Category Archives: Dance teacher

A typical day at the dance studio

Dance studio

Photo by Kim Roberts

A dance teacher’s role extends beyond the walls of the studio and the hours of an evening of dance classes. While every dance studio is different, a typical day is a fast-paced and exciting one for any dance teacher.

Here are three different perspectives of what a dance teacher’s typical day is like from three dance teachers from Ken and Jean Dance Studio, who were featured in the last post from The Ballet Barre. The following Q&A is an excerpt from an interview and asks a question to dance teachers Darcy Field, Sandi Plavchak and Jen Tancraitor.

The Ballet Barre: What is a typical day like at the studio?

Darcy Field, studio owner and dance teacher:

“My typical day is a little bit different, being a studio owner. Generally when I’m up in the morning there’s a lot of either book work, or program work, or costumes. Right now, I’m ordering merchandise while sitting here, So for me, it really is not a job where … I’m at the studio and those are the hours. It’s extremely long hours, just in the aspect of the recital and everything that has to be ordered for the recital. So it certainly ramps up, but the process really starts in August for the recital [in June]. The nicest part is really coming in and seeing the students.”

Sandi Plavchak, dance teacher:

“I would always start out in the morning searching for music for the day in my library and going through what I’m doing with the class for each day, so a lot of pre-planning. It’s never really a typical day, something always erupts. A little one needs something that they didn’t need before, or they’re having an emotional, dramatic day, so you have to sort of stop and figure out how to keep them going while the entire class is going. So there’s always something going on throughout the day, sometimes parents need a little encouragement … so you need to find the time to talk to them.

The classes roll right into the next with very little break, so it’s typical that you go from the 4-9:30 hour and barely catch a breath, but as long as you’re prepared that anything can happen, and it doesn’t throw you through a loop if you don’t get in what you wanted to get in in a day. You know, eventually, what you planned with them will take place at some point, but you can’t set yourself to a specific time frame. Because with so many kids in different age ranges, something’s bound to come up that sort of throws you.

And for me, often I’ll do a pattern that I think would be perfect, and the next week I’ll hate. And I could leave it and no one would be the wiser, but for me I have to fix it and backtrack and take a couple steps backward to step forward.”

Jen Tancraitor, dance teacher:

“A typical day is very hectic. It’s very enjoyable, though, and there’s always costumes to be props to be prepared and costumes to be fixed and choreography to do. So it very hectic, but also very enjoyable in the same sense.”

Clearly a lot goes into a single day of classes at a dance studio. Dance teachers need to juggle students and parents, music and choreography, props and costumes, and any other surprises that pop up during the day without missing a beat. Teachers like these need to be ready for anything on any day of tap, ballet, jazz, cecchetti, pointe, stretch, and acro classes.

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The art of teaching dance to young ballerinas, tappers, jazz dancers

Dance teacher

Photo by Kim Roberts

What is the most important part of learning to dance? The dance shoes? The music? The recitals or competitions?

It all comes down to the dance teachers.

Young dancers often grow up in the same studio from age 3 to their high school graduation. That gives their dance teachers the unique opportunity to see them grow and transform as dancers and as individuals.

From personal experience, I can honestly say that I had the best of luck in my dance training because — in my extremely biased opinion — I grew up with the absolute best dance teachers in the world. You probably feel the same way about your dance teachers. These feelings just go to show how influential dance teachers are in the lives of their students.

I had the opportunity to talk to three of my former dance teachers from Ken and Jean Dance Studio in North Versailles, Pa., to discuss what goes into being a dance teacher.

Check out this video package below of my interviews with these three teachers during a typical Friday evening of dance classes in March.

Multimedia Video Package: The Life of a Dance Teacher from Kim Roberts on Vimeo.

Clearly, these dance teachers absolutely love what they do every single day. Their passion for dance and for their students is evident, and the work incredibly hard to make the classroom experience the very best for young dancers. Through my interviews with them, I found out that being a dance teacher is so much more than what happens in a classroom.

“The classroom aspect is the most important part,” said Sandi Plavchak, a dance teacher at Ken and Jean’s. “But besides that, there’s so much background that goes into it, from searching for the right music, to choreography aspects, to performances, to costuming. There is scenery involved, there are props always required and necessary for various dances, and the end result is, performance-wise for the show, for not only for those kids to be onstage and feel great and like they’re having so much fun and they’ve learned so much, but for the audience members to feel like every number is a little bit different and the process is enjoyable, whether you’re involved in dance or not. And that aspect takes a long time to accomplish as well.”

For studio owner and teacher Darcy Field, whose parents, Ken and Jean Phifer, opened the studio, her favorite part of her job is the chance to see her dance students grow up in the studio.

“I think what I like best is working with all ages and seeing that continuity. I wouldn’t want to work with all young, and I wouldn’t want to work with all advanced. I really think it’s that ability to work with all ages,” Field said.

The opportunity for dance teachers to really get to know their students over many years is what makes the bond between dance student and teacher so strong. For teacher Jen Tancraitor, who grew up at Ken and Jean’s herself and then returned as a full-time teacher after college, it is a joy to teach students that she sees every single day for dance class.

Dance Teacher

Photo by Kim Roberts

“I don’t have kids myself, so every child I see here is really my own, in a sense that I get to see them every single day and I get the joy of seeing them every single day and seeing them grow from a young kid into an older kid,” said Tancraitor. “I haven’t been here very long, so knowing when I was 18, seeing some of the kids that I assisted with now graduated, means a lot, and it clearly shows my journey through dancing and what has been accomplished through that.”

Dance teachers combine their love of dance and their love of teaching students in the classroom every single day. Their students grow and improve in their technique, their character, and their love of dance every day as a result of their teachers’ love and dedication.