Dance Advice

Choosing the best full time course for you

Kelly Aykers Full Time Dance

Full Time dance schools and universities across Australia and New Zealand are starting to audition for 2016 courses. Check out Dance Informa’s Full Time Dance & Auditions Guide here.

I am often asked for advice from parents of budding young dancers, or the dancers themselves, as to where they should be looking to further their dance education. This is a very broad, complex and even a life changing decision for both the parents and the student, which should not be decided without really thorough research and discussion.

It’s important to make an informed decision that you’re completely comfortable with, but that is easier said than done. Even if you’re not 100% certain of where would be the most best place to commence full time training, you should always remember that, although it’s not ideal to be changing from one studio to another all the time, nothing is ever set in concrete and you ARE able to change given the right circumstances.

Make sure to converse with other family members, the child themselves, and undoubtedly their teachers. You are after the best school to realize their own, individual full artistic potential and your child’s teachers will share insight on what they feel your dancer needs. Also talk to any mentors or successful dancers and artists that you have contact with to get feedback and ideas. They may recommend or warn you off certain programmes based on experience and your child’s particular strengths, weaknesses and goals.

Australian Ballet School

Students from The Australian Ballet School perform ‘Morning Melodies’. Photo courtesy of the Australian Ballet School.

You can thumb through glowing brochures, read between the lines of reviews of productions, browse websites and make personal visits to get an honest, in-depth overview. I have found that it also helps if you attend the graduating performance of the various courses/schools. It will give you a good idea of the style of each institution and an excellent representation of how each particular school likes to be perceived. YouTube footage of performances can also give you valuable insight.

When deciding on a dance school, make sure to do research on the faculty who will be teaching your child. It is probably safe to assume the bigger schools will have reputable teachers, who will undoubtedly have had professional level training in dance, a professional performing career, and sometimes university schooling and/or teacher training. However, these credentials do not guarantee a teacher who will teach well. The smaller schools can also offer outstanding teachers and a smaller, boutique, personalized programme with individual attention – they shouldn’t be overlooked.

It is of utmost importance for teachers to have themselves been schooled in the methodology they teach. Good teachers will have reputations that speak to the quality of training they provide their students. Reputable teachers also will not be shy about telling you/your child what is in their best interest, be it about specific training corrections, or advice about a particular event, school or programme, whether you like the answer they give you or not. Also don’t be afraid to ask around – other parents and students are very good sources of this kind of information. Recent graduates from each school can give you helpful information about the teachers and the programme and what the did and didn’t like.

Make sure that you research all of the fees associated with attending a particular studio, as cost may also be a concerning factor. Tuition often does not include fees associated with performing: costume fees/rental, prop fees, production fees, rehearsal fees, company fees, etc. With several showcases and competitions these costs can quickly add up to thousands of dollars a year. Some schools, however, include all tuition fees and all performing/competing costs rolled into one rate.

If tuition fees seem a little out of your reach, don’t be deterred as help is usually at hand, by the means of bursaries or scholarships. Even over in the UK at The Royal Ballet School, they point out, ‘No potential pupil or student should be discouraged by lack of financial means from making application to the School.’ So I would always highly recommend to never be deterred by the fees of most full time schools, as if they truly see the potential they, and you, will find a way.

Which really leaves just one hurdle – actually getting into the school of your choice! There are always entrance auditions and after passing the initial round of auditions, there could then potentially be more rounds of dance or even interviews. Competition is fierce for the few places up for grabs in some schools, so you need to be at your best physically and mentally. 

Bachelor of Dance at AMPA

Students from the Bachelor of Dance at AMPA in Sydney. Photo courtesy of AMPA.

Full time schools pick the best and expect nothing but the best in return. So if you are lucky enough to be accepted into the school of your dreams, be sure to treat every single class with high regard. The time spent at full time training is nothing in the grand scheme of things. The time will fly by and before you know it you’ll be in the big wide world looking for your first professional job.

Make sure to keep focussed on your academic studies too, as academic education is just as important as your dance training in the long run. Whilst half of the day in some of these accredited institutions is dedicated solely to dance, the other portion of the day, give it the afternoon or morning, is then devoted to academic matters. So remember to always keep your head. Don’t let those stars in your eyes blinker you to the wider educational picture. Dance is a career that although incredibly rich and rewarding can also be cut short with a simple, yet devastating, injury. 

And lastly, the physical dance environment needs to be considered when choosing a studio. When looking at a good dance facility the most important factors that directly impact the quality of training are:

• Sprung flooring in all studios

• High ceiling clearance (for high jumps and lifts)

• Studios large enough to accommodate the training, as well as class size

• Mirrors on one long wall of the studio

• Secure and sturdy barres

• Access to rosin if needed

Other amenities that help make the studio a more comfortable place to study are:

• Boys/Girls changing areas

• Lounge/kitchen area

• Reception desk

• Director’s office/consultation & meeting area

• Study area/library

• In-house wardrobe/costume room

• Additional workout room with free weights, Pilates/gym equipment etc.

If you have weighed all of the criteria, and have done your research on the topics discussed in this article, you should find the right match for you or your child. Remember, that an enriching experience expands your horizons, opens your mind to other possibilities, and expands your view of yourself and the world around you. The fine arts, dance in particular, can do just that in a very personal way through its innately physical nature, especially if you involve yourself in a school or dance institution that has that kind of philosophy and mission at its heart.

Full Time dance schools and universities across Australia and New Zealand are starting to audition for 2016 courses. Check out Dance Informa’s Full Time Dance & Auditions Guide here.

By Teagan Lowe of Dance Informa.

Photo (top): Students from Kelly Aykers Full Time Dance in Melbourne. Photo courtesy of Kelly Aykers Full Time Dance.

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