As a dance educator, one of the things that makes me crazy is that ANYONE can open a dance studio. That’s right, your Aunt Sally who knows nothing about dance other than she likes to move it move it, could open a dance education facility if the idea struck her fancy. That is honestly terrifying. Many parents in this country also do not realize that you should absolutely explore the credentials of the faculty at the studio you are looking at. If these people were never professional, paid dancers, the likelihood that they can teach YOUR child how to be one is very slim. This is meant to help you so please keep reading.
I am a stickler for technique. I insist that my dancers not only know the HOW but also the WHY. Alignment is the basis for good technique A person needs to know which muscles to activate to properly utilize their turnout and also that they do it that way to prevent injury. So often I have had dancers come audition for our program and they turn out from their knees (ACK!) or roll forward on the insteps of their feet. To the untrained eye-this is unnoticeable and no big deal. WRONG! It is a huge deal. Here is why. We all know all of our muscles are interconnected. Take your feet; they are given the task of carrying us around all day and now we are not standing on them flat so that our weight is evenly distributed. We are rocking our weight to the interior of the foot so now the outside of our foot never gets to strengthen. A disaster if your child ever wants to go on pointe. (Quick tip, if a studio calls it TOE dancing-RUN!) I digress, so now that imbalance goes up your leg to our valuable knees. Knees are so important and yet all those tendons and ligaments are so delicate. How many folks do you know who have had knee replacement surgery, torn meniscus, ACL issues, and so on that are leading normal active lives? They certainly are not dancing at a professional level. Back to our knees; by placing our weight improperly, we have caused a weakness in the exterior of our knee, that then goes up our quadriceps, into our hip flexors, and now potentially your lower back. See the problem?
Not only is proper technique important for injury prevention, it is important for the art of dance to be carried on as it was intended. Unfortunately due to some of these popular shows, people think that under rotating your hip to get your leg by your head “looks cool”. Well if you did it properly, you could still do it when you are well into your 70’s and honestly I have heard about too many young people having hip replacement surgery in their 20’s thanks to that fancy trick.
Is your instructor using proper terminology? This is important because a “kick” is actually a grand battement. A “spin” is actually a pirouette, so make sure you are listening because it matters for your child down the road. Imagine attending a master class and your child not understanding a word of the instruction.
So here is the point folks, do your research. I had a dancer audition the other night for class and her mother informed me that in an hour and a half her child had learned more than she had in SIX years of prior training. SIX YEARS (just want to reiterate that). Isn’t your time and money of value to you? It should be and I know that your dancer is of value. And please don’t misunderstand we are very loving at our studio so sometimes parents may not fully grasp how much their child is actually learning and how much stronger they will be with that knowledge. I certainly don’t parade around yelling at my dancers, but the strides they make year to year are huge.
So do your research and make sure your instructor knows what technique is. And if ballet is not a requirement to be on any sort of team, once again, RUN. That is not a place that understands what it takes to be a dancer. Even if your child does not want to be a dancer, they still deserve quality training to make sure they have a good experience.