Alisa Blackburn (Dancestuff)
This post was originally featured on Dancestuff but I wanted to share it on here too. So many people ask me 'what's a good dance school' and although I'd love to always recommend my own school, sometimes what I have to offer them just wouldn't suit, or we're simply not in the right area. So here is my guide to choosing the right dance school:
There are many great dance schools on the Central Coast, each with their own unique way of running. At Dancestuff we are constantly asked for recommendations for dance schools. We support all the local studios and recognise that each school has something special to offer the world of dance. We've created this post to help parents and students when they are searching for a new school.
With the new year just around the corner, and many new and existing students searching for a studio, we've put together this list to help.
Before selecting your new studio, there are a couple of things you need to ask yourself;
What kind of dance experience are you looking for?
Are you after a fun and exciting form of exercise? A new hobby? Do you want to make a career out of dance? Do you love the social aspect of your dance classes?
It helps to know what you are hoping to achieve with your time at the studio, as each studio is targeted slightly differently. Some schools have separate programmes for students hoping to pursue a dance career. Some cater specifically for recreational students. There are schools with a mix of both, that have both streams integrated together, schools that are geared towards young children and schools that are heavily involved with competitions and community events. It is important to know what kind of school you are looking for rather than just asking ‘what is a good dance school?’
What styles do you want to learn?
Do you absolutely love jazz but can’t stand the thought of doing ballet? Some schools require students to take on ballet to help strengthen their other styles. Are you hoping to perform in musicals, be a back-up dancer or join a ballet company? These career paths all have different skills required and it is important to find a school that can help you in your chosen area.
What about just learning for fun? Just going to dance with your friends? Many students take up dance as a simple hobby, without the idea of making a lasting career out of it, and that is absolutely fine. Having fun is so important in your dance classes, but you also want to be progressing, don’t you? Imagine you started learning guitar and on the first week you could play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. What if, several years later you were still learning and could still only play that one little tune? Would it still be fun? Dance is the same. It’s great to learn for fun, but part of the fun is mastering a new skill or getting better at something you couldn’t do before. After all, that’s what we pay our dance teachers for… to teach dance. Make sure the school you’re looking for will still teach the ‘just for fun’ kids what they should be learning to ensure the ‘fun’ experience remains fun.
How far are you willing to travel?
With so many schools on the Central Coast, it can be overwhelming to pick the right one for your family. Another important question could be how far are you willing to travel? If you don’t want to go far, have a look at the schools in your suburb and surrounding suburbs, ask your children’s friends which schools they attend. But if you’re willing to go a little further, there are many schools around and you may find one that is perfect for your needs in the next postcode.
After you’ve worked out the kind of dance experience you’re looking for, there are some very important questions to put to the principals of the schools you approach.
Things to ask the schools you approach:
What are your class sizes? This one is more important to some people than others. Ask if the studio caps the class sizes, or provides an additional teacher or assistant to a class that exceeds a certain capacity. Remember these teachers are responsible for multiple children at a time, it is important to see that they are able to give the appropriate level of supervision to the students in their classes.
Are your teachers qualified? Again the answer to this question can be very varied. There are all sorts of qualifications around, some are specific teaching qualifications, some are performance qualifications. If this is an important issue for you, please check with the principal of your school.
Do your staff have Working with Children Checks? This is such an important practice today. All adults working with and around children are required by law to have these checks done. Check with the principal when you’re researching your schools.
What is your costuming like? Many parents are disappointed with the costuming on their children in end of year concerts and eisteddfods. If appropriate costuming is an important issue for you, ask to see some costuming from previous years for similar age groups. Some schools have different policies in place when selecting their costuming.
Is music and choreography age appropriate? The way our children are portrayed on stage can be a very sensitive issue. Is it important to you that your child is not only dancing to age appropriate music, but is also doing movement that is appropriate? Check with other parents in the school, ask about their previous concerts or call the local theatre to see if this is right for you.
What are your fees like? Every school sets their fees differently and it is important to check these before signing up. Many schools also have additional fees such as costume purchasing or hire and competition entry fees. Ask about these before you sign up so you have a good indication of how much you’ll be expected to pay.
What is your uniform? Check what the uniform standard will be like in your new school. Dancestuff caters for all schools on the Central Coast and beyond and can provide dancewear for all styles of dance. Check to see what your children will be needing at their new studio.
Keep in mind this is by no means a full list of the things you should be asking, it is designed as a guide to help students and parents find the right studio for them. Remember learning to dance is a beautiful journey that creates fabulous memories. It is important to find the right dance family for you and your kids