Would you believe me that coordination is taught, balance can be harnessed, and that “talent” is rather earned instead of a gift.
While we all have our gifts, in dance, the ONLY students I have ever seen in 30 years in the industry who are "gifted" are the ones who FOCUS and harness, craft, and develop their skills. It’s no wonder great dancers create great lives (I see this time & time again because dancers are incredible learners and never give up).
The ones who succeed in dance, (and Life), are the ones who are the first at the studio and the last to leave, the ones who keep asking why this is hard and work on it until it’s easy and natural.
There is no natural talent in dance because we are working with strength and physics. There is no way to cheat without injury, of course.
We start at age 3 teaching them the coordination to jump. While it may appear to be a fun exercise, these are the skills that are challenging to teach a ten year old who hasn’t learned to coordinate their arms and legs properly.
When adults tell me they didn’t have the coordination to dance, a red flag goes up for me as an educator. What you are really telling me is that your teacher did not know how to communicate coordination. Maybe they understood it for them, but they didn't know how to transfer and express it. Great teachers are great communicators. It's not just about knowledge. This is a tremendous gap for dancers. As a dancer, I spent about 20-30, and sometimes 40 hours in college learning, and listening. I did not have the same social life as other adults because I was quietly and passionately learning. Communication is not a natural skill for dancers.
The only way to be a successful dancer is to learn this skill of coordination, but often people do not learn it because the educators do not understand how to integrate it.
My first ballet teacher was Marina Levasheva, the daughter of Vladimir Levasheva, the director of the Bolshoi Ballet. She defected to the US and I trained with her for years. From beginner at 14, she taught me in 2 years to do 4 pirouettes on pointe and leap beautifully. I learned to do 50 fouettés on pointe in 2 years, beautifully, because I was taught coordination. Fouettes turns incorporate strength, endurance, balance, and coordination all in one and you'll often see them performed as a highlight at the end of a ballet.
I use and expand upon the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus because it teaches coordination starting at 3 years old and it flawlessly builds the foundation. I use 23 years of dance education to adapt and mold it to each individual class.
The point is that when your child is taught properly, they begin to believe in themselves and what is possible for them if they work intelligently. We believe in EVERY student. Everyone has the ability to develop if they decide to go after their dreams and what they want to become. The teacher helps to harness and facilitate the learning.
Who is empowering your child to challenge the status quo and to move through challenges? Who is reminding your child to believe in themselves AND giving them tools to succeed? These things get fostered right now as they grow. Now is the best time to foster your child’s intelligence, empowerment, and physical education.
How do you decipher value? After all, there are no standards in dance except the ones that owner or director create.
When looking at a dance program you want to see first, do they have a strong syllabus to ensure that their students have a cohesive program to follow? Will they have a strong progression of skills that allow their students to thrive?
2. How many students are allowed in each class. Teachers time and time again will say that the quality of education increases with fewer students to impact. How do the tuition rates reflect this executive decision.
I'm not a numbers person, but numbers don't lie. Look at theses rates per month:
Example Monthly Tuition rates for 1 class
5 students at $90.00 per month= $450.00
10 students at $70.00 per month= $700.00
15 students at $70.00 per month= $1050.00
30 students at $70.00 per month= $2,000.00 *Teacher salary investment for one class per month is usually around $120 for the month, on the high end.
One can clearly see that the one with fewer students is offering the greatest value at a substantially lower price. Much of these cost go to the building, marketing, teachers, and other expenses associated with running a professional operation. It’s naturally in the business owner’s best interest to have a program with more students and with today's social media marketing capability it's not that hard to get them.
3. Education and Credentials: This one should speak for itself. However, anyone with a dream can build a business. It does take lots of leadership skills and I respect this on every level. But education level, teaching experience, and sheer knowledge of how to progress a beginning student to an advanced one can be very, very different at different schools.
Children are sponges and if they learn coordination incorrectly or not at all will truly struggle to learn intermediate and advanced concepts because the foundation was either not strong enough you will see this as breakdowns in their education. Unfortunately, the child will feel and believe that they are to blame for the shortcoming.
The biggest mistakes I see in the industry :
Kids do not learn to jump, they learn to bounce on their toes which will destroy their calves in later training.
They learn to leap without first learning the coordination of it.
I’ve seen kids learn a waltz incorrectly, likely because there were too many kids in class. This throws off anything that has a down up down pattern.
Gripped muscles instead of lengthening.
Hands held together instead of apart in 1st.
I’ve seen intermediate students not know how the upper body relates to the lower so coordination is extremely off.
The solution is that we have to work with our physique and with the laws of physics. I can teach a teenager who is 200 pounds to appear light and airy on their feet based on how they use their muscles and coordinate their body. The use of the musculature has everything to do with the success of a dancer, not their physique, and certainly not their “natural talent”. Success in dance has much more to do with the students dedication to their own success, much like a business owner.
When you look at value you need to see the full scope of what students receive.
It’s not just about the dancer’s professional experience, it’s about how they educate which is quite different than knowing how to dance themselves. Dancers train almost their entire life. Personally, I have over 39,000 hours in dance education from elite level programs. My adult training has nothing to do with education. I had to learn how to teach and introduce simple concepts that become highly complex ones. Not every great dancer has this skill. This is why we work with a 100 year old Internationally recognized program.
Empowerment: Does the program empower the students to listen, observe, and become great learners? Great leaders are great learners. This is why our program is not a recreational one. We value the intelligence it takes to be successful for a highly skilled, abstract art.
And ultimately, we believe that there is no price you can put on developing a child’s sense of authenticity, creativity, intelligence, and success. Of all the dancers I have known, taught, and been colleagues with . . . all of them have created powerful lives.