How to Choose a Dance Studio
The following section is courtesy of Toni Branner, M.A. and Jenna Lee Branner B.A. and their book The Care & Feeding of a Dancer. One of the most important decisions a family makes is the choice of a dance studio or dance company. If you live in a smaller town you may not have a choice but for many, there are at least several options available in their city. The right choice for your next-door neighbor may not be the best choice for you. Your goals may change as you get older, so you might need to switch studios or someday you might move and have to research your options.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you begin:
• Do I want to focus on just ballet and Pointe or do I want to include tap, jazz, and contemporary training?
• How far away am I willing to travel to take class?
• Do I want to dance year round with extra performances or just take class and do one recital each year?
• Do I want to exercise and have fun or do I want to strive for a high level of dance technique and ability?
• How much money can my family afford to spend on my dance training, costumes, and travel?
• Many studios will allow you to come and take a few classes or at least observe to get a feel for the atmosphere. Here are some points to consider.
Philosophy of the Studio
Do the classes seem tense or is there an atmosphere of nurturing, discipline, and gentle control? Do they offer a competition company? A ballet company? Recital classes only? What styles of dance are offered? Are technique classes offered year round? What performance opportunities are offered? Are they affiliated with any professional companies? Does the studio bring in guest teachers or regularly attend dance conventions? Does the studio participate in community service activities?
Qualifications of Teachers
What training and experience do the teachers have? It is not critical that teachers have former professional dance experience but they should have a wide and varied background of training. Do they have a basic knowledge of first aid and anatomy and physiology? Do they participate in continuing education opportunities for dance teacher? Are the teacher willing to meet with parents to answer questions and met with the dancer? Do the teachers seem professional and organize? Are the teachers good role models for the students?
Is the studio in a safe location? Is the parking lot well lit? Does it seem clean and inviting inside? Is there a place for dancers to change, have a snack, and relax between classes? A warm temperature is best for working muscles. A wooden floor that is raised (or sprung) is best for cushioning landings. It can be covered by a Marley floor, which is vinyl, or linoleum material that allows for better traction and control. Are there windows that allow for observation of the students by parents and visitors? If not, do they have a schedule that allows parents to observe on a regular basis? Are the music selections appropriate and well organized?
Auditions and Dancer Qualifications
How are auditions held for various level at this studio? Are students grouped by their age, by their ability or both? Are there weight limits or emphasis on body type? You want a strong focus on healthy nutrition and body image but not obsession with thin dancers. Are education programs on nutrition body image, and muscle care offered to the students?
Support for Advanced and Serious Students
Are there older, more advanced students to serve as role models? What is the typical class size for each age group? Are there alumni from the school who are now dancing or teaching professionally? Are there regular ballet and technique classes year round? Are master classes offered so students are expose to a variety of dance and choreography styles? Does the studio offer trips to study in other cities? Do they offer help for students in preparing for auditions for summer intensive and other programs?
Competition dancing is very expensive. Ask for a full written statement of tuition for classes, estimates for costumes, and extra expensive like conventions and entry fees for competitions. Many studios have fundraising opportunities to defray the cost so ask about this as well.