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Some thoughts on choosing a Ballet School

Choosing an appropriate Ballet School for an adult or a child is an important matter and I am often surprised at the some of the reasons given for selecting a particular school. There are many considerations other than those of simple convenience of location or class timing, which are sometimes not even thought about.

Since most of our enquiries come from parents about their children, however, I hope that the following comments will provide some help.

The first and most important consideration with any physical activity is that the teaching is both safe and appropriate for the age and state of development of the child. This requires that the teaching staff is properly qualified and that the premises are suitable. After all, we expect our schoolteachers or our doctors and dentists to be properly qualified and we should expect no less in this field. Since many parents are unaware of the importance of professional qualifications in the Ballet World, I will elaborate a little.

In the UK there are a number of organisations which administer dance training and examinations from beginners to professional level. The largest of these are the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (I.S.T.D.) and the Royal Academy of Dancing (R.A.D). Both of these bodies have branches in many countries and their teaching and qualifying examinations are recognised and highly respected, internationally. Within the I.S.T.D. there are two ballet faculties, the Cecchetti Faculty and Imperial.

There are some differences in the syllabi between the organisations, which make it difficult to compare their respective Grades and Standards, but the important thing is to assure yourself that the teacher has passed the professional qualifying examinations of the particular organisation. These, in the case of the I.S.T.D. would be Certificate in Dance Education, Diploma in Dance Education, Associate (AISTD), Licentiate (LISTD) or at the highest level, Fellowship (FISTD). To give an example of what is required to have gained these qualifications and therefore registration, the Cecchetti Faculty requires not only a comprehensive knowledge of ballet and music demonstrated by examination, but also to have attended and passed various courses on applied anatomy and physiology, health and safety, first aid, child development, history and development of western dance, business studies, etc. etc.

It is quite justifiable to ask the Principal or teacher some searching questions about the qualifications of the teaching staff. Even though your child may be very young and at this stage, rather starry eyed about getting into a tutu for the first time, incalculable damage to young joints and muscles can very easily be done attempting the wrong things too soon. Over a century of expertise has gone into developing detailed programmes of training which take the young dancer from the very earliest stages whilst minimising the risk of injury. Equally, a sound basic foundation is vitally necessary for any later progression through to a higher level and even a possible career in ballet or indeed in any other dance discipline.

Proper academic qualification is essential, but the manner and approach of the teacher are also very important. Children need inspiration and ballet lessons should be an enjoyable experience. Few children will become professional dancers and the less able ones need just as much encouragement as a potential Fonteyn. Regardless of their ability, the training will be invaluable to them in later life.

These are some of the other points you may care to think about:

I hope that these points have been of some assistance. Why you choose a particular school is important and it should not be because it is just around the corner, the fees are low or the class times slot nicely in between all the other activities and hobbies which many children now undertake. Your child may well be there for some considerable