dance. Ask to see the highest level class for the style of dance your child will be studying to get an idea of future training and techniques.
7. Make Sure Their Ballet Is On Pointe. Ask about the school’s ballet program, no matter what style of dance you plan to pursue suggests Erika Frank-Cooney, owner/artistic director of The Conservatory School for the Performing Arts in Stoughton, MA. Whether you are raising a prima ballerina or a hip-hop sensation, “ballet is the foundation of all dance”. A strong ballet program will direct a solid curriculum for all of the school’s dance programs.
8. Get Hands-On Instruction. Teachers should be physically moving the dancers’ bodies as they practice. Dance instructors who “guide a student's foot, leg, or arm positions into proper placement and use a hands-on approach, successfully show students how to dance safely, with proper placement and lines,” suggests Lauren Gibson, owner/instructor at Aspire Dance Academy in Manakin-Sobot, VA. This will help a dancer understand when they are making the correct positions and movements.
9. You Gotta Have Heart. Tanya Fishburn, C.E.O. of SFK Academy of Dance in Playa Vista, California indicates that a studio that operates with a passion for dance is the key to its dancers’ successes.
Ask around. Studios with families that have been sending students there for years and, in some cases, generations produce strong, happy dancers.
10. Recognize Dance As An Athletic and Artistic Endeavor. Dance “bridges the athlete and the artist” reminds Mary Beth Clark, owner/director of Dance Dynamics in Ocean View, NJ. Dance is a commitment and involves not only artistic expression but good physical fitness.
A dancer should take good care of his or her body and mind in and out of the studio.
11. Doing A Happy Dance! Vanessa Berry, owner of Kick Dance Studio in Rumson, New Jersey, asks the questions “Are the dancers experiencing the joy of dance? Are they excited to come to dance school?”
While dance class may not always be easy, it should be something your dancer enjoys. A good dance studio offers “a warm and inviting” environment and a “variety of music and dance styles” to keep your dancer engaged.
There are many elements to consider when deciding on a dance school for your child. It may seem like it takes a lot of time and research to find the right one, but in the end, you will know it was worth it when your dancer emerges from class with a hop, a skip, and a smile.
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