How to Choose the Right Dance School By Julia Wilkinson Manley, Colorado Conservatory of Dance

How to Choose the Right Dance School By Julia Wilkinson Manley, Colorado Conservatory of Dance

With so many options available, finding the right dance school can be an overwhelming prospect, especially if you don't know a plie from a fouette. Here are some of the basic tips that can help you sort through the masses and find the dance school of your child's dreams. 

#1 Decide what form of dance.

This has a lot to do with your child's personality and needs. Ballet is the basis of most, if not all, other dance forms, so a good foundation in ballet can make a dancer more successful in other dance styles. Ballet also helps to teach self-regulating behavior, especially for children who have trouble sitting still or paying attention. 

#2 Read the director's resume.

Teaching dance is not as easy as it looks. Since there are no requirements for opening a dance studio, you want to make sure the school is run by a qualified teacher who has studied for decades and has a degree and/or a professional career. Remember you are trusting this person with your child's physical safety, so make sure they really know what they're talking about. The school should have a well organized website that includes resumes for the director and other faculty members.

#3 Don't be fooled by "fun."

One comment I hear from parents is that they want their kids to try dance at a "fun" dance studio before they go to a "serious" school. Dance is fun, even if you're learning to do it correctly the first time. I like to think of it like learning to read...you would never have your child learn to "sort of" read, carrying forth messy habits that would forever keep them behind. DO make sure that the enviornment is one that is friendly and welcoming, don't be afraid of your child learning well-defined details as early as possible.

#4 Schedule a visit.

Your experience when you call or email a studio should be positive and attentive. Ask lots of questions, and try to get a sense for the school's teaching philosophy. Once you've narrowed your choices down to two or three schools, plan a trial class - most schools offer this for free. Be prepared that many schools do not allow parents inside the classroom because of the distraction factor, but you may be able to watch through a viewing window. As you're watching the class, try to get a sense for the overall vibe of the organization. You and your child should feel comfortable not only with the teacher, but also the other parents in the building. The class size should be manageable for the teacher, and you should see the teacher making hands- on corrections. Most importantly, the school should believe in keeping your child's body safe. Teachers should never force a child's turnout or flexibility, and the facilities should have sprung floors to help portect dancers as they jump.

#5 Try a summer camp before you commit to a year.

Many schools will have programs during the summer, which can help you get to know the day-to-day culture of the school with out a long-term commitment. At the Colorado Conservatory of Dance, we have a StoryBook program for 3-4 year olds, a Fairytale Camp for 5-8 year olds, and even a program for beginners age 9-13. Programs like these are fun and will provide great training, but only last 4 or 6 weeks.

Good luck on your quest. If you get stuck, don't hesitate to reach out to me at 303.466.5685 for help.

Julia Wilkinson Manley, CEO & Artistic Director of Colorado Conservatory of Dance

Julia Wilkinson Manley began her training with Cristina Munro (London Festival Ballet, Eliot Feld) in Corpus Christi, Texas. Julia attended the Boston Ballet Centre for Dance Education and the Houston BAllet Academy. At the University of Okalahoma, she earned a BFA in ballet pedagogy and danced soloist roles in Balanchine's Serenade, Miguel Terekhov's Four Moons, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker.

ccdance.org 

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