Dance Instructor  What They Do

Just the Facts

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dotDance has been described as art in motion, poetry of the foot and communication between body and soul. It can be free flowing or carefully choreographed. But mastering the art form takes skill, technique and lots of practice. That's where dance instructors come into play.

Dance instructors teach students of all ages and backgrounds to express themselves through the art of dance. Most dance instructors specialize in a particular style of dance like ballroom, ballet, hip hop, modern or ethnic.

Dance instructors work in studios, dance conservatories, dance companies and public and private schools and colleges. They are responsible not only for leading classes, but also for planning classes and evaluating students. Many dance instructors also choreograph performances for their classes and put together recitals. The number of hours instructors work varies.

"Take the number of hours you work in the studio and double it. There are endless hours of work put in at home in preparation for classes taught," says Donna Moreau. She's a dance instructor and president of a dance teachers' association

Marc-Andre Clement is a dance instructor, international fitness presenter and a national executive director of Culture Shock, a not-for-profit hip hop dance organization. He says that in his peak physical condition, when he was 25 and 26 years old, he could on occasion teach 30 hours per week. It was hard on his body, even though he was very fit. He says that a lot of dancers teach and do other jobs to make ends meet.

"It is the typical life of an artist -- struggling, not making too much money and striving for that ultimate success," he says. "But when you love your job it doesn't seem like you're struggling."

Good news for struggling dance instructors is that there is a cultural trend towards dance. It has been spurred on by popular TV shows such as So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, and America's Best Dance Crew. Movies like Step Up, Step Up 2: The Streets and How She Move have also contributed to the trend.

"Dance is on the cultural radar now in a way that it hasn't been since the great movies of the 1930s and '40s," says Kelly Burnette. She's a dance teacher at Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Florida.

Burnette says this trend has led to many schools asking their physical education teachers to teach dance as part of the curriculum. And the teachers are "desperate for information," she says. Burnette has taught many workshops for physical education teachers, showing them how to teach dance to their students.

Clement says that being a dance instructor is very physically demanding. However, there are some opportunities for dancers with disabilities. Dance organizations such as Dancing Wheels and AXIS Dance Company include dancers in wheelchairs.

Dance instructors must be able to demonstrate a good stance and well-controlled carriage of the upper body. Instructing keeps them on their feet most of the working day. Moreau says a well-trained teacher is also able to verbally explain many aspects of body placement and technique.

"Injuries are not common," she says. "If you are properly warmed up before you begin your class and remember to demonstrate movements within your physical range, you should be fine."

At a Glance

Teach others to dance

  • Many also perform as dancers or work as choreographers
  • You can work in show business or teach in a school
  • Studying dance at college is a big bonus