Ask the Experts: Students at Different Levels

I have a group of students who have danced together for years. Some of them have begun to advance more quickly than others. How do you address students (and their parents) when they question why they aren’t moving into a higher level?

One of the most complicated scenarios we have to work through is explaining to frustrated or confused parents why their child has not advanced while her peer has. This is why you must clearly communicate early on your criteria for advancement—determined by you and your faculty—via your studio website and/or handbook. At our studio, we have eligibility requirements, placement classes and ballet testing to assess and advance our dancers. Most of our intermediate and advanced-level dance styles have prerequisites for participation.

Your curriculum/syllabi will give you concrete benchmarks to help you decide if a student must remain in a certain level. We recommend you meet mid-year with parents and students to offer constructive feedback and discuss their progress, goals and expectations, so they know what they must work on.

It is also useful to explain to parents that some students will advance more quickly than others due to factors related to physical development, such as strength, flexibility and the ability to apply corrections. Others may need more time to develop the skills necessary to move on to the next level. Give options of how to further develop practice and training—for example, by taking advantage of more technique classes, private lessons or performing opportunities, such as a competitive dance program.

With clear explanations and a professional approach, you can help them respect and appreciate your choices and commitment to each student’s progress. They will understand that advancement is objective, based on criteria—not peer group or favoritism.


Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of

Photo by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety

Teaching Tips
Justin Boccitto teaches a hybrid class. Photo courtesy Boccitto

Just as teachers were getting comfortable with teaching virtual classes, many studios are adding an extra challenge into the mix: in-person students learning alongside virtual students. Such hybrid classes are meant to keep class sizes down and to give students options to take class however they're comfortable.

But dividing your attention between virtual students and masked and socially distant in-person students—and giving them each a class that meets their needs—is no easy feat.

Dance Teacher asked four teachers what they've learned so far.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
All photos by Ryan Heffington

"Annnnnnnd—we're back!"

Ryan Heffington is kneeling in front of his iPhone, looking directly into the camera, smiling behind his bushy mustache. He's in his house in the desert near Joshua Tree, California, phone propped on the floor so it stays steady, his bright shorty shorts, tank top and multiple necklaces in full view. Music is already playing—imagine you're at a club—and soon he's swaying and bouncing from side to side, the beat infusing his bones.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Evelyn Cisneros-Legate. Photo by Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Evelyn Cisneros-Legate is bringing her hard-earned expertise to Ballet West. The former San Francisco Ballet star is taking over all four campuses of The Frederick Quinney Lawson Ballet West Academy as the school's new director.

Cisneros-Legate, whose mother put her in ballet classes in an attempt to help her overcome her shyness, trained at the San Francisco Ballet School and School of American Ballet before joining San Francisco Ballet as a full company member in 1977. She danced with the company for 23 years, breaking barriers as the first Mexican American to become a principal dancer in the U.S., and has graced the cover of Dance Magazine no fewer than three times.

As an educator, Cisneros-Legate has served as ballet coordinator at San Francisco Ballet, principal of Boston Ballet School's North Shore Studio and artistic director of after-school programming at the National Dance Institute (NDI). Dance Teacher spoke with her about her new position, her plans for the academy and leading in the time of COVID-19.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.