So, you’re wondering how to become a dance teacher? You are ready to share your passion for dance with others, but you’re not sure where to start or how to begin. Depending on where you want to teach - in a studio, PK-12 school, or university - each requires a different journey and qualifications.
In this guide, we’ll break down how to become a studio dance educator and provide helpful hints on things to consider. We at Dance Ed Tips have helped thousands of dance teachers in all stages of their careers become better dance educators through our resources, ongoing education, and membership and we know we can do the same for you! Let’s get started!
1. What skills do you need to become a dance studio teacher?
In order to be a studio dance teacher, you need to have two types of knowledge: content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge.
Content knowledge is knowledge about the thing that you are teaching. In this case, it’s dance. As a dance teacher, you should know the movement practices, the terminology, the cultural and historical context, and the anatomical function of the dance style you are teaching.
Pedagogical knowledge is knowledge about how to teach. This means understanding how people learn at various developmental stages and being able to implement strategies that help them gain skills and understanding.
When teaching dance both these worlds come together to form Pedagogical Content Knowledge: this is a specific educational strategy to teach a particular content area. For us, it’s becoming experts on how to teach dance specifically.
No matter where you teach dance (a studio, a PK-12 school, or a university) you will need to have pedagogical content knowledge, but the qualifications, degrees, and work experience you have will also determine which kind of jobs you can apply for.
In addition to this, dance teachers are expected to:
- Teach and perform a variety of dance styles
- Create sequential and developmentally-appropriate lesson plans in those dance styles
- Choreograph in those dance styles
- Guide students safely through a warm up, conditioning, stretching, exercises, choreography and cool down
- Provide historical, cultural, artistic, and pedagogical context to their dance teaching
- Put on a performance with music, costumes, and lighting
- Implement classroom management strategies
- Differentiate their teaching for varying learners’ needs
- Create an emotionally safe space where students can grow and learn
- Continue their own education
- And much, much more!
2. What qualifications are needed to become a studio dance teacher?
To become a studio dance teacher, there are no formal qualifications or requirements. It is up to the studio owner to evaluate your dance teaching skills and decide if you are the right fit for their school. For the most part, studio owners look for individuals that can demonstrate and teach movement well, have experience teaching, and can choreograph for class and performances.
You can set yourself apart by being able to teach a variety of dance styles to students of varying ages, or some unique classes like choreography, mindfulness for dancers, or conditioning. Being able to teach different types of dance classes allows the studio owner to give you a full schedule where you can teach several hours in a row. They might also be looking for someone who specializes in early childhood dance to teach the little ones. Although different studios might be looking for different things in a dance teacher, there are no formal qualifications for any of these positions. As long as the studio owner thinks you are qualified to teach after reading your resume, then you can teach dance.
3. What are you expected to teach as a studio dance teacher?
When you teach in a dance studio, your main focus usually is teaching technique. Your primary job is to teach people how to dance. Most dance studios do not require you to teach dance history, anatomy, choreography, or improvisation, although many studio dance teachers do include this on their own.
4. What should you expect in your first year as a studio dance teacher?
Teaching in a dance studio is exciting, rewarding, and challenging. There will be times when you find yourself having to pivot your lesson plans due to a variety of reasons. Most commonly, students are often involved in other hobbies and school activities causing attendance to be inconsistent. It’s good practice to set up a system where your students notify you if they’re going to be absent or if they have several conflicts due to other obligations. This may be set up with your studio already through dance studio software and the owner, director, or office administrator will notify you of absences or tardies.
You also can expect dancers to attend the same school during the day and then dance in the same classes in the evenings, causing many hours spent together. While this time together creates incredible, life-long bonds, it also comes with growing pains (as does any relationship). It’s important to remind yourself and all your students that a positive studio culture is important to maintain not just in individual classes, but in the studio lobby, dressing rooms, and bathrooms. Often there will be multiple ages in the studio at one time and the younger dancers are ALWAYS looking up to the older ones. Dance teachers need to set good, wholesome examples and encourage the same for students.
While you are going to spend countless hours pouring love and knowledge into your students, start doing the same for yourself NOW! As a teacher, you have a passion for helping and molding young minds. It’s natural to ignore your own needs due to the needs of a student. We all do it! However, we have to remember what we tell our students. “Rest is productive!” If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of others. Self care for dance teachers is more than just a hot, Epsom salt bath once a month:
- Find a mindful practice that works for you
- Set boundaries around your social media and notifications
- Invest in yourself and your classes, as well as your students!
You are going to do an amazing job in your first year of teaching! Your ideas and fresh perspectives are always welcomed in the dance world. We also want to remind you that it’s ok to ask for help! There are companies out there, such as Dance Ed Tips, that create resources, lesson plans, decks of cards, and much more to help take the pressure off you. Coming up with new material for every single class is unnecessary and unrealistic. Work smarter, not harder! You can also always talk with the other teachers at your studio; they will love sharing ideas and helping you become the best studio dance teacher you can be (they are still teachers after all).
5. How can you maintain and sustain relationships as a studio dance teacher?
Depending on how your studio schedules classes, you may teach some of the same students from 2 years old to 18 years old. Watching your students grow into young adults is probably the most life-giving part of being a studio dance teacher. You will create relationships with them that are unmatched because of the reason you met in the first place, a passion for dance!
It’s easy to let the teacher/student relationship line fade the more comfortable you become with each other. Remember you are their teacher, instructor, and mentor; not their friend. If you keep that boundary clear, you will maintain respect and order in the classroom. It is always more important to have respect from your students than to be “liked” or “their favorite.”
Another important relationship to be aware of is your relationship with your students’ parents or guardians. Make sure you communicate with them whether that be through an email or a quick check-in at the studio. As dancers get older and more serious about their training, they are at the studio more than they are at home. Sometimes you will see these students more than their own parents do. While they trust their children to be in your care, remember that they are typically the ones paying for the tuition, leotards, tights, costumes, transportation…the list goes on and on. As much as dance teachers might stress about “Watch Week,” it’s great practice to let the parents and guardians see what’s going on with their children!
The most important piece of advice for teaching dance at a studio is to teach the human, then the dancer.
Each day brings about new experiences and new situations for your students. Make sure to acknowledge when your students seem exhausted. It’s ok to take a break and play a fun dance game or take a longer time stretching. We know that there is always technique to improve or a piece of choreography to clean, but if you push your dancers too hard, you will jeopardize their trust. When you allow your students to express themselves, you set up a foundation for motivated and healthy dancers.
Make sure that you and the rest of the studio teachers are communicating about students’ needs, too. As the students take classes from different teachers, your studio’s culture should be reflected in every class. If the studio staff is all on the same page, the students will have a much more successful and well-rounded experience.
Lastly, familiarize yourself with the studio systems in place so you can answer your students’/parents’ questions. Your students and their parents might interact with you more than the studio owner or director. It’s important that you can answer their questions. This not only reflects well on you by being knowledgeable and prepared, but also on your studio as a whole by being informative and communicative. Your studio will most likely use software, such as DanceStudio-Pro, where students & parents can access fees, schedules, registrations, and more. Take time to understand the Parent Portal. Also, make sure you take note of important dates and deadlines so you can remind your students during class.
If you’re reading all this and thinking “Being a studio dance teacher is a lot of work,” that’s great! Dance education as a profession, calling, or job is often underappreciated and much of the work that goes on behind the scenes is unrecognized. Unfortunately, many individuals believe that just because they are talented dancers that automatically makes them great dance teachers and that just isn’t true. Teaching dance in all settings requires a commitment and understanding of dance as an art form AND a commitment and understanding of how people learn.