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How To Advance Students When A Friend May Be Left Behind

How do you sensitively advance one student who needs to be moved up to a higher-class level, but her friend isn’t quite ready? When dealing with six to ten year olds who feel they need their friends to be comfortable in class, you need to be cautious and clear about your criteria for advancing students through levels.

The Problem

  • This often becomes an issue when students are around age six to ten. Clear differences start to show up in a child’s skill, aptitude, work ethic and overall talent.
  • It is your job as an instructor to challenge each student and encourage him or her to become the best dancer they can. Leaving a talented student in a lower level class with a friend will not accomplish this. The length of time a student has trained is not always the factor to consider.
  • No matter how long you teach, this problem will continually crop up. No matter how much your young students love dance, they will complain at being separated from friends when moved up a level.

How You Can Choose the Proper Placement for Your Students

  • You may use a clear-cut method, such as the RAD method, to determine class placement at your studio. The Royal Academy of Dance uses clear criteria to test students before moving them up. This may alleviate some of the complaints, but friends will still want to be together.
  • First explain to a parent that unlike traditional ‘schooling’ where in general most children move up to the next grade or level each year, dance is not necessarily the same.
  • Although a student may not quite seem ready to move up, some children may thrive in a challenging environment. Ask them more about their child:
  • “Is your child the type of dancer/student that would thrive in a class where she would be at the TOP of the level and be challenged or prefer to blend in?”
  • “Would your child do well in a class where the technique and training will be a bigger challenge and where essentially she would be entering at the less experienced level than all the other dancers but it would encourage them to really stretch themselves?”
  • Always make yourself available for one-on one conversations with parents. Ask them to trust your recommendation and that you will happily re-evaluate their child on an ongoing basis. Remember that some children feel much more comfortable with friends and may rise to the occasion in the tougher class or show less interest in a class alone.
  • If a parent insists on advancing their child, tell them, “ok that is fine and if the teacher is willing to try the student on a trial basis and feels that after a certain length of time that it isn’t best for your child or the other dancers, we will look at other class options that would be a better fit”.

Can I Stop the Problem Before it Starts?

  • Clearly state your policy or dance requirement for students to advance to the next level.
  • Class visiting times, when parents can watch, allows them to see the skill level of their child compared to others.
  • Consider handing out a note to parents when it comes time to move some students up. Explain how you place students and invite parents to contact you with any concerns.
  • Staying in regular communication with the parents of your dancers and the faculty at your dance studio is the best way to ensure customer satisfaction when handling placement for dancers.

This article reprinted with permission from Suzanne Blake Gerety, the editor of
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Published February 2010

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