Choosing a dance school or teacher for your child can be overwhelming. There are hundreds of studios and classes to choose from. Some will focus on dance as a recreational activity, others as preparation for a career, others as a fitness or social activity.
Does the school's focus suit your child's needs?
Some schools have a busy schedule of competitions and performances that they expect their students to participate in, and some will expect students to take formal examinations in a particular syllabus. Other schools will have a more informal approach and focus on enjoyment, fitness or creativity.
The needs and expectations of parents and students will, of course, vary depending on the age of the children, but be aware that students will benefit greatly from experiencing a variety of dance styles and teachers, and opportunities to perform in different environments, and so ideally will not be locked into one particular style. If your child is highly motivated after several years of varied dance experience (perhaps around the ages of 8–10) you can encourage them to specialise in the particular style/s that they love while continuing to develop a sound technique that will underpin all of their dancing.
Some studios place great importance on examinations or participation in high-pressure competitions and performance programs (these may also cost lots of additional dollars!). Performing can be a valuable and joyful learning experience, and exams or competitions can be stimulating and motivating, but they can also raise unrealistic expectations. Consider how your child might respond to these pressures.
Extremely competitive environments run the risk of comparing students rather than celebrating individuality, unique skills, different body types, creativity, musicality, etc.
Exams and competitions are not the only measures of achievement or a successful dance school/program. An indication of a successful dance studio or student can also be seen through the way your child participates: if your child enjoys his or her lessons, looks forward to the next one, smiles and is happy in class, is rarely injured and seems to be learning or consolidating new skills regularly, the chances are that the school is meeting your child’s need for now.
What experience and qualifications does the dance teacher have?
Be wary of studios that rely on their senior students to teach classes—good dancers/students are not necessarily good dance teachers. Young students pick up both good and poor attitudes and technique from their teachers. Poor technique can ultimately lead to injury and take many years to “unlearn”. Check whether the student teacher has received appropriate teacher training such as a CUA30313 (Certificate III in Assistant Dance Teaching) or the Ausdance skill set for Teaching Dance.
Parents should look for
- sound teaching qualifications
- good communication skills
- a thorough understanding of safe dance practice
- an appropriate and safe space to dance in
- knowledge of basic First Aid and Work Health and Safety obligations
- awareness of age appropriate activities and sound lesson structure
- a positive, joyful and nurturing learning environment
- clearly defined assessment procedures.
Are you kept informed and can you ask questions?
A well-managed school will keep parents and students informed about fees, events, student progress, etc. and will make it easy for students and parents to ask questions.
Ask the teacher plenty of questions and try to get testimonials or recommendations from other parents or professionals.
- What are the aims and objectives of the school?
- Do teachers participate in professional development courses and activities?
- Does the school teach a recognised syllabus? Its own syllabus?
- How are students assessed?
- Does the school follow Safe Dance® procedures?
- Is the school covered by public liability insurance and its teaching staff covered by professional indemnity insurance?
- Does the school have an injury/illness policy?
- What is the school’s policy on exams, competitions and performance opportunities for students?
- What is the school’s policy regarding students participating in classes at other studios and external holiday programs or performances?
- How are student fees structured? What is the school’s policy regarding missed classes?
- What is the school’s policy regarding uniform or other dress requirements?
- What is the school’s policy regarding parents/friends observing classes?
For more information see:
- fact sheet #21 Child protection
- Professional business practice for studio teachers
- Code of ethics for dance teachers
- Parents code of behaviour
- Australian guidelines for teaching dance
For local information about studios and services, you need to contact your state or territory Ausdance.