Beginner Dance Classes - 10 Must Ask Questions!
Before You Choose A Seattle Dance School.
1. What if my beginner dance classes or my kid's dance classes are not a good fit?
School policies to look for:
- Some Seattle dance schools will tell you that you're out of luck.
- And some schools will schedule you into other beginner dance classes and still others offer a refund.
- Some dance schools offer free trial classes. After you’ve narrowed down your class search, this may be an ideal way to learn if the school/class is right for you before you choose.
- If they don’t offer free trial classes then try to ask the school for special terms before you sign up.
It’s important because a bad fit can kill a wonderful experience. Don’t hesitate to ask each dance school about their refund policies. Or choose a dance school that posts flexible and accommodating policies, especially if you or your kids are taking beginning dance classes.
Does the studio you take dance classes in have sprung floors?
2. Does your dance studio have ‘sprung’ floors?
- A sprung dance floor is designed and built to move or flex a little under the weight of a dancer landing on it after a fast paced walk, run, jump or leap.
- Dance students risk very serious injury to their feet and ankles practicing on hard, stiff floors.
- Dance floors must 'give' or move and in a reliable and predictable manner. Even cushioned floor mats are dangerous, because they offer an unpredictable response or unwelcome ‘surprise’ to the toes & feet.
- Studio floors of hardwood on concrete, concrete, linoleum, tile and cushioned mats can cause serious injury even with 'padding' between them and the concrete floor.
Therefore, insist only on dance studios with sprung dance floors.
3. If I miss one or more dance classes, d0 you offer refunds or make up classes?
Some schools have flexible up policies, others do not. Find out ahead of time what their polices are. If you're taking beginning dance classes or advanced, you are going to miss some classes. Life happens. How will you feel then, knowing that class’s tuition is lost?
You are going to miss some dance classes because life happens.
4. What if I don’t have a dancer’s body?
- This question also speaks to the culture in dance schools. Some schools say everyone is welcome including beginning dance students and all body types but instructors and fellow students may make you feel otherwise once you once in dance class.
- At best, you’ll be ignored; at worst, you’ll be ridiculed.
- Other schools are truly accepting of all body types. Again, visit some schools and feel the vibe.
- And again, if you're looking for a beginning dance class, don’t be afraid to ask direct questions.
There are Seattle dance schools that truly are accepting of all body types.
5. Do you offer any tuition discounts?
- Attending multiple dance classes may entitle you to a discount too.
- Some dance schools offer an early bird discount on tuition if you register and pay for classes early.
6. Are there any hidden fees?
This has to do with the kind of dance school they are.
Here's what to look for:
A. Dance Competition Schools: Popularized on TV, these schools choreograph a dance routine and compete against other like schools. They are very expensive to attend when you add in all of the dance costumes, travel, lodging, competition fees, etc. You’d better love it and be confident that this is really going to serve your child’s long term development needs because it is a huge commitment for the child & family. Ask as many questions as you must to get a clear understanding of the commitment required.
B. Non-Competing ‘Neighborhood’ Schools (as opposed to franchised Schools, like Arthur Murray): Both for profit and non profit, some put on big lavish annual recitals. If they stage a big stage recital every year, expect to shell out extra cash for costume fees, tickets, CD’s and photographs. Multiple children in dance school or one child in several dance classes will require purchasing a costume for each dance class that performs.
- Some dance studio’s do in-house studio recitals. These often require small or no costume or tickets fees. They are great for young children's dance classes who are just as happy performing in a small intimate, familiar environment as opposed to on a big stage and auditorium which can be quite overwhelming.
- Other dance schools perform at community events which are usually free if local.
- Be sure to calculate the cost savings here when comparing tuition prices.
- Dance is performance art and should be performed. Insure the format and costs associated with a dance school’s recital make sense for the age and ability of you or your child.
7. How consistent is the quality of instruction?
Does it vary with each new dance teacher?
- Of the many dance teachers hired by a studio over time, some are excellent, some okay, some uninspiring and some are downright awful.
- Ask what criteria go into a school’s hiring.
- Ask what training and ongoing monitoring methods are employed by school to insure consistency. Listen carefully for substance in the answers you receive.
- Truly excellent teachers are very few and far between, but even the great ones need constant monitoring until they are acclimated to a new school's curriculum.
- Great teachers make an enormous difference in what your child gets from class.
Remember, only the best teachers, backed by the school's support, can produce great results, consistently, over time.
8. How big is the time commitment for your dance recitals?
For the schools that put on a big stage production, the majority of recital rehearsals are usually done during normal class time; so there shouldn’t be any extra time requirement initially.
However getting closer to Show-Time requires Dress rehearsals and Tech rehearsals. Some schools combine them into one very long day and other schools do not, thus requiring two or more long evenings.
Schools that do in-house studio performances normally don’t require additional rehearsals since they are learning in the space they will be performing in.
While there needs to be some prep time for any performance, it’s important that the emphasis on performance does not negate the Creative process.
If students are spending half of their class time for 4-5 months perfecting one dance for recital, they will not be learning new skills or perfecting dance technique.
9. What if the dance classes for my child conflicts with another sport like kid's soccer?
Some schools will make you wait until the next dance session starts, saying that total devotion to one activity or the other is required if a child is to realize their full potential.
Other schools, recognizing there is also benefit to cross training, are flexible and will allow you to join late and prorated tuition.
If it is a technique class, sometimes a private lesson or two might be needed to shorten the gap of what the student missed so as not to hold the other students back. It is always worth asking if they accept late comers.
10. What are the attitudes of the students in Seattle dance classes?
- There is a definite culture in dance schools. Fellow students can be warm and welcoming at one end of the spectrum or snooty, competitive and backbiting at the other.
- And it’s not just the students; management and instructors shape the culture.
- Look for schools that foster values important to you.
- Students learn best in an environment of respect, empathy and acceptance.
- Take a free trial class or visit the schools you are considering during class time. Y0u can usually feel the vibe.
11. How clean and safe are the dance floors?
Body to floor contact is very common in dance classes. Even without street shoes being worn on the dance floor, there is sweat, skin, and chemical residue everywhere.
Some schools just give floors a daily sweep, some use harsh chemicals on the dance floor.
Check and see what kind of cleaning products are used. You want to choose a school that sanitizes the floor surfaces without using any harsh chemicals that come into body contact.
12. Can I stay and watch my child while they are in class?
- Some schools allow you to watch, others do not. If it is important to you or your child that you watch them, be sure to ask what the school’s policy is.
- Some schools feel that parents are a distraction to the children in class.
- Some schools recognize that parents are not a distraction all the time; that there are times a child needs to see mom or dad to get a little reassurance, especially if they are having a bad day.
- Sometimes getting that reassurance from a viewing parent is the difference between a lost class and a successful one.
Watching a class.
In conclusion, enroll in a beginning dance classes in schools that support your values, budget & goals and you will love, love, love dancing!
About the author:
Elizabeth Chayer, founded American Dance Institute in 1989 in Seattle, Washington. She currently serves as director. American Dance Institute has taught over 15,000 students to dance in a school environment that is relaxed, friendly and dedicated to excellence in dance instruction. Elizabeth has also mentored hundreds of instructors to master teacher status in the school’s 31 year history.
She has cataloged the most often heard questions from thousands of student/parent school inquiries over the years. She shared her wisdom here, so that every dance student- children to adults- can find the perfect school and have a wonderful, rewarding learning experience.
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