Dance Life online magazine
Parent-Teacher Conferences Q: I’ve always been very open and available to discuss a student’s progress when parents have concerns, and during optional end-of-year conversations. But I have some mothers who request parent conferences every couple of months. I have to spend time not only holding these conferences, but collecting pertinent info from multiple teachers. Should I set some sort of yearly maximum for parent conferences? —Dee Buchanan A: Our policy is that parents must email or phone in their concerns and questions. The director will then decide if a meeting is necessary. Parents cannot request meetings. Before this policy, I…
by Casey Davenport Are your ballet babes bored with barre? One typical Friday afternoon I watched as the 6-, 7-, and 8-year-old petit rats in my Ballet 1 class spent their precious barre time focusing on all the fundamentals that will serve their future dance goals—fidgeting, lip-synching the latest pop tune, and posing for imaginary selfies. All sarcasm aside, I love teaching this age and level of dancers. The information I impart in these classes will be some of the most important material these dancers will ever learn. I’m always thinking up new ways to get their attention. Feeling flustered…
Teaching tap slides can be trickier than you think. Most students like to lift their heels off the ground and straighten their legs when they slide; however, doing this makes it harder to control the slide and maximize its length. Three rules to guide them: feet flat (helps maintain balance); plié (makes sliding on a challenging surface like marley easier); and weight evenly distributed (helps with connecting the slide to the next step).
Most studio owners are passionate about dance and teaching, not accounting or financial planning. “The dance side” of the studio, as we are wont to say, is what we love, and live for. “The business side,” however, is what we grudgingly plod through because it allows us to do what we love. From daily accounts receivable and accounts payable, to monthly account reconciliations, to marketing, to data entry, to preparing annual tax returns—the business side requires diligent attention if we want our studios to succeed.
Taking students to competitions is an expensive endeavor. Explaining the costs involved to parents is important, and ensuring that parents follow through on their financial commitments can be difficult. Three studio owners devised plans for making the interactions surrounding competition costs as painless as possible, and they might work for you too.
It is hard to tell a student she is not ready for the next level of study—even harder if I know the student will see that her peers are advancing. But I simply will not promote a student when she is not ready. That would be unethical on my part and dangerous for the student.
Through my research with dance school owners, I’ve discovered that it is not uncommon for their businesses to have up to a 30 percent turnover of students from year to year. Looking deeper, I discovered that a large number of that 30 percent are recreational and preschool-age students—which means that not only are school owners losing students; they’re losing the very children who are the financial lifeblood of the school. When those numbers dwindle, the future looks a bit gloomy.
I’ve figured out that the business side of my dance school is more than I can take. When I read your magazine, I learn about teachers who are in the same place I am, but their issues seem to be different. It’s not listening to crabby parents that bothers me; I do well with them. And it doesn’t have to do with not making a living, because I have done very well. The hard part for me is having to deal with my employees.
I have been a dance teacher for more than 40 years and have run a dance studio for 35 years. But when I was a little girl, growing up first in the Harlem projects, then in the Bronx, I could never have imagined such a life for myself.