Q: My family is moving to a new area in a different state, and we won't know anyone there. How can I find a good studio for my serious dancer?
A: As always, your first step should be to ask your dancer's current studio owner or teachers for any leads. But what if that's a dead end? I checked with tap teacher April Cook, a Broadway Dance Center faculty member who frequently guest-teaches at countless studios across the country and serves as a judge for several major conventions/competitions. In short, she sees the insides of many studios nationwide. Here's her advice for finding top-notch training.
1. Make sure the facility is safe. "Take a tour and check that there are sprung wood floors and marley where appropriate," Cook says. "If there are tumbling classes, you should see mats and pads and equipment for that. If that's not up to par, you don't want your kids to be there."
2. Check out the studio's website and look for a mission statement. Does it align with your dancer's goals? If she has her sights on a performance career, for instance, make sure the studio offers lots of performance opportunities. "That doesn't necessarily mean competitions," says Cook. "Those opportunities could also be recitals, community events or even parades."
3. Read through the teachers' bios on the website and look for a studio showcasing a wide range of teacher experiences. "It's nice to see some teachers who have college degrees and some with backgrounds in performance," says Cook. "You want a mix." A studio's alumni list can also be a great way to see if the studio offers quality training.
4. The best studios offer supplemental training, says Cook. "Look for those that encourage students to attend conventions or workshops outside of the studio—and those that bring in guest instructors. This gives students variety and helps prepare them best for their future."
5. Ask if there are prerequisites to taking various classes. "For example, does the studio require a dancer to have two ballet classes under her belt before enrolling in contemporary?" There's a misconception that studios set these rules to bring in more money per student, but "policies like these actually have the students' best interests at heart, because they ensure technique is in place, preventing potential injury," Cook says.