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The World Awaits You

By Debra Danese 

As dance teachers, you’ve got a world of opportunity awaiting you. And I mean that literally. In the past three years, I have taught in Norway, England, and Slovakia while turning down offers from China, India, and Hungary because of scheduling conflicts.

How have I done all this far-flung teaching? By utilizing the wonderful world of the web. The Internet has opened up global employment opportunities in all kinds of professions, and dance teachers are not exempt. Schools that are looking to elevate their program’s stature and develop their students’ skills are bringing in guest teachers from around the world. Such organizations include privately owned studios and international boarding schools such as TASIS England and the Leysin School in Switzerland. In exchange, educators looking to broaden and diversify their professional endeavors can do so while experiencing living abroad.

All of my teaching contracts have included round-trip airfare, housing, and visas. Some organizations offer less inclusive packages, which might not be as worthwhile. I have always been paid in local currency so the exchange rate is also a factor.

I have found the key to navigating through the online options is knowing what you have to offer and what you are willing to leave the comfort of your home for.

As an American who specializes in jazz, I have a commodity that many people outside of the United States seem interested in. In return, I get to enjoy immersing myself in my host country’s culture, food, and language. Most important, I can share a piece of American dance while also learning firsthand the cultural dances of other regions. Language has been a challenge at times, since not all of the students have been fluent in English, but then movement and demonstration truly become the focus in class. And the students have proved receptive and eager.

As with any job offer, make sure you do your research before packing your bags. Fraudulent contracts involving visa scams are just one of the pitfalls I have encountered. For example, after receiving a generous offer from a school in Dubai, I was told to apply for my visa. The cost was $420 via a Western Union transfer, which was to be reimbursed upon my entry into the United Arab Emirates. I was directed to the UAE Ministry of Interior Naturalization and Residency Administration in Dubai.

The Internet has opened up global employment opportunities in all kinds of professions, and dance teachers are not exempt.

But something felt off to me, even though the paperwork seemed legitimate. After further investigating, I discovered that the visa fees were going to a private individual and not a government office. When I questioned this, the school ceased all communication. Although I have not found this to be the norm, I do feel it’s wise to verify whom you are communicating with online. I request phone conferences if I am seriously considering an offer. I also make sure that my contract is detailed and states that the employer will cover my return airfare if the agreed-upon conditions are not met.

My experience with the Dubai scam did not deter me from continuing to seek and accept opportunities from foreign employers. But it did make me more cautious. I am now meticulous about corroborating offers and documenting all of my correspondence. United States consulates and embassies are wonderful resources. Contact them to confirm policies for Americans working abroad or investigate specific schools and organizations. I also employ the very tool I find the jobs with: the Internet. Search engines enable me to substantiate specific information. For example, if a school doesn’t have a working website, I don’t look any further.

If you’re tempted to take your teaching on a world tour, think about what you have to offer and where you dream of going. Instructors who can teach various ages at beginner through pre-professional levels are in demand. In my experience, programs that are strictly recreational usually offer less-comprehensive benefit packages.

The more materials you can provide to support your candidacy, the better. I send a resume and teaching video and have references and a choreography reel ready to go if needed. With the right credentials and a valid passport, the world of dance awaits you!  

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January 2011
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