Now onto dance…so what should you be looking for in a dance school?

Every dance studio will tell you they have qualified, friendly teachers, experience teaching children and a big show at the end of the year – so aren’t they all pretty much the same – No. Does it really matter which studio you decide to enroll at – Yes!  Since we have added dance to our studio, we have heard from a number of families enrolled in other programs in our Performing Arts program that they were in dance but they quit because it either wasn’t fun, wasn’t a supportive environment, they didn’t really learn anything or in some cases – the teacher just yelled at them all the time. Dance like all the arts should be fun, but it is also hard work.

There are a number of factors that can make a huge difference in the quality of instruction your child receives and the overall enjoyment and satisfaction of being involved with a dance program for both the student and parents. But for now, let’s look at a few things to consider.

1. What is the School’s teaching philosophy?

Different dance schools teach dance differently. One school may be all about teaching the proper form and style, while another may take more of a laid back and fun approach. Does the instructor foster good self-esteem? Does the school allow inappropriate costumes, music content or unsuitable choreography? Just because kids see it on TV doesn’t mean they should be doing it themselves at a young age. Think about your own child’s personality and goals when choosing which teaching style will fit them best. Also think about what they or you really want to get out of it.

2. What is the size of the class?

Larger class sizes can mean lower fees but if the dance class has fewer students in it each child will receive more personalized attention, learn more and have more fun. For younger students this means that it will be easier for the teacher to ensure that each student understands the instructions and concepts. Adding junior assistants is one way of dealing with large class sizes but it rarely translates into great teaching. Our smaller class sizes ensure that no fundamental concepts are being missed that our students do not develop bad habits.

Our studio limits the classes for our youngest students (aged 4) to a maximum of 8 students, classes for students aged 5-11 to 12 students per class and classes for students aged 12 and up to 8-10 students per class.

3. Injuries? … it all starts with the dance floor

Dance, like most sports, is a very physical activity that requires a lot of jumping – putting stress on bones and joints. Most dance footwear does not provide much cushioning or support, so the shock of dance movement can place a lot of pressure on a dancer’s body. By choosing a studio with a professional sprung floor you can help guarantee the safest training environment for your children.

A sprung dance floor does not actually have springs in the floor, but rather high density rubber or foam incorporated into its design. Usually the sub floor is concrete, and above that lie sections or blocks of the high density rubber. Two layers of high grade plywood are then laid over the foam to spread out the impact.

The high density rubber absorbs the shock of landing from high jumps and repeated impact on the body. This relieves the majority of pressure and the impact on joints, ligaments and muscles. In addition to absorbing the energy of the impact, the high grade plywood floor also relieves stress on the body by not rebounding back immediately. This prevents a counter force on the body after landing. This also makes the dancer use their own power to push off the floor rather than using the spring of the floor aiding in the creation of muscle strength and control.

The top layer of the dance floor is also an important factor. A vinyl composite shock absorbing flooring is accepted worldwide as the best surface layer for dance – often referred to as ‘Marley’. While some studios support hardwood floors, when it comes to performances hardwood is definitely not the flooring of choice – just look at the floor at the next dance show you attend. Vinyl floors allow dancers to slide, with a degree of “controlled” slip, lessening the risk of slips, falls and injuries and allowing students to dance longer without getting tired. At Music and Play, our new studios have floating floors on an industry leading high-density rubber block base with a vinyl flooring top.

4. What ‘extras’ are required?

Most studios put on a year-end show. Students that perform in the show need a costume for their number. There are a variety of versions of how these costumes come to be, but it is safe to say that the majority of them amount to extra time, extra money or both on the parents’ behalf. This can be inconvenient, costly and frustrating for busy parents and for those who aren’t seamstresses. Find out what is expected of you and your child when it comes to all of the activities outside of dance class.

At Music and Play we have a year-end recital that is costumed, but that is not what the whole year is about, nor what the show is about – it’s about dance. If it’s a showy number, costumes are purchased on behalf of the parents and alterations are taken care of. But it is also possible that that we may stage a number with a more theatrical, less ‘Vegas’ approach, and in those cases we will work with the students to provide pieces from their own wardrobes that would be appropriate. The bottom line is that parents don’t have to worry about any huge costume hassles or significant work and can instead concentrate on enjoying the growth of their children through movement and dance.