10 Reasons to Leave a Dance or Ballet Studio

Written & Edited by Samantha BelleroseB.Ed, Dip.Dance(Performing Arts)

Are you disappointed with your child’s dance studio and are considering switching for a better environment or opportunities for your dancer?

There are times when you may need to consider leaving a dance or ballet studio including when there are changes in management, few class options, poor organization, lack of progress, and drama. Leaving a dance studio is never an easy decision but it is important to make sure that the studio is a good fit for your dancer.

In an ideal world, dancers are able to grow and develop at one dance studio for many years and then there are times where leaving will benefit your dancer, their development, and will keep their interest and enthusiasm towards dance.

To help you make this difficult decision here are ten valid reasons to support why it may be time to leave your dance or ballet studio:

1. Limited Class Options

Having a limited number of classes available to students is a popular reason for leaving a dance studio. This does not only have to do with limited styles available which I will discuss next but also the number of skill levels available or classes for different ages.

The amazing thing about dance is the variety of styles available and having your child at a school with only a few choices for classes can be very limiting and lessen your child’s enthusiasm about dance. Exposure is key in dance and the ability to train in different styles is important for a well-rounded dance experience.

Having limited class options is unfortunate because many small dance studios have a warm, welcoming environment which may be difficult to leave. They may be a good fit while your child is very young or deciding if dance is something that they want to continue to develop in, but you will need to find another option for a dance schools with a broad range of classes as your child gets older if they want to advance in dance.

2. A Bad Dance Teacher

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Unfortunately, having a bad dance teacher can completely ruin a dancer’s experience. We have an article outlining 15 signs of a bad dance teacher that you should be aware of for a more in depth look at this point, but here is a general overview..

A bad teacher will yell or berate students or ridicule their body instead of focusing on their form. A bad dance instructor may not be qualified to teach a dance class. This skill requires not only education as a teacher but experience. Every former dancer does not have the capacity to educate dancers, especially children. It requires specific skills and qualifications to teach younger dancers with an understanding of the child’s developmental age.

It is imperative that parents act quickly if their child does not feel emotionally or physically safe in their dance class. If any of these negative signs are present with your child’s dance teacher, communicate with management about your concerns. If management is not receptive, it is time to remove your child immediately.

3. Lack of Organization

Dance studios that function properly have a combination of excellent teachers and equally amazing support staff. Without the dance studio staff helping with registration, fittings, tuition payments, crowd control, and regular communication with parents, the entire studio is in chaos. The support staff can keep a studio running smoothly or completely take the train off of the rails. Parents need accurate, consistent information to keep their dancers organized.

Proper communication is especially important at competitive dance studios because information about competitions, fees, and travel are updated weekly and change constantly.  If there is a consistent communication problem with your child’s dance studio, and you have already discussed the issue with the studio owner or offered suggestions, without seeing a change, the problem will only persist and cause additional issues and unwanted stress.

4. Competition Schools versus Non-Competition Schools

Enrolling your dancer in a studio that participates in competitions or one that does not, is truly a decision about what works best for your family and what your family can accommodate. As your child progresses, they may want to compete and do not have the option to do this at their current school. Non-competition schools tend to only have two performances during the dance year with one during the holidays or mid season and another end-of-the-year dance recital. Many also prepare for exams through accredited syllabuses such as RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) or Cecchetti. But some dancers as they mature and progress in their skills, may want the opportunity to utilize these skills on a competition team.

In other instances, a studio with a competition schedule can be overwhelming for your child with the rigorous weekly rehearsals and the weekend traveling. Some professionals in the dance industry believe that being a competition kid can be a disservice to developing proper technique training which takes years to master, compared to the swiftness of becoming competition ready, and therefore you may opt for a dance school that offers a slower progression in the development of skills. Another aspect is the amount of money that needs to be paid for entry fees, costumes, lessons, and more for competitions and you may not have realized the extensive costs before getting involved.

Whether at a competition or non-competition studio, it is important to figure out what is best for your child and your family and if you are wanting more information check out our article about both here! If your needs can not be met at your current studio, it may be time to switch to an environment where your child will continue their dance education.

5. Change of Management or Teachers

A change in management or a lack of teacher retention can drastically change the climate of a dance school and negatively impact your child’s dance experience. A shift in management can come with a new vision on the direction of the school and can even have an influence on the way that teachers run their classes. Major changes such as class times, cost of tuition, and types of classes offered, can occur with management changes. Dancers that have called their dance studio home for many years may not feel comfortable in the new environment. Drastic management changes can signal the need to look elsewhere.

Dancers learn best in a studio where they are comfortable and if the shift in management or teaching staff changes, your dancer’s experience in the studio will change as well. With the nature of dance, dance instructors often leave teaching positions to take other jobs, earn a spot as a company dancer, or go on tour with a show. However, it is important that management at any dance school is prepared for these changes and always has a backup plan with a solid teacher that can continue the classes’ curriculum.

6. Not Making Any Progress

There are many dance schools that do not have a curriculum that ages with the dancer. They offer courses for each age group but often a dancer will not be challenged or see any progress in their skills. It is important that dance schools not only provide a variety of dance classes for dancers to enroll in, but have a trajectory that can be measured as they get older. Dance is similar to reading and math. When students are smaller, they are reading simple sight words and learning basic math skills and by the intermediate grades, they are reading novels and dividing 5-digit numbers. The same type of progress and growth needs to be available at every dance studio.

Dance studios also need to have variations for advanced students that need an additional challenge. These challenges can be additional sessions with a teacher, taking dance exams, opportunities to compete, advanced level classes or even dance teacher training.

7. Managing Expectations

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Many dance studios have specific schedules for their dancers and often these schedules can be overwhelming and difficult for families to manage. Having several classes in one week is common for most dancers but it is important for dance studios to understand and take into consideration a child’s school work and academic expectations, general well-being, as well as providing class times that are easy for families to manage.

8. Being Overlooked

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In the hit dance series the Next Step, Amy (in the GIF above) leaves A-troupeto be a featured dancer with AcroNation. In the end, her old studio head acknowledges that she was overlooked and that in fact does have what it takes to be a lead dancer, but it took her leaving her school for this to be realized.

Unfortunately, favoritism is prevalent at many dance schools. A teacher can take a special interest in the progress of a particular dancer and the extra attention is obvious to others in the class. This can lead to negative feelings about the dance studio and possibly affect how a dancer feels about their own abilities or love for dance.

While children need to understand that the focus may not be on them at all times because a teacher will need to work with other dancers on specific skills as they arise, favoring one child and only using that dancer in solos or in lead roles in a group number does not give the other dancers a chance to develop their unique skills and talents. A dance studio with a nurturing environment should have a rotation of opportunities so all their hardworking dancers have an opportunity to shine in the spotlight.

9. Having to or being asked to dance down

If you watch the video above from the show The Next Step – Season 6 Episode 3 from about 5:20 you can watch a great example of what being asked to dance down looks like! Richelle is clearly the more advanced dancer, but she is being asked by Miss Angela who also happens to be Lily’s mother to dance down – to Lily’s level.

In a school classroom, if a student is reading at an advanced level, the teacher will cater to that student and provide advanced reading material. It would be a great disservice to that student to keep them at the reading level of their peers simply because they are in the same class.

The same consideration for advanced skill sets need to be given to dancers. Often a dancer has advanced skills but is at a studio that does not cater to their level or are unwilling to move them into the next class because of their age. Sometimes the only alternative is to take on private sessions with an instructor, but these come at an extra cost and not all teachers have the time or are willing to do this.

This often happens at dance studios that do not have the capacity for challenging dancers or allowing them to level up. Unfortunately, this can stunt their dance development and discourage their love for dance. If your dancer seems to be “dancing down,” or was asked to dance down, not growing in their skills, or simply stuck in a class because of their age with no room for growth, it may be time to change studios.

10. Too much drama between dance parents and dancers

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Fortunately, most dance studios do not see anywhere near the kind of drama that sensationalized the TV series ‘Dance Moms’ as seen in the GIF above (and this wasn’t even the worst one!!)…. But unfortunately, dance studios are not totally immune against drama. There are often issues with studio management, between parents, egos, and unhealthy competition amongst dancers.

It is important that studio management and dance instructors foster a welcoming and friendly environment for all dancers. A great dance studio will focus on the dancer’s development but will also encourage strong connections between the dancers.

Teamwork is especially important for competition teams. When dancers are not getting along, or there is drama between them or their parents, this can be seen in their performance. Too many dance studios encourage or turn a blind eye to individuals that are disruptive, or mean in class, or they don’t expect parents to set positive examples.

It is important to have conversations with management about your concerns and if you are wondering how to do this in a diplomatic way check out our article about how to sort our problems with your dance teacher here. Most great studios with healthy environments require older dancers and their parents to sign a code of conduct. If your studio does not have one, it may be a great way to eliminate the negativity. If the problem persists, change studios.

The Decision is Yours – What are you going to do?

Leaving your dance studio is not an easy decision, especially if you have made good friends with other parents, and your child gets along well with the other students. Sometimes your teacher and studio can only take you so far and other times it may be because of a less than desirable environment of teaching faculty. Whatever the reason your next step is going to be choosing a new dance school! For tips and hacks on what to look for check out our extensive article on how to choose a dance school here!

We here at Dance Parent 101 wish you every blessing on wherever your Dance Parenting Journey takes you..

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About the Author

Samantha Bellerose

Samantha is a wife and mother of four kids aged 3-11. She danced and acted from the age of 5 and performed in film clips, on television, and in musical theatre professionally. She also taught dance, but after leaving the profession to backpack through Europe, Canada and the USA with her husband for three years, she then completed an Education Degree and taught within primary schools in Australia. Today she is a business owner with her husband and the creator and writer for Dance Parent 101 where she hopes her previous experience as a dancer, current experience as a dance parent and the research and writing skills she gained completing her education degree will help enlighten parents on their journey with their child through the world of dance.