How to teach dance in schools

How To Become A Dance Teacher: The Ultimate Guide

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, in PK-12 school, or in a university - each requires a different journey and qualifications. 

In this guide, we’ll break down how to become a dance educator in each sector 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! 

What do you need to become a dance teacher?

In order to be a 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 specific educational strategies 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 more

What qualifications are needed to become a dance teacher?

Well, it depends.

How 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 a 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.


How to become a PK-12 Dance Teacher

To become a PK-12 dance teacher in a school, you usually need to have a bachelor’s degree in dance and also a teaching certificate in your state. Some states or school districts even require that you get your master’s degree within a certain amount of time that you are hired. (I’m looking at you New York!) There are many undergraduate and graduate level university programs in the United States that will help you get the degree and certificate that you need to become a dance educator. University dance teacher preparation programs are a great option because they provide you a holistic education where you will grow in your content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and pedagogical content knowledge. This means you’ll not only learn about dance, but you’ll also learn about:

  • Theory & philosophy of dance education
  • The Dance Standards
  • How to write a dance curriculum 
  • How to create lesson plans and assessments 
  • Technology tools for dance teachers 
  • Culturally relevant and responsible teaching strategies 
  • How to teach students with diverse learning needs
  • Classroom management 

You are also required to do:

  • Observations of dance educators in the field 
  • A student teaching placement where you shadow a full-time PK-12 dance educators 

When picking a university program make sure to look at what courses they are requiring for completion of the degree and make sure that these topics are being covered. But the bottom line is to teach in a PK-12 school you need a degree with a certain amount of credits in the field that you’re going to teach, which is dance, and you also need a certificate in your state that allows you to teach there.

Alternate paths in Pk-12 Dance Education

Now, there is a way to start teaching in public schools WITHOUT a teaching certificate and that way is called alternate route. (Some states have a different name for it. You’ll have to check to see what it’s called near you.) Many people don’t know about this option. It doesn’t apply to everyone, but I know quite a few dance educators who have been hired this way.

Alternate route is designed for professionals who’ve had an extensive career (10-20 years) as a professional dancer, choreographer, and/or teacher and want to transition into the PK-12 teaching profession. In order to go alternate route, a public school must first hire you based off your work experience. You must get offered the job first WITHOUT the teaching certificate, which can be challenging. Then, your school will register you to the state as an alternate route teacher. This means that you must earn your teaching certificate as you work in that school for the first year. You will most likely be required to have a mentor at your school and will have to attend additional classes outside of your work day to learn about the teaching side of the job. In these classes, they’ll cover more of the pedagogical knowledge to help you understand how to write a curriculum, write lesson plans, grade assessments and more. Once you have finished your first year of teaching and completed all the state’s requirements you will officially have a teaching certificate and will be able to apply to other jobs as a certified teacher instead of an alternate route teacher. These requirements for alternate route are different depending where you live, so be sure to check on your state’s website to understand the full scope. 

Now, I do want to say that most schools look for dance teachers who are already certified, which is why most dance teachers attend a university teacher training program. Going through the alternate route process is more work for the school hiring you and they don’t always want to deal with it, but I still know of quite a few schools and dance teachers who have been hired this way, so it’s definitely possible. 

The final thing we want to mention when it comes to being a PK-12 teacher is private schools. Private schools have more flexibility on who they hire, because they don’t have to follow the same state requirements as public schools. Some private schools require all their teachers to have a teaching certificate. Others do not. I know of several dance teachers who have been hired based on their professional work experience, so it is an option if you do not have a teaching certificate; however, we must warn you that private school dance teaching jobs are rare and competitive.

Overall, doing a dance teacher preparation program where you will earn a dance education teaching certificate in your state will make it easier for you to apply to jobs and become a PK-12 dance teacher. It does require an investment in your own education, but in my experience as the former Director of Dance Education at Hofstra University, dance teachers are often feel more prepared to meet the different demands of a PK-12 setting if they’ve completed a dance educator preparation training program.

How to become a dance professor

Finally, we come to being a college dance professor in higher education. Dance professors are experts in our field who are sharing their knowledge, methodologies, and artistry at a collegiate level. Most universities look to hire professors who have a Doctoral or Masters degree in dance or a closely related field. They also look for individuals who engage in scholarly dance work including:

  • Creating, performing, and/or sharing choreographic work
  • Dancing and performing professionally
  • Conducting research in the dance and dance education field 
  • Publishing findings and best practices in dance and dance education journals
  • Presenting on dance and dance education at regional, national, and international conferences
  • Being a leader in national dance and dance education organizations and committees 
  • And more

The application process for university positions is rigorous and competitive. Many universities ask for applicants to submit a Curriculum Vitae, cover letter, research statement, teaching philosophy, diversity and inclusion statement, sample syllabus and much more. Lastly, if selected as a candidate be ready to teach a sample lesson and to be interviewed by faculty and students.

A great way to begin your journey to becoming a full-time dance professor is to begin as an adjunct, or a part-time professor. This will get you some experience teaching in higher education, help you build a network in this sector, and will be a good addition to your resume. 

What are you expected to teach as a dance educator?

Depending on your teaching setting, what you are expected to teach changes. We have many dance teachers who transition from being a studio dance teacher to a PK-12 dance teacher or a PK-12 dance teacher to higher education that feel this big shift in what is being asked of them.

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. 

When you teach dance in a PK-12 school you are expected to follow your state’s dance standards and/or the national dance standards . What are dance standards? They are benchmarks of skills and knowledge that dancers are expected to reach by certain grade levels. This means that you, as the dance teacher, are expected to teach the standards so that your students can achieve these milestones. The standards are broken into 4 artistic processes: perform, create, respond, and connect. All of the teaching materials we offer can be filtered and searched for by these artistic processes.

Most teachers who transition from being a studio teacher to a Pk-12 teacher, feel comfortable meeting the “performing” standards, but are new to teaching how to create, respond, and connect in dance. Using materials and resources that are focused on these artistic processes are a great way to get more comfortable teaching these concepts. You also might want to consider taking some professional development courses to help you get ideas on how to teach these concepts in a way that is appropriate for various age groups. 

As Pk-12 dance teacher you will be required to teach:

  • Technique
  • Dance history
  • Choreography 
  • Improvisation 
  • Anatomical principles 
  • Responding to dance through writing, speaking, and moving 
  • Connecting ideas in dance and outside of dance

You will also be required to create and administer formal assessments (diagnostic, formative, and summative) in order to show growth in dance. In studios, most dance teachers are not asked to quantify their students’ learning in this way; however, in a PK-12 school you will be expected to give assignments and grades to all students. 

As a dance professor, what you are expected to teach is often outlined in the job posting. Depending on the position, some positions might ask that you are an expert in certain dance styles or cultural dance forms or ask that you are qualified to teach specialized courses like: dance history, anatomy, improvisation, choreography, etc. Although this might be written in the job description, your actual course load for each semester might change or vary depending on the changing needs of the department. You might also be asked to mentor students through an independent study, senior practicum, or choreographic process along with being part of a variety of committees within and outside of the dance department. Some universities also require full-time professors to act as advisors who help students with registering for classes each semester. If you are interviewing for a university position, be sure to ask what other requirements will be asked of you in addition to teaching classes. This will help you gauge the full scope of the position so you won’t be surprised later.

In closing 

If you’re reading all this and thinking “Being a 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 a talented dancer that automatically makes them a great dance teacher and that just isn’t true. Teaching dance in all settings requires a commitment and understanding of dance as an artform AND commitment and understanding of how people learn. 

Teaching Guidelines

             Timing of a class or workshop

These pointers apply both to creating a lesson plan (vertical thinking) and in-class spontaneity (lateral thinking):

Be a clock watcher.  Start and end classes on time. Your students may have another class to go to after yours and will rightfully resent your making them late.

Going overtime shows your students that you're disorganized, and can't form a workable lesson plan (see gaining respect of your students below).  You may believe that teaching overtime demonstrates your enthusiasm for the material, but in your students' eyes, it only looks like poor planning.

In planning a class or course, make sure that you don't try to cover too much material, or too little.  Actually, don't worry about planning too little.  Most beginning teachers make the mistake of trying to cover too much material in a class.

  • Make sure each class or topic is brought to a satisfying closure.
  • On the other hand, if a dance is taught over several days, it's sometimes more effective in the long run to end a class with a difficult challenge, promising to finish (or even fix) it the next day.  This unresolved difficulty sticks in their mind, like your tongue which can't stop probing a cavity, and their mind stays with it overnight.  This often makes the next day's class more successful.
  • In planning a day-long workshop, be aware of their relative energy/awakeness level.  They may be ready for challenging material first thing in the morning, physically refreshed but sleepy after lunch, and both mentally overloaded and physically exhausted by the end of the day, especially after 4:30 pm.
  • In an all-day workshop, brain-fade tends to set in at the two-hour mark, even in the morning.  Make sure you have a plan to prevent attention from wandering at that time.
  • The first class of the day can easily be 75 or even 90 minutes long.  But schedule afternoon classes to be shorter, maybe 60 minutes each, when their attention span shortens.  Another way to enliven the mid-afternoon slump is with humor.
  • Don't lull them to sleep with slow material at the end of the day.  The best choice for the last period is something physically lively, but mentally easy.

                  Presentation of yourself

  • Authenticity is the source of true authority.  Your credibility is directly correlated to the students' perception that you're genuine.  Some teachers fall short because they attempt to project an image of something which they are not.  What you are always communicates more powerfully than what you say.

    Be more interested in your student's success than your own image.   Don't grandstand.  The class is about them, not about yourself.

  • But, on the other hand, realize that your reputation is important to them in one respect: they want to know that you are knowledgeable, and that taking your class is worth their valuable time.  You need to gain their respect.  Being overly modest or self-deprecating can be just as bad as acting self-important and boastful, because it may raise doubts in their mind about their decision to take your class.  "Did I make the wrong choice? This teacher is not very confident. Maybe I should have taken that other class instead."
  • Your body language should convey confidence and security with the material.  Don't fall apart when you err.  Don't be overly defensive of your image when you make a mistake, but take it in good-natured stride.  Be honest about what you don't know.
  • But don't be apologetic about your teaching.  (I once heard a teacher say, "I imagine many of you won't come back tomorrow. ")
    This is different from advising, "Don't apologize."  As mentioned, if you mess the class up, yes, admit it, rather than vainly trying to cover for it, or blaming something else.  You can be both confident and authentic, without any conflict between the two.

    Balance authority with a relaxed atmosphere, to help set them at ease.

    Why set them at ease?  Because as mentioned above, they'll be happier and they'll learn much faster if they're in their comfort zone, or a reachable step beyond it.

    Voice projection

    Speak audibly — clearly and loudly without shouting.  Never be shrill.

  • In a large room, also speak a little more slowly, because reverberation muddles fast speaking.

    Use animated tones, without droning.  Use contrast.  Allow humor, or at least be good-natured.

    But I still prefer to be fairly relaxed, not animated to the point of being hyperactive.  I recommend a tone of relaxed authority.  Remember, you want to let your students stay in their comfort zone.   Anxiety interferes with the learning process.  But you can't avoid the fact that the process of learning a new dance does push your students, often resulting in some anxiety and frustration, so your calm and reassuring warm tone of voice is important.

    Articulate your words – don't mumble.  Enunciate, but without straining your face, mouth or neck at all.

  • A good enunciation exercise is to vocally over-articulate the beginning of the alphabet just before you head into the class.  I do this to break out of my habitual everyday voice, into the articulated classroom voice.
  • Shouting in a large room will strain your voice and you'll soon be hoarse.  Do voice exercises before teaching a large class, to preserve your voice.  A good exercise is to repeatedly voice a relaxed descending yawn (out in the hallway, before the class).
  • Use a wireless microphone for a class of more than 40 or 50 people, to preserve your voice and to be heard.

    If they can't understand you (mumbling), or can't hear you (talking too quietly), they will assume that what you're saying must not be important, and they won't pay attention.

    Your choice of words:  quantity

      Don't talk too much.   Be efficient with your words.  Choose only a few of the most effective words — those which are vivid and evocative yet precise.

          1) They would rather spend more time practicing their dancing, and less time listening to you talk.
          2) They need to process the information in their minds, which can't happen unless there are quiet moments to think through what you said.
          3) Minds saturate after a barrage of too many words, and their minds start blocking you out.
          4) Whether you like it or not, your students are accustomed to getting information very quickly, through broadcast media and the Web, so they get very impatient with long-winded explanations.  You can't change them, so work with this to become a more effective teacher.

           Yes, you have to convey your information with words, but use the fewest words possible — those which efficiently convey both the details and the spirit of the dance.

  • This includes not counting while the music is playing, "1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8," nonstop during the music.  Yikes!  Your students can count just fine without you.  Many students complain about this one.  It's annoying.
  • Another verbal barrage that students often find annoying is a constant, "C'mon you can do it! Go! Go! You're doing great!" cheerleading, non-stop for an hour.  Enthusiasm and encouragement are fine of course, but any non-stop barrage of words will soon be blocked out, as students need to think through what they're doing.  Then they'll miss something important, real information buried in the cheerleading, because they've switched you off.

    If you ever feel like you've been talking a little too long, the truth is that it's already been far too long.  Why?  Have you ever driven to someone's house for the first time, following directions of turns and landmarks, and you thought it took a fairly long time to get there?  Then the next time you drive there, once you know the way, it seems much shorter.   It's really the same time, but it feels half as long, once you know the way.  Why?  Once you know where you're headed, you have the destination visualized.  Your mind is already there, so it seems shorter.

    It's the exact same dynamic with talking.  You already know the way (i.e., you know what you intend to say) but your class doesn't.  This is their first time down that road, and it can seem like it's taking forever (your talking, that is), just as you're thinking the opposite – "this isn't taking too long to say."  Who is right?  They are.

    Your choice of words:  quality

  • Be both a poet and a technician.  Convey the subjective spirit as well as analytical technique.  Be inspirational.  You teach it digitally (linearly, one aspect at time) then they dance it in analog.  Convey both.
  • Provide precise degrees of movements when applicable — length of steps, degree of turn or turnout, etc.
  • But don't overspecify when flexible adjustments must be made to accommodate partnering, or when you're teaching a dance which favors individuality.   Unnecessary specification is one of dancers' pet peeves.

    Don't forget the other physical aspects of a dance beyond footwork: partnering, quality of movement, energy levels, posture, what to do with free hands, facial expressions, flow of movement, etc.

  • Be consistent in your terminology.  If a step has five different names among different schools or traditions, pick just one and stay with it.  Using multiple terms may only confuse your students.
  • If you want them to remember the name of a dance or step, have them say a new term audibly.  This sends the word through a different part of their brains, from merely hearing it, and thus helps retention.
  • Basic Pedagogy 101:  Repeat questions before answering them, as many questioners speak too quietly to be heard by the other side of the room.
  • Point out and demonstrate what you liked seeing (even if you only saw a hint of it).  Opt to speak in the positive more often; in the negative less often.
  • Try to maintain the anonymity of those who do a step incorrectly.  Be discreet and maybe mention it privately later.  But you may point out the individuals who are doing it well.

    Tell why a step is done this way.  Logic always makes a better and more lasting impression than arbitrary rules, or saying, "because that's the way my teacher taught it."

  • But don't make up bogus answers.  Why not?  Because today, people (especially young people) are tired of hype, and are increasingly adept at spotting and dismissing false reasoning.  Authenticity is the source of true authority.
  • Conditional teaching.  Experimental research, conducted over 25 years, has proven that when your students are presented with any facts as absolute truths, they tend to use the material thoughtlessly, often making bad, inappropriate or limited decisions.  But when they're presented with the same information in a conditional way ("Maybe it's so, but maybe it's also this other way"), they process the information, and use the information, in smarter, more effective, and more creative ways, and also enjoy it more.   Read the page on Ellen Langer's research and findings here.  This can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your teaching.

                  Team Teaching

    Sometimes a class is taught by a Lead/Follow couple, who both speak, sometimes equally.  The reasons are usually to offer an additional viewpoint, and to not marginalize one of the partner's roles.

    This arrangement can be effective when done well, and problematic when it's done badly.

  • The most common problem with two-voice teaching is if it doubles the talking time, without adding enough new information to justify the additional non-dancing time, thereby violating one of the most important teaching guidelines.  Have a system in place to divide which of you will make which half of the necessary comments, without any repeats.

    If you're team-teaching with a partner or collaborator, never rephrase what they just said, even if you think you can say it better.  Your slight "improvement" in phrasing doubles the talking time. .. not a very effective ratio.  Just as you're starting to think, "I would say that differently..." immediately replace that thought with, "...but that's good enough for now."

  • Even worse, team-teaching can lead to one person confirming what the other just said.  Have you ever experienced this?  She finishes saying something about the step, and he can't let it stand without his approval, adding yet more words to the class like, "Yes I agree, blah blah blah."  It's called "mansplaining" and the women in the class usually resent it.  The class doesn't need to know that you agree with her.  They assume you do, since you're a team, and they want to dance, not listen to more words.  The approver usually thinks he's complimenting his partner by adding his approval, but instead it's an insult to imply that her words cannot stand alone without his approval.  (Does this comment seem gender-biased against men?  No, it's based on too many bad examples.)
  • Another disaster is when both count and/or talk while the music is playing, each with different words, at the same moments.   Then if each has a microphone, the two voices mix into unintelligible mush over the speakers.
  • Effective team teachers usually plan in advance who is going to say what, with one perfect thread of information coming from two alternating voices.  A few rare team-teachers have a great sense of this pacing without planning in advance.  But unfortunately team teaching can also make a class less effective than a single voice, if it's not done well.
  • Bottom line: Never lose sight of your primary goal, for your students to grasp the material as effectively and efficiently as possible.  Your students are smart – they know that a single voice isn't marginalizing any gender or role, and anyone can accurately describe both Lead and Follow pointers.  They're there to learn dancing, and they appreciate a well-paced class, regardless of who is talking.

                  Pace of the class

  • Don't rush your students.  Make sure they have a solid foundation before moving on.   If you're afraid of boring them, find other ways to educate or entertain them, rather than just feeding them more steps.

    On the other hand, keep the pace of your class moving.  Don't let it get bogged down.  Don't rush them, but don't bore them either.  Talking too much is boring.  They want to move, not stand around listening to you talk.

  • Then when you have something important to say for a few minutes, let them sit down to listen.
  • One of my solutions to this problem is to skip the classroom discussion of a dance's history and significance, then e-mail this information to my students within the day.  But this only works if you have all of your students' e-mail addresses.

                  Too fast?  Too slow?

  • The best way to keep the pace moving is to change partners, if you're teaching a couple dance form.  It's amazing how quickly the group will equalize the combined skill of individuals.  Those who have it will show those who don't, Lead or Follow, experienced or newcomer.   The couples who don't change partners often keep repeating the same mistake over and over, with no feedback from someone who has succeeded with the figure.
  • I've often been asked another pacing question, "How much individual attention do you give in a class?"

    This isn't a rule, but my personal priority is to care for the greater group.  One of my pet peeves is a teacher in a large class spending five minutes working with one individual or couple who has a problem, while 98% of the class stands around bored.

    But sometimes you can see that an individual's difficulty or confusion might be true for others too, so you can address that point to the entire class.  I tell my students this is a "Repair Clinic" only intended for those who are having this specific difficulty.  So I tell the class, "If you're not having this problem, don't fix it."  This is serious, not a whimsical comment.  Often you'll make a comment to help someone who is under-rotating, for example, then you'll see someone else, who already had it perfectly, now over-rotating after your comment.

    Then unfortunately, you'll occasionally get a student who demands that you stop the class to solve their unique problem, which no one else has. (Some psychiatrists call this behavior a "demanding sense of entitlement").  In those cases, you have to be firm for the good of the class, so that the progress of the other students doesn't get stalled or bogged down.

    Sometimes you'll get a couple who refuses to change partners when you ask them to.  That's fine, but what often happens is they'll be the only couple who doesn't get a figure, when everyone else has succeeded with the help of their rotating partners.  Yes, you guessed it — the non-rotating couple will often demand that you slow the class down just for them.

  • A related question is, "Do you keep working on the step until everyone gets it?"

    No, on the average I go for 90% to 95% of the class.  The remaining few will usually be helped by their partners who already got it.  And the few who are exceptionally slow learners already know they're slow, and would rather that you not make a fuss for them.

                  Teaching experienced dancers

    I'm sometimes surprised to see a professional dance teacher who apparently hasn't thought through the difference between teaching beginning versus experienced dancers.  Where do I see this most clearly?  In specifying personal style.  Beginning and advanced dancers have very different needs and wishes in this area.

    When teaching beginners, who are a clean slate, of course you'll teach them the version you think is best, with all of the stylistic details for your preferred form.

    But when your students have been dancing for years or decades, they've already developed their personal style, or maybe they've mastered a different teacher's style.  This is now who they are.  Fred Astaire, among many, wrote this is a good thing. (click for a short quote)

    First, they're probably happy with the dancer they've become, and they're taking your class to learn more useful variations and partnering tips from you, not dismantle the dancer they've become.   Secondly, they probably couldn't change their personal style if they tried.

    The aware teacher will work from this platform (their personal style), giving their experienced students useful new material for them to integrate into their dancing.  The unaware teacher will dismiss their students' accumulated style as "incorrect" and attempt to tear it down, hoping to rebuild their student back up in the teacher's preferred style.  That's not going to happen!  A one-hour class will not undo twenty years of their dancing in a different style.  If you attempt to do that, they'll think, "I can't learn from this teacher!" and not come back.  And they'll justifiably resent the disrespect of a teacher dismissing their personal style.

    Now if they've signed up for a lifetime of private lessons to learn your style, that's different.  But this section addresses dance classes or workshops.

    You may find it difficult to be patient with experienced dancers who appear to be "doing it wrong," which often means they're merely dancing in styles different from your preferred style.   So how should you respond?  (A) Dismiss their dancing style, making them wary, defensive or resentful?  Or (B), see the class from their point of view.  Why are they taking your class?  Probably to learn new figures and become better dancers, based on the dancers they are.

    I recommend approach B.  Allow them to keep their experience and personal style as their platform upon which to build improvements.  If you wish to introduce your stylistic preferences, present them as "try this out" options, instead of "you're doing it all wrong" rules.  Inspire, don't reprimand.  They'll be much happier, meaning they'll learn better (comfort zone).  And they'll come back to your second class.

                 Aging teachers and/or students

  • As a teacher, you don't have to appear young or youthful.  Maturity commands respect.  However students unconsciously pick up our most subtle stylings, and if you start moving in an elderly way, so will your students.   You can't just suggest, "Do what I say, not what I do."  The way you demonstrate a dance is important.  (If you're not feeling elderly yet, then be preemptively aware of the ways in which your movement limitations may affect your students some day.)

    The good news is that your dancing skills will enable you to walk and move in a younger manner.  You know that dancing is acting, so you can mostly act like the movements of a younger dancer, to a certain extent.  Here's how...

  • Study the way that the elderly walk.  Watch closely and then imitate their walk.  Specifically, you'll see  (1) head slouched a little forward,  (2) shoulders slightly hunched up,  (3) elbows pinned back (that's an important one),  (4) limited range of head and arm motion,  (5) a shuffling gait on flat feet.  Try it – practice that exactly, so you know how it feels.  Now reverse all of those.  (1) Head tall but not stiff,  (2) shoulders down,  (3) elbows at your side, not even slightly pinned back,  (4) animate your head and arms,  (5) stride like a younger person, on the balls of your feet.

    Try different strides.  The next time you're walking down a sidewalk (maybe when no one is watching) try the John Travolta strut from Saturday Night Fever.  Try a hip-hop stride, not to be a poseur, but to expand your range of motion.  Loosen up and put a spring in your step.  Then keep a little bit of that animation whenever you walk, move, or teach your dance class.

  • You can take this further by doing stretches every day, yoga and/or Pilates.
  • If aging or an injury has limited your range of motion permanently, train a younger dancer or couple to be your class demonstrator(s).  Your students need a visual prototype, not just your words.
  • Tempo warning: There may come the day when you think to yourself, "That music feels too fast. I think I'll slow it down for them."  Or, "I can't believe I've been teaching it that fast all of these years!"  No, the music isn't too fast; you're just slowing down.  If your class is comprised of younger people, don't slow the class down to a tempo which works for an older teacher.
  • Conversely, be aware of the movement limitations of the older dancers in your class.  Some dance groups are an aging population — the same dancers getting older every year, for decades.  In that case, modify your material to be achievable and satisfying for their age range, which may mean lowering the impact level, slowing the tempo, and simplifying memorization tasks.  Remember, you don't want to push them too far out of their comfort zone.  You can still teach new and challenging material, but not challenging to the point of frustration or injury.


  • When using recorded music, have complete technical expertise with the CD player, iPod, iPad, phone or laptop that you'll be using.  Avoid using a machine you're unfamiliar with, or come in early to get to know it.

    Select all of the music for your class ahead of time.  It takes time to find a perfect track for a particular step, with the right tempo, quality, energy level, and emphasis on the right beats.   Some teachers make their students stand around as they start to fumble through their music collection searching for a good track.  It's even more embarrassing if the track you chose doesn't work well, and you have to stop it and start searching again.  Go through that process before class.

    If you play CDs, a more specific tip is to buy a red grease pencil at a hardware store, normally used for marking glass, and write the track number of your pre-selected music on the CD or case.  After class you can erase it with a tissue.

    List your pre-selected tracks in your lesson plan notes.

    Know how to count into the music.  Use the same number of preparatory counts each time.&nbsp I prefer to count into a dance just as a musician would, saying something like, "five, six, ready, and..."

  • But do give them some warning!  It's amazing how often teachers just start dancing a step without warning, and expect the class to read their mind that they were going to start.   Yes, your students can start a moment late and catch up with you, but they'd much rather know when you're going to start.
  • "...than you would begin a sentence in the middle, or..."

    Did that make sense to you?  No, and neither does starting and stopping your recording arbitrarily in the middle of a musical phrase.  When playing your recorded music, allow the musical phrases to finish, as live musicians would do.  Musicians would never start and stop in mid-phrase, any more than you would begin a sentence in the middle, or stop speaking halfway through a sentence.  I recommend that you play your recorded music the same way.

    This guideline isn't marked as essential, but you should realize that your musical phrasing of recorded music demonstrates your respect for the music.  So if you start and stop your music arbitrarily in mid-phrase, it tells your class that you don't care very much about music.

  • Most teachers teach a dance step tacet (without music) so they can be heard clearly, and then after the class has practiced it a few times, they put on the music.   It's the natural progression.  However...
    When you do this, you must make sure that you have brought your teaching tempo up to the same as the tempo of the music that you're about to play.  It's a huge mistake to teach a step at a slow tempo, then put on music which is significantly faster, guaranteeing frustration or failure among many of your students.

    A helpful hint is to hear the tune that you're about to play in your head, while you're still teaching it tacet.  With a little practice you'll be able to bring the class up to the exact tempo of the music before you play it.  This way, the music supports their dancing, at just the right tempo, instead of pressuring your students.

  • Changing tempo:  Your music player may have tempo control, which is an important tool for teaching dance.  We usually need to start a dance at a slower tempo, then let the speed pick up with practice.  My favorite method uses the Amazing Slow Downer software available online for both Mac and PC.   This is the highest quality software I've seen for slowing down or speeding up the tempo without changing the pitch.  If you play music from a laptop, you can do this in real-time, in class.  I don't use a laptop for my class music so I pre-record the music, at several tempos slowed by Amazing Slow-Downer.  Some CD players change tempo without changing pitch, but all firmware solutions that I've seen sound watery and choppy when slowed more than 8%.  Amazing Slow Downer retains realistic fidelity when slowed 50%.  Speeding up music is easy with software or firmware; it's the slowing down with fidelity that's hard.
  • More on ideal dance tempos is here.
  • When you're thinking through your back-up plans, include possible problems with music.  How might the sound go wrong?  What components or connectors for the sound system might be missing?  When teaching in a new space, consider bringing a backup sound system (even if just a boom box), extra batteries for a wireless microphone, and extra audio adaptors for other's sound systems.
  • Working with live music is a full discussion in itself, but the short version is to respect your musicians, never treating them like hired help, or worse, as an equivalent to canned music.  Let your students applaud them at the end of class.  But you know this, so I'll skip that topic for this page.

                  Spatial arrangement

  • If teaching to a group in the round, be sure to show a step at several angles, for those who couldn't see an important detail from their side of the room.  This may also avoid some mirror-image problems.  Don't wait for them to request this.  If they have to ask to see it from their viewpoint, you've already failed to consider their point of view.
  • Dance teachers often have to deal with the mirror-image problem, when a student facing you has to step or gesture to their right, as you're showing it to your right, which is the opposite of a mirror image.  One solution is for you to mirror the step yourself as you face them, gesturing to your left as you mean (and say) "right".
         A second solution is to teach with students in a large circle and have an assistant on the other side, facing you.  Ask your students to follow the person in front of them.
         A third solution, if they're in a circle around the perimeter of the room with you in the middle, is to have them all turn a quarter to their right, toward Line of Dance, asking them to follow most of those ahead of them.  They can clearly see both you and those ahead of them.
         Another tradition is for the teacher to face a large mirror, with the students behind, also facing the mirror.  It's not ideal to turn your back to your students, but they can see your face in the mirror.
  • When Lead's and Follow's steps differ significantly in partnered couple dancing, sometimes it's effective to have all of the Leads stand behind the Lead teacher/partner and all Follows behind the Follow teacher/ partner.  After teaching the step(s), let them walk forward to find a partner on the other side.


  • Don't forget warm-ups and stretches when necessary.
  • In partnered couple dancing, don't forget to change partners every five minutes or so.  Students learn much faster when they change partners, with the extra benefit of learning how to dance with people of all shapes, sizes and experience levels.  But many dancers come with a favorite partner, who they dance with first, so I like to return them to their first partners once in a while, and then again for the last dance of the class.
  • Consider providing handouts and music recordings where applicable.  Syllabi can also be put online, and I sometimes e-mail my students the dance descriptions after a class.
  • Be generous in your appraisal of other dancers and instructors.  This is not only considerate of others in your field, but it's good for you too — everyone knows that only the most confident teachers are charitable toward their competitors.
  • An ideal that I value is to use a dance to illustrate a higher concept, such as partnering, traditions, ways to be a better person, new ways of using the mind and body, analogies to personal relationships, or something philosophical, beyond the steps.   But this is optional.  It's great if you can make your class convey more than just steps, but it's not necessary.
  • Have a greater concern with your students' progress and comprehension than in enhancing your own reputation.  This dedication must be sincere, and not just an act.  Effective teaching is like good dance partnering, in that it's primarily dancing for your partner's success, rather than showing off yourself.

    This concern for your students is also a sign of maturity.  Small children constantly clamor, "Look at me Daddy! Watch me Mommy!"   Then we grow up, and we (hopefully) mature into valuing others' happiness and progress.  The few teachers who don't understand this are quite obvious to their students, as self-absorbed grandstanders more interested in displaying their greatness than in helping their students learn the material.

    But I know you're completely devoted to your students' success, or else you wouldn't have made it to the bottom of this page.

                 Teaching makes you smarter

    Take a look at this page, Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter.  It's a report on several studies which show that rapid-fire decision-making maintains or increases your intelligence as you age.  Teaching a class involves even more rapid-fire decision making than dancing, so it's ever better for you.  Then furthermore...

    I like R. Buckminster Fuller's definition of genius.  In his opinion, genius isn't a mere quantity or capacity, but the combination of rational and intuitive thinking, both left-brain and right-brain, vertical and lateral thinking.  And it's the simultaneous use of both kinds of thinking, not exercising linear rational thinking first thing in the morning, then doing something more intuitive an hour later.  Genius is being fully rational and fully intuitive at the same time, seeing both the finest details and the overall big picture at the same time.

    Teaching a class, in any topic, is one of the ultimate simultaneous combinations of vertical and lateral thinking, as your planning strategies morph with your spontaneous assessment of your students' progress.   But as the research shows, it depends on continual split-second decision making, not repeating rote routines.  You don't have to be a genius, but to stay smarter longer, don't always follow the same lesson plan.  Teach it differently each time, spontaneously making those changes in class.  Or teach topics you've never taught before.  Challenge yourself.  Plan your class thoroughly, then welcome chance intrusions.  Every day.  Research shows that it will keep you smarter longer.


  • The human mind can't keep track of a hundred pointers simultaneously so don't even try to achieve perfection in teaching.  It doesn't exist.  If following some of these guidelines helps your next class be 5% more successful, great.  Don't be hard on yourself — it gets better with each class.&nbsp Allow mastery to develop at its own pace.
  • But you do have to try.  Improving your teaching takes concentration and effort.  You can read these pointers,  and understand them,  and even agree with many of them,  but nothing will change until you incorporate them into your teaching.   That takes a conscious effort on your part and practice.  And don't forget to take lots of notes before and after your classes.
  • Enjoy the process, every step along the way.  Some teachers dwell on the belief that they're not "there" yet, and look forward to the day when they are.  No, it's much more rewarding to realize that you are already there, completely immersed in the moment, while also helping others.  What could be better?  Enjoy it!

  • I would like to thank both the good and bad exemplars in my many years of taking dance classes.  I learned equally as much from both.
  • I'd like to thank my collaborator of the past 35 years Joan Walton, for participating in many discussions about dance pedagogy over the years.  It's a fascinating field.
  • Photo by Jason Chuang.
    More thoughts and musings

  • where to study, salary, pros and cons

    Author: Professional Guide

    Updated by

    Another name for dance teacher is a dance school teacher or dance studio teacher. It is clear that this is the name of specialists working in a specialized company. But a teacher or dance teacher can be called not only a dance studio teacher, but also a specialist of an educational institution where dances are studied along with other subjects. By the way, the ProfGid career guidance center has recently developed an accurate career guidance test that will tell you which professions suit you, give an opinion about your personality type and intelligence. The profession is suitable for those who are interested in physical education and singing, music (see. choosing a profession based on interest in school subjects). 9Ol000 :

    Peculiarities of the profession

    Some teachers prefer to work with children, others prefer to work with adults, others can work with both. In any case, the task of a dance teacher is to teach their students to move, expressing themselves in dance. However, the higher the level of teaching, the wider the scope of the teacher's activity. It is also commonly believed that the higher the titles he won, the higher his value as a teacher. Also, he often acts as a choreographer: he puts dance numbers for his students when he prepares them to perform on stage.

    The dance instructor may have a preference for a particular dance direction: Latin American, jazz, Irish, etc. For example, on his resume, he might write "Latin teacher" or "Jazz-modern dance teacher."

    But that doesn't mean he can't do anything else. On the contrary, the profession of a dance teacher means constant learning and learning. As a spectator, he regularly goes to musicals, dance shows, competitions to watch the performances of his colleagues; attends dance workshops to learn something new for his teaching. Different dance and musical styles, teaching methods, eminent dancers and bright debutants - everything is interesting for a dance teacher.

    The teacher-dancer tries himself in different genres, sometimes changes his preferences, expands his role. In a word, it is in creative search. Beauty, joy of movement and creativity are the formula that can describe this profession.

    Of course, no person can perform on stage until old age. But while studying with students, the teacher maintains excellent physical shape for many years.

    This is enough to be able not only to explain, but also to show the dance to his students. Even if performances and competitions are in the past, the dancer remains a dancer who knows and feels the dance from the inside.


    Dance teacher salary for November 2022

    Salary information provided by portal.

    Russia 18000-70000₽

    Moscow 35000-102000₽

    A dance teacher can work in a dance school, studio, dance club, fitness center, comprehensive school, university, etc. Many teachers work simultaneously in different places, having time to perform and participate in dance championships. Also, a dance teacher can open his own dance school.

    Read also:

    Important Qualities

    The profession of a dance teacher involves a love of dance, artistry, an ear for music, good physical health, goodwill, patience, leadership qualities, self-confidence and optimism. He should be a sociable person, able to pick up the key to a variety of students.

    Knowledge and skills

    A dance teacher must be able to dance - this is understandable. But he should also know well the dance directions in which he works, including their history. Be proficient in teaching methods, be able to plan your classes. In order for dancing not to harm the health of students, the teacher needs knowledge in the field of anatomy and physiology. He must be able to competently manage physical activity.

    Where to study to become a dance teacher

    Most often, dance teachers become dancers who have been trained in dance since childhood. But there are other examples when already adults, having taken a great interest in dancing, reach notable heights and become teachers. Already having dance training, you can learn new directions of dance. As experts say, you can master some kind of dance style in less than six months, having worked out at a dance school.

    See also:

    Examples of companies with vacancies for dance teachers

    The Art of Dance Teaching | Useful articles and tips from the 🕺dance studio - Under Stand (Anderstend)💃 in Voronezh.

    Today, dancing has become so popular and accessible that even the dancers themselves often forget that they are making art. In the modern world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish a genuine product from a consumer product. The same problem exists in dance - every day in the world of dance there are new names, new performances, new competitions are held, which again give birth to new names. The speed of information is growing exponentially, and in order to "be in the know", 2-3 workouts per week are not enough. And everyone needs to “be in the know”, because the correct choice of a dance direction, a coach, a teacher, and the level of loads depends on it. Let's dwell on how to understand whether a coach is engaged in art or "works in a dance hall."

    From our point of view, we will single out the main features of a talented teacher:

    • how he creates a dance
    • how he conducts classes
    • how he motivates

    All types of art can be described by a common goal - the depiction of an artistic image. The dance is created by the director and the music: imagery and musicality. In the first place, in our opinion, are those artistic images that are born in the imagination of the director. We put the imagination, inner world, spirituality of the dancer in the first place, because these qualities allow us to call the choreographer gifted, talented, thanks to these qualities the dance becomes spiritualized.

    But the ability to "transmit" the image is, of course, necessary. The director expresses the images using his own manner (they say "the dancer's style"), a variety of dance forms (here we mean the variety of dance styles). And an important condition is applied to this technical side of the dance - musicality. The image of the artist should not go against the music. Thanks to musicality, the director achieves the effect when the music reveals the artistic image. Hence, one of the main requirements for a dance teacher is musicality. The teacher must hear the music, and must be able to teach it to his students.

    The second condition of a good teacher is, in our opinion, how well he trains students. To train means to educate, educate, direct. The ability of a teacher to transfer his knowledge and skills, to find and develop the abilities of students, to overcome difficulties, such as lack of flexibility or a sense of rhythm. All this work requires a lot of time, the dedication of the student, and with the proper approach of the coach, the result will be excellent: the dancer will be able to express the spiritual image of the choreographer.

    Learn more