Changing Dance Studios

It has been suggested by my former ABT/NYU teacher upon his retirement from 19 years of dancing with American Ballet Theatre that “ballet is like the mafia, there’s really only one way out”.

Quitting dance, or leaving the dance world altogether is difficult for those of who have made a passion or career of it. Even when not quitting dance altogether, leaving one studio for another can be just as difficult.

Here are a few reasons why switching studios or teachers is hard, followed by a few reasons why you SHOULD change studios and how to handle it.

CHanging Dance Studio

Diverse approaches to Dance Edu. via thestudio

Why Switching Studios is Hard

1. Possesive teachers– Have you heard of stockholm syndrome? Being a serious student of dance can be sort of similar.

We fear our teachers, we crave their stingy approval, we want to please their irrational personalities as we grow to love the discipline. Even if the teacher is of the benevolent-breed, if we feel that they have seen something special in us, invested time and attention, it can feel like betrayal to choose something, someone else. Occasionally studios will have contracts where students are not allowed to study elsewhere.

CHanging Dance Studio

Teach me how to dance! ALso don’t allow me to see my family or anyone else of my species! via ontreal gazette

2. Friends at a studio– There is a built-in social network in a dance class.

There is only so much time you can spend sweating it out in a leotard around others before you become friends. The dance experience is a social one unless you’re taking excessively private lessons and it can be hard to make changes even in the dancer’s best interest under the threat of losing those bonds.

via tumblr

3. Practicality– Especially for those who aren’t considering a career in dance, practical issues guide a lot of decision making.

Sure, that other studio has better facilities, teachers, performing opportunities, but maybe it’s ten times more expensive. Or an hour long drive.

CHanging Dance Studio

Just making our way to the studio. Via Flickr

4. Looking for Something Better– It can be an exhausting search to find another good studio.

You might have to take a trial class, go to a performance to see the quality of the students, choreography, the costumes and music used. You have to check rates, and curriculum used, and class size.

Sometimes it feels easier to settle for what seems within easy reach.

(Below video is my favorite thing from the awesome show, ‘Crazy Ex-girlfriend’, but contains some ‘adult’ content- just sayin’)

Why You Should Switch

1. Higher quality education elsewhere– Let’s face it, some teachers are better than others. This may be from experience, education, certifications, or professional experience.

They also (and this is often overlooked!) may have had training as a TEACHER not just as a dancer. This is my current pet peeve-  I go to class here in NYC and pay tons of money to take class from some hot-shot dancer, or has-been hot-shot dancer, who doesn’t understand anything from how to build combinations, to count music, or treat all students with attention and respect.

2. Better or different performance opportunities– There are many different approaches to dance education and the aren’t one size fits all.

I, for instance, wanted very high quality ballet training where I had to work hard to receive an invitation to join a pre-professional student company which put on full-length ballets (or more aptly, my parents wanted this) Some people want to compete. Some schools allow all classes to perform in student concerts and some only allow upper levels.

3. Ethos– The education that takes place in a dance studio can shape a person beyond their muscle tone.

There are many important questions to consider such as: approach to body image, the sexuality of children in movement, costume, makeup, the music used. What do you stand for or want your child to experience?

CHanging Dance Studio

Excellent song choice, costume, and choreography. Not questionable at all. Via

I LOVE performing with little underage streetwalkers! Dancin’ in the Streets

4. Diversity– This can be of classes and of people on staff, leading classes, and the student body.

If you currently attend a school that only offers ballet and modern and you want jazz, or try and fail miserably at hip-hop, or improvisation, or samurai swordplay, it may be time to switch.

5. Student-teacher relationships- Beyond the credentials of the teacher, how a teacher relates with students is critical. A teacher’s personality and how they relay information, critique, praise will color and inform the learning process of dance.

Some schools and teachers have mandatory meetings or are at least available for meetings with students ad families to discuss progress or concerns. Some schools even provide progress reports. Feedback can be a useful tool in education and in clarifying expectations so that the dancer may better succeed in class or in casting.

CHanging Dance Studio

Great movie. Terrible teacher protocol. via pinterest

6. Money- Because life and dance ain’t cheap Unless you’re the Paris Opera Ballet and then you’re dripping in crystals.

7. Practical stuff– See # 4 above. It’s really a question of how much effort do you want to put in.

How To Tell Your Teacher You Are Changing Dance Studios

It all comes down to two things: your reason and your conscience

If you feel that you or your child have been in any way abused, neglected, taken advantage of, ripped off, or mistreated, get out of there and don’t look back. You owe a bad school, a bad teacher, a bad experience absolutely nothing.

However, If the studio is simply not a good fit, it can be kind to either write a card or set a meeting up with the teacher to discuss your reasons for leaving. This can avoid some hurt feelings. It is a chance to explain what you’re hoping to find at a different studio and why your needs weren’t met with the current situation.

This is a good option if you have the kind of conscience that would feel haunted to ghost your teacher. It is actually really helpful for the teacher and studio to have honest feedback, even if it stings or feels sad to lose a beloved student.

I switched studios several times- 

  • At 8, I left one studio to go to another with better ballet
  • At 14, I left that studio to go to boarding school
  • At 15, I was forced to leave said boarding school because of diabetes and though back in St. Louis, went to a different school because the one I went to between 8-14 had already contracted the student company and I found more performing opportunities at a different studio.
  • At 16 I went back to boarding school. At 16 I again took medical leave, stopped dancing for a few months, then finished out high school at the 8-14 studio.
  • At 18, I started teaching during summers for the studio I went to until I was 8. And I took class myself from fellow teachers because the dance program is incredible. A flow-chart (and Tom Hanks video that never gets old) on choosing where to teach: Should I Teach There? 

There are lots of valid reasons to make changes. What are yours? Did I miss any?

I”m hoping that those contemplating changes found this helpful. If you did, you are NEVER allowed to unsubscribe from these posts. Don’t even think about it.

CHanging Dance Studio

My #1 Rule. Via Tumblr

2 thoughts on “Changing Dance Studios

  1. Pingback: Gender Inequality in Ballet from Teachers | BODIES NEVER LIE

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