Deborah’s Stage Door, a dance studio in Rochester, has been open for more than 30 years. Owner Debbie Agrusa has seen many dancers come through the door, lace up their shoes and find themselves and their confidence through artistic movement and stage training. However, not all studios are the same and not all students feel at home in the first or second dance school they try. Here are some tips from the pros for parents trying to find the right place to start out. Plus, if you’ve got a son, find out why enrolling him in dance is a good idea – and what you should consider when choosing a studio.
Choose a dance studio that fits your child’s needs
Agrusa says that a majority of the dancers that come to Deborah’s Stage Door are not there to become professionals. Most are there because they enjoy dancing and want to take a one-day-a-week class.
“Even though our studio competes, 80 percent of our students come in just to take one class per week,” says Agrusa.
Agrusa’s studio provides acting and music lessons in addition to the dance classes.
“It’s important to look at the types of experiences the dance studios can bring to the children. Each studio is very different,” says Agrusa. “Some students really love to perform so look for a studio with a yearly recital, but also other opportunities for children who have a passion for dance and performing.”
Suzette D’Andrea is the owner of Rhythm-n-Jump Dance Academy in St. Clair Shores. Her studio offers numerous dance classes, but has also branched out into tumbling and acrobatics because the students wanted more variety of classes.
The classes should also be age appropriate. Agrusa says she has a preschool program designed for the attention span of little kids.
“It’s a good introduction to dance and keeps them moving,” says Agrusa.
Ask about credentials
While talented and skilled teachers are required to teach the elite and competitive dancers at a studio, they are also important to laying the groundwork for the newest dancers, too.
Agrusa, who has more than 30 years of experience teaching dancers, still spends a lot of time teaching the tiniest dancers who come to her studio. She also trains any new teachers or assistants who will be helping with the newest dancers.
“You want to make sure the teachers can put together lesson plans, get down on the level of the kids they are working with and also have fun with them,” Agrusa says. “Look at the teaching faculty and ask if they have a college degree and what it is in. Also ask if they have teaching experience.”
“We understand as a teaching staff that some of the children are very nervous. If your child is really hesitant, we are really good at making them feel at ease,” says Agrusa, adding that studios should want the students to feel comfortable rather than afraid. “We want it to be a positive experience.”
Children of any age could be uncomfortable going into a dance class, so D’Andrea says it’s important to find a place that makes the child feel comfortable rather than scaring them.
“Your first experience for your child should be fun. You want the child to find a love for dance,” says D’Andrea. “The child and the family should feel comfortable and it should be a welcoming atmosphere.”
Select the best class
Agrusa says it’s important to find a class that sparks a student’s interest.
“We encourage students to come in and try a class. If they don’t like tap, they might come in and try a hip-hop class,” says Agrusa. Deborah’s Stage Door also offers combination classes to give students variety from lesson to lesson.
“While ballet is the basis for everything, when they are younger, they might enjoy some other types of classes first,” says Agrusa. She encourages parents to talk to the child and find out exactly what they are interested in trying. Agrusa says parents should look for a studio that offers mini-classes or the ability for kids to try different classes as they search for the right fit.
Check out the details
“Check out the studio’s website and Facebook page and talk to other parents with children at the dance school,” says D’Andrea. “Learn about the places where other dancers have had good experiences.”
Agrusa says parents should ask for a schedule and make sure the studio is organized and well run.
“The best experience is gained by going and visiting the studio,” says Agrusa. “Seeing the studio, meeting teachers and interacting with the students is truly the best way to determine if a dance studio will be a good fit.