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Teachers, that time of year is quickly approaching when studio schedules are being finalized and directors are rounding out their faculty for the new season. If you are lining up some interviews yourself for some new teaching gigs, I’d like to share some helpful hints and thoughts to better help you secure that position! I have been on both sides of the table, interviewing and auditing potential candidates myself and I can tell you even the littlest thing that may slip by you can be the biggest detail between looking professional and landing the job vs. being seen as green and unprepared.

#1 Answering an Employment Advertisement: When answering an ad for a teaching position, be courteous and friendly. Introduce yourself whether it be via email or through the mail and attach all necessary information, i.e. *resume(s), list of teaching competencies, headshot, bio, choreography/performance/teaching reel (s) or link to work, references, professional social media sites, website link, etc.  *Remember that you are applying for a teaching position, not a performance position, so you should have two different resumes emphasizing each focus. You can include highlights on each regarding performance experience & teaching experience but it doesn’t hurt to include both resumes and direct the studio director to each in the email.

#2 Securing and Confirming an Interview: Once you have corresponded with a studio director and an invitation has been made to come and interview, please email back to confirm in a timely manner. Don’t wait two weeks to let them know whether or not you are still interested. Show them that you are eager and reliable. Also, send a quick email a day or two before the interview as well confirming the meeting once more as well as the date, time and location. Let the studio know you are excited to be meeting them. If they have asked you to come in and teach a demo class as well, make sure you confirm the classes and levels you are teaching.

#3 Preparing for Your Interview: Just because dancers live in sweatpants and leotards doesn’t mean we can’t spruce it up for an interview with a potential employer just like anyone else. Your first appearance is an indicator as to your professionalism even before you start teaching. A good studio director will usually size you up in a matter of minutes so come to the interview “audition ready,” on time (preferable a few minutes early,) and look interested, alert and ready to take a sincere and vested interest in their dancers. Make sure you bring another copy of your submission materials as well as any list of questions you may have. Be sure to read up on the studio’s website to make sure you have a clear understanding of their mission statement and teaching philosophy. It is just as important that you deem the studio a good fit for you and your teaching style as they do as well so it’s always a good idea to get as strong a sense of this as you can during the interview as demo class process.

#4 Preparing for your Demo Class: Be sure to have your music already organized into playlists, have back-ups of your music in case of technical malfunctions and take a second to ask questions prior to teaching on how to work the studio’s sound system if nobody shows you. These are tiny details but can interrupt the flow of the class if they occur. While it’s not the end of the world if it does, it is a good way to make sure the flow of the limited time you have with the class is not interrupted with little hiccups such as these.

Also, have your teaching notes handy, off to the side with an outline of where you may take the class. Remember that you are teaching these kids cold that you have never met before. While a studio owner may tell you the class is beginner or advanced, often times your idea of what is beginner or advanced and their idea might be very different. Be prepared to change gears quickly and effortlessly to offer a class which showcases their talents but challenges them as well. It is a challenge to strike that balance in an hour but if you are being observed, you want the directors to recognize you are able to effectively teach all levels. Therefore also give consideration to your across the floor progressions, and your center combination (especially if the class is multi-aged and leveled.)

Remember as with any class you teach, be yourself. Don’t start teaching the way you think they want you to teach. This is truly important. Remember you are unique and your teaching style cannot be replicated so if you use humor, use it. If you use tactile correction, use it. If you use teaching strategies like taking the kids out of the mirror for certain warm-up exercises or are a stickler for demonstration of clear preparation before barre exercises and start the music over again to make sure they get it right, do it! The studio directors will either appreciate it or they won’t. At the end of the day, again, if it’s going to be a good fit, it’s going to be a good fit. Remember as with any class, correction is important. Always ask if the dancers have questions and understand and ask the kids questions themselves to keep them involved in the class. Don’t spoon-feed them the answers or the choreography and know when it is appropriate to challenge them and when to step in and physically demonstrate.  Present your best choreography as well. This is the time to show potential employers what you can do creatively and will give them a taste of things to come. Try and end class with something fun to show a little sense of spontaneity. Maybe an improv score? A cool turning or jump sequence, maybe give them the option. Or ….maybe end with something like a mini meditation cool down, etc. Ending with something memorable is always a great way to leave the dancers and the owners with something original and light for a final impression.

Finally, remember to remain present during your demo class. Don’t sit down for too long, don’t have your cup of Starbucks in your hand, don’t chew gum, etc. Walk around the room and pay attention to all the students in the room. Give positive reinforcement and thank them for class at the end as well.

#5 Q & A: Remember to have your list of questions ready. Be prepared to ask some of the following to give you an idea:

What is the studio’s philosophy/mission?

What are they hoping to achieve the upcoming year? Studio Goals?

Weekly schedule

Faculty expectations

Salary, travel expenses, etc.

Calling out and finding subs?

Choreography setting

Contract read-through

#6 Follow-up: After you have thanked the studio and your interview is finished be sure to follow up the next day with a brief email thanking them for their time and for allowing you to come in and teach their students. Always a nice gesture to show you appreciate the time you had with them!

A lot to remember for sure, but a little bit of professionalism, a great demeanor and a solid teaching aesthetic will go a long way to securing a position that is right for the studio and for you! Most importantly, you want to love going to work and love the teaching environment you are in. If you can find that fit, no doubt you, your studio director and your students are all going to be on the same page working towards a common goal and making strides in your dancers’ training…..not to mention having a great time in the process! Good luck to everyone!

See you in the 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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