Simple, High-Quality & Joyful Study of Dance

Why Choose MAA?

With all the choices that families and individuals have for dance training in a city as large as Atlanta, why should you choose Movement Arts Atlanta (MAA)? Here are three reasons to consider; we are not like the airlines, our classes are not childcare, this is not our first rodeo.

We are not like the airlines, we do not charge junk fees. MAA tuition includes all costs except dance clothes and shoes for the student. MAA does not charge registration fees. You are not asked to pay for being our customer. The costs related to student performances (costumes, theatre rental, tickets) are included in tuition. Performance are a part of the training experience, our product, so, why would you pay separately for this service?

There is a time and a place for childcare, but it is not dance class. All MAA classes are purposefully kept small. These small classes provide real, joyful training at any age. Time in a MAA class is about supporting the student, improving and inspiring. Real work gets done. FYI, these principals apply to our adult classes, too.

We have done this before and know that experience and training matter. Yes, even for the little ones. In fact, especially for the youngest students. MAA’s Director and primary instructor, Carolyn Stine McLaughlin, has more than 25 years of experience teaching, directing and choreographing. Dance is what she does. She studied teaching in college, danced professionally and has taken continuing education courses throughout her career.. She and her colleagues are always looking for ways to be better instructors.

We all have choices to make in life and at Movement Arts Atlanta, we choose to see what we do as a privilege and a profession.

New Addition to Studio

Looking forward to Tuesday’s Ballet III class. They have been promised a new barre for months. This beautiful piece of equipment comes from Finis Jhung’s website. It is by far the best portable barre on the market.

Jhung is a master teacher whose thoughtful and logical approach to teaching ballet is used in every ballet class at Movement Arts Atlanta. MAA Director Carolyn Stine McLaughlin attended one of his teacher workshops and has been using his principles for more than a decade. Jhung’s work is frequently focused on adult beginners but its principles of proper aliment and knowledge of transitions between movements is valuable to any age and skill level of dance student.

MAA students all begin learning classical ballet without a barre. This facilitates learning to transfer the weight of the body from one foot to the other which is the underlying principle of all dance movements. After a student has good skill with three of the primary moments of dance: plié, bend of the knees; tendu, stretch of the legs; and relevé, rise up on to the balls of the feet; then they come to the barre to work on the multiple variations of this vocabulary.

What Makes a Good Dance Class

There are lots of dance schools and teachers in America. These schools and teachers interact with thousands of children and adults. Right here in Atlanta we have, by enrollment, one of the largest ballet schools in the country, maybe even the world.

Did you know that there is no standard or licensing required for all these teachers and schools which work with all those students? I bristle a bit at the thought of government regulation, but know for a fact that there are people whose money is basically being stolen from them because the quality of the training they are paying for is so very poor.  This is a strong judgment. I make it because dance is important to me and I take my commitment to the profession seriously.


So, what should you look for in a class?

1. The Teacher Should be Professional

Quality teachers are trained to teach. Just because you can dance does not mean you can teach. Many accomplished performers make wonderful teachers, but not all.

Dance teachers should present themselves in class and the community as professionals. What a teacher wears to class shows whether or not they take what they do seriously. Would you show up to a business meeting or school conference in your bathing suit? A teacher need not wear a tutu, very few people look good in these glorious and crazy costumes anyway. But, they should wear dance clothes and shoes; these are the tools for the job. Students need to see a teacher move. Part of learning how to dance is imitation. The exception to this is very advanced students and their teachers. These folks are working on the very miniscule details of the work and use predominantly descriptions and analogy to get the point across.

Really good teachers are involved in making the art form better by promoting it, volunteering and helping train other teachers. They are good citizens.

There should be an apparent plan for class. These plans may not always go smoothly, but every class should still be orderly and obvious work should be getting done. This does not mean that a class should be somber.  Excellent training is, in fact, joyful because the environment created should communicate that there is nothing better than making the effort to improve.

2. The Dance Space Should be Safe

The body does a lot of work to dance, it intersects with the floor repeatedly and this floor is important. It needs to be what is called “sprung.” This means that it has give and can absorb some of the force of all those intersections. It is like the effect of a trampoline, only on a very small scale. New studio floors must be constructed to have this and many old wooden floors have this characteristic spring already.  Without this give, the body does not work as well and will not work as long. This matters for all students of dance. Safety First!

3. You Should be Able to Watch Class

As a person considering a teacher and school you should be able to observe a class. A parent of a student should be able to see what happens in class at anytime. This is not the norm in the Dance School World which is a struggle to understand. Plié is not a State Secret and a teacher should not be doing anything in class that is not fit for public consumption.

Some teachers feel guests are disruptive and depending on how you run a class, they could be. If sitting, watching, truly watching – not chatting on their phone or with another – the work of the students is only supported. Dance is a performing art form. Performing is done in front of an audience which is hopefully full of people!

4. Class Size Should Be Smaller Rather Than Larger

It is very simple. A teacher only has one set of eyes. Make sure that the class size is related to the skill level of the students. The less experienced and younger dancer needs a smaller class. If a class is very large, think about how much time the students spends waiting to take their turn. Look for limits of eight to ten for students under the age of ten. Dance class is not childcare!

5. The Students Should be Asked to Act Professionally

Students should bring themselves, a positive approach and the right tools to class. These tools are dance clothes and shoes.

Clothes designed for dance, like fitted leotards and tights, allow the teacher to see a student’s body and how it is moving. This is part of the teacher’s job, so if they do not ask a student to do this, he/she may not be very interested in doing their job. Some schools have very strict dress codes and others allow sparkles, skirts and feathers every week. A good dance class is not about the clothes.

Shoes are important to technique. The correct foot covering facilities movement and allows the foot to work correctly. If a student’s feet cannot work, how else is the rest of the body going to do anything well? It is all riding on those 56 bones.

A Rant on Shoes: Ballet needs ballet shoes, not the pink bedroom slippers that are sold at the big-box stores. I long for the day when these disappear from the market place! Beginning and intermediate students should have soft, fitted, leather shoes, with a suede sole, simple. Be wary of the many, many, many styles now available. Unless you are an advanced student, they are a waste of money.

Student behavior is important before, during and after class. Students are at the studio and in a class to learn how to dance and grace and courtesy are important to both dance and life. So, look for a school and class that have order, a sense of calm and positive language from the teacher and students. The dance studio is a fun place but it is not a playground.

So, professionalism and safety are key. Look for these and joy. Find them together in a teacher and class and you will have an experience that is truly valuable.