Choosing a Studio
Choosing the best dance studio to serve your needs can be complicated, especially for those who are just starting out. Proximity is not necessarily the best factor in choosing a studio. The following guidelines created by Dance Expressions Unlimited in Tyngsboro can help you make an informed decision, as either a parent or prospective student.
The Studio’s Philosophy
- Does the studio provide a comprehensive DANCE EDUCATION PROGRAM? This is important to ensure the lessons directly translate into progress in ability.
- Does the studio emphasize dance competitions rather than proper technique and/or sequential learning? Competitions can easily do more harm than good as they often lead to lower morale, absence of camaraderie and an overall narrower and insufficient education.
- Do the programs cater to everybody – regardless of age, size, and talent? All dance students are creative individuals and it is important their course of training reflect their personal qualities.
- What makes this studio unique? How does is this studio different than all the rest?
Dance Expressions Unlimited is committed to providing a quality, comprehensive dance education program for both the serious and recreation dancer. First and foremost, we strive to impart a love of dance and joy of movement in our students. Classes are disciplined, non-competitive, and nurturing to enhance and encourage progress and development in our students.
- Does your specific dance teacher have proper training in the genre she/he is teaching? If a teacher’s education is incomplete, this will undoubtedly lead to insufficient education.
- Does the teacher have a college degree in dance? Most dance teachers do NOT and are working from a limited background and are former student assistants. Teachers with at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Dance have the most current teaching methods (pedagogy) and resources available at their disposal.
- What kind of background does the teacher have a) teaching, b) dealing with children, c) performing? These qualities are important for teachers to instill a well-rounded education to their students.
- Does the dance teacher still perform and/or take classes to stay current and maintain/improve his/her dancing and teaching techniques? Keep in mind that not all teachers are great performers and vice-versa. Many great performers and professionals are terrible teachers. A dancer who is both a good teacher AND a good performer is ideal and indicative of their passion.
- Does the dance teacher have any unique qualifications? For example, a Registered Dance Educator (RDE) is a member of the National Registry of Dance Educators. It is an honor to be an RDE because that means the teacher’s teaching methods have been tested and evaluated and found to be of superior ability. Just being a member of a dance teaching club doesn’t guarantee a great teacher.
- Is the dance teacher truly qualified? You wouldn’t want a ballroom teacher to teach ballet, tap, or jazz; nor would you want an inexperienced student teaching the younger students. Teenagers may be qualified to demonstrate skills in class, but should not be left in charge of a class of 15 children with no adult supervision. What if there were an emergency?
- Does the dance teacher have patience in dealing with students? The youngest children (1st grade and under) are the hardest to teach and their instructor needs to be equipped to handle their special needs.
Audrey Dascomb, RDE, Director and Teacher at Dance Expressions Unlimited in Tyngsboro, is a Registered Dance Educator (one of only 40 worldwide) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Dance. She has Teacher Certification K-12 and has taught dance in the private sector as well as in private and public school systems. She continues to regularly perform and takes dance classes of all genres. She has MANY students who are pursuing careers with various dance companies and individuals throughout the U.S. Teachers are trained by Audrey. Additionally, both Angela Ryan and Lauren Boucher have Bachelor of Fine Arts Degrees in Dance and Rebecca Shelton is a former professional ballerina. They all perform and take dance classes regularly to keep current with styles, techniques, trends, and choreography.
Quality Of Teaching
- Is the dance teacher caring, knowledgeable, patient, and willing to work with EACH student? You don’t want to take the chance that your child will be ignored.
- Does the dance teacher have a working knowledge of anatomy? This is important for the teacher to provide the most in-depth and safest education possible.
- Does the dance teacher provide a disciplined, encouraging, and FUN learning environment? Many studios can either be too competitive, intimidating or on the other hand, too laid back and therefore sloppy.
- Does the dance teacher inspire, motivate, and instill a joy of movement in his/her classes? If not, then the student’s education is not likely to take root and their initial passion will go unfulfilled.
- Does the dance teacher encourage individual expression? This is vital to bringing out the best in each student.
- How large is the class? Large classes cannot not be concerned with the growth and development of EACH individual child. Small classes mean more dance space and, more importantly, lots of individual attention.
- How are students placed in class – according to age or ability? The younger students (1st grade and younger) can appropriately be placed according to age. However, school-aged students need to be placed in class according to ABILITY as well as age. Older children placed in a class solely based on age results in classes with different degrees of ability. This forces the teacher to decide whether to gear the class towards the beginner, the intermediate, or more advanced level of the class. Whatever they decide, someone in class is sure to be neglected.
- Does this dance studio offer a comprehensive dance program (i.e. ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, and modern)? Having fewer options translates to a more limited education.
- Does this dance studio offer a variety of classes for children AND adults? Is there a comprehensive Adult Program with a variety of levels? Studios with a variety of levels of ballet, tap, AND jazz classes for adults are a RARE FIND!
Dance Expressions Unlimited offers a variety of classes in the disciplines of ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, yoga, and creative movement. There is a comprehensive Adult Program with tap, hip hop and yoga classes. Class size is limited to 12 students and students are placed according to ABILITY and age, with care and emphasis on the growth and development of each individual.
- Does the studio have technique classes through the majority of the year or do they start working on recital or competition routines before Christmas? Studios stressing the importance of technique will have more talented and skilled dancers as opposed to those who rehearse recital and competition dances for months and months. Most of the time, students who rehearse and rehearse and rehearse can only perform those specifically rehearsed dances with proficiency and wind up lacking the technique to DANCE properly. Often, they can only perform the various tricks involved in those rehearsed numbers. Emphasis should be on DANCING and the individual growth of EACH dancer, not drilling for a competition or recital piece.
- Is there a logical development from the 3 year old class to the 4 year old class to the 5 year old class and so on? Do you see the more challenging skills performed as the student gets older? There should be a logical progression from age group to age group. It is a sign that the curriculum was designed with care.
- Is the class time appropriate? The older a student gets, the longer the class should be. School-aged children (2nd grade and up) should no longer do combination classes as they are ready to delve into the technique of the dance more thoroughly (technique should NEVER be ignored!!!). For example, 9 year olds should not be taking a 1-hour long combination class of ballet, tap, and jazz. There can’t be any emphasis on technique and development with at most a half an hour devoted to each discipline. They should have hour long classes for tap and jazz, and at some point a 1.5 hour long class for ballet.
Dance Expressions Unlimited focuses on technique and the growth of the students, not on competitions. Audrey, a former judge of dance competitions, doesn’t believe in the competition circuit as it fosters negative competitiveness among studios and ultimately among dancers within the same studio. Dance Expressions Unlimited prides itself on creating well-rounded dancers who can DANCE and express themselves, not rotely execute a certain sequence of movements that have been practiced for months and months. Class lengths are appropriate to the level of the class.
Alumni and Students
- Does the dance studio have any alumni pursuing careers in dance – Performing? Teaching? Choreographing? Other related fields? This is an obvious indicator regarding the effectiveness of the education they received.
- Do the alumni have careers in the various disciplines of dance – ballet, tap, jazz, modern? Or are they mostly working in one genre? A well-rounded dance education program should have alumni in the various disciplines, whereas a ballet school will have predominantly ballerinas.
- Based on this knowledge, is this dance studio a predominantly ballet, tap, jazz, or modern school? You ideally want to find a dance studio that is proficient in all areas. You can never know what discipline a child will take to or how extensive their passion will become.
- Do any current students perform in other venues other than the annual recital? For example, does anybody audition and perform in local Nutcracker productions? Does anybody participate in master classes taught in the area? Is there a resident company? These are all signs of an effective and professional studio.
Audrey Dascomb RDE has MANY former students pursuing careers with various dance companies and individuals in the U.S. – in the ballet, tap, jazz, AND modern disciplines of dance. Audrey, herself, still performs regularly and takes many classes to maintain, update, and improve her dancing and teaching. She has hosted master classes with professionals in tap, ballet, and jazz and has a performing company.
Facilities and Policies
- What kind of floor does the studio have? Is it suitable for all styles of dance? This is a very important safety issue, as well as evidence of either a diverse or limited education.
- What is the viewing policy? Generally speaking, parents should not watch youngest students dance on a weekly basis. Their attention span is too short; distractions are plentiful; watching the progress of youngsters is like watching paint dry – it’s hard to see on a weekly basis. Observation days should be at the discretion of the teacher based on the level of the class, the skills presented, and the maturity of the class. Conversely, school-aged students are able to remain focused so why not show off what they learn by having an open door policy whereby the parents can view the class at their leisure? A dance teacher should be proud of accomplishments, achievements, and the growth of the individuals AND class.
- Is the director of the studio organized? Does she keep the parents informed? This is important to providing the peace of mind that yout child is learning in a safe and FUN environment.
Dance Expressions Unlimited has two stage-sized dance studios with sprung wooden sub-floors and Rose Adagio Marley floor on top suitable for all forms of dance including tap. There is a comfortable waiting area with an observation monitor so parents may watch both rooms at the same time. A monthly newsletter and current bulletin boards keep parents informed and up to date.
For more information email us at DanceExpressionsUnlimited@comcast.net or call us at (978) 649-2022.