A Parent's Guide for the Serious Dancer
For the young dancer who has moved beyond the basics and is ready for more
serious dance training, there are many factors to consider when choosing
the right dance school or program. Here is a simple guide of practical
tips to help you find the dance program that's right for you and your child.
The Technique Class
In dance, the term technique is used to refer to the method or process
of executing steps with detailed precision. A teacher that understands
good technique will emphasize proper placement, posture, form, arm &
leg coordination and most of all dance terminology will be used. Some
schools label classes specifically as "technique" classes, which may mean
that other classes are not technique classes. In this case, class time
may instead be used to practice routines for a performance or competition.
For the more serious dancer, all dance classes should be "technique" classes.
Practicing for performances or rehearsing dance routines should be separate
- either saved for the end of class or done outside of class time, so
as to not disrupt class progression.
To Compete or Not Compete?
Dance competitions vary in quality, organization and the level of talent
that they attract. Participation in dance competitions is something that
every dancer and parent should give careful consideration to. A reputable
dance competition should be well organized, provide professional flooring,
adequate clean dressing room facilities and have well-informed "friendly"
staff on hand to answer questions. Beware of the competition that gives
everyone a prize. They may only be encouraging you to come back. Competitions
often have enormous entry fees, numerous hidden costs and multiple "categories"
for entry. Spending endless hours of class time preparing for competitions
can sometimes become counter-productive.
At a quality dance program geared for the "serious" dancer, the director
and/or instructors generally lean away from competing or are selective
in participating in any competition-type activity.
A well-rounded dance program provides ample performing opportunities for
the serious dancer. In addition to the annual recital, performing opportunities
should include learning the "classics," such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake
or Sleeping Beauty. This exposes the young dancer to traditional choreography.
It's always a good idea to combine the classics with more contemporary
works. This is how the dancer develops new coordination skills and inspires
their creativity. Guest choreographers are a great asset to help broaden
the dancer's knowledge and encourage versatility. The opportunity to perform
with live music is very rare, but extremely beneficial to the dancer.
It not only enhances the general performance, but it also furthers the
dancer's musical awareness.
Exploring Summer Dance Program
A reputable dance school would never discourage a "serious" dancer to explore
various summer dance programs. Summer dance programs can provide a valuable
experience for the young dancer, exposing him/her to numerous other instructors,
styles of teaching and most of all, other dance students. Audition notices
and information should be readily available to you. From the Boston Ballet,
The Central Pennsylvania Ballet, The School of American Ballet to the
San Francisco Ballet, etc... Your teacher should be able to help you find
a program that will help you grow as a dancer.
In selecting the right dance school or program for your child, look to
see if the school's former or current students have been accepted into
major dance programs, summer intensives and or university dance programs.
This will assure you that the dance school is preparing its dancers for
the eclectic demands of today's dance world. Also, check to see if the
school has a performing company and if it has received any national recognition
Organizations such as
Regional Dance America (RDA) carefully screen and evaluate its members. RDA is a national organization
of pre-professional dance companies. Its purpose is to encourage and develop
young companies with high artistic standards, and to offer the directors,
choreographers, teachers and dancers additional opportunities to perform,
to study with different master teachers and choreographers, and to make
contacts within the professional world of dance.
The Element of Fun
This is the most important tip of all - have fun! For the serious young
dancer, dancing should be a "labor of love," and they should enjoy every
moment they are moving. The classroom and rehearsal environment should
be an atmosphere of learning that is well-disciplined, positive and light-hearted.
It need not be one of tension, yelling or harsh words from the instructor
or director. Most serious dancers are highly-motivated, over-achievers
and perfectionists by nature who need positive words, guidance and encouragement.