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3.11. How do I find/choose a school or teacher?




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This article is from the Ballet and Modern Dance FAQ, by Tom Parsons twp@panix.com with numerous contributions by others.

3.11. How do I find/choose a school or teacher?

If you know any dancers, ask them. If you don't, look in the
Yellow Pages under dance instruction. You can also call the city's leading
dance company (if you have one) and ask whether they have a school.
There's also an extensive database on dance schools at
http://www.pav.org/schools/CITYSEARCH.HTML
And you can post in this group. If there are more than one studio, as
there will be in large cities, go and try them all out. You will soon know
when you are being well taught (see the next question).

Here are some of the things you should look for:

Does the class conform to the traditional format--barre, "adage", and
allegro? A place that offers something like ballet, jazz, and tap in
a single class is not the place for you (unless there's no other choice
where you live). Anything but pure, undiluted ballet (or modern) is
not for you. Even if you plan eventually to dance in another
tradition, ballet is the place to start.

If you're an adult, do they offer a special introductory course for
absolute beginners? Such courses are rare, but priceless; go for one
if it's offered.

Are you made to feel that you are really *dancing*, right from the
first exercises at the barre? Is dance taught as movement or only as
static poses?

How much individual attention and correction do you get? An experi-
enced dancer can do with less, but a beginner needs a great deal.

Does the teacher instruct you in the use of the head and arms, even
at the barre, or does (s)he just let your arms hang down like limp
spaghetti? A great deal of what makes theatrical dance theatrical
is the way the dancer uses his or her head and arms. The audience
probably notices these more than the feet.

Does the teacher show a good working knowledge of anatomy, and does
(s)he pass that knowledge on to you?

How does the teacher look when (s)he moves? Do you enjoy watching him/
her move? We learn in part by conscious or unconscious imitation; is
your teacher someone you want to imitate?

Do they take time to show you how to do an unfamiliar step? Many
teachers seem to expect you to pick a step up by watching the others;
but watching the others is a bad habit. It makes you rely on the
others instead of developing concentration.

What is the atmosphere? Is it a warm, pleasant place to be? A good
teacher explains, challenges, and encourages students--and answers
their questions--without being condescending or putting them down. A
good teacher gains the respect of his/her class by showing respect for
them.

How long is the class? The standard is an hour and a half; some
studios give you only an hour and a quarter, which is too rushed.
Other things being equal, hold out for the full hour and a half.

Do they have a live accompanist, or taped music? Some excellent
schools use tape, but a live accompanist is nearly always better.
Do they have you dance to fine (classical) music?

Barbara Early's book, "Finding the Best Dance Instruction" (see
the References in Part 4) is an excellent guide.

One final word: Don't be put off by a ratty-looking studio.
Ballet schools are frequently hand-to-mouth operations, with little or no
money to spare for decor or even maintenance, and the best instruction I
ever had anywhere was in an atrociously ugly, shabby, and depressing plant.


 

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