teachers play a crucial role in preparing their students for a lifelong future
in dance – be it professional or recreational.
teacher not only has to be proficient in
the style they teach, but proficient in how they teach – it takes one bad
experience for a beginning student to decide to never give dance a chance again
or an inexperienced teacher pushing students to execute movements that may lead
How does one
become proficient? You have to start somewhere and it is always at the bottom –
Every great teacher was a novice. This means that there has to be a place for
the novice teacher to practice and grow to some day become proficient at
teaching if it is his/her wish. Where do we put them and how do we monitor
local dance studios are a good place for aspiring dance teachers and here’s
why. A local dance studio that has at least one highly proficient dance teacher
on staff has the opportunity to cultivate future dance teachers through
mentorship. It’s a win, win – providing students with teaching experience as
well as preserving the longevity of the studio due to high teacher turnover
rates. Student teachers will also learn how to teach in a safe, systematic way
in order to continue to peak a child’s interest as well as ensure that learning
is being scaffolded for those that are ready for something a bit more
The sad news
is that not all local dance studios are well managed – hiring teachers with
very little experience. This leaves aspiring dancers and their parents with
very few options. For this posting, I’ll focus on teachers and what constitutes
a good dance teacher.
dance teacher as good or bad, is subjective – A student that is always getting
corrected on execution or posture might think that his/her teacher is bad. On
the other hand, the student that is standing right next to him might think that
the teacher is good. The parent of the child getting the correction may agree
or disagree with the correction, deeming the teacher as good or bad. Maybe the
way in which the teacher is giving the correction may give the impression that
he/she is a good or bad teacher. You could see where I’m going with this.
constitutes a highly proficient dance teacher? It is my opinion that a highly
proficient dance teacher is a person that has a desire to learn as much as a
desire to teach – a person that is always in contact with his/her students and
parents so that they understand the overall class trajectory as well as
individual student progress – a person that is always researching how to teach
his or her students in the most effective way – a person that is open to
learning other forms of dance – a person that has a professional dance history
and a person that is willing to make mistakes and laugh.
believed in mistakes, just opportunities.
On the other
hand, some dance teachers are taught by other dance teachers that were taught
by other dance teachers that were taught by other dance teachers and so on. The
bad news is that not all were taught how to be good dance teachers so the bad
habits and techniques get passed on from one bad teacher to the next.
teachers receive degrees in Dance Performance, Dance Education or
“certified” such as the certifications offered through ABT’s National
Training Curriculum. These are all well and good…they’re lookers. When you
apply for a job these are the bells and whistles that employers look for.
However, it does not measure how a teacher teaches.
In the end,
as a new or seasoned dancer, its up to you to decide who is a good teacher and
who is a bad teacher. You may live in a town with just a couple of dance
studios. If this is the case, go to each one and ask to observe the teachers…do
not observe the students, that’s not what you are there for. Listen for the
teacher’s tone…does it sound positive or negative. Does the teacher make an
attempt to always address the entire class or does the teacher play favorites.
Does the teacher demonstrate the movement systematically the way it should be
done or does the teacher call on one or two favorites to do the movement. Does
the teacher find time to laugh…even at his/her own mistakes. Does the teacher
learn from his/her students. Does the teacher check for understanding to make
sure that each student understands the exercise.
Here is an
example, sometimes I get a hankering for a Three Musketeers. I stop into a
store, pick one up and head out the door. When I open up the bar, I notice that
the chocolate isn’t brown how chocolate is supposed to look like…it’s the color
of chalk – YUK! Do I settle for this nasty old Three Musketeers bar or do I
return the old one and go to a different store…yeah, I’m going to a different
to take dance with a bad teacher. If you are able, ask mom or dad if you could
check out some of the other studios and look at some other teachers and make a
decision. Be honest with your parents. Let them know the reasons why you don’t
like the teacher.
The sad news
is that if you live in a rural part of the country, you may not have that much
of a choice so if you love dance, you might just have to chose between the
lesser of two evils. This means that you are going to have to have an iron
mental constitution. I’ll talk about the mental game in my next post.
All schools are not created equally. There are different schools for different purposes, different schools have different resources. Resources can include everything from financial aid to connections to community programs to performing opportunities. These schools around the world are sometimes overwhelming to navigate or there is a very large amount of pressure to make it…
— Read on aballeteducation.com/2019/11/05/top-10-toxic-ballet-schools/