How to find cheap, local, and good quality dance classes
Finding cheap, local and quality dance classes can be a minefield. When you need to train on a tight budget without compromising on quality, a certain measure of patience, tenacity and resourcefulness are required. Most budding dancers (if they are really committed to their chosen path that is) would train all day long if they could. However, with private classes of a standard length costing up to £15 per class or even more in Central London, many of us can find it a struggle to attend as many classes as we would like.
The first thing that you will need to consider is where you are at with your training and career and where you are aiming to be. Your age and the number of years that you have been dancing, as well as your tastes, will obviously be a huge influence on your chosen direction and career. If you are just starting out as a total beginner at 25, it is fairly unlikely that a career at The Royal Ballet awaits you. Likewise, a trained dancer with many years work experience will have very different training needs from someone who is just starting out or has just left dance school. Either way, the important thing is that you know your options and where you are heading and that you define those goals as clearly as you can and decide how many hours a week you are able to devote to your dance training.
If you decide that it is intensive training that you require, with several classes a week or even several a day, then it is worth considering a full time course if you have not already completed one. If you are serious about pursing dance as a career, for most people this is the best way to train and if you are finding yourself dashing all over your town and city, doing twenty hours a week plus at private schools, a full time dance course at a college, university or dance school is likely to work out at much better value for money for you. Apart from the actual teaching hours, you will receive classes in body conditioning and the ongoing attention of dedicated tutors and teachers, which will aid your development as a dancer. It really is very difficult to find this level of attention at a weekly private class, where, after all, the main motive of the teacher is to keep the class nice and full, which sometimes means an easy, enjoyable class rather than the constructive criticism that you need. In addition, dance school will give you valuable access to industry know-how and contacts that, along with the top quality training, may provide you with a rich source of valuable opportunities in the future. It also looks great on your CV and having full time dance training in your background can open doors for you.
When choosing a full time course it is crucial to ask plenty of questions about the course content, the daily schedule and of course the teachers. Do not make the all too common mistake of enrolling on an expensive university course only to find that it is ill suited to a career as a dancer. If you wish to actually dance professionally then you require a vocational course, not an exercise in essay writing. Dance classes should make up the vast majority of teaching and study time. It is also crucial to ensure that the dance styles on offer are relevant to you. Do not assume that a course entitled 'dance' will offer, for example, ballet, tap and jazz, if that is what you want. Check first before applying, let alone enrolling! With so many dance styles from around the world increasing in popularity now, you really must read the course guide and meet those tutors to know what is on the course. Do not make any assumptions! It is also best to attend a sample class in any unfamiliar styles before making your decision.
If a full time course is just not for you, or your dance school days are well behind you, there are still plenty of other options. Experienced dancers will know a lot about their bodies and their particular weaknesses and talents and will need to tailor their weekly schedule to reflect this. They may need specialist training in order to stay competitive and will want to seek out professional level masterclasses and workshops. Prestigious dance schools offering postgraduate and graduate courses usually offer quality professional classes and are a great place to start, however such classes can be expensive. It is worth asking about professional membership schemes, concessionary rates and bulk discounts when buying a block or term of classes. You must do plenty of research to find out who the leaders are in your chosen field and stay up to date with any new developments and trends. It is also important to pay attention to your creative development.
If you have body issues to correct or work on, you will want to seek out specialists who can help you and keep you dancing. Although all of this can be hard work, daunting and expensive, the advantage of being at this level is that you should have a good deal of know-how and may be quite capable of setting yourself a training regime at home. This can save (travelling) time and money and will free up some resources which you can then better target to classes that you really need. Access to a good training space is invaluable to the working dancer and whether this is achieved by adapting your home space (by installing suitable flooring and mirrors, for example) or perhaps by teaching some classes at a local gym or dance school (which will often mean free, enhanced or cheaper access to their studios) it will mean that you can avoid paying full class fees just to to be in a studio, and can focus your resources where they are really needed instead. You are also in a position to take advantage of very cheap local classes regardless of who is teaching as you know how to motivate and correct yourself and as long as this is combined with higher level training for your continuous development, it can be beneficial and add training hours to your weekly schedule very cheaply. At this stage you should know good teaching from bad and can pay attention to any useful hints and feedback whist discarding any bad or irrelevant advice. If get bored or lonely dancing in front of a mirror at home, going to local beginner or intermediate or advanced level classes or classes organised for university students (which are usually extremely cheap) can be a welcome change of scene and if you are a little too hard on yourself sometimes, dancing in a recreational class can do wonders for your self esteem!
If you are not yet at this level, while it is good to try out all of the above suggestions if you can, do be far more careful about choosing the classes that you attend on a long term basis. When learning, we are all more vulnerable to picking up bad habits and it is crucial that when you are still learning about a dance style, you are given the correct advice. Whereas some variations from teacher to teacher are merely a matter of style, acquiring certain physical habits can be aesthetically unappealing and disadvantage you as a dancer. In some cases, the wrong advice can even be bad for your body. The best asset that you can hope to acquire at this stage is knowledge of good and bad technique, dance in general and your own body. You must take responsibility for you own development and learn as much as you can through a variety of media. Knowledge is power. This includes a knowledge of which teachers are good and which not so good. You must ask everyone you can for advice, especially professionally trained dancers and teachers, question the finer points and read and watch everything you can get your hands on. Do not restrict yourself to learning in just one way. When you feel more confident about how to assess teaching quality, you must seek out a mentor, a great teacher with experience of teaching and performing who can guide you. They should care about your development and give you lots of feedback. Be sure to attend class with this teacher regularly, in addition to any other classes you may attend throughout the week. This will form the backbone of you training and provide you with a yardstick to measure teaching quality. Whether through recommendation or research, you will then be empowered to track down the best classes for you. Do not commit to a term or block of classes without attending a trial class- even if the teacher knows their stuff and came highly recommended, they still might not be right for you. Teaching style and personality can be just as important as technique.