With the start of a new school year rushes in the start of fall extracurricular activities! Baby-cakes has wanted to be a “bee-a-rina” (ballerina) for some time now! So, this fall, we decided to try and start dance classes. In looking for a dance program and studio that was the right fit for my daughter and myself, there were four main things I kept in mind.
NARROW DOWN A KIND OF PROGRAM | Conservatory? Competitive? or Recreational? Deciding what type of dance program is best for your child can be a challenge, especially since what is best for them when they are little could certainly change as they grow. There are different types of dance studios and programs. The most common type of dance classes are recreational classes where one can register for a weekly recreational class(es) that may or may not include a performance component like an end of the year recital. Some studios offer a competitive option. This option, more often than not, comes in addition to recreational classes. A student will typically audition for the opportunity to join that studios traveling competitive team and participate in extra classes, rehearsals, and training with that competitive team in addition to any recreational classes they participate in. There is also the conservatory-type of training program. This kind of program often looks more like a school, or is, a preforming arts school that will serve as a child’s primary education. This kind of program includes training in various genres of dance for several hours a week (often several hours a day). A child my also audition for placement in that school’s performance company, which would involve regular large-scale productions.
Since my daughter is only three, it was more important for me as a parent, that my daughter develop a love of dance at her young age. I want her to truly enjoy and embrace the imaginative and innocent age she is at, and I want that to carry over to her dance classes at present. Even as a parent with decades of dance experience under my belt, I was not looking for a competitive program at my daughters young age. If she decides she wants to continue with dance as she grows and would like to become more serious about her training, finding a program to suit those evolving needs can be addressed. But for now, I don’t see the need for my three year old to compete or train at a serious level.
CLASSES AND COMMUNICATION | Find out what kinds of classes are offered at the studios you are considering. Ask the studio for class definitions to find out what material will be covered and compare them with other options. One will also want to find out how a studio communicates with their students and their families. Does a studio use a parent portal? Social media? A website? How do they keep parents informed of news and announcements? What are the payment options? Can one pay online or set up an automatic payment? Are their discounts offered for families who pay for a full year or by the semester versus monthly? An active and well organized studio will have a constant and consistent influx of information available for students and families.
It was very important to me to find a class that taught the fundamentals of ballet. It didn’t so much matter to me if it was a combo class or just a ballet class. It does matter to me that my daughter get quality, structured, instruction of fundamental basics that could aide her as she progresses if I am paying a tuition fee. Furthermore, in our hunt for the right studio fit for us, I had an experience with a studio that made me more than appreciate the importance of effective communication. My daughter’s current studio has a parent portal where I can get receive and retrieve all necessary information, sign any necessary forms, make any necessary payments, track my payments, or view my payment history or bill. This parent portal also has an automated email system set up to notify parents via email, text message, and/or phone call, of any and all class announcements and/or cancellations.
LOOK FOR OPEN HOUSES | The end of a school year also, typically, means then end of a dance school year too. As a parent, this is a good time to start looking for a dance studio that is a good fit for your child and family. It is beyond helpful to find a studio that hosts an open house where parents and children can observe a class, see the facilities, and meet the staff and faculty. If one is lucky enough, a studio might even have a free trail class! If a studio does not host any kind of open house, I suggest contacting any studios you’re interested in and asking if they would let you come observe a class. Additionally, the end of a dance school year also means recital time. A studios end of the year recital is also another good opportunity for parent and child to see that studios work. Getting a glimpse of what kind of experience you, your child, and family could potentially have with any studio is eye opening. And, it is by far, the best way to gauge what establishment will be the right fit.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE A CHANGE | Every child, parent, and family is different from the next. And, every teacher, studio, and dance program is different from the next. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, one will find that a particular studio just isn’t the right fit for their child and/or family. This could be do to a clash in personalities, differences in opinion on curriculum, other students in a class, communication differences, scheduling conflicts, etc.; there are an endless list of scenarios that could be possible.
Often times, a parent feels an obligation to finish out the year at the establishment they started out at even if it isn’t the best fit for their child and/or family. I want to encourage any parent to make any necessary change for their child. In reality, doing so earlier (rather than later), can make for an easy and smooth transition and avoid unnecessary stress in the long run. This experience should be enjoyable for everyone involved. And, if it is not enjoyable, one should consider making a change. More often than not, if it is early enough in the semester (and one has paid through the semester or year), a studio is likely to refund your money (or close to all of it). And, a new studio is likely to negotiate a discounted rate for you if you ask.
In the end, as in all aspects of your child’s life, you are their biggest advocate as their parent. So, it’s up to you to be their voice and use your best judgement as to what is in their best interest. I hope this will help you all find the right dance program fit for your little and family! Below is a shoppable widget with some more great dance-wear basics! Happy hunting!