“Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”
– Rita Pierson
Dance is an intellectual, physical and sensorial response to experiences of the world. Teaching dance is one of the most rewarding and thrilling careers today.
Through dance, a teacher can not only learn the discipline for the dance form but life. They can be taught how to be organized, manage a schedule, and have goals. Whether they pursue dance career or not in future, to see young dancers grow into beautiful, culturally educated people in itself is rewarding.
If you are passionate about dance, teaching dance is nothing but a natural progression for you. Being able to share your passion for dance and getting paid for it is something you can not match in any job. To be able to see someone’s face light up with joy and wonder when they finally get a step right and learn to dance is an extremely gratifying moment in the life of a dance teacher.
To some, dance is a way of releasing negativity and instilling positive attitude and emotions in their lives. Dance as a way of expression of your innermost feelings and letting go of your inhibitions has helped many young children and adults. For some kids, it's the only place where they are not judged by the way their body looks, but what they can accomplish with it. A dance teacher's job is to keep young ones on their toes. The improved physical activity levels mean better stamina and better health too!
Dance teachers often encourage students to work on their fitness, eating habits and help them overcome their notions of poor self-image. In more ways than you can imagine, dance teachers help create citizens who are self-reliant, determined, have high self-esteem, have an excellent work ethic, understand the importance of self-expression and appreciate individuality.
Sure, working with children or novices is often challenging as well as stressful, but the rewards are immense. Through dance, a dance teacher changes the way a student pursues an art form. It is a rare privilege to make a difference in someone’s life. It is an opportunity to touch and inspire, share and teach without inhibition for the good of each dancer.
How to Start your Career as a Dance Teacher
Whether its tap, ballet, hip-hop, modern or jazz, or you are preparing a team of athletic dancers for a dance team, a dance teacher has multiple roles to play and be a role model, all at the same time.
Dance teachers can teach in public or private schools, after-school programs, and private dance studios.
If you have been a trained dancer, or have a passion for dance and have studied drama or literature to learn how to portray characters, or have been a talented dancer yourself, you must think seriously of imparting the same passion and zeal to others. Think of it as a payback to your own dance teacher who shaped up the way you look and feel about dance.
You too can be a dance teacher by following simple steps:
Take Formal Training
Though you may be training as a dancer since a young age of maybe 5 or 8, consider taking a formal course with certification from leading dance companies or dance certification organizations. It will be beneficial to study drama and literature as they help you teach character portrayal in dance.
Enroll in a Teacher Education Program
Before dance teachers can teach in public schools, they must complete a teacher education program. Degree programs in dance education also help in developing technical, performance and choreographic skills- all of these are needed for teaching dance before you start teaching formally. Many programs will also require field experience and some prior experience in directed teaching. You should think about completing an internship or student teaching experience to further your chances of success.
Most dance certification programs require courses in education, dance education, and completion of a teaching internship. There are master’s programs in dance that expect students to earn satisfactory scores in PRAXIS exams. Be prepared to participate in ongoing professional development workshops as well as courses.
If you wish to progress in your career as a dance teacher, consider completing a master's in dance after graduation. A master degree helps you get eligible for a doctorate program which could open doors to more lucrative dance teacher jobs in post-secondary schools.
Remember, the role of a dance teacher is not merely the teaching of dance steps. Through skills of teaching how to dance, a teacher has to guide students to explore the art of self-expression and discover a world of possibilities. The teaching of dance is done through a consistent dialogue between teachers and students and openness for the integration of different forms of art through dance.
Notes from a Dance Teacher
Dance is as physical as it is an aesthetic discipline. It is becoming increasingly important to use the awareness about one’s body – both in learning as well as teaching dance. We live in a world of body –numbing technology, environmental degradation and human isolation happening all around us.
Dance is a way of instilling positivity and healing. A dance teacher should facilitate learning by emphasizing on sensing the environment, being aware of your bodies inside out. Dance has come far from the traditional transmission model of teaching where the students learn by imitating specific movement vocabularies modeled by an expert teacher.
Today’s dance teacher has to adapt the teaching to experiential strategies of learning- such as improvisation, authentic movement, and experiential anatomy. Through increased awareness of their bodies, a dance teacher can provide a non-authoritarian, healthy learning environment that challenges each student. A balance of all instructional approaches a teacher can foster the development of each student’s creative, artistic voice.
A Day in the Life of a Dance Teacher
Whether it is creating your own choreography or managing your studio, it takes more than just the love of dance and dance qualifications to make it in this competitive dance industry as a dance teacher. Here are a few key areas a dance teacher has to work on, every single day:
- Demonstrating dance moves
- Conceptualizing and choreographing performances
- Providing feedback to students and parents
- Scheduling group and private classes.
And this is just an indicative list!
As a dance teacher, you have to make sure your finances are in order, the lessons go as per plan, and students remain upbeat to keep practicing!
For all this to happen, you have to follow a plan . There are specific ground rules that every good dance teacher, whether they are the community, social, school studio or professional dance teachers- follow-
- A good dance teacher uses teaching methods based on the type of class, student's age, stage and needs, dance style/ genre, class size, and venue.
- The dance teacher also takes a lot of care to plan dance lessons. The teacher has to take into consideration the aim of class, assess prior knowledge/ understanding, skill levels, and most importantly- a student's emotional, physical, and intellectual limitations/ development. The lessons have to be planned in the form of a graduated workload, i.e., frequency, intensity, duration and type of dance.
- Focus on creating a positive learning environment- The teacher should be supportive, encouraging and non-threatening. The goals should be clearly stated. Every student should be given equal opportunities to learn and develop their dance skills. Teachers are also responsible for encouraging students to accept reasonable challenges, and take risks, of course with a teacher's support. To be fair and inclusive in teaching/ learning, the dance teacher has to rise above cultural, gender and age differences and also different physical and learning abilities.
- Having productive communication skills is also an added advantage as the dance teacher has to give clear instructions and demonstrations in both verbal and non-verbal forms. The teacher also has to adapt their language to suit the age and experience of students. Regular, respectful feedback from students helps them to mature into independent learners.
- The dance teachers must exude positivity- safe dance principles, non-judgmental attitudes, positive body image, punctuality, planning, and preparation, are the key goals of a good dance teacher.
If the answers to any of the above questions are yes, then you are ready to start your life as a dance The joy of teaching dance is that every day is different, so it's almost an impossible task to set a routine and follow it every day. Although being passionate about dance and formal dance education is a must, other desirable skills will help you stand out from the competition.
Your confidence and ability to connect with parents as well as industry professionals will help you convert your passion for dancing into a thriving dance teaching business.
If you are still contemplating your career as a Dance teacher, try asking these simple questions:
The world of tears, sweat, smiles, and hugs awaits you. Are you ready to take up the challenge?
Bolwell, J. (1998). Into the light: An expanding vision of dance education. In S. B. Shapiro (Ed.), Dance, power, and difference (pp. 7–23). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics
Enghauser, R. (2007). The Quest for an Ecosomatic Approach to Dance Pedagogy. Journal of Dance Education, 7:3, 80-90