Dance is both a profession and an artistic vision. More and more, people are taking up dance as a hobby.
Many professional dancers want to move into teaching and pass on their skills and knowledge to performing arts students. However, many of these dancers haven't taught a day in their life!
If you're a dancer who has never taught a class before, we'll take you through everything you need to know to prepare an effective and exciting first lesson and make a great impression on your new students.
Encourage and engage your students by writing a killer lesson plan. Be prepared to adapt to their needs with a range of different teaching strategies.
In this guide for new tutors and teachers, you'll learn how to:
- plan your very first tutorial
- introduce yourself effectively
- deliver the lesson in a way that engages and inspires your students
Tailoring Your Dance Tutorials To Your Students' Needs
Choose Your Dance Style Wisely
Choosing the right dance style to teach is key. You should choose a dance style that you love, and one that you have experience and, ideally, qualifications in. Your goal is to design dance classes that are interactive, engaging and enjoyable for your students. Students should come away from each lesson feeling as if they've learnt something new.
Dance lessons involve learning how to listen to music and interpret the music into dance moves. This can be a lot of new information for students, and it's your job as an instructor to take them step-by-step through the process.
Some amazing dancers don't make the best instructors - this is because knowing how to dance doesn't automatically translate into teaching skills and an in-depth understanding of pedagogy.
To start teaching dance, you'll need to understand how to plan lessons for popular styles such as ballet, modern/contemporary, jazz or hip-hop.
Because dance is so physical, students learn from observing your demonstrations, receiving advice and correction and listening to what you have to say about the art form.
So how do you make your dance lessons fun and interactive? Start with an informal conversation with your student - this helps you get to know them and gives you lots of information on how to tailor your lessons to their needs.
Plan your lessons around your student's feedback and personal goals.
An exercise for generating lesson plans and ideas: think back to the best dance class you've ever attended. What was great about it? Write down everything you can remember and the read it back. How can you incorporate some of the teacher's styles into your lessons?
You should teach a style that you truly love, or you may offer a few different styles in your lessons. Even total beginners know when their tutor's heart isn't really in it.
Some styles of dance you could offer are...
- Dance Fitness Classes (Zumba, Ballet Barre etc.)
- Latin Dance Styles (Cuban or Puerto Rican Salsa)
- Swing Dance
- Hip Hop
- House Dance
- Waacking or Voguing
It always pays to tailor your approach to the market around you. Look to see what is on offer already at different dance studios - this will give you an idea of the average prices to charge. You can also see what kinds of dance are already being taught in your area, and offer something different to find your "niche".
Check out the latest online tutoring jobs in Australia through Superprof.
What Level Should You Teach?
You'll need to tailor your approach depending on the age, ability and dance level of your students. How you teach dance to primary school-age children will be very different from running a tango workshop for retirees!
Some tutors bite off more than they can chew, teaching levels that they're not advanced enough to manage. This is a huge mistake! Students will notice if you're not comfortable teaching their level and soon look elsewhere. Before you teach your first dance class, reflect on what level you're comfortable teaching.
You should also introduce students slowly, making sure they can succeed at each step and build confidence. It's fine to demonstrate complex moves to a beginner student to inspire them, but don't start them on a super difficult routine in the first lesson! Even if you suspect they'd be up to the challenge, we advise pitching the lessons easier so students can feel proud of what they've achieved in their first lesson, and then gradually introducing more challenging steps in later lessons.
When considering what level to teach, it's important to know which category you fall into as a teacher:
- Self-taught tutors with zero formal training.
- Tutors who are still studying dance - perhaps at a performing art school or dance academy.
- Dance tutors who are already qualified.
So which level should you teach? Beginner, intermediate or advanced? Or perhaps you'll offer classes or two or more of those levels to reach more students. Whatever you offer, make sure your classes match your level of training and experience.
Establish Boundaries As A Dance Tutor
The customer isn't always right... but you can avoid a lot of conflict by establishing good boundaries about how and where you want to teach at the outset.
When deciding to teach your first dance lessons, think about what you do and don't want to teach. You can refuse to teach group lessons if you prefer one-on-one instruction, or perhaps you don't want to work with children under 10. That's totally fine!
Set your working relationship with your students up for success by establishing clear boundaries around how you do and don't want to work.
- Individual or group classes?
- Where will you teach? At your home or a studio? Are you willing to travel? Will you charge a travel fee?
- Do you offer online lessons where students can join you for courses via Skype or Zoom?
- What ages will you teach? Only adult students or are you open to teaching children's classes?
- What is your hourly rate? Can you offer discounts to seniors or unemployed students, or is that out of the question?
- How do you plan to charge - for individual lessons, or per term? Per month? 10-lesson packs?
- Will you book evening lessons? Weekends? If not, would you consider it for an extra fee?
Make all this info available on your Superprof profile so students know upfront what they can expect from you. Be specific - this way you won't waste you or your prospective student's time!
Your working conditions should reflect the kind of dance teacher you wish to be.
Plan Your Dance Lessons Ahead
Practise Your Moves and Prepare Your Routines
It seems fundamental... but make sure you're in practice and have the routine down before leading your first dance class!
Before you teach your first tutorial: try a "dry run" with family or friends. Their feedback and constructive criticism can be invaluable!
Don't forget to build a warmup into your lesson plan - this takes care of your body and your student's health!
Some more tips for preparing before the lesson:
- Go over the music your plan to use for the class so it's fresh in your mind
- Make sure you can give a short background on the style of dance you're teaching - you don't need to know everything, but make sure you're prepared to answer any questions beginners might have
- Go over the dance vocabulary you'll need to teach your students
- Think about how you plan to set up the space and what equipment is needed.
Mastering The Art Of Teaching
You can train to become a dance tutor. There are many courses out there that will not only help you hone your dance technique but also help familiarise you with working in a classroom or dance studio.
If you're planning to teach dance, you should have already mastered the artistic and technical aspects of your dance style. But to reach your full potential as a dance teacher, you'll need more than just slick moves. You should also have some knowledge of:
- Dance pedagogy
- Musical styles and mixing
- The history of your dance style
- Dance philosophy
- Basic anatomy
- First aid (in case someone has a heart attack in your class!)
- Classroom management
Formal training is a great asset for any dance teacher and will make starting your first dance lessons much easier. However, you can find lots of useful resources online - such as websites with free lesson plans.
Don't follow these lesson plans too strictly - rather, use them as inspiration for dance classes and workshops. Looking through these is great research if you want to refresh your curriculum and incorporate new teaching strategies.
Book Regular Lessons
Students love learning with private tutors because each class is tailored to their individual needs. When you're teaching, pay particular attention to their movements so you can give quality feedback, offer constructive critiques and give homework that will help them shine.
Whether you're teaching offer ballroom, Latin dance, tango, cha-cha or contemporary, private lessons also offer the opportunity for you to follow a student's progress week to week and help them improve over time. Or you might offer an intensive dance workshop with specific goals and outcomes to be reached by the end of the course.
If you are a choreographer, you could consider teaching choreography skills to students by asking them to come up with their own routine each week. You can also help students build confidence and keep track of their progress by asking them to take short dance videos each week.
Making The Most Of Your First Dance Class Together
Tailoring Dance Classes
Many tutors on Superprof offer the first hour lesson free. This trial lesson is an opportunity for you to get to know each other and see if you really click.
You can also use this taster session to understand your student's motivations and establish a course plan for the ongoing tutorials. These should be based on your student's current level and personal goals.
Read more on how to price lessons here.
Why is the student taking private dance lessons? Do they have a specific goal in mind?
- Honing their dance skills
- Learning to dance for their wedding
- Practising for a flash mob
- Entering dance competitions
- Auditioning for a dance academy or conservatorium
- Building confidence on the dance floor
- Exploring a new dance style
- Rehearsing for a dance show
Keep this first session casual - around half/two-thirds of the session should be a conversation between you two, perhaps ending with a little bit of dance. Invite them to show you what they can do, but don't push any beginners too hard if they're shy.
If your student is hoping to audition for a particular dance school, this is the time to ensure your tutorials align with the curriculum at their institution of choice.
Making a good first impression is crucial as a private tutor, as students often choose a tutor based on suggestions from friends.
Choose A Location
Selecting the right place for your private dance lessons is also very important.
Perhaps you're lucky enough to have a dedicated space in your home. However, usually, you'll need to rent a studio.
If you need to rent a dance space at a studio, hall or leisure centre, you should factor that into the cost of your lessons. Or in the summer, you can offer dance lessons at your local park.
Sort Out Your Equipment
Start off on the right foot by ensuring you have all your equipment in order for the first lesson.
Make sure you communicate with your student what to wear to their first dance lesson, and if they need to purchase any specific equipment.
Here's a checklist for your first lesson:
- Clothes - comfortable and stretchy tops, leggings, etc.
- Specialised dance shoes (trainers, tap shoes, ballet slippers)
- Music (a speaker, CDs, MP3s etc)
- Any specialised equipment (barre, poles for pole-dancing)
- Teacher resources (worksheets, lesson plan templates)
If you are providing the equipment for your dance lessons, you can include rental in your rates. Students are more likely to try out a new style if they don't have to invest in a new kit upfront.
Use these tips to make a great first impression on your students, and to ensure your profile stands out on platforms like Superprof!