Not everyone puts a lot of thought into choosing a dance school for their child generally they choose the closest school to them or the one their childs friend attends. But considering most kids stay with a dance school for 10 or more years, possibly costing you more than it would a brand new car over that time, shouldn’t you take the time to look into who you are handing your child and money over to?
When choosing a dance school the most important things to investigate are the experience of the teacher, the overall costs you will incur on top of actual tuition and whether they offer the style of dance your child is interested in learning.
One of the most searched dance queries over the internet is the exact phrase that the title of our post begins with ‘Dance Schools Near Me’. You might have typed in the words dance school or dance studio or even dance lessons and google autocompleted the following ‘near me’ phrase for you. This search assumes that the most important aspect of choosing a dance school is it’s proximity to your home when in actual fact it should only be one of the many factors you consider when looking for a dance school.
We have a comprehensive list of the factors you should be considering before signing on to that annual payment plan further along in the article including a step by step plan on how you can get all the info you need to make an informed choice which is a must-read for any parent thinking of enrolling their child into dance lessons.
Why you NEED to research the Dance School you choose for your child rather than just choosing the one cheapest or closest or to you!
Did you know that most dance schools have a ‘closed-door policy’ meaning that after the first trial or even for that first trial dance lesson you the parent or guardian are not allowed to be in the room with your child.
Behind that door is usually just the one teacher (sometimes with a preteen assistant), juggling the responsibilities of caring for and teaching seven or more 3-4yr olds or at the other end, one teacher mentoring twenty or more 15yr olds.
Some dance studios and schools have a window, viewing area or even live video footage on a screen out in the waiting room for parents to watch what is going on, but many dance schools and studios are without such facilities and if seeing your child in their lesson is important to you then this might be a contributing factor when you start looking into which dance school is best for your child.
Sometimes it isn’t until parents have committed hundreds of dollars in term fees, costume deposits or exam and concert packages that they realize they are not happy with the temperament of the teacher, the style of dance being taught, the music being used or didn’t realize their child was spending most of the class hanging upside down from one of the barres because they went into the process of selecting their dance studio or lessons blindly.
Unlike an actual school where there are enforced standards, rules and regulations set in place by government and lawmakers, dance schools are largely unregulated.
In an elementary or primary school there is management, administration, teachers and assistant staff at all times, whereas at a dance school or studio, it is common for just the dance school owner/teacher to be there looking after everyone and everything. Many parents sit in the waiting room, especially if their child is young, to ensure they are there to meet any of their child’s needs, but having more than one adult on-site at all times is not always guaranteed.
Your child’s dance teacher has a lot of unregulated power and authority over what is going on behind those closed doors even if there is a viewing window or screen with real time footage in the waiting room. Therefore it is your job to ensure that you have chosen a dance teacher and dance studio whose qualifications, approach, authority, skill and knowledge of dance and teaching are all things you are informed and confident about so that you don’t become ‘that dance parent’ but are able to entrust your child and their dance education to the professionals.
IF WE HAVEN’T CONVINCED YOU YET TO SPEND A LITTLE EXTRA TIME MAKING THIS DECISION, MAYBE THIS WILL….
You don’t buy a car without investigating, researching and going for a test drive because this is usually a long term, expensive purchase that we take seriously and want to invest in wisely. Choosing a dance school, for many unsuspecting families can sometimes end with them investing much more money and definitely more time then they might ever spend on that new family car over the course of many years of lessons, recitals, competitions and exams. Therefore just like you research for the purchase of a car, you should research and be informed about the dance school you are about to invest in as well.
STEP BY STEP PLAN TO HELP YOU CHOOSE THE BEST DANCE SCHOOL OR STUDIO NEAR YOU FOR YOUR CHILD!
Decide Whether Dance classes are right for your child.
Before you start looking for a dance class, ask yourself and your child the following questions:
- Is your child ready for organized activity, left in the guidance of another person?
- Many dance schools offer classes for children as young as 3 or 4 years of age. Some preschooler dance classes are run on the expectation that parents will be active participants in the lesson whilst others ask you to wait outside for the duration. Which would you prefer?
- Is your child older? Discuss with them exactly what they want to get out of a dance class and consider what type of dance experience they are after? Do they want to perform, make a career out of dancing or just dance for fun?
If you are wondering which style of dance is the best to start off with take a read of our article:
Not sure what age is best to start learning dance? We have your questions covered in our post:
Find some dance schools that appeal to you.
The following are 10 top tips on finding a dance studio that you might be interested in sending your child to whether it be a local community movement class or ballet lessons at an elite company school.
- Use a search engine such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing.
You might find the number of results a little overwhelming so take your time combing through them and bookmark any that at first glance seem appealing.
- Look in the phone book or the yellow or white pages.
Yes some people still use these things and yes dance schools still do advertise in them. These publications are generally also available online for you to search.
- Check out local community pin boards at shopping centers, malls, libraries and community centers.
Local businesses such as Cafes may also offer a similar community notice board.
- Look in your local newspaper or free parenting magazine.
Sometimes these publications have special features especially at the beginning of the school year advertising new classes.
- Ask people you know and don’t know.
At a dinner party, playground, mother’s group, schoolyard, girl’s night out? As well as being a great conversation opener to engage and meet more people in your community, you will usually get an honest opinion about the quality of the dance classes being given.
- Call your local council or community center.
Many dance schools use council or community spaces to run their classes from. Many councils and community centers also develop their own movement programs as part of their health or community engagement programs.
- Buy a dance magazine or borrow one from a library.
Most of the schools advertised in these publications are the cream of the crop, offering lessons as preparation for careers in dance and are a great start for anyone seriously considering a career in the dance industry.
- Call or check out the website of your local higher education institute.
Your local community college or similar educational institution that offers various vocational and recreation courses might just be offering those lessons in African or Aboriginal dance that your were after.
- Remember that Ballroom Dancing studio you always pass as you get take away on a Thursday night.
Next time drop in and ask for a business card, pamphlet or brochure. If they don’t offer any of these or aren’t open when you walk by take photos of the information on their door so you can call or look them up when at home.
- Ask at your school, kindergarten, preschool or daycare.
Check out their parent newsletters as well as these are great places for local dance studios to advertise to their target audiences.
Research the dance schools you have found.
- STALK THEM!
If the dance studio has a website then devour it. Look at the photo’s, flip through all the menus and read the information given. Does the studio have any Youtube videos or snippets of classes on their social media accounts? The school will usually also have a social media page such as Facebook. Like, follow and stalk this as well. It is a great place to read comments from other parents and get a feel for the atmosphere of the school. Does it seem more recreational or performance and results driven even if the website seems to say otherwise?
- PHONE THEM!
Some teachers have a prospectus that they only give out to genuinely interested customers, or they may prefer for you to come and see the dance school in action where they give you the information you require at that time. You should also be calling the studio even if they have a website. You need to clarify information such as confirming the times of classes and prices or you might ask them for advice on the best class for your child. We have created a whole list of questions you can ask, a bit further on in the article.
- VISIT OR DO A FREE TRIAL CLASS
Some schools have specific watch days, bring a friend day or they might be casual enough for you to sit in on the next available lesson. You might find that if it is the beginning of the dance school year or the lessons are for a specific course of a specified length this may not be an option. In this case, always book in for a trial lesson before you enroll and spend your money to ensure the school and studio are the right fit.
COMPARE AND ASSESS EACH SCHOOL ON YOUR LIST
So you should now have a list of your favorite dance schools and studios, but how do you know which one is the right choice for you and your child?
The following is a comprehensive guide to the attributes you want to assess when choosing a dance school.
THE QUALIFICATIONS OF THE TEACHER
Be mindful that there are no formal qualifications required to open and set up a dance school. This being said dance teachers and schools are providing a service for a fee and therefore it is in their best interest to have the credentials, experience, and knowledge to create a long-lasting business and customer satisfaction. Therefore you would be looking for a teacher with qualifications such as:
- a teaching certificate through a recognized dance curriculum or syllabus. a certificate in dance teaching and business from a government accredited education facility.
- a Bachelor of Education from a university or college with a major in Dance.
- a professional history of working as a dancer which can be authenticated. Some teachers might have worked professionally for many years and be without an educational certificate but are extremely knowledgeable about the dance industry and can pass this experience onto their students.
In all of these examples, it is important to remember that you want to make sure any teacher you are taking your child to is aware of safe dance practices, first aid, understands general work and safety laws, give age-appropriate dance lessons and develop a positive and joyful experience for your child.
You will also need to find out if the experienced and qualified teacher of the studio will be actually be teaching your child especially in larger schools which have many teachers on staff. Also, be mindful that sometimes the teaching of beginner classes is also handed over to senior students of the school. To become a teacher, students do need the experience of teaching, but young dancers pick up both good and poor technique in their training early on, and not all great dancers are great teachers.
WHICH TYPE OF CLASS OR DANCE STYLE IS BEST?
To begin with, let’s just make a list of the various styles you might come across during your search: Ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, contemporary, musical theatre, song and dance, and acrobatics are probably the most common styles of dance that you will find at a multidisciplinary dance studio. Other styles you might find are flamenco, belly dance, street or breakdance, African, heels, lyrical and many more. You might also find for young beginner dancers kinder ballet/dance, mummy and me ballet or music and movement classes.
Many experts would agree that Ballet develops the foundations (strength, flexibility, and technique) for many other dance forms and if your child is serious about making dance their career than it is a no brainer that they should be doing weekly ballet lessons. But some children may not be ready for the discipline and patience that ballet takes. They might lose their passion and joy for dance and quit before they really even start. Others might be wanting to learn the latest hip hop moves they have seen in various music videos and therefore ballet lessons will not be for them. Finding lessons in a style that your child enjoys and commits to is the most important in beginning. Adding on other classes to enhance their progress and ability is something you can always look into in the future.
Some dance studios and schools may solely focus on one style of dance because that is the expertise of the teacher. Other schools may either be run by a teacher who is proficient in many disciplines such as ballet, jazz, tap, and acrobatics and offer all of these classes, or they may hire other teachers for the areas they are not so skilled in. The school might also be run in partnership or under a principal just like a normal elementary school with many teachers offering many classes in different disciplines.
Generally, if a child begins at a preschool age 3-4 a movement class covering several disciplines in the one lesson is offered. It is when children become older and have a larger capacity to control their bodies that many parents become overwhelmed at the choice available to their child and the cost of the child’s beloved lessons which can double and triple as multiple lessons may now be taken each week.
You can read about this topic in-depth in our article ‘What Type of Dance Should My Child Learn?’
CONCERTS, RECITALS, AND PERFORMANCES
Most parents are happy for their child to participate in some sort of annual performance to show off the learning and progress achieved by their child. But the focus each dance studio places on these performances can be drastically different. One school might end their year with an open class for family and friends to attend, another might produce a small collection of performances, performed within their studio or another location using minimal costuming and props. At the other end of the spectrum, some schools produce both a half-yearly and end of year recital bonanzas, which are full-blown showcases with expensive costumes, full stage make up props and lighting in a theatre or other similar venue, with many rehearsals and dress rehearsals to perfect the performance.
SYLLABUSES AND CURRICULUMS
Many dance schools and studios, follow some type of syllabus or curriculum. A dance curriculum is a learning structure that has been developed to advance a student’s skill, technique, and performance in some form of logical sequence. Advancement involves a students capability to pass some sort of test or dance examination. There are many different syllabuses all over the world with some of the most well known being The Royal Academy of Dance, Cecchetti Ballet, Vaganova and BBO dance. The final culmination of most curriculums and syllabus examinations results in students attaining their own teaching qualifications in that curriculum. Exams usually do not commence until a child is of school age, therefore the newbie toddler or preschool dance parent may not be aware of what they are signing their child up to in the future. Examinations also incur extra entry fees and sometimes require a committing to a certain number of classes per week to ensure a student meets the requirements to pass the exam.
COMPETITIONS, SCHOOL DANCE COMPANIES, AND PERFORMANCE TEAMS
Another thing to be aware of when looking for a dance school is their involvement in dance competitions. Some studios place great importance on participation in dance competitions, and winning trophies for their studio. This can create a highly competitive environment. Most competitive schools require their students to audition for places in competition squads, performance teams or the school company through a selection process and require those students to commit to rehearsal classes on top of normal technique lessons available.
Competitions do give dancers the opportunity to perfect their performance skills and when working in a group can develop great camaraderie, friendship and teamwork within children. The flip side is that they can be high pressure, can raise unrealistic expectations and anxiety rather than joy and passion for dance. It can also mean that precious time is spent on perfecting timing and unison of dance routines rather than working on developing strong technique, strength, and flexibility.
Competitions generally also mean extra time, money and effort from all involved. More costumes, extra lessons, road trips and weekends to neighboring towns and sometimes states are all part and parcel of the dance competition life.
If you are wondering what the difference is between a competition or performance team focused school and a dance school that centers its studies around the study of mainly Ballet and examinations you can read about that in our article ‘Which is Better? A Non Competitive or Competitive dance school?
UNIFORMS AND EQUIPMENT
Some Dance studios require after the first trial lessons that you buy their school uniform for your child to wear during following classes which will at a minimum usually consists of some sort of bodysuit or leotard and tights. Others might have a general outline or standard of the types of attire required. In most cases, you will also have to buy specific shoes such as ballet or tap shoes. Many schools do have second-hand uniforms, shoes and other accessories available as students outgrow them or choose to follow different paths. But this is definitely another cash outlay that you need to consider when choosing a dance school.
Some schools will expect their students to look neat and tidy at all times as they wish to uphold certain standards within their school. This might mean mastering stray hairs and Ballet buns and ensuring you have several pairs of ballet tights on hand in case of holes. At the other end of the spectrum, there are also schools who want their students to express themselves freely and do not want to restrict creativity and therefore have a more relaxed approach to the dress and appearance of the students at their school.
Just as you might be concerned in a school classroom if there are too many children, you may want to find out just how large or small the school or the classes you are considering enrolling in are. A large dance school may mean more students in one class or it might also mean the school is able to offer a few of the same classes over several days. You can choose to enroll in the least busy session to ensure your child gets the adequate attention they need. Many schools also have a cut off points for their class sizes and you may be told a class is almost full. This is generally not a sales ploy to get you to sign up on the day, but an indication that you will need to make a decision sooner rather than later.
LARGE SCHOOL OR SMALL SCHOOL
If a dance school is very large you might not be cared for as intimately as you might at a smaller school. But the larger studio might have resources that a smaller studio might lack. Larger studios also generally have more people on staff to cover admin and other roles meaning that there is more than one adult on the premises and time is not taken up in class as might be, by the teacher who is running the whole business themselves.
As written at the beginning of this article many dance classes are kiss and drop situations. To ensure dance safe practices are being used and to enable transparency between the teacher and students some studios offer viewing windows or even a screen with live footage from the class streaming through. At other studios, the walls are so thin that parents can hear exactly what is going on in the lesson on the other side. Another option for some schools is filming some of the lesson and posting this to an app such as Movitae. This not only enables parents to see what is going on in the class but allows parents to monitor progress and for practice to occur in the home.
Is it important for you to speak with the class instructor after every class? Some studios may be quite busy with teachers requiring you to make appointments or a set time out of class to speak with them. Do you want to offer advice and suggestions and be in the room whilst your child is dancing. This can sometimes be offered by very patient and cooperative teachers through private tuition, which can be costly.
Some studios also offer mummy and me classes which are a great way to introduce your child to dance and also get a feel for the teaching approach and dance school in general.
Other questions to ask about parent involvement might be in relation to fundraising, helping at recitals and other events as this might be mandatory at some schools but not even required at others.
When visiting the school or if you are able to attend the studio’s annual performance or view the school’s choreography via social media, think about the music choices being made. If your child is taking jazz or hip hop lessons are the music choices age appropriate and if not – are you comfortable with that.
COMMUNICATION AND ORGANIZATION WITHIN THE SCHOOL
You will know if this is happening if important dates such as end of year concert are already set for the following year, a dance school newsletter is easily obtainable, the school has a website and social media page, online payments and invoicing is available.
TUITION FEES AND OTHER COSTS
Ensure that a clear and transparent fee structure is available so that you know exactly how much you will be expected to pay for the year. It might include items such as term tuition fees, a dance uniform, costume hire for concerts, insurance or an annual admin fee. What costs are you actually willing or able to pay for your child’s dance education. Remember in the beginning dance lessons will be relatively cheaper than in the future if you are at a competition, exam and performance-based school and that committing to that kind of environment will mean constant increasing costs as your child progresses and gets older. Our article ‘How much do dance classes cost? We compare 50+ schools across the US!’ is a great resource!
SCHEDULING, TIMING, AND LENGTH OF THE LESSONS
How much time are you wanting to devote to dance lessons? Generally, if your child is under five, one lesson a week with a 30-45minute time frame will be enough. But does that lesson fit well into your schedule? Do you have other children who nap or need to be dropped off at school or do you need to find lessons that work around your working hours? If your child is older they might want to enroll in several dance style or disciplines. Many schools understand that parents do not want to be coming out to the school three times a week and business-wise it makes sense to cluster two or three different disciplines of dance one after the other on the same day. This might sound great, but also understand the physical and mental limits of your child and if they are able to concentrate over long periods of time.
How far away is the dance school to your home? There may be a lot of driving to and from classes especially if your child wishes to take their initial hobby more seriously. You will need to consider the cost this will have on not only in the form of gas or petrol but also on whether the amount of time you and your child spend commuting will be worth it for a 30min or 1-hour lesson.
Something else to consider is the yearly timetable or schedule for lessons. Do lessons adhere to the school term or is my child expected to continue to attend lessons during school holidays?
Before we even get into any special equipment you might be looking out for, be mindful of the location and environment of the dance studio. Is it located on a busy street where parking is limited? Is the street and building well lit (as your child gets older their lessons will be later in the evening)? Is the building neat and tidy and free of any obstructions? Is there easy and secure access for students to get to toilets and change rooms (as in many cases this will be done without supervision during lessons)? Are the toilets clean and well supplied? Is there a waiting room or space to wait inside the building? Are there facilities to fill bottles with clean drinking water or even make a cup of tea? Some of these things might be more or less important to you, but most importantly you are looking for information that tells you this a safe place where you feel confident leaving your child.
- A large unobstructed area that allows several students to be in a lesson without trampling over each other.
- High ceiling clearance for lifts, jumps or other tricks such as in acrobatics or cheerleading class.
- Full length mirrors so that the dancers are able to see the line and placement of their bodies.
- Flooring which is smooth and free of splinters, nails or other obstructions that might hurt a child rolling around the floor.
- Flooring needs from lesson to lesson may vary. A school that teaches only strictly ballet and classical dance lessons should have sprung or foam floors with a vinyl covering usually known as Dansflor, Tarkett or Marley. Whereas a school that teaches only tap dancing may have wooden floors to accentuate the tapping sound whilst dancing.
- A sturdy ballet barre. Ballet Barres are not just for ballet and are good for the teaching of other lessons such as tap and jazz to perfect certain techniques and stretches. Does the studio perhaps offer adjustable barres for the height of little ones and if none are permanently attached to the walls are the moveable barres sturdy? Will your child have to help carry the barres to the center of the room and if so does your teacher, show students how to do this correctly as the stands, especially at each end, are very heavy.
So obviously a dance studio does need specific equipment, but in saying this, the school you are considering due to cost or locality may be run in a council hall or community center. Many teachers do run their dance schools very effectively with little more than a large open space and a Bluetooth speaker.
INSURANCE AND EMERGENCIES
Does your dance school have an insurance policy? As a business, the owner of the dance school should know it makes sense to insure themselves sp do they have a public liability policy and if so how does this exactly affect your child if they seriously hurt themselves during the dance class or even if you hurt yourself whilst on dance school property?
Does your dance teacher have a procedure for emergencies and do they have your phone number in a quick and easily accessible place if they needed to contact you quickly?
Do you have or need insurance and does this policy cover your child’s extracurricular activities?
CHOOSE YOUR SCHOOL!
After comparing and assessing you should have a clear winner, but if you are still not sure here are a list of questions you might like to pick and choose from to ask your prospective teacher just to make sure their school is the right fit for you and your family.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SCHOOL
- What is the number One focus of your school? for example, is it preparing students for competitions or exams, fun, and expression of movement, technique, and preparation for professional careers?
- Which dance disciplines or a variety of classes are available at your school?
- Do you follow a recognized syllabus/curriculum or method of teaching dance?
- Do you allow your students to participate in dance classes at other schools or for holiday programs, special workshops or performances?
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FIT OF THE SCHOOL WITH YOUR FAMILY AND CHILD
- Which class/lessons do you think would be the best fit for my child?
- How do you track the progress of my child?
- How large is the class my child will be in? How many students do you allow per teacher?
- What happens if my child is injured or sick for an extended amount of time?
- How should my child dress?
- How is information communicated to parents? Through email, announcements after lessons, through social media?
- What are the performance opportunities for my child? (Exams, concerts, competitions)
- Am I expected to make the costumes for the concert or recital or do we hire or buy these? What costs will I expect for this
- Are parents and/or family and friends allowed to watch classes
- Am I required to wait on the premises whilst my child is in class?
- What is your policy on contacting me if an emergency happens during the class and I am not here?
- Are we required to participate in fundraising activities for the studio?
- What is your photography policy?
- What is your social media policy?
- Can I take photos of my child in class or in the concert or recital or open lesson? Are others allowed to take photo’s my child?
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LOGISTICS
- What times are the classes you have on offer?
- Do you have a calendar for the upcoming year with concert/recital, exam or major competition date available?
- What facilities do you offer? Sprung floors, Mirrored walls, Change rooms, waiting room?
- Where is the best parking, coffee shop, playground, shopping centre close to the studio for things to do while you wait.
- Do classes go through school holidays or are there term breaks?
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE COSTS
- What is your fee structure?
- Is there a registration fee?
- Do I still pay if my child is sick or we go away?
- Do you do makeup lessons?
- How are fees paid? In advance, weekly, monthly, for the full term or season?
- Do you take cash or credit?
- Is there a uniform and if so what are the costs involved with this?
- What other special equipment might I need to purchase such as shoes?
- What are the costs involved for costuming?
- What is a recital package?
- Will my child be involved in competitions and exams and what are the costs for these?
- What other special equipment might I need to purchase for competitions and exams?
- How much are tickets for the recital?
- Does the school have public liability insurance?
- Are your teaching staff covered by professional indemnity insurance?
- Do you have public liability insurance and how does this cover me and my child?
- Does the school follow any regulations or OHS such as Safe Dance® procedures?
- Do your teachers do further learning and training?
- Can you tell me about any recent development courses or activities you or your staff have participated in?
ENROLL AND BEGIN LEARNING TO DANCE!
After all your research and effort the next step is to take the plunge and start. Dance teachers really are professionals who work extremely hard at their craft and at the end of the day are running businesses that support themselves and their families.
Educating yourself about the ins and outs of your chosen dance school and the dance industry in general will not only make your time with your dance studio so much more enjoyable but will also hopefully help to keep the standard of dance schools, studios and teachers high, regulated and in general fun and great places for everyone to learn to dance!