By: Shellie Chambers
Program Director, 3rd grade and up
The Dance Foundation
It’s that time of year to look for activities to engage your child. Dance is a great choice for all ages! Not only do dance classes offer physical benefits like increased coordination, strength, flexibility, and poise, research shows that dance classes also develop creativity, problem solving, communication, high-ordered thinking, and social awareness.
There are many studios and community centers that offer dance classes, but each has its own philosophy and approach to teaching. Often, a dance school is selected based on location and cost, but there is so much more to consider. Just like you would with anything else, do your research when choosing a dance school for your child. Some questions you might want to ask are:
What is the training of the faculty?
Some dance schools provide faculty bios and/or qualifications on their website. Ask for them, if not. A great dance teacher will most likely have a degree in dance from a college or university and may even hold an MFA.
What is the teaching philosophy of the school?
Dance schools have a variety of philosophies. The school may emphasize competitions, or recreational dance, or a professional track. The school may have a spring recital, or it may not. What is the curriculum used for young children verses older students? And, what styles of dance are offered to what ages?
Observe a class or performance, if possible. Do you agree that the movement, music and costumes are age-appropriate?
According to Mary Margaret Bawden, founder of soultosolechoreography.org and “DA:NCE-Dance Awareness: No Child Exploited,”
“In some dance studios around the nation, there has been an increase in sexualized, objectified movement for children under 12. These studios/teachers often unknowingly model their movement choices on what they see in the media culture. I’ll label this cultural shift the difference between healthy, age-appropriate dance versus unhealthy, age-inappropriate dance.”
It is up to you as the parent to determine what you want for your child.
Does the school offer live music?
Music is an essential component to dancing, but finding a dance class that offers live music is hard! Live music creates imaginative environments, provides a collaborative atmosphere, and it develops the dancer’s musicality.
For students in elementary school and older, what is the commitment level required, and does it match what you are willing to invest?
Determine how much of a time commitment you are willing to make for your child and your family. If dance is a new exploration for your child, maybe you want to start with a small commitment – one day per week. But, as with learning anything, if you want to see the most progress, more classes per week will be required.
What is the trajectory of the program as your child gets older?
What is the oldest age student and what is the highest level class offered? Does your child have a place to grow and progress if dance becomes their passion?
Location and tuition should be considered last, in my opinion. When you consider the tuition, be sure to notice if the monthly fee is per class or per hour, and check out all the fees associated with the class(es) (ex: performances, costumes, required attire, tickets, competitions, traveling, etc.) Some schools even offer financial aid, but you might have to ask.
Most importantly, after you have done your research and selected a school, help your child to have consistent attendance (that’s the best way to ensure that progress will be made). Trust your decision and trust your dancer’s teacher – she/he’s the expert!
Mary Margaret Bawden
About The Dance Foundation:
The Dance Foundation’s programs spark creative thinking, encourage collaboration and build confidence in the lives of children, teens and adults in our community.
We dance with 2000+ students of all ages and abilities in our studios and at more than 20 social service agencies, child care centers and schools throughout Birmingham. Our dance classes and performances inspire all involved – the growing toddler, the child who is homeless, disadvantaged or at-risk, the child who has special needs, and the inquisitive teen. The Dance Foundation is also home to dozens of artists and arts organizations for classes, workshops, rehearsals and performances. Creativity and collaboration are at the heart of our mission. The Dance Foundation. A Place of Discovery.