Q: A parent of a potential student called and was concerned about the student-to-teacher ratio in our classes. What ratio works for you and keeps your parents happy? Does it vary by age?
A: When setting class size limits and student-to-teacher ratios, consider the needs of the studio owner, the instructor, the students and their parents. Class sizes may vary depending on the studio space available, the age of the dancers and the genre being taught. We find the best ratio for preschool children ages 2–3 is a maximum of six to eight students per class; for children ages 4–6, it’s a maximum of 10–12 students. For grade school children, our maximum is 12–15; for teen and adult classes, it’s 20.
Many parents believe that if a class is too large, their child will not get personalized instruction and that the chance for injury will increase. While a low student-to-teacher ratio is often desirable for parents, it can be frustrating for a teacher who prefers a larger class size for the increased energy and dynamic change. For those teachers who are paid on a commission for enrolled students, their goal is to fill their classes. We encourage studio owners to be sure that their teachers have the background and experience to handle a larger class. It takes only one or two students with behavior issues to cause chaos. We have found that it sets parents at ease when we assign an assistant (who has gone through our assistant teacher training program) to a large class to help the faculty member focus attention where needed.
Be sure that your class size maximums are stated clearly on your website and that you reserve the right to cancel any class with insufficient registration. We often cancel, combine or split classes to get to the right student-teacher ratio that provides an optimum learning environment.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.
Photo by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety
After having spent a lifetime looking at ourselves in the mirror, constantly appraising, who of us wouldn't want to take a dance class in the dark? Two Australian dance students, Alice Glenn and Heidi Barrett, had the same thought in 2009 when they founded No Lights No Lycra, a global dance community that offers dancers and nondancers alike the chance to get their groove on in a dark space, where there's no light, no Lycra, no technique, no teacher and no steps to learn. It's just a place to lose yourself in the music and find your own dance mojo. The event became so popular that it spread past its Melbourne beginnings, first throughout Australia and now, globally.
Four incredible educators: Joanne Chapman, Claudio Muñoz, Pamela VanGilder and Kathleen Isaac foster their students' love of dance, whether instilling artistry, offering rigorous training or giving special needs students an outlet through movement.
When Jennie Somogyi retired from New York City Ballet, she found herself in high demand as a teacher. Parents called, texted and persisted. "I don't even know how some of them got my contact information," she says with a laugh. But Somogyi, who departed from NYCB in 2015 after a 22-year career, hadn't made any definitive plans for the next stage of her life. "I just like to see how things move me," she says. She discovered, though, that she enjoyed the process of giving private lessons and seeing the rapid progress students could make. Over time, she realized that teaching was something she wanted rather than needed.
Does your studio slow down when the weather warms up? If you don't offer a summer session, June through August can be a cash-flow challenge. One popular—and easy—strategy is to offer weeklong camps instead. We spoke to three professionals to learn how they make summer camp work.
This week Ballet Hispánico launched its first ChoreoLaB workshop, a summer intensive intended to better prepare aspiring professional dancers—with more than just excellent technique. Artistic director Eduardo Vilaro wanted to create a program that bridges the school and the company, to help dancers transitioning into the professional world and better hone their skills.