How do you choose the right dance studio?

This is a question I wish most parents asked before signing up their children for dance. I have the perspective of the former student, the performer, the teacher and now the paying parent. Before I sign up my son for anything, I look at the QUALITY of instruction. I recognize that once a student develops poor training it is very difficult to undo the muscle memory.

Here are three questions I would encourage parents to consider.

  1. What are you hoping to achieve?

  2. What style of dance are you looking for?

  3. Have you looked at the quality of instructors and training?

With question number one, there are several things to consider. Is this just a “fun experience” for your child? Or is this skill something you want your child to take seriously and become proficient in or even potentially a career path?

What style of dance are you looking for? This question has several layers. In the dance world there are classical dance schools, competition dance schools, recreation dance schools and what I like to call, “one stop-shop dance schools.”

A classical dance school usually emphasizes strong technique in ballet, modern, jazz and sometimes tap. The rigors and requirements at a classical school are typically very high, focusing both on flawless technique and artistry. Usually the focus is to prepare the dancer for a professional dance career in a classical ballet company, modern company or Broadway. OKC Dance Centre would be considered a classical dance studio.

Competition studios are very different in focus. Most of them offer basic technique classes, but focus on performance at competitions. While I’ve noticed that most competition studios underemphasize classical technique, they do strongly prepare their dancers for pom and cheer. These dancers often go the professional track of cheerleaders and back up dancers for the pop world. As a classically-trained instructor, I have a hard time with the concept of rating someone’s art form in competition. I am of the mindset that artistry, technique and the execution behind the step is more important than the “tricks” performed in competitions. Again, this style of studio is not wrong, just a completely different career path.

As you can see, these two kinds of studios prepare dancers for different tracks, really different worlds entirely! They are separate worlds. One isn’t bad. Just different paths. At OKC Dance Centre, while we are not focused on competitive dance, we believe that our training prepares our dancers to be well positioned to compete, should they choose to pursue that track.

The recreational type of studio is one where the dancer can have a fun experience. Usually the instruction is more fun focused, less structured.

And there’s the “one stop-shop dance studio!” These types of dance studios often offer every single type of dance! The dancers can experience every style and become, “well-exposed.” My problem with this concept is that it is not possible for one dancer to become excellent all these various genres! Unless you are a prodigy, you will end up becoming mediocre in multiple styles instead of excellent in one or two. I prefer that my students to pick one or two styles and become proficient in those first. Then when they become a more skilled technician, they can venture out in expanding their versatility.

My third question: what is the quality of the instruction and training? You will want to know the credentials of the instructors and their past experience and training. Remember that not all great dancers make good teachers. Many dance teachers in America teach without proper training. Teaching is a skill that entails more than simply knowing how to perform, but comprehensive study of different techniques, styles, history and terminology. Remember that often the excellence, or lack thereof, is clear by the standards expected of the students and the results they produce in technique, artistry, personal disciplines and character.

As parents (I speak for myself here), we have a responsibility to put our children under the right people and in the right environment. Like anything you do for your child, whether it be academics, food, or safety, also research your children’s extra curricular activities! Make sure you are putting them under excellent instruction that will not only train your children, but encourage and build them up!

At Oklahoma City Dance Centre, we offer dance from child through adult, but we do not try to be all things to all people. We desire to do what we do well and train students in a pre-professional environment. We strive to “inspire excellence in dance,” by simultaneously developing personal disciplines, character and precision, which will enable them to succeed in all areas of their lives.

Liz Kraft Hubbard

Owner/Artistic Director of OKC Dance Centre