What to Look for in a Good Dance Instructor: 5 Key Traits

Anyone can call themselves a dance instructor, but not every professionally trained dancer has the skills and aptitude to actually be a good one. When looking for someone to teach you to dance, naturally, you’ll seek out someone with a dance background and the evidence to prove it. Seems sufficient, right? Well … not exactly! 

Teaching requires an entirely separate host of skills and personality traits that not all people possess. A good dance instructor loves to dance, but also loves to teach! A good dance instructor cares about their relationships with their students and is capable of giving you far more than simple choreography – they focus on helping you learn more about your body, help you tap into your capabilities, and teach you how to artfully dance. A good dance instructor also has a great attitude, takes the time to understand your goals, and crafts programs around those goals specifically for you.

Have a look at the list below to further explore these concepts and get a sound understanding of some of the key traits to look for when choosing a dance instructor for yourself.

1 | Customer Service Aptitude

Customer service is important anywhere, but exponentially so in people-centric settings like dance studios, so you’ll want to pay attention to how you’re treated from the very first contact that you have with an instructor. Good customer service starts before you ever step foot on premises, so sometimes you’ll know from the first call or email that a particular studio’s instructors are excellent people-persons. Other times, it might take more involved engagements, like stopping by for an introductory lesson or taking one in real time online to get an informed sense of their customer service aptitudes. Be aware of how you’re made to feel throughout your interactions: Are you treated like just another number or like a fellow human being? Do you get the impression that the instructors take the time to get to know you and other students individually? Treatment of others is a solid indicator of the accepted behaviors and culture within an organization, so the personal experience that you have with an instructor on day one sets the stage for every day ahead. 

2 | Experience & Specialization

As with any profession, experience matters and not all dance instructors are created equal. They each come with their own breadths of exposure, levels of experience, teaching methods, perspectives, and attitudes about dance, so you’ll want to make sure that the one you pair with is able to deliver the quality of instruction and guidance that you need in order to meet your dancing goals. Whether you’re a beginner who’s just getting started, have been dancing for a while and consider yourself at the intermediate level, or are an advanced-level dancer, it’s important for your instructor to have taught other students with levels of dance exposure equal to yours so that they are already equipped to anticipate your needs, ask the right questions, tailor a course specifically for you, map a realistic trajectory for your growth, and start you off on the right foot. 

Also, keep in mind that in the industry there are those who specialize and those who are generalists or hobbyists. If you want to learn to dance hip-hop, then you wouldn’t look to a ballroom instructor who has dabbled in hip-hop – you’d look for someone who specializes in hip-hop-style dancing. The other way around, if you aspire to learn one of the many styles of ballroom dance, you wouldn’t take lessons with a hip-hop instructor who has only dabbled in ballroom – you’d want a ballroom dance instructor specifically! Instructors who specialize will be capable of teaching you exactly what you want to learn with a finesse that generalists or hobbyists cannot and you’ll benefit from a more structured, higher-quality, learning experience overall.

3 | Credentials & Credibility

If you’re looking for a particularly premier learning experience, then keep an eye out for instructors (and studios owned by instructors) who are highly credentialed, have competed internationally, are perhaps world finalists or champions, and may have other character-defining credentials, such as being certified dance masters, adjudicators, coaches, or industry consultants. Instructors of this caliber are sometimes lifelong dancers, tend to have strong reputations in the industry and their local communities, know what it takes to grow into a stellar dancer and performer, have dedicated years to perfecting their crafts, and extend that quality of dedication to working with their students. As dance studio owners, they tend to recruit other high-caliber and talented individuals to join their teams as instructors, as well, ensuring that the quality of instruction is felt across the board.

4 | Personability & Comfort

While professional dance lessons do start as business transactions, that’s not all they are – they’re very much built on human connection; they’re life experiences and relationships that form between you, your instructor, your partner, and your participating counterparts. In fact, in addition to both parties’ commitments to the process (the instructor’s express interest in your progress and your own dedication to practicing and growth), one of the contributing factors to the lasting success of these relationships is a personalized connection, which makes relating to your instructor’s energy and personality pretty important. After all, depending on your course and schedule, you may be interacting often and within close proximity; therefore, comfort is key! So, take note of how you feel when you’re around or speaking to a prospective instructor: Are they professional, yet personable and easy to talk to? Do you think that you’ll pair well and that you’d like to take lessons with them in the foreseeable future? 

5 | General Attitude & Character 

An instructor’s general attitude towards the industry and their role as a dance teacher is easily conveyed through their energy, how they critique or give advice, and the levels of enthusiasm and effort that go into their teaching style. Anyone can say that they’re passionate about what they do, but their conduct could tell a different story. The type of instructor that you want by your side is one who displays an undeniable zeal for what they do – one who dances not just because they know how, but because the love for dancing is at the very core of their being! Teachers who truly love dance can often be found getting involved outside of the studio, as well, through avocations where they can discuss dance, educate others, contribute to ideas in the industry, or simply … dance! Instructors with this quality tend to be passionate and legitimately care about the relationships established with their students: They’re always working for your best interest, are enthusiastic about your progress, put time and genuine effort into understanding your goals and will craft your courses around those goals, they make sure that you’re challenged and having fun, and they look forward to seeing you evolve into a dancer who is both comfortable and confident. Having a conversation and hearing their perspectives, consulting with other students they’ve taught, paying attention to the cues above, and simply judging from your own experience are good ways to determine if you’re dealing with an instructor who dances for a paycheck or one who dances for the love of dance!

There you have it! But, of course, this list is by no means an end-all-be-all. Depending on your personal goals and preferences, there may be other things that you’ll want to add to it; however, these 5 key traits provide you with a great running-start on what to look for in a good dance instructor, as all quality instructors should possess them.

What has your experience been with looking for dance instructors? Are there any other key traits that you personally would add to this list? Feel free to chime in with your thoughts or questions by emailing us or commenting below!

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Arthur Murray Dance Studio of Virginia Beach

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