10 Questions All Beginning Dancers Ask

Answers to the popular questions that many people ask themselves whether beginning dancers or experienced and returning to classes after time away.

1. What if I don't like my dance class after I sign up for it?

  • Some dance schools will tell you that you're out of luck.
  • And other schools will schedule you into other beginner dance classes and others may offer a refund, but not many do
  • A few dance schools offer a free trial class.  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

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Sometimes the class you choose just isn't a good fit.

2. If I miss a dance class, can I get a refund or do make up classes?

Many dance schools do not refund the cost of the missed class but they will allow you to make up a class as long as it is done in the current semester.

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 because 'life happens'. How will you feel then, knowing that class’s tuition is lost?

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You are going to miss some dance classes because life happens.

3. What if I don’t have a ballet body?

  • Your body may not be right for certain type dance schools.
  • Chances are good that your body is just fine no matter the shape, age, fitness level if you are attending a recreational type dance school.
  • In ballet schools offering career level performance training, only 'ballet bodies' will likely be acceptable.
  • This question 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 aren't being honest and may make you feel otherwise once you once in dance class.
  • At best, you’ll be ignored; at worst, you’ll be ridiculed.
  • Some recreational schools offering serious training  are truly accepting of all body types. Again, visit some schools and feel the vibe.
Ballet body types

There are Seattle dance schools that truly are accepting of all body types.

4. Do You Offer Free Trial Classes?

Free dance classes: Will this class be a good fit?

A free trial class can answer so many of the questions on this page in a short and efficient period of time. Unfortunately few schools offer a truly convenient way to take a free class.

  • Not all schools offer free trial classes.
  • Some have free days in the course of a month, which may or may not align with your busy schedule.
  • Some let you take the class you see on their schedule, however only if you've had enough training to keep up with that class. This is reasonable because you won't enjoy a class that is too advanced or has progressed too far for you.

5. Do you offer tuition discounts?

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  • Many schools offer discounts if more than one family member attends.
  • 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. Can we stay and watch a 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.
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Parents watching their children in a dance class at American Dance Institute Shoreline.

7. What are the attitudes of the students in dance class?
Are they Snooty?

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Look for schools that foster values important to you. 

And it’s not just the students; management and instructors shape the culture.

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. 

  • 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.

8. 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.
  • Great teachers make an enormous difference in what your child gets from class.
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  • 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.

Remember, only the best teachers, backed by the consistent school's support, can produce great results, consistently, over time.

9. Are there any hidden fees? 

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It depends on they type 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. 

C. Some dance studios, such as the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) in downtown Seattle and American Dance Institute (ADI) in Seattle's Greenwood, Magnolia neighborhoods and in Shoreline WA. do in-house studio recitals for the little ones.

In-house recitals often require small or no costume or ticket fees. They are great for young children's dance classes who are just as happy performing in a small intimate, and 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.

10. Does your dance studio have ‘sprung’ floors?

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  • 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. 

Bonus Questions

11. What if my child's dance classes conflict with another sport like soccer?

My way or the highway

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.

12. Do dance recitals require a huge time commitment?

Daily To Do list for parents with kids in 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.

What is the real value of your dance investment then?

Woman scrubbing a dance floor

13. How clean and safe are the studio 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.

In conclusion, enroll in a beginning dance class in a school that respects and supports your values, budget & goals. 

About the author:

Elizabeth Chayer, founded American Dance Institute 31 years ago in Seattle, Washington. She currently serves as director. American Dance Institute has taught over 17,000 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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