Becoming a Dance Instructor...?

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by SolarPlexus, Aug 13, 2003.

  1. SolarPlexus

    SolarPlexus New Member

    I've been attending private & group ballroom dance lessons for about 9 months now. And like many students, I want to train & become a dance instructor. I'm curious about any advice that a seasoned dance instructor might have for me.

    A few questions are specifically on my mind...

    What might be some of the difference between starting at a franchise versuses starting at an independent?

    What are some of the pitfalls to watch out for?

    What areas should a beginning dance instructor focus on to become a great dance instructor?

    If one's goal is to compete on a professional level, is there any different/specific areas one should focus on?

    Any insights or bits of advice you might have would be greatly appreciated.
  2. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    If your goal is to compete on a professional level, being a teacher is certainly the first step. You want to find a studio that brings in top competitors from around the country on a regular basis, not once every month or two, but nearly every week. As your budget allows, take lessons from these people as often as possible. Sometimes you may need to travel to a competing studio to get the coaching.

    If you are with a franchise, you may get an hourly wage even if you are not teaching as well as free training. This is especially good for an instructor that is just starting out.

    If you can get to where you can easily charge $50+/hour and rent floor space for $20-/hour and you can keep 10+ private lessons on a consistent basis, you are well on your way.

    Welcome to the Dance Forums, SolarPlexus. Keep asking questions and I think you'll figure what you need to do to be a success. :)
  3. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Keep an open mind. A lot of dance instructors start believing there is only one way to do something and close themselves off to other ideas. Learn from numerous teachers and absorb as much information as you can. Don't worry about knowing everything, what you don't know you can find out from others.

    Good luck!
  4. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Welcome SolarPlexus . . .

    I can't give much advice in the area of franchises or studios. What I can tell you is it's going to take a while to get to that level - good enough to teach . . . it's going to take a few $$$ (lessons - group or private, clothes, travel, hotel, entry fees, Pro fees, dance fees), it's going to take a lot of self-discipline to practice on your own, say at home, it's has to become part of you and your daily life.

    Have I blown you out of the water yet?

    NO?

    Great!

    Also . . . learn to love 'politics' . . . there is a lot of it in it . . . and of course, I'm only talking about the three venues that I attend/compete in!

    I'm challenging you! Going to take me up on it?
  5. SolarPlexus

    SolarPlexus New Member

    Thank you for all the great insight.

    I'll make sure to keep an open mind in my learning. If we close ourselves off to new ideas, then we basically close ourselves off to learning. And that's no way to become successful...

    As for the challenges ahead, I hope there are many. I know that the more challenging it is, the more rewarding it will be. And I'm positive that I'm up for the challenge.
  6. Black Sheep

    Black Sheep New Member

    How to become a professional Dance Teacher

    SolarPlexus'
    Get into an Arthur Murray Teacher's Training class.
    You will get a good basic training background in teaching procedures and meet other teachers faster and benefit in many ways that will prepare you to run your own studio, whether it be a franchise or Independent.
    Take classes in ballet, tap and jazz to give you training in the classical dance techniques that will give you an edge over plain Ballroom dance trained instructors. Go social dancing as often as possible and dance with as many 'different' partners to develop socially and in your dancing ability.
    Make sure you always change dance shoes twice during as work day of six hours of teaching. Your feet will always be aching if you are working those six hours a day. And when you get a chance to rest, lay back with your feet above your head for better blood circulation.
    Always be well groomed and super clean in you body and breath. And always keep a friendly attitude, but avoid any intimacies with students if you want to be successful. In twelve years I never broke that rule more than two or three times that I recall.
    Above all, be punctual in all your lessons and plan them ahead of time and avoid long theorizing about the dance. Keep you student moving during the lesson, and if you have smokers breath you will lose most of your students after that first lesson. Anybody can become a teacher, but it takes complete dedication and a serious desire to SERVE!
    Lastly, Use my 'Magic Pill' formula and do what I do every time I go to a dance, 'Find a wallflower and without embarrassing them teach them the 15 minute Lanza Six Count Lindy', and make sure you follow the Six Procedural Steps precisely.
    I have a saying, " YOU CAN DO IT!"
    Black Sheep, your friendly instructor.
  7. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    . . . right answer . . . you'll make it!
    Don't rush, enjoy the dance . . .
    VA
  8. MissAlyssa

    MissAlyssa New Member

    Again I have to state that I am biased to Fred Astaire Dance Studios. FADS gives you free training (even if you don't have experience) and finds you students (so that you don't have to go cold call/advertise etc). I will try to answer some of your questions as well..



    What might be some of the difference between starting at a franchise versuses starting at an independent? (see above)

    What are some of the pitfalls to watch out for? I have heard that if you start as a student and become a teacher that you feel "guilty" for "selling" students of your own because you feel that you have been in the same boat before. Just keep in mind how much you feel that dancing was worth it to you. It obviously changed your life!

    What areas should a beginning dance instructor focus on to become a great dance instructor? In all honesty...the BASICS!!! You can know all the patterns in let's say cha cha..but if your basics look like doo doo than how can you teach it correctly. I'd suggest working on your basics (styling AND technique). Don't get me wrong, you will most likely be required to know 3-5 elements of each dance (not eeeeeeeeverything like paso doble/merenge/bolero etc) before you are "allowed" to teach a lesson with any student.

    If one's goal is to compete on a professional level, is there any different/specific areas one should focus on? I would say first thing is first and if you want to become a teacher you should first focus on doing the training to get yourself certified to teach before you train to become a professional. Trust me, everything will fall into place when you are ready to compete at a professional level.


    I hope I didn't step on any toes and hope you can use some of this advice to your benefit. Good luck!! :D
  9. Black Sheep

    Black Sheep New Member

    Chain Studio Training

    MissAlyssia,
    Fred Astaire Studios and the Veloz & Yolanda Studios, in the 1950's were more stylized and my preference. So if the Fred Astaire Studios are still of the same quality of the 1950's , you can't go wrong. And anyone beginning a new venture, I have a saying for, " Enjoy the getting there, because it's often more fun then the climax!"
    Black Sheep, your friendly instructor.
  10. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    There is a real question of what you mean by saying a teacher and/or a professional competitor. As MissAlyssa points out (and true of AMI as well), “FADS gives you free training (even if you don't have experience) and finds you students (so that you don't have to go cold call/advertise etc).” Now, as a student, I’d be most leery of receiving instruction from such an instructor [* please see note below] but, as an instructor, this can be an excellent way to get started. Again, the issue depends on what you want – as much of such training is on marketing as it is on dancing. Mind, this could be exactly the same at an independent studio…my personal take would be to find out who’s the most respected teacher in your area and go work for them or alongside them.

    If you go the franchise route, make sure that the franchisee you’re working for is open to your seeking outside (non-franchise) training and competition down the road as you progress. Also, how widely do you want your certification to be recognized and valued? ISTD certification, for instance, has world wide recognition (see www.USISTD.org for certification details).

    MissAlyssa is dead on regarding the importance of fundamentals. Both a good dancer and a good instructor are ultimately only as good as the quality of their performance and/or information – not the quantity! I think the following story, taken from Terryl’s Corner at Lets Dance LA’s website is particularly illustrative of this point:

    Such a competitor is not judged on knowing patterns from every dance around but, rather, based on the quality of what they do know. So, again, basics, basics, basics…

    * No offense intended to MissAlyssa or anyone else...please notice that I said "leery," and not "adverse to."

    (P.S. MissAlyssaa…no toes stepped on. Hope I can say the same :? )
  11. MissAlyssa

    MissAlyssa New Member

    Oh, no toes stepped on SD. I believe I saw that competition on tape a few weeks ago. I remember one couple walking around doing the rumba basics so well while the other couples flew around the floor doing breaks/turns etc. The couple immediatly (did I spell that right..?!) hooked me into staring at them and only them. I had to rewind the tape just to watch the other couples. Sometimes less IS more! I also wanted to add to your comment regarding extra outside training. I'm not sure if it is the same at every FADS but at my studio we are encouraged to get coaching as soon as we learn the basic elements to a few of the more popular dances. Sometimes the studio pays for extra training and sometimes we are expected to foot the bill, but one thing that is the same in either case is that we have to get further training on our own time!! :shock: :D :shock:
  12. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    This is actually not the same everywhere...hence my comment about additional coaching. Some managers/owners, unfortunately, are threatened by outside coaching so try to keep everything “in studio.” Sounds like you’re at a good one… :D
  13. SolarPlexus

    SolarPlexus New Member

    I appreciate all the great insight. It's little things like changing dance shoes during a long day, that wouldn't even have occurred to me.

    I realize that all dance studios are not the same. So an Arthur Murray studio in one town is not necessarily as good as one in another town. An obviously, independent studios vary significantly from one studio to the next. With that in mind, I would imagine that franchise studios would usually have a better training program, since they've put effort into researching and developing it, then using that training process throughout all their studios. Where an independent, has most likely focused more time on teaching students then figuring out how to create dance instructors. What I think will probably work best is to find someone, whether at a franchise or an independent, who is well respected and who feels confident that they can train me to become a great instructor.

    My thoughts are that the two are not mutually exclusive. I've met many instructors who teach but don't compete. And with the training I would recieve to become an instructor, the studio's goal is mostly likely focused more on making me into a good instructor and not necessarily into a successful professional. So I'm wondering what areas/skills I should focus in on to propell me onto a path of becoming a successful professional?

    One example that comes to mind, is learning both the lead and the follow parts. This seems like it would be a very important area to focus on in becoming an instructor. However, it might not be the most important area to focus on in becoming a professional dancer. And I was just wondering what areas the training to become an instructor might be lacking in, that would be useful for me to focus in on to help me in my future professional dancing? That's what I was thinking might be the difference between the two.

    Now, I'm going to go work on my basic steps, which I'm sure will be beneficial to both my teaching and my professional dancing.
  14. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Be careful with this one. Of course you don't want to end up with someone who isn't confident that they can train you, but just because someone is confident still leaves a lot open to question...

    As far as the teacher/competitor split, you are absolutely right to recognize they are different, albeit often highly interrelated things. Skills in execution are key as a competitor whereas understanding and communication of these skills are key as an instructor.
  15. SolarPlexus

    SolarPlexus New Member

    I'm curious what a good studio might pay for in extra training. The one studio I'm familiar with tends to have outside coaches come in once or twice a month to teach group lessons and privates. I believe they pay for the group lessons for the instructors and for the some private lessons for the instructors. Outside of that, I know that the instructors also get some outside coaching at other studios (mostly independent instructors). This usually seems to be the dance instructors who are competing and need help in areas like choreography.

    Would this be a typical scenario at a good studio? Or should one expect even more.

    I'm also curious what kinds of fees a studio might pay for? I would imagine that an instructor has to pay their own fees for competitions, outfits, and choreography coaching. Or are there studios that actually pay for this kind of stuff?
  16. MissAlyssa

    MissAlyssa New Member



    Well, currently at my studio about half of our instructors are taking company paid for coaching from a world champion dancer/dancesport judge. They are learning basic techniques to waltz (push and peel/rise and fall), latin dances (cuban motion/grounding) etc etc. I'm not sure what I would expect from other studios...I guess you should just ask when being interviewed :]


    I guess it depends on if you are competing with a STUDENT or competing with a DANCE PARTNER. If you are dancing with a student than by all means the studio (remember this is not ALWAYS the case!!) pays for entry fees/choreography/coaching/outfits (outfits in a franchise situation are often borrowed from other studios in the area). When you are competing on your own you are expected to do things on your own. Your studio might point you in the direction of independent comps that may have a lesser entry fee but they most likely won't pay it for you. If anyone has anything to add/subtract from my statement please dissagree because all I know is what is in my little "bubble" lol :lol:
  17. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    This is in name only, if that…it is the student who is ultimately footing the bill for all such expenses (save the pros costuming). Many students find this a very worthwhile expenditure, and I am not suggesting anything to the contrary...I just think its important to be up front that this is, in fact, what happens.
  18. MissAlyssa

    MissAlyssa New Member


    Well that's what I meant...it just sounds so foul when you say it lol :? :shock:

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