Interview with Jessica Riding, Ballet and Modern dance teacher (Associate Dance teaching qualification in both- Cecchetti and ADIT Modern societies respectively)
How did you get to where you are, Why did you choose to dance?
My Parents sent me to my first Ballet Class when I was 7years old. I loved it and decided to continue which led me into many other disciplines of dance. It has been years of studying, training and examinations to get to where I am today, a qualified teacher, teaching males and females from the age of 3 up to adults.
Can one study to become a qualified dancing teacher? What are one’s options of study?
Yes, one can study to become a dance teacher. This would depend on what genre of dance it is ie. Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Hip Hop etc. We have different dance societies here in South Africa. To Study you would have to be a member of the respective society and they would guide you through this process. Each society has different requirements and there are many options worth investigating.
What do you love most about your job?
I love most the day to day interaction I have with my pupils, being able to watch them grow, improve and share in celebrating their accomplishments and successes.
How do you use your time most efficiently considering it is quite a taxing profession? Give practical examples.
There are many aspects of this career one has to consider so the key is learning how to time-allocate most efficiently. For example, an average week would consist of admin, communication with pupils/parents, preparation for classes, choreography, actual teaching time etc.
It is important to learn how to divide your time accordingly so to fit in all the ‘hidden’ jobs into the working hours. One must remember that this is also a physically taxing profession and it is equally as important to ensure time to rest your body.
How do you make the most profitable use of your time? Is there a trade off between the enjoyment of smaller classes and greater profit from larger classes?
I have a mix of larger classes which are more profitable and then smaller classes which are less profitable but are perhaps more enjoyable and more beneficial for those pupils. As your dance students get older and specialize more, the size of class will decrease but this is where there is much job-satisfaction for a teacher.
What skills do you need?
A dance teacher needs a range of skills as your job does not end with just teaching a class. You need to be creative, inspiring, articulate, innovative and open-minded because you are faced with new challenges with each pupil. You will never be able to apply the same teaching techniques to every pupil you encounter and it is important to always remain open to learn as dance is always advancing and changing with the times.
Can you transfer the skills you use as a dancing teacher into other careers or industries?
If you have danced and enjoy performing there is always opportunity to be involved in the entertainment industry from stage production to promotional work. You will need to keep informed about upcoming auditions and attend as many as you are able to- they all count as experience and can only add value to your dance career.
Outside of dance
A career in dance can lead to various other opportunities, whether it be teaching in another capacity or something like instructing Pilates, it would require further study in that field. However, dance is a good foundation for many other careers as it cultivates a good work ethic and self-discipline which is appreciated in any career.
Are you self-employed or do you work for a boss? Do you have a choice?
I am both self-employed and work for a boss. Yes, there is always a choice! This is one of the biggest benefits of this line of work- there is always opportunity to self-employ.
Are there further study prospects or training courses that a dancing teacher can attend?
When you belong to a dance society there are always training courses to keep teachers informed and up to date with current and new syllabi. You could study for the rest of you life if you wanted to as many exams require a certain number of years of teaching experience.
For example, when you qualify as a Ballet teacher, you need 3 years of teaching experience before you can apply for the next set of exams and a further 10 years of teaching experience before the next. Dance is always changing and there is always more to learn- because this is the nature of this industry it is vital to stay informed and relevant.