How To Choose The Best Dance Studio For You by Dena Cronholm
Your son and daughter have been begging you to take dance lessons, but you have no idea where to begin. There are so many choices in your neighborhood! How do you choose the best dance studio for your family?
The obvious place to narrow the choices is by asking your friends and neighbors for referrals, but after that, you should take your search deeper. One size does not fit all, and the studio your best friend thinks is top-notch might completely differ from what your family values. Narrow your choices by asking around, sure. But when you set out to choose the best dance studio for what quite possibly may become your child’s lifelong passion, it’s best to take five simple steps: research the educational philosophy of the school, visit in person, take a trial class, stick it out for awhile and reevaluate as necessary.
The educational philosophy of a school determines its culture. When you research the studio online, don’t just read the mission statement, but also poke around and make sure you find evidence of the studio’s stated mission. Review the class schedule, required attire, code of conduct and policies and procedures. Also take a look at the studio’s social media pages, such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Do these reflect the values you read about in the mission statement? Since educational philosophies are as diverse as your studio choices, we’ll review a few of them here:
- Dance is a team sport. This studio focuses on competitions and will prepare your child for “making the team.” Whether you want to join the studio’s competitive team, your high school or collegiate squad, or become an NFL cheerleader, this studio will support your dream with classes such as pom, jazz, hip hop and extra rehearsals. You’ll be offered a chance to audition for the studio’s company at a young age, and weekends may be spent at dance competitions. Often your classes will be taught by instructors who’ve done the same, and some teachers may still be dance for your local professional sports team’s squad.
- Dance is recreational. This studio focuses on dance being a fun way to exercise. Movement to music will be the core value here. There may or may not be a structured syllabus. The instructors might be very young teens who enjoy dance or senior citizens who’ve always danced. The season-end performance will not be in a large theatre or require a purchased costume. Any additional fees will be minimal. The dress code may be as simple as “clothing you can move in,” and the space might not be dedicated just for dance.
- Dance is an industry. This studio focuses on preparing dancers for commercial industry auditions such as television commercials, music videos, movies, live shows or pop tours. You might see specialty classes such as “heels” or “ballroom” permanently on the schedule, and you’re also likely to find singing and acting classes too. A dress code of sports bra and booty shorts might be expected, especially for company dancers. Company dancers may be in isolated classes away from recreational dancers. The studio’s website will likely have a section that talks about former students’ industry credits.
- Dance is a major. This studio takes their craft pretty seriously, but typically in only one area of specialization. The focus is on training and becoming an expert, and while you can take many different classes, the studio is typically limited to one genre, such as ballet or hip hop. This studio will have opportunities to perform and compete, and will do everything possible to distinguish its students as leaders in their specialized area of study.
- Dance is fine arts education and a lifelong pursuit. This studio focuses on creating well-rounded dancers and equipping everyone whether they grow up simply loving dance or “living it.” The schedule is technique focused, so expect to see multiple levels and types of ballet, modern, turns and leap and jazz classes, but there will also be a sound offering of other styles such as tap and hip hop. A base uniform of pink tights and a black leotard would be expected, with possible outfit changes varying by class. The summer program will include a great range of specialty courses. This school will likely have a scholarship or company program or another tract for students who want to pursue dance professionally, however all dancers -regardless of their dance dreams- will be intermingled in classes and treated equally. This school will have a few performance opportunities throughout the season which may include community appearances or a dance competition, but these opportunities are in place to serve the dancer more than the studio, so they are chosen with care. This school focuses on education with a diverse faculty that teaches life lessons in addition to dance lessons.
The educational philosophy is the most important piece in how to choose the best dance studio for you. There is no right or wrong answer from the list of choices above, but the educational philosophy of the school should align with you and your child’s goals for dance. Once you’ve sifted through your area’s schools based on educational philosophy, it’s time for the easy part- visit the school, and take a trial class! This allows you to verify the impression your internet research left you with is authentic, and it also helps the school determine the appropriate classes and levels for your dancer so he/she can feel successful in dance right away.
Remember, the desired outcome is not to stumble upon a studio, but rather to consciously choose the best dance studio for your family. Once you pick, stick and stay for awhile! Decide right away if you’re going to give it a semester or a season before you make any moves. This will ensure you allow enough time to truly determine if the studio you picked was the best one for you. And finally, reevaluate as necessary. If after your allotted time frame you decide the studio wasn’t the right fit, there are others. Don’t give up on dance so quickly! Dance is a fine art, and art is for everyone; so keep looking until you choose the best dance studio for you!