When it comes to the world of dance and finding the right dance teacher for yourself, it can feel a little daunting and worrying. There are so many out there to choose from, sometimes it becomes difficult to know what to look for, and which are legitimate in their dance style. You might find yourself with questions like:
What if I pay money but they are rubbish?
How do I know that they are qualified or experienced enough to teach?
What makes a good dance teacher?
What if I injure myself during their class?
Are they first aid trained?
How do I know that they ‘really’ understand their dance style?
As professionals in the Performing Arts Industry, we recognise the importance and value of years of professional training and conditioning and only work with the best and most qualified dance teachers across the UK. We have put together our top tips on how to choose a dance teacher.
Free does not always mean good and higher rates do not always mean better
Class prices can range from being free to being very expensive, and with so many varying prices around it’s often difficult to work out whether the cost of the class determines whether they are good. Shop around and seek out various classes asking the price and the amount of time that the class runs for. Compare prices, teachers and do online searches for recommendations. Just because a class is free it doesn’t mean that the teacher knows or understands the dance style they are teaching. It is very easy to set up a class, but it is not so easy to offer quality. On the other hand, just because a teacher charges a higher amount per hour doesn’t always mean that they are any good. There are no laws around what dance teachers should charge and so unfortunately it is all too easy for them to charge what they want, and not necessarily provide the best quality and safe teaching. If a teacher charges a high rate, find out why. What experiences do they have? Who have they taught in the past? How long have they taught for? How in demand are they? If a class is cheaper or free, again ask why. Is there a reason they can offer it at that rate? Do they have funding? Are they a charity or not-for-profit organisation? Is it part of a wider event/workshop?
Here at A Mind Apart in order to make performing arts accessible to all, we seek to keep our costs low and affordable. But this does not mean that we cut on quality. We provide highly qualified and experienced teachers throughout all of our services, because we believe in offering professional services. As a not-for-profit organisation our biggest objective is to make performing arts accessible to all. Everything we do has this in mind, and we seek to make it accessible to those who otherwise would not have access to the performing arts. For us this is our social purpose, and so we do our best to keep costs low and affordable.
We suggest that when starting classes, an acceptable rate to pay is anything between £4 to £10 for a group weekly hour session (Individual one to one sessions will be considerably higher in price, and may depend on whether the teacher has to source a space or whether you have a space that can be used already).
A good dancer doesn’t always make a good teacher
Someone can be an incredible dancer, but it doesn’t mean that they have the ability to teach and to pass their skill onto others. Teaching is a very unique skill, that not every professional dancer or performer is able to master. Dancers are very good at selling their experiences of dancing for some of the best choreographers in the country or even the world, but don’t be fooled by their contacts. Contacts do not give the person the ability to encourage you as a dancer, to see where you are going wrong, where your lines are not right or push you to give more effort to learning your new found skill. The best teachers will be more interested in you developing and will encourage you to grow in confidence as well as technique and ability.
Just because a teacher is able to teach or dance one dance genre, doesn’t mean that they are able to teach another. They might dance different styles, but again it’s important for you to ask them how long they have been dancing and teaching that specific genre. For example just because an Irish Dancing teacher can teach Irish Heavy Shoe, it doesn’t mean that they can automatically teach Tap Dance. Always do your research.
Don’t feel scared to ask for their credentials
A legitimate dance teacher will always be willing to give you their credentials, show you their qualifications and openly share their experiences with you. Remember that credentials are not just about what they have done as a dancer. Ask them about who they have taught, what their dance groups have been involved in, who have they choreographed for, and whether they have taught anyone that has gone into the industry successfully.
Don’t feel afraid to ask the teacher whether they are qualified to teach. For many dance genres there are often specific teaching qualifications or exams that they have to pass. Professional and trained teachers will regularly be pushing themselves and attending training, conferences and workshops to make sure they are up to date with the world of dance so that they can make sure they are giving their best to their students.
Find out if they are first aid trained
This is something that not many dance students think about. Imagine you are dancing in their lesson and you hurt yourself. Ask yourself, whether or not the teacher would know what to do and how to treat you if you sprained your ankle or worse…? If the teacher is not trained in first aid, do they have someone around that is and where is the first aid kit? It doesn’t matter at what level you dance at, it only takes one wrong step, jump or kick to injure yourself. For dancers, they are only as good as their body is. In an industry where you are pushed physically it is important that dancers and dance teachers know and understand how to do basic first aid on themselves or others.
When working on lifts, dips, partner work, jumps and floor tricks it’s even more important that you know your teacher understands the health and safety of it and knows how to do them safely without putting you at serious physical risk.
Ask to observe their class before committing
Any good dance teacher will let you sit and observe their class before you commit to trying. Some may even offer the first session free as a trial session. It’s important that you are comfortable with your dance teacher, whether you are doing it for fun, to get fit or to improve your technique. Part of getting to know how a new teacher works might be to observe them teaching before you yourself take part. It’s the job of the teacher to make you feel comfortable and secure both with themselves and the dance you are learning. By spending time talking to other students and watching how the teacher interacts with them, you will have a better idea as to whether they teach in a style that suits you and your personality.
Speak to other people attending their classes
Seek out others around you that go to various classes and find out what they think about them and what is involved in the class. Some teachers and dance styles are more about having fun and enjoying it, but others are more about technique and developing your skill in that dance form. Consider the reasons you want to attend dance classes and seek out the teacher that best offers what you are looking for. The key things to ask people are: ‘How do they find the teacher?’ Do they feel like they have developed whilst being with the teacher?’ ‘Does the teacher make them feel safe?’
If you’re unsure we at A Mind Apart offer free advice around who the best teachers are throughout areas of the UK, and have extensive contacts that we regularly pass on to those interested in classes that we do not deliver ourselves. You can find more information on who we recommend on our Facebook pages ‘A Mind Apart’ and A Mind Apart Theatre’
Our final tip is to make sure you have fun! Find a teacher that makes it fun whilst pushing you as far as you can be pushed in skill and technique. If you’re paying money, it’s assumed you want to be better at it, but no one wants to pay for a grumpy teacher! Find the teacher that fulfils what you’re looking for and makes it enjoyable for you and dance away!
For more information on our workshops, classes, events and work, or for further advice check out our website www.a-mind-apart.org.uk or find us on facebook and twitter under ‘A Mind Apart’.