Why Bringing in Guest Teachers (Like Kennedy Center's Ballet Class Series) Will Benefit Your Students

Photo by Aurora Lutty

Hiring guest teachers to come to your studio can offer more than just new choreography for competitions. They can bring a fresh perspective to your students' education, and they'll expose them to exciting new styles and teaching methods.

"I've told my students to keep their shoulders down countless times," says Shannon Crites, owner of Shannon Crites School of Dance in Ardmore, OK. "Then, a guest teacher will come in and say, 'You should really release those shoulders,' and they finally do it!"

For instance, take the Kennedy Center's Ballet Class Series. This program for advanced dancers ages 14–18 gives students the opportunity to take classes taught by companies like New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

"This program offers students from the greater Washington, DC, area the opportunity to learn from nationally and internationally recognized companies performing at the Kennedy Center," explains the Kennedy Center's education team. "These classes closely resemble professional company classes and are usually taught by ballet masters and mistresses, company teachers or soloist or principal dancers. Students get the opportunity to experience a wide variety of styles, teachers and a glimpse into the professional world."

This season's Ballet Class Series will feature master classes from The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, New York City Ballet and Ballet Nacional de Cuba.

Students in the program also have the option of attending a contemporary dance master class series with Matthew Bourne/New Adventures, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, Mark Morris Dance Group and Andersson Dance.

"Many of the instructors were very encouraging and helped me gain confidence in my technique," adds fellow student Lily Campbell. "The Ballet Class Series broadened my perspective of the dance world."

An additional perk of the program is the opportunity to observe rehearsals of the Mariinsky Ballet's La Bayadère, Kansas City Ballet's The Nutcracker and American Ballet Theatre's mixed repertory program.

Auditions for the Ballet Class Series will take place on September 16 at the Kennedy Center. Registration by September 8 is required. Students must be enrolled in high school and have at least five years of ballet training. Female students should have four years of pointe experience.

Studio owners can take a similar approach to this kind of program at the Kennedy Center. Yes, bringing in guest teachers can be expensive and timing can be tricky, but the extra expense can go a long way. Take Ardell Stone School of Dancing in Roanoke, Virginia's story.

About three or four times a year, owner Ardell Stone invites a guest artist to her studio to teach a master class and choreograph a piece for students on the competition team. But one of her main goals is making sure that as many students as possible get to take advantage. She allows noncompeting students to sign up for classes with the master teacher, offering at least one extra class for about $20 per student. Stone often finds potential guest teachers or choreographers by networking at competitions or teacher workshops. She estimates that she spends upwards of $3,500 for a teacher she really likes, which includes plane tickets (often from California), rental cars and hotel fees. She charges each of about 20 performing students an extra $150 to $200 for a master-class-plus-choreography session. "I don't like my students' families to spend too much money on one choreographer, especially since all the competition kids are required to take part," she says. "But we are in a relatively high socioeconomic area. And, though they charge an arm and a leg, it's well worth every cent."

Read three other studio owner's testimonies about how the value of bringing in guest teachers.

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