My little ones learn dance with Jasmine at The Dance House.
I learnt dance for 10 years with Prue Gooch at Dance Education Centre. And i had a pile of friends who went to Suzanne Hanger Dance, or Yvonne Edwards.
Next week i have a date with a neighbour to go and see a contemporary perform with her adult dance-class mates. Anonymous friend is learning with a woman i used to catch the school bus with – Karla – from Rise Dance Company. Another dance school which offers a range of classes for adults is Mount Dance Company. And who’s tried Ballet Barre with Bella Barre Fitness in Papamoa? The only companies i haven’t got 1 degree of separation (yet?) with is Gillian Moore School of Dance and The Dance Institute.
The show was great tonight. 6 year old and 4 year old were glued to the stage. 4 year old was out of her seat, standing, transfixed. 6 year old wide-eyed as we watched her friends from kindy and school float and fly about the stage.
It struck me it’s quite possibly most children’s dream to be in a dance show. They get to dress up, put on make-up, move their bodies to music (with their friends), all whilst Mum and Dad (and all those equivalently important people) ohh and ahh in the dark at them.
It also struck me what an achievement it is for a dance teacher. What vision! To choreograph (would it be 50?) dance pieces, which includes finding music, sourcing costumes, staying patient with so many young dancers, and then all the other technical design elements like lighting and backdrops…What a feat!
AND yet also an opportunity!
For an end of the year dance show (NB: Suzanne Hanger has a point of difference and does her show in early Autumn a much more civilised less frantic time of year) is a terrific ‘showreel’ or advertisement for any dance teacher and his/her dance school.
For many, choosing a dance school for their kids, may come down to location. It’s all the rage with food to ‘buy local’, and for most parents taking their kids to the school down the road seems like an obvious choice.
But every dance school has a different ‘flavour’. The teachers have unique intentions or values within their schools. Some are focused on breeding ‘ballerinas’ ready for an international career. Some are wanting to foster and continue an organic love of dance. For example some schools may put pressure on their teen dancers to have certain body shapes or weight so they can be ‘light’ in order to leap and be lifted into the air, and to not have ‘rolls’ which interfere with their arabesque. Other schools seem to ‘feature’ dancers of all body sizes, and tonight i also noticed dancers with ‘additional needs’ which made me feel proud that we are acknowledging and celebrating diversity. Some teachers emphasise the discipline within dance and expect high levels of ‘professionalism’ or ‘seriousness’ and other teachers/schools are going for a more compassionate or relaxed or humane approach.
I think it’s helpful to consider what ‘vibe’ suits you and your children, what your family values are and what you want to ‘get out of’ a dance school.
Apart from looking on the website, asking friends for their experiences, talking over the phone with a teacher, or going to watch a class in action, one VERY FUN way you can get a sense of the ‘skill’ and ‘style’ and ‘quality’ of a teacher/school is by taking your kids to the raft of end of year dance shows, available.
Tonight i noted, there were multiple boys, and girls dancing. Kids with additional needs were included. I saw brown kids. I saw white kids (and this doesn’t happen everywhere i will note). There was tap, contemporary, ballet, and hip-hop. The choreography was slick. The kids looked happy (rather than stressed). There was a large group of teen girls which made me think they’d have great fun together, and a wonderful ‘support’ or ‘weekly ritual’ to go to dance class as they navigate the turbulence on teenage-dom. There was a stand out dancer/choreographed piece with a contemporary dancer, dancing as a monarch butterfly. Her technique was very strong. I could imagine her dance teacher had a blast abundantly creating a dance for her. The lighting was striking. There were two stand out male dancers. One who really shone in the hip-hop and was full of attitude and looked like he loved every moment under those bright lights. Another was an older ballet dancer, whose smile and twinkling eyes lit up the entire space. His white silk billowing shirt moving like wings as he wowed us with his seemingly weightless leaps into the ‘above’. I was reminded how embracing and inclusive the world of the arts is. For those ‘different’ kids, or those kids ‘with personality’, or those ‘misfits’, there is a space on the stage, and in the world of creative expression aka THE ARTS. And what a relief it is to have a home, a place of acceptance, of celebration. A community and environment that embraces all – a place to be at ease. I also noted the general style or design of the first half (i brought the kindy and school girls home early) was light and not too sophisticated as in moody or sultry/sexy.
All of the above may not or may be on your radar. You might not care if your 7 year old looks like something off a music video, in fact you may be disappointed if she doesn’t?
But all in all, with all your choices in parenthood, know they are choices. Some schools may also be stronger in one or two forms of dance e.g. they may have a ballet focus, or a hip-hop focus, or a flair for contemporary. Know you can ask questions, request to sit in on a class, observe the quality of the teaching, and the interactions between student and teacher.
A curious thing – i saw some faces on stage that i saw the year before dancing with a different school. This made me realise if your kids’ were crazy about dance or if you were less conforming than some, your kids could go to two or three different dance schools all at the same time. Surely there are no rules. Or try one, one year, and another, another year. I have a delish home schooling Mum-friend who free-ed up my thinking, when she told me she takes her daughter to classes for one term, they may have a break, and then start again in the 3rd term (rather than feeling like one has to commit for the whole year).
I’ve also found the show DVDs (available to buy) are a terrific resource on a rainy day. The kids LOVE watching them, and i LOVE watching them recreate the dance post-watch.
I hope you have a blast taking grandma or your neighbour’s kids to a show. My kids loved watching their friends, and a great learning experience for them in regard to their own dancing and understanding of what it is to perform on the stage. There are so many dance shows to choose from between now and Christmas. You’ll see some remarkable dancing, and performers who will one day be paid to WOW us with their grace and wild.