Picking the Right Dance School for your Family

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

"Every little girl goes through that 'I want to be a princess, I love pink' phase that's just part of being a girl," said Tara Miller, owner of the New Albany Ballet Company.

For that reason, she offers a Disney Princess themed summer camp for tiny dancers that ends with a costumed performance.

"They love the theatricalness," Miller said.

Beyond the tiaras and tutus, though, dance training develops an early appreciation for music, movement and more.

"The most important thing for young boys and girls is it develops confidence," said Jeri Pinnell, who owns Pinnell Dance Centre in Gahanna.

"We have children come in who are so shy they won't even look at you. And when they leave, they're not afraid of anything."

Choosing the right school or instructor for your child can be an overwhelming process because many parents step into the dance world with limited first-hand experience.

"They have to take the teacher's word," said Susan Brooker, director of the BalletMet Dance Academy.

Parents should carefully research credentials, evaluate training methods and observe classes to see how teachers and students present themselves within the school, Brooker said.

"The training of young children is important," she said. "Those children are there to have fun, but they're also setting up habits that are going to last them for a lifetime."

Gabby Caldwell, shown in these photos, is a 13-year-old BalletMet student who played Clara in last year's company performance of "The Nutcracker." She has been dancing

"almost from the time she started walking," said her mother, Michelle. "She was pretty young when she first started taking lessons. She wanted the little ballet leotard and the skirt and the whole thing, so she got those for Christmas."

After several years of lessons at another local school, Michelle and Gabby attended an open house at BalletMet and sampled a creative-movement class.

"I liked the positiveness that was there with the instructors," Michelle said. "They just have a very clear pedagogy that's very appropriate for each age group but also for each student's ability."

Gabby has since progressed from one weekly ballet class to six days of training each week in the academy's intensive program. She decided at age 10 to pursue a professional ballet career. The motivation behind her decision, she explained, is this: "I see the older dancers doing this every day and I'm like, 'I want to be like them.' And I will."

It's not just the young dancers who invest their time and energy into their craft. Parents play an important supporting role as training intensifies.

"I feel like we've been able to juggle it well," Michelle said. "We live fairly close to BalletMet, so I can drop her off and come back home. It's a sacrifice of time and a definite commitment to be there."

Susan Hypes, of Pickerington, encouraged her 16-year-old daughter, Maria, to explore her passion for competitive dance. Maria trains several nights a week at the Movement Center in Canal Winchester, where she studies lyrical dance, jazz, ballet and hip-hop.

"She would live there. She loves it," Susan said. "We encourage her to do as much as she wants to do."

Maria dreams of moving to Los Angeles or New York when she turns 18 to pursue a professional dance career. But she envisions moving back to Ohio, eventually, to teach.

Susan wants her daughter to follow her own path to happiness: "I've told her -- and my husband thinks so, too -- when you're young, go and do those exciting things."

Your Go-To Guide of Central Ohio Dance Schools

To compile our guide, we used Yellow Pages listings and a directory of schools that are members of the OhioDance service organization. Unless otherwise indicated, all schools listed teach students ages 2-3 through adult. Not all schools returned our calls; if you know of other great dance schools, please comment below to share your information.

BalletMet Dance Academy

322 Mount Vernon Ave.,


1141 N. Hamilton Rd., Gahanna



Number of students: 1,129

Downtown; 160 Gahanna

Dance genres taught: Classical ballet, tap, modern, jazz, hip-hop, flamenco, ballroom, creative dance, pilates, yoga, pre-professional classical ballet program

Performances: Annual spring performances for all dancers. Advanced students typically participate in two performance ensembles. All students may audition for company performances.

Competitions: Yes, for select students

Fast facts: Founded 1974; affiliated with BalletMet professional dance company; has graduates dancing professionally in ballet and modern-dance companies; member of OhioDance

Bartelt Dancers

3590 Riverside Dr., Upper Arlington




Number of students: 250

Dance genres: Ballet (classical and contemporary), tap, jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, musical theater

Performances: End-of-year show

Competitions: Yes, typically for older dancers

Fast facts: Founded in mid-'80s; has graduates who have danced professionally

Columbus City Ballet School

763 Radio Dr., Lewis Center




Number of students: Declined to provide

Dance genres: Ballet (classical and contemporary), adult stretch and pilates

Performances: Spring recital and winter gala performance

Competitions: Yes

Fast facts: Founded 2006; has graduates who have danced professionally in ballet companies and on Broadway; member of OhioDance

Columbus Dance Centre

1000 Suite B Morrison Rd.,




Number of students: 250

Dance genres: Ballroom (competitive), hip-hop, jazz, ballet

(classical), tap

Performances: Spring recital

Competitions: Yes

Fast facts: Founded 2002; graduates dancing professionally in hip-hop troupes and on Broadway

Columbus Dance Theatre

592 E. Main St., Downtown

2468 E. Main St., Bexley




Number of students: 120

Ages: 3 years to adult

Dance genres: Ballet (classical and contemporary) and modern dance

Performances: Minimum of three shows annually

Competitions: No

Fast facts: Founded 1998; affiliated with Columbus Dance Theatre professional troupe; has graduates dancing professionally in ballet and modern-dance companies

Columbus Youth Ballet Academy

5076 N. High St., Clintonville




Number of students: 200

Dance genres: Ballet (classical and contemporary), tap, jazz, street jazz, modern, lyrical, breakdancing

Performances: June show for all students; "Nutcracker" by audition only

Competitions: No

Fast facts: Founded 1986 and under current ownership since 2003

DCW Elite

2378 Advanced Business

Center Dr., Hilliard




Number of students: 50

Dance genres: Ballet (contemporary), tap, jazz, hip-hop, gymnastics, dance team, gym team

Performances: Spring recital; students also perform at festivals and parades

Competitions: Yes

Fast facts: Founded 1970

Delaware County Cultural Arts Center

190 W. Winter St., Delaware




Number of students: 100

Dance genres: Creative

movement, ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop and performance company

Performances: May recital

Competitions: No

Fast facts: Founded 1989; member of OhioDance

Dublin Dance Centre & Gymnastics

2665 Farmers Dr., Dublin




Number of students: 1,156

Dance genres: Creative dance, ballet (classical), jazz, hip-hop, modern, lyrical, tap, gymnastics, non-competitive Irish, break dance

Performances: Fundamental students perform once a year; company students perform 11 times throughout the year

Competitions: No, but some individuals have chosen to compete on their own

Fast facts: Founded 1984; has graduates performing with modern-dance companies; member of OhioDance

Irveline's Ballet School

2924 Hayden Run Plaza,

Northwest Side


Number of students: 80

Dance genres: Classical ballet

Performances: One mini recital

Competitions: No

Fast facts: Founded 1982; has graduates dancing professionally in ballet companies

Judy Dollenmayer Studio of Dance

320 S. Hamilton Rd., Gahanna




Number of students: 600

Dance genres: ballet (classical and contemporary), tap, jazz, lyrical, modern, hip-hop, tumbling, Irish step dancing, musical theatre

Performances: Spring recital

Competitions: Yes

Fast facts: Founded 1970; has graduates dancing professionally with sports dance teams and dance companies


Mobile studio; instructor travels to pre-schools and daycares in Franklin and Delaware counties



Number of students: ranges from 75 to 100

Ages: 2-6 years

Dance genres: Ballet (classical) and tap

Performances: One performance

Competitions: No

Fast facts: Local franchise founded 2004

Leap of Faith

628 E. Long St., Downtown




Number of students: 150

Dance genres: Ballet (classical and contemporary), tap, jazz, lyrical, liturgical and modern

Performances: End-of-year annual showcase and other events statewide

Competitions: No

Fast facts: Founded 2004; has graduates dancing professionally with sports dance teams

New Albany Ballet Company

5051 Forest Dr., New Albany




Number of students: 595

Dance genres: Ballet (classical), jazz, modern, tap, hip-hop

Performances: Spring program and the "Nutcracker"

Competitions: No

Fast facts: Founded 1999; has a graduate dancing professionally with a ballet company

New Life Dance Academy

3690 Stygler Rd., Gahanna




Number of students: 80

Dance genres: Ballet (classical and contemporary), lyrical, jazz, tap, hip-hop, creative movement and dance conditioning

Performances: Spring recital, along with more opportunities for students of all ages

Competitions: No

Fast facts: Founded 2003; member of OhioDance

NorthPointe Dance Academy

500 Orange Point Dr., Lewis Center




Number of students: 600

Ages: 2 1/2 years to 18

Dance genres: Ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, hip-hop, musical theater, theater and acting classes

Performances: Two recitals and a holiday performance

Competitions: Yes

Fast facts: Founded 2000; has graduates dancing professionally

Performing Arts Dance Center

53 N. Union St., Delaware



info@ padcdelaware.com

Number of students: 250

Dance genres:Ballet (classical), tap, jazz, gymnastics, lyrical, hip-hop

Performances: June recital and charity show inDecember

Competitions: Yes

Fast facts: Founded 2002

Pinnell Dance Centre

284 Agler Rd., Gahanna




Number of students: 1,500 (including students who take

multiple classes)

Dance genres: Ballet (classical and contemporary), jazz, tap, lyrical, hip-hop, cheerleading, gymastics

Performances: Ranging from one to six shows, depending on student's involvement

Competitions: Yes

Fast facts: Founded 1976; has graduates dancing professionally

Powell Dance Academy

459 Village Park Dr., Powell




Number of students: 450

Dance genres: Pre-dance, creative movement, ballet (classical), tap, jazz, hip-hop, tumbling, contemporary, break dancing and musical theater

Performances: Two annual performances

Competitions: Yes

Fast facts: Founded 2006; member of OhioDance

Straub Dance

501 McCorkle Blvd., Westerville




Number of students: 500

Ages: 2 through college age

Dance genres: Creative dance, ballet (classical and contemporary), tap, jazz, hip-hop

Performances: Spring show, along with some charitable events and parades

Competitions: Yes

Fast facts: Founded 1967; has graduates dancing with the Rockettes and on Broadway

Finding the Right Fit

The dance school directors and teachers we spoke with had this advice for families trying to find the program that's right for them:

  • Consider your child's aspirations
  • Research the school and instructor qualifications
  • Study the curriculum; make sure lessons are age-appropriate
  • Visit the school's website to view photos or videos
  • Ask to observe or sample a class before enrolling
  • Be wary if a high number of students are injured