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Dance Studio Owners, how much thought have you given to assessing yearly progress amongst your dancers? Sure, the “eyeball it” method works when your teachers are in the studio with them, day in and day out, but sitting down and actually deconstructing student progresswith a rubric across many areas will give both your students and their parents an individualized and tangible look at the scope of where they were, where they are going and where they would like to be going forward. The effects of student evaluations are also the most diplomatic ways in which to go about them for your business’ clientele. They get everyone on the same page and quickly clears up any raised questions as to why a dancer is or isn’t moving on to another level, receiving feature parts, solos, etc.

This week I’m helping you build an evaluation form which is thorough, informative and covers all the bases in terms of coming up with fair, introspective and appropriate recommendations for student advancement.

Remember, you know your students and clientele best, so use these categories merely as a guide to add to or omit based on the needs of your business! Remember however, when formatting the evaluation form to keep it clear, concise, easy to read and neat. The student’s name should be listed; as well as the genre, the teacher, the level and time and day of the class.

Rating: Keep is simple. Have your teachers rate from 1-5 (*1 being least/poor and 5 being greatest/excellent) how they would evaluate each child in each of the following categories.

Attendance: Always important to demonstrate the child’s presence in class. Progress can really be correlated largely by the student’s attendance. It is the factor which will establish consistency of all other categories.

Appearance in class: How do they present themselves when they come to class? Is there hair neat? Do they remember the appropriate shoes? Do they remove all jewelry for class? Do they follow dress code? Etc.

Performance in class: How well is the child dancing? How are they performing dance wise? Are they consistently focused? Do they give 100%?

“Presence” in class: Is the student there and ready to work? Do they ask questions? Do they actively try to work things out on the sides in class? Are they constructive? Are they alert?

Ability to comprehend and execute genre vocabulary/vernacular: Does the dancer understand the concepts being presented to them? Are they able to execute those given concepts, phrases, exercises? Are they able to verbally articulate their movement with correct vocabulary use?

Ability to work with others: Does the dancer work well with their peers? Are they receptive to other ideas and help? Are they there to offer help as well? Do they collaborate effectively?

Technical improvement: How has the dancer’s technical execution improved over the course of the season?

Stylistic improvement: How has the dancer matured in terms of picking up stylistic nuance of each genre or style?

Recommendation for advancement? Y or N? (* add a “teacher’s notes” column for teachers to explain if they choose.) Would the teacher recommend the dancer advance to the next level in that particular genre the following year? Would the child be better suited to remain in the current level the following year? This category might be well suited for the teacher to jot down some quick thoughts as well. They can be brief but might indicate the thought process of the teacher on this particular recommendation. 

Good luck to you all!

See you in the dance studio,


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Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford is a native New Yorker and graduate of NYU Steinhardt's Dance Education Master’s Program; with a PK-12 New York State Teaching Certification. Her double-concentration Master’s Degree includes PK-12 pedagogy and dance education within the higher-education discipline. She also holds a BFA in dance performance from the UMASS Amherst 5 College Dance Program where she was a Chancellor's Talent Award recipient. Jess now works extensively with children, adolescents and professionals as choreographer and teacher and conducts national and international master-classes specializing in the genres of modern, contemporary, musical theatre and choreography-composition. Jess’ national and international performance career includes works such as: The National Tour of Guys & Dolls, The European Tour of Grease, West Side Story, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, Salute to Dudley Moore at Carnegie Hall, guest-dancer with the World Famous Pontani Sisters and IMPULSE Modern Dance Company. Jess has been a faculty member for the Perichild Program & Peridance Youth Ensemble & taught contemporary and jazz at the historic New Dance Group and 92nd Street Y in NYC. She was Company Director at the historic Steffi Nossen School of Dance/Dance in Education Fund and in 2008 traveled to Uganda where she taught creative-movement to misplaced children. The experience culminated with Jess being selected as a featured instructor at the Queen's Kampala Ballet & Modern Dance School. She has conducted workshops for the cast of LA REVE at the Wynn, Las Vegas and recently taught at the 2011 IDS International Dance Teacher Conference at The Royal Ballet in London, UK. She is also on faculty for the annual Dance Teacher Web Conferences in Las Vegas, NV. Currently, Jess is a faculty member at the D'Valda & Sirico Dance & Music Centre and master teacher & adjudicator for various national and international dance competitions. Recently, she has finished her NYU Master’s thesis research on the choreographic process of technically advanced adolescent dancers and is the creator of “PROJECT C;” a choreography-composition curriculum for the private studio sector. Jess is also faculty member, contributing writer and presenter in the choreography and “how to” teaching segments on the celebrated For more info, visit her website at

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