Hopefully, this list will help parents generate questions to ask prospective dance schools as they make what may be one of the most important choices in their child’s dance life!
Remember, you are not seeking “right answers”, only answers that you are comfortable with and understand.
1. Do you like the owner of the school?
First impressions count for a lot in this game! If all goes well, this person will be a part of your life for many years to come. Is this a person that you can relate to? Does your child seem to like them? Do they seem to like the children? Are they organized?
2. Owner Involvement
There can be any number of motivations for starting a dance school including, to make money, for tax purposes, a passion for dance, etc. Do you like their reasons for being there? for not being there?
3. The Voice of the Village
Some parents are comfortable with a dictatorship as long as the outcome is good, whereas others may want a democracy regardless of the outcome. Which do you prefer?
4. The Mission
Does the structure & management of the organization seem to align with its mission?
5. The Peanut Gallery
One great way to find out what’s really going on “behind the curtain” is to sit in the waiting area with other parents and listen to what they have to say about the school.
6. Parental Involvement
If you go to sit in the waiting area and classes are full but all the parents are gone, be curious about why that is. Especially if the children are young…
Also consider whether parents are expected to invest lots of time, can you make that commitment?
7. Methods & Madness
Is there a formalized structure or do teachers have freedom to teach as they see fit? With which of these approaches are you more comfortable? Which one is more appropriate for your child’s learning style?
8. The Focus
Some dance schools elevate Ballet or Hip Hop, while others may elevate Tap dancing. Does your child’s interest align with the studio’s focus?
Caution: Sometimes when a school specializes in one form they may implicitly (or explicitly) denigrate others.
9. What’s on Tap!?!
Do they offer both Broadway & Rhythm Tap? Do they know the difference? Which do you want? Which does your child want? Be aware that some schools tend to look down on “Rhythm Tap”, especially if they are unable to find anyone who teaches it well. In addition, some schools might say they offer “Rhythm Tap” because “all tap has rhythm.” This is not really a straightforward answer.
10. Knock, Knock! Who’s There?
Are most classes taught by professional instructors or are most taught by students from the older classes? Are the teacher’s passionate about the classes they are teaching, or are they just teaching it out of obligation?
11. Toward What End?
Studios that focus on competitions will generally have a big display case containing many trophies and ribbons. Other studios may focus on seasonal recital performances and/or performances in the community. Each approach has pros and cons which should be investigated.
12. “Huh? What’s a Festival?”
This is a big one! If a studio is trying to convince you that they are serious about tap yet they don’t encourage their students to take advantage of tap festivals or workshop series, you should ask why that is.
13. Money, money, money…
When comparing dance schools, parents tend to compare the monthly costs of the classes. This approach ignores some very crucial components, namely, costumes and recital fees! Dance costumes can be pricey and at many schools there is a different costume for each dance a child is in.
Thus, if a school has two recitals per year, and your child is in 5 classes, you may be paying for up to ten new costumes every year! On top of that, some schools have to charge a recital fee to parents in an attempt to recoup the high costs of putting on the recital. Just be sure to get all of the relevant figures when comparison shopping.
14. Word on the Street
Have they been in the community long enough to have a reputation? Consider what people are saying about them. Don’t be afraid to mention the name of the school to friends, coworkers, and church members to see what they have to say. You may get some important insights!
15. Work Your Way Up!
Wood Flooring is best for dancers as it reduces injuries. Anything else needs to be looked at skeptically. Tile flooring or (God forbid!) concrete flooring can lead to a much greater likelihood of injuries occurring. If a studio has been around for more than 2 years and has not yet invested in appropriate flooring, you should hold that against them. Some would say that 2 years is too long…