Watching Them Go

Here come those tiny feet into their first dance class. Adorable bits of pudgy baby feet spill out from the tops of their dance shoes. The waistband of their tights is slightly slipping down beneath their bodysuit, courtesy of the baby belly that jiggles when they wiggle. Fluffy sprays of fine hair frame their face, refusing to stay in a ponytail. Perhaps there's a huge smile full of excitement, or maybe a little tear because they are afraid and shy. They are our “babies.”

We have the privilege of becoming a part of their lives, sometimes having more influence on them than their parents. We provide a place for them to see their friends, feel a sense of accomplishment, and gain invaluable life lessons. Many of those babies stay with us for years. They become part of our studio family, and we become part of theirs. We open our hearts to them.

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If you have owned a studio and/or taught for a number of years, you have inevitably watched your students grow from being your “babies” to performing in their last recital and graduating. They move on to post-secondary school and begin a new chapter in their lives. It is always difficult to watch them go, but there's also an enormous sense of pride in knowing you helped shape that person.

That student is a better person because of the time spent at your studio, and you are a better person for having been part of their life. You’ve seen them transform from nervous beginners into confident performers, celebrating their milestones and triumphs along the way. Those “last” recitals are bittersweet for so many of us. They mark the organic conclusion of a student-teacher relationship.

Beyond the technical skills and routines, you’ve imparted values like discipline, perseverance, and teamwork. These lessons go with them into the world, influencing their future endeavors and relationships. The bond created in the studio often extends beyond graduation, with former students returning to visit, share their successes, and sometimes even teach the next generation.

The journey from their first tentative steps in dance shoes to their final bow on stage is filled with countless memories. Each student leaves an indelible mark on your heart, and their growth reflects the passion and dedication you have poured into your teaching. It's a poignant reminder that while the studio may be just a chapter in their life, it is one that profoundly impacts both student and teacher.

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Many of us have experienced a different story with our “babies.” They have been with us for years, and we have taught them everything we know, helping shape them into amazing dancers. Some may have competed and won accolades, awards, and scholarships. So much joy has been shared between you. Then, you start hearing whispers that this very student is leaving your studio for one of your competitors. Not only that, but a group of your up-and-coming senior dancers is planning a mass exodus.

There are always numerous reasons and excuses for why they have decided to leave and why the respect wasn’t given to you through a face-to-face conversation. To say it is soul-crushing is an understatement. We lose sleep. Our stomachs ache. We cry. We are on the verge of depression, all because some students have made the decision to leave us.

This is when you need to remember you run a business. Put your business hat on and take the emotional hat off. The worst business decisions are made from an emotional stance. You are a business person and a leader. Be that. Be the person who shows up for the students who love coming to your studio.  As studio owners and business people we are making many decisions every day and we need to be able to do that with a clear mind that is not focused on dancers leaving.  They will not help you steer your ship.

Focus on the positive impact you continue to make. Reflect on the countless students who have thrived under your guidance and the supportive community you’ve built. Embrace the joy of teaching those who are eager to learn and grow.

It's essential to foster a positive environment for the remaining students. Their enthusiasm and dedication are what drive the spirit of your studio. Celebrate their successes, no matter how small, and encourage their progress. Your energy and positivity will inspire them and create a welcoming atmosphere.  Many people will be watching to see how you react to students leaving.   This is huge.  Wish them well and thank them for the time they spent with you.  Afterall, if you take the emotion out of it, you do indeed wish them well.

Remember to take care of yourself, too. Prioritize self-care and seek support from peers or mentors who understand the unique challenges of running a studio. Maintaining your well-being will enable you to be the best leader for your students and your business.

In the end, remember that your passion and dedication are what make your studio special. Stay focused on your mission and the positive influence you have on so many lives. By balancing your emotional investment with a strong business mindset, you will continue to thrive and inspire future generations of dancers.

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What is considered to be a “late bloomer”,  Ann did not start her dancing career until she was 10 years old. The passion for dance was instant and soon what was a once a week jazz class quickly became ballet, jazz, tap, acro and pointe.  Now Ann is co-director of The Studio School of Dance & Music; Brampton, ON. She is also a member of I.D.E.A. International, Dance Safe Ontario, Canadian Dance Standards and The Gold Alliance.  Every class Ann instructs is always filled with challenge, fun and lots of laughter!  Ann never stops learning as a dancer and a teacher by attending various conferences and workshops and loves passing on that knowledge to her students.

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