Should Teenagers Teach Dance Classes?

One thing I’ve noticed over the years of first being a dancer, then a dance teacher, and now a studio owner is a number of dance studios let teenagers teach their dance classes.

On the one hand, I understand why this happens.  I know that especially in this economy it’s hard to budget for teachers and teenagers often teach for very little money or will teach in exchange for tuition.

I know that some studios have teenagers teach dance classes because some of their older students have trouble paying for all the expenses that come with competition dance, so studios will have the students teach for free in exchange for tuition and that allows the studio to be able to basically afford to keep them on their competition team while making their competition team stronger.

I know, too, that dance teachers often quit at the last minute and when the studio is desperate to find a teacher it makes sense they would think of their oldest students.

But I also know that when I first started teaching when I was fourteen years old I made a lot of mistakes.

I think teaching dance is incredibly difficult and like in all types of teaching it takes some time to excel at it.

I think that often teenagers struggle to find that balance of being an authoritarian and being a friend.

I also know that, especially when you’re talking about teaching acrobatics (and even if you hire a teacher to teach say jazz dance, acrobatics can come up – trust me, I’ve hired a ballet teacher before who taught aerials in her class), a number of injury risks are involved and personally as a studio owner I would feel better knowing I had a trained adult who would make sure students didn’t try skills they were not yet ready for.

I know that during the “boring” aspects of dance & acro – the warming up and conditioning – kids often complain and ask to skip it, and younger teachers often go along with skipping it because they’re too young to realize the benefits and they want to please the students since naturally they’d relate to the students, still being students themselves.

I also know I am not a parent myself but when I discussed this issue with my own mother she said she did not like my sister and I taking lessons from teenagers and took my sister out of an acting program that was taught by very green teenagers because she felt like it was a waste of money since the teachers were not qualified yet.

If you advertise yourself as a high quality dance studio with high quality dance instruction, will people change their mind about you being high quality once word gets out that you have teenagers teaching your class?  Will they decide it’s not worth their limited money (because let’s face it – these days, most of us have limited funds!) because they are not impressed by the teachers?

Even worse, what happens when someone gets hurt in one of your classes and they start spreading word through the rumor mill and online reviews that their darling daughter got injured in one of your classes and their teacher was 14 years old?  It seems a shame that all your time and money that went into establishing your dance studio and getting a good reputation could be shattered by one cost saving measure, albeit a at the time seemingly logical one.

So for me the bottom line is, do the positive aspects of hiring a teenager to teach dance outweigh the negatives?  To me, they do not.

Now I do realize there are exceptions – I had an exceptional high school senior taking from me who had previously been training to be an Olympic gymnast, and she was really trained in addition to just having a natural talent for teaching, so we did have her teach acrobatics but we had the other studio owner in the classroom the entire time to monitor all activities. This way, no one could say we just had teenagers teaching classes and we could help monitor her and stop any potential young teacher mistakes.

But I know we were lucky that we had a studio owner available at that time to do this.  Not every studio has the luxury of multiple studio owners.  So then what do you do as a studio owner if you desperately need a dance teacher at the last minute and can’t think of anyone to teach your class but your teenage dancers?

This is one of the reasons that I and other studio owners created Dance Teacher Finder, to help dance studios find dance teachers at the last minute.  Dance Teacher Finder has an online resume database that only registered dance studios can look through. That way, you can get easy access to phone numbers and e-mail addresses of local dance teachers and you can fill your position quickly the right way – with a qualified adult.  To me, as a studio owner, this is the best solution.  While you will have to pay more for this adult dance instructor, it is more than worth it in the long run because a ruined reputation and the potential loss of return and new students would cost you a lot more!

About Elizabeth Emery

Elizabeth Emery is a former dance studio owner. She owned Dancers Unite in Charlotte, NC for 6 years, where she helped run the studio as well as taught dance classes six days a week. She sold her studio to one of her teachers and now dedicates her time helping other dance studio owners as well as dance teachers with her new business, Dance Teacher Finder, which helps pair dance studios with dance instructors. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and double majored in Business Economics and Marketing. Elizabeth currently splits her time between Charlotte, North Carolina and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Dance Studio Owners