Here are some tips to help you get started! No matter what your future goals in dance, it is always important to carefully find a school that will provide your child with the best instruction. As the U.S. has no licensing or regulations regarding dance studios, potential students should definitely beware. Here are a few points to consider when choosing a school for your child. ARB meets all of them and goes beyond.
1.First Impressions: Don't choose a studio just by a website. Plan a visit in person, ask to observe classes and the studio environment. Set up an appointment to meet with the Director, not just front desk help. This should not be a problem for a studio truly interested in the student body and will reflect how much care will be placed in developing a mentoring relationship throughout a student's training.
2. Structured Program: Look for a structured program for each level, with a curriculum based on a method such as Vaganova, Cecchetti, Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) for ballet. Some form of evaluation or examination is desirable to see if the students have completed the curriculum and skills for their current level before promoting them to the next. Children have their own timetable for development and placing a child in a level for which they are unprepared for may cause frustration and creation of bad technique habits.
3. Teacher Qualifications: Finding qualified teachers is probably one of the most critical elements 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. Look for someone who has danced with a professional company, has a degree in dance, and/or has taught at reputable schools. Keep in mind, professional dance experience alone does not necessarily make a good teacher. In the end, teacher quality is determined by the results achieved. Be sure to look at student achievement!
4.Professional Focus: The purpose of a truly professional dance school is to ensure your child’s continuous, safe growth as a dancer. Some recreational schools tend to devote the majority of their class time to preparing for the annual school recital, rather than firmly establishing proper technique. Ask when rehearsals are for productions (if any) and when students begin working on their recital pieces.
5. Performance Opportunities: Dance is a performance art and students should have plenty of opportunities to perform throughout the year. While exposure to professional dancers through guest artist involvement is important, look for a program where student performance is stressed at all levels. Do the students have the chance to grow into soloist and principal roles as they progress? Or will they dance mainly corps de ballet (group dances) and fill in as background dancers for "professionals". Look for a school that will give their students as many unique performance opportunities as possible. A school that encourages student performance is a school that is focused solely on educating and training dancers and will not be distracted by the demands of running a "professional company".
6. Flooring and Studio Environment: The studio floor should have proper covering (marley is preferable) and should be raised and sprung to prevent injury. While observation windows are a plus, there should be at least cameras into the classrooms for parents to observe classes at all times. It is easy to be dazzled by "fancy" studios and waiting rooms, parents should understand that the finished performance product and quality teaching are what is important, not size or architecture of the facility.
7. Disciplined Environment: A dance school should have a sense of structure to it and adequate basic facilities. Rooms should have barres and mirrors on at least one wall. A set list of uniform regulations with regards to leotard and tights, proper hair styles and neat shoes, also suggests that the school is well regulated, disciplined, and a positive learning environment.
8. Tuition: Annual tuition costs and incidentals, such as recital or costume fees should be made clearly available to you before your child enrolls. If significant cost differences exist between schools try to compare the quality of the programs offered, the number of classes offered and the professionalism of the faculty. While it may be tempting to start with the cheapest program available, remember that the end results may be far from positive, if not harmful.
9. Student Achievements: Look at the achievements of current students and alumni in comparison to the number of years the studio has been operational. Are any students dancing professionally? Have any been invited to international schools like the Bolshoi Academy? Are students attending nationally recognized summer intensives? Are there any international exchange, performance, and/or competition opportunities?