Comparable to voice, beneficial dance programs for performers seeking professional careers are grounded in classical technique. Many studios concentrate a large part of their class time on repertoire for competitions and end of the year recitals. Unfortunately, heavy concentration on repertoire stunts technical development. It’s vital that you find a program that sets technique as the cornerstone of its training.
Here are additional qualities you should look for in dance programs:
- Instructors with higher education and/or noteworthy training: Instructors should have at least a four year degree in dance from a reputable university and/ or an abundance of consistent, high level classical training (5+ years) from an acclaimed program/ curriculum. Instructors should also continue with professional development and dance certifications through independent programs and internal studio workshops.
- Instructors with extensive teaching & performance/ choreography experience: Dance instructors should have at least 4 years of teaching experience. Additionally, instructors should have lengthy resumes inundated with distinguished and professional choreography/ performance work.
- Instructors/ studios that specialize in a specific dance style: To accelerate your growth in any dance style, work with teachers who have devoted their careers to perfecting and working within a particular method.
- Comprehensive curriculum with scheduled feedback and/ or assessments: It is imperative that studios/ instructors use a comprehensive curriculum that measures and progresses student growth in a systemized fashion. Directors should also require detailed lesson plans from its instructors. Additionally, directors/ instructors should engage their students in scheduled feedback and/ or technical assessments to evaluate student development and ensure appropriate class placement.
- Adequate facilities: Dance studios should have an unobstructed mirrored wall and sprung flooring- wood or marley. (You can SEVERELY AND PERMENATELY hurt yourself without proper flooring.) Sturdy ballet barres and effective sound systems should also be readily available or located in each room. All customer areas, from studios to dressing rooms, should be clean and orderly.
- Notable student results: Pre-professional dance programs should have remarkable student results. Alumni should have coveted professional careers in dance or musical theater.
- Training programs led by professional dance companies (beneficial, but not mandatory.): A professional dance company is the authority for its affiliate training program. The partnership indicates the training program’s desire to develop advanced technical dancers that will live up to the dance program standards.
Sadly, many local dance programs tend to be educationally and administratively disorganized. They do not use a unified curriculum. Lesson plans and formal benchmarks are non-existent. Teachers are not evaluated. Students aren’t assessed. Worst of all, directors are focused on enrollment numbers than quality programming. As a professional performer, you do not have the time or money to waste working with dance programs lacking superior standards like Juilliard School of Dance.
How to determine the best dance programs
After reviewing dance programs online and identifying the best programs in your area, email the manager or director for more information. Communicate clearly in your correspondence that you’re looking for a program to aid your development as a professional performer. Ask very specific questions to learn exactly what they offer, but be certain that the answers to your questions aren’t available online!
After gathering information and finding a studio match, ask to audit or try out a class. Auditing a class should be free. However, you may have to pay a walk-in rate when taking a trial class. Once you’re on location, be hyperaware of the environment. Simply move on if you don’t feel safe or if the studio, teacher, and/or administration appears to be disorganized, unprofessional, or unprepared.
Specialty Studios vs. Varied Studios
Specialty studios are typically technique grounded classical ballet programs. These studios aim to create and train skilled dancers. Specialty studios tend to be more expensive than dance studios offering a variety of options, but their laser like focus would likely increase your rate of development.
Ultimately, you want dance programs that are going to expand your knowledge and language of dance and develop your technique. You can get that from both specialty studios and programs offering variety. However, specialty studios are a great place to start your research. Expect them to be very clear about their program and philosophy which will be a great model to compare variety dance programs against.