The Ins and Outs of Choosing a Dance Studio
by Rachel Minnie
Choosing a dance studio is one of those crucial decisions a parent makes for her dance-minded child. It has an enormous impact on how your child will feel about the experience and can help or hurt a young dancer’s motivation to continue. Even in our rural neck of New Hampshire, a quick online search yielded a dozen dance studios. How is a parent to choose? What information does one need before buying the tights and leotards?
Besides obvious considerations such as price, location, and convenience of schedule, other factors can be just as important. And don’t just trust the online reviews. They can be misleading or out of date. Instead . . .
Consider the Teaching Philosophy: Talk to the Teachers
Does the school embrace individualism and self-expression, or is it more of a classical teaching approach? Is its focus more on competitions or having fun? One way to find this out is to ask if there are auditions for the higher levels. This may be a positive or a negative for you, depending on your child’s level of interest and commitment. If your child just wants to have fun and be with friends, a dance studio geared toward end results, such as competitions, may not be a good long-term choice.
Community Culture: Make Sure It Fits Your Expectations
The culture among the other dancers and parents is important for both you and your child. Some groups are very welcoming, while others may require a bit more time to become part of the group. If feeling connected to a community is important to you or your child (it’s not important to everyone), make sure you are picking the right one. In other words . . .
Chat with other Parents
Ask questions at your trial class (if you are offered one, GO before agreeing to a full session). Listen and observe. Are the other parents leaving to run errands, or are they sticking around and chatting? Are they criticizing or complimenting?
Consider Extra Expenses: They Can Add Up
While you’re at it, ask the other parents if the dance studio has extra expenses that you maybe haven’t considered yet, such as competition fees and multiple dance costumes. If you’re not prepared for them, they can be a strain on your budget. The veteran parents can give you the run-down.
Ask Your Child
This one can be tricky. While you don’t want to leave the decision entirely to your child, of course, you may want to ask gently for her thoughts and opinions. Perhaps she’s thought of something important to her that you hadn’t even considered, like the amount of hook and cubby space for her items while she is in class. Sounds small, but it’s one of those little things that may help narrow down your options. Along those lines . . .
Think About Your (Physical) Comfort
This may sound unimportant, but you’ll probably be spending a lot of time in that dance studio. Make sure it’s comfortable for you. I once spent an entire music lesson looking through a small window in a door while six other mothers tried to do the same. In contrast, when my son tried jiu jitsu, the dojo had a welcoming corner of the room with clean, matching couches, end tables, and lamp lighting. I was dazzled. As a result, going to those classes wasn’t something I dreaded. I could keep an eye on my kiddo while playing matching games on my tablet in the cozy parents corner. Is a bad waiting section a dealbreaker? Probably not, but it can seal the deal when deciding between studios.