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
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
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:
- You should ask up to what level
the school provides training. It can be quite unsettling for a child to have to
leave a particular school in order to continue studies to a higher
- How long has the school been in
existence? Does it have a good reputation locally?
- If you are concerned about
exams, then it would be worth asking about past exam success rates and the
standards achieved. Any good school would be proud of their record and able to
show it to you. Of course, too much concentration on exams and syllabus work
could in itself be a cause for concern. Some children are just not natural exam
candidates and many dance purely for pleasure.
- Ask to see the studio. Is the
floor slippery? Is it a "sprung" wooden floor or is it a concrete base? Dancing
on hard floors can cause injuries.
- Is the general accommodation
safe and suitable? Look around. Consider the problems and the safety aspects of
leaving and collecting your child.
- Ask if it is possible to attend
or watch a class before you commit yourself to enrolment. As well as allowing
the teacher to assess the needs of the child and decide on the correct level,
this may well give you the opportunity to talk to other parents.
- How large are the classes
relative to the size of the studio and will there be a wide range of levels
within the class? Age differences within a class do not matter but it can be
difficult to teach at several different levels simultaneously!
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