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Why Choose SDDA?

Families have lots of choices when it comes to choosing a studio. Whether you’re new to dance and are looking for a place to begin your journey, or you’ve been dancing for years and are looking for a change of pace, it’s important to do your research. There are several factors you should consider when choosing a dance studio.


Explore the following questions that every family should ask when choosing a dance studio:

1. Are the instructors qualified, and where can I find their information / biographies? 

Not all dance teachers are the same, and there are no laws governing their qualifications. So, this should be the first question you ask. A quality dance studio will only employ adults as lead teachers. These instructors should be seasoned professional dancers, have professional certifications, be college graduates with a focus on dance, or equivalent experience in the field. A dance studio should be incredibly proud of their instructors’ qualifications! If their biographies and accolades are not easy to find on the studio’s website, that may be a red flag.


The Stage Door Difference: 

SDDA teachers are in demand! They are frequently employed as judges, choreographers, dance captains, or master teachers for other dance industry businesses. The SDDA owner has been published 7 times by national dance publications such as Dance Studio Life Magazine. Our co-founder, Mrs. Haley Ashford, provides technical training and choreography for professional dance companies, collegiate dance teams, and the Conway high school dance team. Many of the SDDA teachers are involved in training and choreographing for the junior high and varsity dance teams in Conway. Finally, at SDDA, no instructor ever teaches their own class without possessing years of dance experience, a quality dance education, and a full year of teacher-training under another seasoned SDDA instructor. We have such confidence in our staff that we have an entire page devoted to them on our website! You can find it at the link provided.

2. Are there a variety of class offerings, and is ballet a priority? 

Before committing to a dance studio, make sure you understand your dancer’s goals. Is there an area of focus they’re looking for? If so, make sure the studio you select has a variety of classes in that discipline, so your dancer can advance over time. Thoroughly explore the classes they offer and speak to a representative at the studio to gain additional clarity. Beware of studios who do not require ballet classes, this is another red flag that could signify subpar training. 


The Stage Door Difference: 

SDDA offers numerous classes in ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary/lyrical, hip-hop, pointe, modern, musical theater, body conditioning, turns/tricks/skills, acro, ballroom, and student choreography. Combo classes are offered for young children, and ballet is always included. Additionally, our PreProfessional and Competition students are required to study ballet. Extra opportunities for study are plentiful in our regular master classes, convention attendance, dance education trips (NYC), and summer dance programming.


3. How many students are in each class? 

Smaller classes allow instructors to focus more on each student, offering them the support they need as they learn. As students learn new dance techniques, it’s important they get personal attention. Smaller classes also allow our instructors to closely monitor each student’s progress, but if the class is too small, it can lack the upbeat, energetic factor that is often crucial in dance. Remember, it’s quality not quantity that you’re looking for with class size when choosing a dance studio!


The Stage Door Difference: 

SDDA has a student to teacher ratio of 8-1. Anytime a classroom has more than 8 students, an assistant teacher will be employed to assure that students still get the personal attention they deserve. Also, we endeavor not to run classes with less than 4 students as this is not the ideal social environment that a classroom should provide.


4. What performance opportunities are available? 

It’s important for a studio to be present in their local community and to offer more performance opportunities than just an end of the year recital! Does the studio perform at various functions around town? This is a great way to get dancers used to performing publicly! 


The Stage Door Difference:

SDDA is proud to perform a yearly recital and in-house Christmas shows. We also attend numerous competitions, while also providing performance opportunities at various events and facilities throughout Arkansas. These often include pageants, nursing homes, the annual Chamber meeting, and festivals such as Kidsfest, Artsfest, and Toad Suck Daze. Finally, our youngest students are never limited to 1 dance and 1 costume in our recitals. Students who are allowed to study ballet, tap, and jazz are given the opportunity to perform all three disciplines to showcase all they have learned through their hard work all season.


5. Can I watch the class every week? 

While it would be distracting to allow parents to sit-in on each class, there are other ways in which parents can view their child’s weekly progress. Some studios have windows into the classroom. This can be a great way to see the students in action, but also allows the students to be aware they have an audience, causing anxiety and distraction. The best way to view class is through a monitor in the waiting area. Low-profile cameras in the dance room can allow parents to be comfortable knowing their kids are participating and learning, without causing undue distractions to the learning process.


The Stage Door Difference:

SDDA is proud to offer HD viewing monitors in each lobby. We also offer a subscription service to SpotTV, which allows parents (or even grandparents too!) to enjoy a password protected viewing of our classroom video. We’re proud of our plan to offer uninterrupted classes for students while still providing parents the joy of watching their child in class. Parents are encouraged to be IN CLASS during parent participation week, in-house Christmas shows, and costume week, giving parents an up-close-and-personal view of our classroom experience.

6. What is the dress code? 

It is important for the instructor to be able to see the student’s body alignment. Therefore, with the exception of hip-hop, baggy clothing, sweatshirts, and other street wear is not appropriate. For most dance classes, leotard and tights will allow the instructor to give constructive feedback to the student while still covering enough of the body to be modest. Some studios require all students in a class to wear identical colors or styles, and some allow the dancers more personal choice and comfort by requiring dance wear, but not dictating specifics. Either way, dance wear should be required for class. 


The Stage Door Difference: 

SDDA not only has a professional dress code, but we sell many of the required items in our office for the convenience of our clients. You can view our dress code here.


7. How are students placed? 

Dancers can be grouped by age, ability, or a combination of both. Students should not be held back because of their age, nor advanced simply because of it. A combination of age and ability that allows dancers to be in a challenging environment, yet still with peers, is ideal. 


The Stage Door Difference: 

SDDA achieves proper student placement by holding regular placement meetings, and auditions for competition teams. We provide individual student evaluations for experienced newcomers and have several overlapping levels so that staff can guide each student to the combination of age and ability that suits them best. Upon parent request, we provide a per-student progress report and/or parent-teacher conferences to keep parents informed of their student's strengths and areas for improvement.


8. How long is each class? 

For a toddler, 30-45 minutes can be a great class length. As dancers get older, more time is necessary for the dancers to learn and retain information, especially when more than one genre is included (tap and ballet for example). An hour or more will be needed to have any meaningful instruction for new dancers. By the time dancers reach pre-professional levels, combo classes are no longer feasible. Each genre will need enough class time for proper training. Ballet classes at the intermediate and advanced levels will need an hour or more to complete a proper class.


The Stage Door Difference: 

SDDA offers 30-minute classes for 2-year-old students and 1-hour combo classes for preschoolers through 1st and 2nd grade students. By the age of 8, all ballet classes are between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours, and all additional classes are 30 - 45 minutes in length. 

9. Is a syllabus followed for each level of instruction? 

In order to have consistent training for all dancers in the studio, a set syllabus should be followed by all instructors. A director often sets her own syllabus for the studio. The classes should be structured according to a plan and organized so that dancers can progress from level to level, regardless of which instructor they have. 


The Stage Door Difference: 

At SDDA, all instructors use a syllabus created by the owner, Michelle Knell. Mrs. Michelle has trained numerous professional dancers, Broadway stars, dance studio owners, and dance teachers using her in-depth syllabus. The syllabus is available for licensed-use by other studios and is being utilized across the country.

10. Are there any safety measures in place at the studio, and what are they? 

A quality studio will require instructors to pass a full background check. The staff should also be trained in all emergency procedures and participate in regular trainings regarding studio safety. A great studio will have on-site safety measures such as ADA compliant facilities, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, mats for acrobatics, surveillance cameras, and first aid kits. Another hallmark of a child-safe studio is a commitment to modest music, choreography, and costuming. A child’s innocence should always be protected, and age-appropriate classes and performances should be a top priority.


The Stage Door Difference: 

At SDDA we are proud to offer all these crucial amenities along with our modesty promise regarding costumes, music, and choreography. We love our students and want to provide for their safety as much as you do. 


11. What is the condition of the facility, and what conveniences are offered for families?

When considering a dance studio, be sure to check for important details like cleanliness, safety of entrances and exits, and adequate lighting. Does the building seem outdated, or dirty? Are the dance studios too small to accommodate an average size class? Are healthy snacks and drinks available to keep your dancer fueled? Take these things into consideration before committing to a studio.  


The Stage Door Difference: 

SDDA’s beautiful 6,800 square feet dance facility consists of three spacious studios, featuring professional sprung flooring, free standing ballet barres, and eight-foot mirrors. Our newly expanded space also boasts ample bathroom and lobby space, a children’s playroom, and a dancer lounge with healthy concessions. Our covered drop off is great for traffic flow and ample parking is provided. Plus, our spaces are also professionally cleaned twice per week week and fully updated each year! You can view our fabulous facility at the link provided.


12. How does the studio communicate with dancers and their families?

Is there an up-to-date website, or at least a Facebook page, to access current studio information? Does the studio use their website or social media to keep families informed of news, weather-related closings, and general announcements? Are the payment options for classes clearly stated? Can payment be taken online or simply in person? These are all important questions to ask the studio! A quality studio will be able to quickly address these concerns, and effectively communicate with students and their families. 


The Stage Door Difference: 

SDDA utilizes a state-of-the-art website, which is updated regularly. We also have Facebook, Instagram, and Tik-Tok, to feature quick information and a variety of other content. Private groups are set up for parents and competition teams! Our studio also has online registration, online payment capability, and studio software that makes communication with parents a breeze. You can view our website at the link provided.


13. Does the studio collaborate with other dance related organizations?

Collaborating with other dance related organizations is a great way for a studio to stay on top of the latest industry happenings, learn new techniques, and evolve their class offerings for students. When choosing a dance studio, ask about any collaborations they offer with outside instructors, or organizations. 


The Stage Door Difference: 

Our SDDA founder and co-founder are proud to be in collaboration with StarQuest Dance Competition, Believe Dance Competition, and Imagine Dance Challenge. They both travel all over the USA to judge and/or teach at these events. Several SDDA teachers are members of Untapped Arkansas, and Mrs. Haley Ashford teaches on the Little Rock Tap Festival faculty. In addition, SDDA is the only studio in Faulkner County to be certified in Acrobatic Arts. Finally, SDDA is proud to offer yearly master classes and clinics/workshops in conjunction with Broadway Connection, UnTapped, and numerous other guest instructors.

14. Do students compete? 

Dance studios can be competitive, professional, or recreational. The best ones are a hybrid with groups of each type of classes. Competition and pre-professional classes will require a greater level of commitment of both time and money. It is important to understand the needs of your dancer, so you can make the choice that feels right for your family. 


The Stage Door Difference: 

SDDA is proud to offer a variety of classes for recreational, pre-professional, and competitive dancers. We’re even more proud to say that all these programs receive equally passionate attention. We want each dancer and family to know they are important. Learn more about our competition team at the link provided.


15. What type of flooring does the studio have? 

A dance class should never take place on a concrete floor or flooring laid directly over a concrete sub floor. This is dangerous for a dancer’s joints when they jump and land. The ideal flooring for a dance studio is a sprung floor. This specially-made dance floor allows some motion in the flooring to protect and cushion a dancer’s joints as he/she lands from a jump. The sprung floor can be covered with wood or vinyl dance flooring. 

The Stage Door Difference: 

SDDA is proud to offer the finest in quadruple sprung dance flooring.  All 3 of our facility’s dance studios include professionally handcrafted sprung-floor systems, designed with high-density foam to reduce impact and prevent injuries. The floors are covered with professional dance vinyl so that splintering, and slipping are never an issue. Our floors are professionally installed by Bolo Productions...the same company who has provided flooring for some of the world’s finest ballet companies. We are the only studio in Arkansas with such state-of-the-art flooring. The long-term health of your dancer’s body is truly that important to us. You can watch a time-lapse video of our floor installation at the link provided.


16. And finally…how much will it cost?

Great studios with great educators will need to charge enough to maintain a professional staff and facility. However, a studio that is well-run and successful doesn’t have to break the bank. Ask about tuition rates, costume prices, recital fees (and ticket prices, if applicable), competition fees, required dance wear and any other fees so that you have a full picture of what you’ll be paying before you enroll. 


The Stage Door Difference: 

At SDDA we offer competitive tuition rates, multiple discount programs (i.e. multi-child, pre-paid, etc.), a comprehensive performance package), fixed-price costumes, and frequent giveaways through our referral program. Competition students are provided ample opportunity to fund-raise. And, through our partner non-profit, Stage Door Collective, you can apply for scholarships to put toward tuition and fees. Ask us about our payment system today or view the price list at the link provided.

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