A Guide for Parents to Choosing a Dance Studio for Your Child
Studio Checklist in a Nutshell
- Well Maintained
- Passionate knowledgeable staff and faculty
- Communication between owner and parents
- Classes for all ages
- Various styles of dance unless studio is specific to one
- Safe environment
- Receptionist who is knowledgeable about the studio and classes
- No combination classes for children 6+
When purchasing anything, it is always a good idea to research the product to choose the one that best fits your needs. Choosing a service such as a daycare, swimming lessons, etc should be handled with the same care as any product. If you are not already well versed in the service you require, it is a good idea to have some assistance in order to make the most informed decision possible. For example, you may not know anything about the world of ice skating, but your child wishes to take ice skating lessons. Rather than signing them up anywhere, it is wise to research the type of facility for which you are enrolling your child.
Dance is no different. Even if your child has no desire to pursue dance professionally, it is still important to be sure you are investing wisely and you and your child have the best experience possible. This is a guide to assist you in finding the perfect studio for your family.
Dance is so much more than an art or a sport. It is beneficial for all ages for many reasons:
- Learning and experiencing team work
- Developing social skills
- Improving flexibility
- Strengthening muscles
- Learning about music
- Improve stamina and cardiovascular functions
- To express emotion
- Ignites passion
- Presents an opportunity to challenge yourself
- To discover new things about yourself
For the younger generations, dance also develops motor skills, an understanding of right and left, stimulation of imagination and creativity and learning to follow simple prompts.
A studio's curriculum should address all of these things to best benefit their clients.
Why do you dance?
Is the appearance of a studio important?
Yes. Many would disagree and use the phrase "Don't judge a book by its cover" There are those few diamonds in the rough waiting to be discovered, but more likely than not, the better studios have well maintained equipment, clean waiting areas, mirrors at the front of the room, etc.
Even if a studio is small, don't count it out if it is well maintained with proper equipment.
What is considered 'proper equipment'?
Ballet barres are a must have for any studio. Barres attached to the walls are better for safety, however the majority of studios also have additional portable barres in case of an overflow of students.
Another question of safety would be in examining the flooring of a studio. Marley floor is the best flooring available. It cushions dancers joints and has enough give to move with the dancer rather than against them. It is not too slick or too sticky, either of which can cause injury. There are other types of flooring with the same principle, but Marley is by far the best.
Sprung flooring is excellent as well. It goes underneath the Marley floor with the purpose of providing even more cushion for the dancer. It is not necessary as the Marley does well, but it is a nice addition should the studio have installed it.
A dance studio must have sound equipment which seems quite obvious, but be sure that the system is set with safety in mind. There should not be cords running anywhere that could cause a dancer to trip and the equipment should be reasonably sized, well maintained and out of the way of students.
Full length mirrors are also a must though some would disagree. It is very helpful for dancers to be able to observe themselves as they learn. It gives better body awareness, allows for dancers to make alignment adjustments and see the teacher at all times. If a teacher feels the students are relying on the mirror to watch others, all she/he needs to do is have them turn around.
Is something as minor as parking important?
Absolutely! When dropping your child off at dance, it is best to walk them safely inside rather than just slowing down and having them hop out of the car. In order to be able to do this consistently, having some sort of parking is best.
The faculty is the backbone of the studio. It is important to find a studio with great faculty who will fit your needs.
I don't know what good faculty is. How do I know?
There is always a faculty page on the website. If not, call the studio to get that information. Look for qualifications such as years with the studio, years teaching, any affiliation with Master programs, etc.
Contrary to more traditional jobs, it is not necessary to hold any degree in dance. Dancers begin training at a young age and have the knowledge they will need to teach. Are degrees a plus? Of course! But they are not necessary.
Keep in mind that it does not matter what companies the person danced with, who they know in the industry or how many awards they have won. Just because a person is well versed in the art does not mean they are able to teach.
Look for well rounded faculty. Faculty who have both teaching and performing experience are the best because they present the students with correct technique and how to emote and perform.
Be careful not to judge by age. In this industry, age does not matter. What matters is teaching experience.
Another plus is having faculty who are a part of a master program. These are member based programs for dance instructors who must pass a skills test in order to join. They provide instructors with ongoing education, multiple resources and a chance for students to learn new styles.
What is a major red flag with faculty members?
The largest thing to watch for is turn over. If a studio has a high turn overrate, there is usually a reason. It could be anything from faculty leaving to pursue other opportunities to the owners treating customers and faculty poorly. Regardless of the reason, this is a red flag and something to check into. Be cautioned that an owner will not air their dirty laundry in front of a potential customer so keeping an eye on the faculty list is the best way to determine.
There should be a lot of teachers for lots of classes right?
Wrong. A well organized studio does not have a huge staff. Instead, they have staff who is well versed in several different styles and can teach multiple classes well. This gives the faculty a better opportunity to connect with the students and address their individual needs.
This is the most important aspect of your studio experience. Unless the studio is specialized (ballroom, ballet, etc) they should offer a variety of classes.
Why are there prerequisites to take dance class?
As classes become more advanced, they build on the lower level classes. Putting a child in a class that is advanced and they are just starting out is a recipe for disaster and a bad experience. Prerequisites help parents know better where to place their child and the studio to build a solid curriculum.
Are there any classes that are not good for which to sign up?
Yes. A studio that has combination classes for children ages 6 and above is not fantastic quality. When they are 3-5 creative movement and tap/ballet classes are age appropriate. When they reach 6, they have the ability to keep focus longer and they are physically able to begin more complex work. This cannot be completed in a combination class.
How long are classes?
For young children and lower level classes the average time is 45 minutes. Once dancers reach about 8-9 the classes become an hour. Once they are advanced the classes may lengthen to an hour 15 or an hour and a half.
How big are classes?
For the younger level the average cap is ten if there is a teacher and an assistant. For the older it could be any where from 16-18, but on average classes run between 10-12.
Studio Policies and Organization
Why should I care what policies the studio has especially a dress code?
Studio dress code is essential to a dancer's education.The pink tights and leotard allow the teacher to see what the dancer is doing and correct accordingly. If a studio has and enforces a dress code, it shows they are wanting the child to learn. This is the same with having the hair in a bun. If there is hair in the face the teacher is unable to make the necessary corrections.
What if the studio makes me sign something?
Great! This means both you and the studio are protected should something unexpected occur. This is important because it shows the studio cares about the protection of their customers.
Why do studios need so much information from me?
There are many reasons a studio needs parental contact information. If the child were to fall ill during class, have a reaction, have a breakdown, etc. it is crucial that the studio be able to quickly get in touch with their parent. This is also for sending information about classes, snow days (should there be any), recital, events, performances, etc. Your information should be kept confidential by the studio and if that is not the case, you may want to look elsewhere.
Will the studio contact me a lot?
If the studio is a good one, yes. You should always know if a class is moved, cancelled, there is a problem with a payment, costume information, etc. The studio should not harass your family in any way, but should certainly keep you updated with important information. If a studio does not have forms to fill out, request contact information, give you recital information upon class sign up, the studio probably is not the most organized and you should move on.
As with everything sometimes there are companies that go above and beyond the basic standards. Here are some of the perks studios can offer that may be the deciding factor between studios:
- Offering a trial class before sign up- you are just not 100% sure about how your child will like dance class. That's ok! Studios often times will offer a trial class prior to sign up to be sure your child is in the correct level and enjoys the class
- Having a waiting area for parents-For little ones, classes tend to be only 45 minutes. This means parents are likely to stick around. There should be a waiting area for parents to be comfortable while their child is in class.
- Carrying dance attire-Of course there are many different places to purchase dance wear, but when a studio carries leotards, tights, bun covers, shoes, etc. in stock it makes it much for convenient for families.
- Having healthy snacks available-Uh oh! You forgot to pack your child a snack! Never fear, one of the great extra perks that can be offered is a vending machine with healthy drinks and snacks in case something is forgotten.
- Having a study area-As children take more classes, they may have to extend their hours at the studio. Having a study area for kids to do homework is incredibly beneficial. They will have a quiet place to unwind and work on school projects and such without distraction.
- Having a reception desk-The owner and teachers may not always be available to answer questions. Having knowledgeable staff at a reception desk or office is convenient for families.
- Having restrictions on costumes-Not every studio wears the skimpy costumes that are on TV. In fact, studios whose main purpose is teaching usually has restrictions on how skimpy costumes can be for performances.
When choosing a studio, be sure that you and your family feel comfortable with the studio. If they do not meet your expectations that is ok. Try a different studio. Chances are there was just something that did not mesh between you and the studio. That's ok! We all have different expectations and needs which is why there are so many diverse studio options. If the base is solid, decide which perks are best for you and what works best with your family schedule.
Please feel free to ask any questions or add anything else you consider important in a studio!