Three things every Parent Should Know Before Choosing a Dance School
What criteria should one use to select a dance school? Most dance schools seem to have qualified friendly teachers with experience. So what sets the Academy of American Ballet apart from other schools?
1. We are committed to anatomically informed and injury free dance
Traditional dance instruction emphasizes adherence to strict form, 180° turnout, pointed feet, and high leg extensions, etc, without regard to the safety and long term health of the dancer. At the Academy of American Ballet we understand proper form and technique, but we also understand that forcing young bodies beyond their natural flexibility is generally unhealthy, causes injury, and in our opinion limits artistic expression.
Instead, we teach our students to expand their facility naturally through a rigorous program of stretching and strengthening and instruction in anatomy and body mechanics. This progressive approach allows our dancers to develop proper technique from within natural movement where they are free to develop and grow as artists. Great dance is never forced and we believe strongly that all movement should emanate from each individual’s natural range. Developing one’s natural facility takes time and at AAB we work hard to nurture and manage this process.
2. Our instructors understand how to maximize each individual’s natural facility
It is imperative that instruction is individualized to meet the physical ability of each student. Individualized instruction requires a great deal of knowledge about kinesiology. For example, enforcing a standard of 180-degree turnout just doesn’t make sense for every student (and even when students have this natural facility, it is still important for instructors to understand how to achieve turnout from the hips not just the feet), and yet this standard in dance continues to persist in most dance schools.
All of the Academy’s instructors are college educated and have trained in one or more of the following: Pilates or Feldenkrais, college level anatomy, and/or received an intensive course of instruction from our director Julia Dugan on how to properly train anatomically informed and injury free dance. Julia danced professionally for over five years and then went on to earn both a BA and MA from Stanford University. Julia earned her Master’s degree in Dance Education and while at Stanford she structured an independent course of study on the integration of anatomy kinesiology into dance instruction. Julia also has extensive experience in Pilates and Feldenkrais and has focused the Academy of American Ballet on applying the latest information on movement theory throughout its curriculum.
3. We have the best dance floor on the Peninsula
Academy of American Ballet has invested in the largest state of the art professional dance floor on the Peninsula. We made this investment because a better floor enables safer, more effective dance instruction. Dance is a physical activity that involves high impact movement that puts tremendous stress on bones, joints and soft tissue. Since dance footwear provides little support and no cushioning, a dancer must simply absorb the punishing shock of their movement. However, a good dance floor that is professionally “sprung” can absorb much of this impact greatly increasing the performance, confidence, safety and long-term health of the dancer. A properly designed floor is completely suspended from the sub-floor which gives it the spring to absorb the landing force of a jump while also propelling the dancer on take-off which both reduces strain and increases performance. Our floor is sprung with a state-of-the-art basket-weave system that was designed and installed by John Lanch, an expert builder who formerly danced professionally with the Oakland Ballet. John understands the demands of dance and specifically designed our floor to maximize the performance, safety and long-term health of our dancers. The surface of the dance floor is also a critical factor. A vinyl composite “marley” floor is accepted worldwide as the best surface layer for nearly all forms of dance, to include ballet, jazz, and modern. A marley floor surface allows dancers to slide with the proper degree of “controlled slip” but provides just the friction necessary to give the dancer control. All professional ballet companies and most other professional dance companies train and perform exclusively on the same top-or-the-line marley dance surface we employ at the Academy.