10 Tips for Choosing a Ballet School

Ten Tips for Choosing a Ballet School


No matter what future goals you and your child may have in terms of dance, it is important to carefully research and find a school that will provide the best introduction to the activity. Not all dance studios are created equal, and with no licensing or regulatory system in place, buyers should definitely beware. A poor program can not only create bad habits that are hard to correct, but can also dampen enthusiasm and cause physical harm. The following are ten points to consider when selecting the best possible dance experience for your child.


1. First Impressions

Do not rely solely on internet searches to find the right school for your child. If a school seems interesting, plan to visit it in person, and ask to observe classes as well as the general studio environment. Although the faculty and staff tend to be busy people, try to set an appointment to meet with them. This should not be a problem for most reputable studios, and will reflect how much care is placed upon developing a relationship with the individual throughout their student dance career.


2. Structured Program

Look for a structured program for each level, with a set curriculum based on a time honored method such as Vaganova or 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. Placing a child at a level that is inappropriate for them may cause unnecessary harm and frustration.


3. A Professional Focus

The sole purpose of a professional dance school is to ensure your child’s continuous, safe growth as a dancer. While performance is an essential part of that growth, a serious school will not let it replace a basic emphasis upon building a strong, technical foundation. 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.


4. 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. Dance students with professional aspirations need to know as early as possible that their teacher and his or her mentors are qualified to guide them along the professional track. Ask where and how the teachers were trained themselves. Look for someone who has danced with a professional company, has a degree in dance or holds certifications in a reputable teaching syllabus that allows a teacher to know what, when and how to present a technique. 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.


5. Scope

Look for programs that not only expand a student’s abilities and knowledge of different forms of dance, but that challenge self-awareness. Ballet provides an excellent foundation for any dancer, but even those focusing primarily on ballet should try to take more than basic technique and pointe class. A serious dance school will try to provide a well rounded curriculum by offering a range of classes such as Pas de Deux, Character, Historical, Contemporary or Modern, and Acting. Ideally, art history and music appreciation should also be incorporated into the instruction.


6. Class Size

Smaller class sizes mean that the students will get the highly individual attention they need. Dance is often an exercise in patience, as gradual adjustments are made for each student over the course of many months and years. Classes with more than fifteen students make this level of detailed attention harder to accomplish.


7. Developmental Readiness

Certain forms of dance are very much linked to the mental, physical and emotional development of the child. In classical ballet, young children from three to six years of age are usually not ready for formal ballet instruction and should instead be encouraged to explore Creative Movement and preparatory classes. Experienced teachers will be knowledgeable of these stages and know when an individual is ready to begin the next phase. Readiness to dance on pointe shoes marks a significant milestone in a dancer’s career. An experienced eye is needed to determine that sufficient training and muscle development has occurred to avoid permanent damage to the feet and ankles.


8. Safe Floors

Most forms of dance can stress young bones and joints unless special precautions are taken. Special flooring is essential to minimize risk. Check to see that the studio uses sprung flooring, with either “Marley” or a specially laid wood surface, that is well-cushioned and non-slip. Do not allow your child to dance on concrete, or wood placed directly over concrete, as this could lead to shin-splints, knee injuries and other problems.


9. Disciplined Environment

To foster the discipline and organization that is essential to the art form, a studio 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 and a positive learning environment.


10. Reasonable 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.