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Finding a Ballet Teacher

When choosing a ballet teacher several things are important to take into account. Too many dance studios try to do it all and end up with a recital full of glitzy costumes, overly made-up little girls, and cheer style dances that all look the same. But there isn’t any real substance to the performance. If your motivation for finding a ballet school is to wear a pretty and sparkly tutu and stand on stage, there are plenty of places that can accommodate you. However, if you are truly interested in learning the technique and art of ballet, you must be selective in the school you choose. 

First, remember that you are not looking for entertainment. Ballet is hard and while it is rewarding and joyful, it isn’t something that is entertaining. Ballet consists of hours upon hours of standing at a barre practicing the same movements over and over again, aiming to perfect them a little each time. Without these tedious hours, you muscles will not develop properly, you will be prone to injury, and you will not attain the necessary technique to move further in your study. So look for a teacher that takes barre work seriously, doesn’t rush through it, and makes corrections throughout the exercises. Students must have corrections in order to know what to change. If the goal of the class is to make it through as much as possible in a 30 minute period, it isn’t a true ballet class. A class for younger children should be at least an hour and a true ballet class should be at least 90 minutes. The teacher should be engaged in the process, moving through the studio watching, correcting, and demonstrating. Even if the teacher’s credentials are outstanding, only so much can be learned from a teacher who sits in the corner observing.  

Second, see that the ballet teacher demands that the students dress in proper clothing and that hair is properly fixed for a ballet class. This means tights and a leotard, real ballet slippers (not the bedroom style slippers some stores pass off as ballet shoes), and hair fixed up away from the face and secured in a bun. Ballet is not a place for an excess of jewelry, fashionable hair styles, glitzy or bulky clothing, chewing gum or candy, or socializing. Ask to observe a class and see how the students are dressed, how their hair is fixed, what their behavior is during the class. A serious ballet studio will demand a high level of excellence and respect even in its youngest students.  

Third, when it comes to performing, what sort of recital does the school put on? Every ballet student dreams of being on a stage in a beautiful costume with the lights shining down on her (or him). However, a school that focuses all the attention of the show on the costumes and “glitz” likely has nothing else to show for it. What sorts of costumes does the teacher choose? Are they overwhelming in glitter and sequins? Or are they more understated and classical, allowing the movement of the dancers to be enjoyed? Ask to see pictures of the past performances or if you are able, attend a show. What sort of impression do you get? Do the dancers stand in stiff, lines and never move from that position? Or is the whole stage used in different ways and formations? Of course there will be flaws in all but the most professional performances, but overall are the dancers aware of what they should be doing and not struggling to remember the moves? 

By taking into consideration these important points when choosing a ballet teacher and you can be confident in knowing that you will be learning real ballet technique. 

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