“I don't want people who want to dance, I want people who have to dance.” George Balanchine

What draws you to ballet? The elegant pointe positions, effortlessly graceful movements or pomp and ceremony of the glittering costumes and sets? 

Whilst elite ballerinas will start young and undergo years of gruelling training - living, eating and sleeping the ballet lifestyle - perhaps you dream of taking your training in another direction.

Popular culture has done a lot to popularise this elite dance discipline, and there are studios offering ballet lessons for adult beginners popping up everywhere. Ballet is even beginning to be incorporated into fitness, with the boom in popularity of "ballet barre" classes.

If you're a ballerina just starting your teaching career, there are many students out there who want to take ballet up as a hobby. Perhaps you dream of one day teaching in an elite academy, but everyone has to get their start somewhere!

In terms of income, ballet teachers can earn anywhere between $24,0000 and $47,000 per year, although many are employed on a part-time basis. A seasoned ballet teacher at a prestigious dance academy can earn much more than that! Your work hours will largely depend on you - whether you wish to work full-time for a studio or dance school, or teach a few classes a week at your local community centre or gym.

So what do you need to know to become a ballet instructor? What kind of qualifications are expected? Should you work full-time, part-time or teach private lessons independently? Let's dive a little deeper...

You can also read up on how to price your classes here.

Qualifications In Dance Education

When considering obtaining qualifications in dance, it's important to first consider what kind of institutions and levels of students you wish to work it. You can learn more about Australian pathways to becoming a dance instructor here. If you want to teach in a state school, you'll need a Diploma or Masters of Education. Depending on the status of the school, you may be asked for a certain number of years in dance education. On the other hand, elite institutions will usually only choose teachers who have danced professionally with similar institutions before or who can show a wealth of professional performance experience

ballet dancers are very flexible
Be flexible when searching for dance jobs. (Source: Unsplash).

If you are a young dancer who is considering your options for higher education, the obvious choice would be a bachelor degree in dance.

Most performing arts schools will offer a dance option through their Fine Arts courses...

Or at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and at QUT, you can study a double degree in Bachelor of Arts (Dance) / Bachelor of Education.

The University of Melbourne also offers a Masters Degree in Fine Arts, with a dance specialisation.

In these courses, you'll not only get physical training, but also the history behind ballet, the anatomy of dance, performance practice. There are also many opportunities to take classes in general pedagogy.

There are a few pathways to becoming a ballet instructor:

  • Undergraduate studies & Postgraduate studies
  • Getting industry experience dancing at a professional company
  • Taking intensive courses through dance companies/academies

To be a dance teacher, you'll need more than just a passion for dance, you'll also need skills such as:

  • Patience with beginners
  • Strong communication skills
  • Physical endurance
  • A keen interest in pedagogy
  • Basic choreography

Working toward a degree in dance and/or education will help you grow into a skilled and confident teacher. However, it's also important not to neglect your creativity and passion for the subject. Students will appreciate a creative environment where they can learn fresh choreography or are challenged to prepare for recitals. You should aim to pass on an understanding not only of the technical points of dance but also how to choreograph a routine and truly put on a show.

Methods for Teaching Ballet

Ballet teachers set an example for their students, young and old. Teachers of creative arts are given the chance each day to show up and inspire students, changing lives through their teaching. 

To teach effectively, you'll need to plan your classes ahead of time. Some elements to consider when structuring your classes include...

  • Always starting with effective and safe warm-ups
  • Including time to go over the moves and positions in detail
  • Setting goals and fostering individual progress
  • Hosting feedback sessions
  • Preparing for recitals and dance exams
  • Performance practice and learning how to choreograph

For committed students who hope to one day become teachers or elite performers themselves, you may also wish to include...

  • Notes on dance pedagogy
  • Healthy nutrition and sleep hygiene for dancers
  • Physical conditioning and coaching
  • Career management
  • Relaxation techniques and stress management

Why teaching method is right for you?

Originating during the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century, ballet has evolved over the hundreds of years since its inception. Several schools of thought have branched out, each promoting a different approach to ballet technique.

Firstly, there is the French school, founded by Rudolf Nureyev, which developed in the 17th century. The many French terms used in ballet today can be traced back to this school.

An offshoot of the French school is the Bournonville method, which is characterised by a contrast between the elegantly-held upper body, fast footwork, a lowered gaze and detailed arm movement. The intention is to seem effortless and float as lightly as a feather.

In the late 19th century, Agrippina Vaganova developed here own approach to teaching in her native Russia. In this method, there is an emphasis on expressiveness through the arms, extreme flexibility and rigorous training for a supple lower back.

Another method was pioneered by Enrico Cecchetti. He based his approach around internalising dance artistry rather than strict copying of a routine. This allows for more emotivity and versatility in performances.

The English school is informed by all of the styles mentioned above and emands high attention to detail. It forms part of the Royal Academy of Dance's pedagogy, which offers both the Graded Examination Syllabus and the very technically demanding Vocational Graded Syllabus.

Perhaps the most famous ballet school is the Balanchine technique. It is the most recent of the styles listed here and is used widely throughout the United States. It is a more neoclassical style, favouring speed, deep movements and a focus on the lines of the body. It is considered a highly "athletic" ballet style.

As a ballet instructor, you may also teach other disciplines:

  • Ballet barre
  • Fitballet
  • Sculpting or toning through "Ballet Body" (often offered in gyms)
  • Fusion ballet styles or contemporary dance

“Being in ballet class, I feel, is like this meditation for me every morning.” Misty Copeland

Barre work is fundamental to ballet teaching
Foster the next generation of young ballerinas by teaching ballet. (Source: Unsplash).

If you plan to teach privately or strike out with your own private studio, you'll also need to consider what kinds of equipment you'll need on hand.

Offering Dance Lessons In Australia

Once you've passed your ballet exams, dance education bachelors or dance teaching accreditation, you'll naturally be looking for work. There are lots of options for teaching ballet across Australia, from teaching in dance studios, academies, gyms and leisure centres.

Teaching Ballet For Fitness

Dance fitness is more popular than ever - and it's not hard to see why! Students love getting a workout and sculpting lean dancer's muscles while listening to beautiful music and learning a graceful routine. Many people find a local class and form a little community, so you'll soon build up a roster of regular students. This kind of program also tends to be more relaxed, as there aren't any exams or performances to work towards. There is also room for your personal creativity when designing the dance workouts and you may even form fast friendships with your students.

Teaching Ballet Community Classes

If you're just starting out as a ballet teacher, you may like to offer your services to a community centre - either at a solidarity rate or on a volunteer basis. Ballet has the power to change lives, and shouldn't be limited to those who can afford expensive dance academies. You may also like to supplement your studio or gym classes with one day a week at your local community centre.

Teaching The Next Generation of Ballerinas

If you're hoping to apply for a job at an elite ballet institution and teach their programme, you'll need a college level certificate in dance education and a few years of experience behind you. Many professional ballerinas eventually become teachers at institutions once they have retired from performance.

Each of these institutions will design their course in a particular ballet method, such as the English or Cecchetti styles. They'll only employ teachers with a proven certification, and there will be professional pianists playing for the classes. Many of these institutions have a large number of classes focussed on children or teens, so you could be called on to teach anything from ballet beginners for four-year-olds to helping older teenagers prepare for their entrance auditions.

Each major city and town in Australia will have its own ballet academy, so simply type "ballet academy <your town>" to find out where to apply.

Tutoring Ballet Privately Through Superprof

If you love connecting with people through ballet but haven't decided to pursue a professional career in ballet, you might consider becoming a private ballet tutor through Superprof.

This is your moment to pass on a passion for arabesques, pliés, jetés and entre-chats with willing beginner and intermediate ballet enthusiasts.

Superprof provides the platform, all you need to do is set up your profile. There are thousands of students looking to start a new hobby or hone their skills, and they look to the network of trusted Superprof tutors to teach them. Our platform is based on curiosity, knowledge-sharing and the invaluable rapport between teachers and students. We are now available in seventeen different countries and classes can be taught in any of the seven different languages supported by our platform.

Once you set up a profile, you'll soon build up a group of regulars and get your ballet teaching business booming. There is even an option for each student to leave a verified review on your profile, which in turn attracts more students and builds up your reputation as a great teacher.

We're the preferred site for ex-teachers or teachers looking to supplement their hours at a dance studio with a host of new private clientele. Our platform even allows you to offer group lessons, or teach ballet online.

So what are you waiting for? If you love connecting with people and you love ballet, Superprof makes it easy to make a job out of your passion. If you pursue what you love, you'll never work a day in your life!

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Erin is an Australian musician, writer and francophile living in France.