You have decided to register your child for dance class – now what? If you’re anything like my own mother, who knew absolutely nothing about dancing, when her 3 year old daughter informed her that she “wanted to be a ballerina”, then you likely have no idea where to begin your search for a dance studio. My mom’s solution was to pull out the phone book and enrol at the studio that was shown at the top of the alphabetical list. These days there are not many people who still use an actual phone book, and countless more options on where to enrol your tiny dancer. If you wish to find the organization that is going to be the best fit for you and your family, there’s going to be a bit of research involved. Every family is unique in their own way, as is every dance studio. Not every studio is going to be the perfect fit for every family, which is why it is important to do your research to find the one that is going to be the best option for you and your needs.
When you inquire with a studio, it’s important to know what type of questions to ask. Consider what is important to your family.
Perhaps one of the most important questions is with regards to the qualifications of the instructor. Does the teacher have previous experience not only with dancing, but in teaching and working with children as well? Do they have a post-secondary education in the field of dance or education, do they have any training or teaching credentials by a governing board of dance, or equivalent practical experience within a dance studio setting? Is your child’s class going to be taught by a qualified adult instructor, or by a student teacher? Your teacher’s training is extremely important if you wish for your child to gain valuable learning experience and get the most out of their training. Though your child may still be quite young, they absorb so much information in the early years. It is very important that the material they are being taught is taught properly by someone who knows what they’re doing. Most studios have their teacher’s bios available on their websites for you to gain knowledge on your teacher’s dance and training background.
Facility is another important aspect of choosing a dance studio. Is the studio situated in a convenient location for your family? Is it close to your home, close to amenities, easy to access?
Is the facility clean? If you are going to spend a fair amount of time at the studio, this is probably of importance to you. Does the equipment look like it is in good condition, do the studio spaces get cleaned on a regular basis? A lot can be learned about a business by the way they present themselves to their public. Ensuring they put care into the cleanliness and organization of their facility will likely indicate they’ll put that same amount of care into your child’s dance class.
Are there viewing windows or TV monitors available so that you can view your child’s dance class? Having the option to view your child’s dance class without interfering with the dynamic of the classroom setting is important for their learning – it offers you the peace of mind that you can observe your child in their activity at any given moment.
Customer service – whether you’re shopping for a new shirt in the mall, or eating out at your favourite restaurant, everyone wants to feel welcomed. Do you get that feeling when you walk into the studio? Perhaps a family friendly environment is what you’re after – is there space for you to sit with your family while your child is in dance class, or play with your other children while you wait?
Perhaps community involvement is what you’re looking for – are there events taking place throughout the year for your children to get involved in outside of their regular dance class? (ie: parties, parades, excursions, performances, team building events etc).
How are classes separated? It is important that class division be based on a combination of age and ability level. You do not want a 12 year old dancing with 6 year olds just because he/she is at a beginner level. Students should be placed in a class with other dancers of similar age and ability level.
Are there any performance opportunities? Most studios have some sort of recital or end of year performance for their students to showcase what they have learned throughout the year. Some studios have various performance opportunities throughout the year, whether on a stage, at community events, or within the studio itself. Does the studio have a competitive team? Some families are interested in competitive dancing in their future and some have no interest in being a part of a competitive group. Does the studio you’re looking at offer classes that are catered to the level of commitment that your dancer is looking for? If interested, what type of commitment does the competitive team require, how many competitions do they attend, how much travel is required? Ask if there are any videos of their routines that they can share.
If you’re interested in fundraising opportunities, is this something that your studio offers? If so, ask if the fundraising dollars go towards the studio or towards your own child’s account. If they go towards your own child’s account, this can help ease the burden of tuition fees.
And finally, the cost – How much is this going to cost you? Decide how big of a factor price is to you. Compare prices at various dance studios, however if you are going to compare prices, be sure to compare all of your other factors as well. Does the cheapest studio have everything else you are looking for as well? Be sure there are no hidden costs that may crop up later in the year. A well run dance class will teach your child so much more than just how to dance. Think of this as an investment in your child’s future, and education.
There are many things to consider when looking for a dance studio. Hopefully after asking questions, you will feel more at ease about making an informed decision regarding your child’s dance education.
Regardless of where your child is enrolled, know that you have made a great decision in choosing to expose your son or daughter to the world of the performing arts. The skills they will gain in the dance class room are invaluable to whatever path they may lead in life.
RAD RTS, AISTD (NDB), NBS dip, BFA Dance
Element Dance Arts Co-Director