Sherry has been a part of the TutuTix team since day one, and currently takes care of our family members on the West Coast, from Cali to Kansas and everywhere in between. Folks say that she is hip, cool, a musical muse, loyal, confident and has a wicked good sense of humor. In other words: Chuck Norris wants to be Sherry Graves.
As a small business owner, you’re probably going to be a little more flexible about payments than a big business would be. Sometimes it’s necessary to give parents extra time to get their ducks in a row, and that’s understandable. However, it can hurt your studio if you have too many past-due accounts and let them hang in limbo. Here’s a few tips for dance studios on how to handle parents who are behind on payments without losing their business.
Have Policies in Writing
One of the best tips for dance studios to prevent past-due payments from becoming a problem is to clearly detail your policies. Dance Studio Profit recommended having your studio policies printed on invoices and available on your website. This way parents won’t have the excuse that they didn’t know your rules. It’s also good to keep your policies relatively straightforward. Detail what will happen after 30 days, 60 days and so on. Set penalties for standard time periods so people aren’t caught off guard.
Be Open to Compromise
Chances are that you’ve built strong relationships with many of the parents at you studio, and that can make bill collections difficult and even awkward at times. However, at the end of the day, you are running a business, and collecting payments is a necessary part of the job. If you notice that a parent is struggling with payments, take time to sit down and discuss the problem. When you talk about the problem in private, you may be able to come to a compromise, like some sort of payment plan. This way you’ll avoid awkward confrontations down the line and keep your customers happy.
Give Fair Warnings
While you’ll want to establish a final cut-off date for past-due accounts, don’t let it sneak up on parents. There might very well be individuals who intend to pay, but keep forgetting. It’s best to give gentle reminders, either in person or in writing, that a payment deadline is coming up. Let parents know ahead of time if they’re going to accrue extra fines or if their child won’t be allowed to participate in class. It’s a small action that can go a long way toward getting past-due parents to settle their balances and keep your customers happy with your business.
Dance competitions are a great learning experience for students young and old, but they can also be stressful and very intense. National competitions bring together groups of amazing dancers in huge venues with large crowds. That type of setting, combined with the pressure to perform, can be intimidating for just about anyone, no matter their age or experience. If you’re bringing your dance students to a competition for the first time, use these tips to get everyone in the right state of mind and make it an experience they’ll never forget.
1. Know What to Expect
You can never be too prepared for dance competitions. Make sure you’ve crossed every “t” and dotted each “i,” and don’t forget to let your dancers know what to expect. It’s a good idea to look into how many other groups will be there, how long the competition is expected to last and what the stage will be like. The more information you, your teachers and the dancers have going into the competition, the less likely it is that you’ll hit a bump along the road.
2. Prepare a Schedule
Another essential step to a smooth and easy competition experience is a detailed schedule. In an article about competition life, the University of Texas at Dallas recommended planning to arrive early to give your students plenty of time to register, change, stretch, warm up and relax their nerves. If your group has time between performances, make sure you note when to start warming up again and set an alarm to remind yourself. You may also want to note other performances you want to watch, the best times to take food breaks and when the awards ceremony will be. When you have a schedule set, it’s easier to keep everyone on the same page and prevent any last-minute scrambles.
3. Stay in Tune with Student Needs
There’s so much going on at dance competitions that teachers sometimes get distracted by paperwork, costume glitches or other performances. However, you’re going to need to pay special attention to your dancers and anticipate their needs. Don’t forget to bring along your dance competition survival kit, packed with cosmetics, sewing kits and medicine. You’ll also want to have extra water bottles and snacks on hand. If you notice that your dancers are looking particularly jittery, take them aside for a short pep talk. It’s important to explain that there’s nothing to be nervous about and that everyone will be proud regardless of how they score.
4. Perform for the Right Reasons
In your pre-performance pep talks, explain to your dancers why you’re attending the competition. Many novice students may assume they need to win a trophy to have a positive experience, but that’s certainly not the case. Dance Spirit magazine explained that medal or no medal, competitions create better dancers and performers. They teach students how to handle pressure and work together to achieve a goal. At the end of the day, you want your dancers to have fun, so don’t make the competition all about their scores.
“People focused only on winning don’t have fun,” Adrienne Canterna, an experienced dancer who co-founded “ROCK the Ballet” and appeared in the movie “Step Up,” told Dance Spirit magazine.
5. Practice Good Sportsmanship
If you want your dancers to come away from the competition with smiles, make sure that you’re encouraging and modeling good sportsmanship. It’s tempting to focus so much on your performance that you neglect to interact with people around you, but your students will benefit from talking with and watching other dancers. Encourage your group to cheer for other performances and wish other dancers luck. Even if they don’t walk away with trophies, they’ll be happy to leave with new friends and a heightened feeling of camaraderie.
In dance studios, there’s a method to the madness of dress codes! Besides requirements for appropriate attire, the dance studio dress code is designed to help students perform better and see themselves as a cohesive unit. As your students get older, there’s always the chance that they’ll take some liberties with the dance studio dress code. It’s something that every instructor faces at some point, and how you handle the first few instances is crucial. Use these tips to ensure that your dancers stay in dress code and accept the rules of the studio.
Make a Contract
At the beginning of each season, you should have your dancers sign a contract stating that they understand what constitutes appropriate attire in the studio and agree to abide by your rules. This isn’t as essential with younger students, but it’s a must-have for pre-teens. By making your expectations clear from day one, you’ll put yourself in a better position to enforce the dress code. When you have a student’s signature on a contract, it’s much easier to mitigate any rebellion.
Explain Your Decisions
Remember when you were a teen yourself and your parents used to tell you to do things “because they said so”? That phrase is especially frustrating for young adults, so don’t use it as a reason your studio has a dress code. Explain to your dancers why it’s important for them to wear specific clothing. When students are dressed alike, it’s easier for a teacher to spot someone out of form or behind the count. Dancers wear their hair pulled back so they have a full range of sight while performing. There are logical reasons behind your dress code, so let the students know them!
Have ‘Dress-Down’ Days
A scheduled dress-down day is a great way to reward your students for their hard work and keep them from breaking your dress code. It gives them the opportunity to wear the cute new leotards they’ve been dying to show off and express a little bit of their personality. However, make these days a reward, not a given. If too many students come to class dressed inappropriately, you might want to postpone the dress-down day until they abide by the rules.
Choose the Right Products
Dancewear can get pricey, so it’s important to keep budget in mind when setting a dress code. Choose practical, long-lasting products that will last for a number of years. This way your students won’t need to replace their uniform each season and parents can save some money. If your dance studio dress code is out of some dancers’ price range, it could lead to attire issues. Another good option is to sell products in your studio so dancers can quickly and easily replace items that wear out.
Your responsibilities as a dance instructor can often go far beyond teaching tombes and arabesques. If you work with young students, you play a crucial part in their development as both dancers and individuals. It can be a big burden to shoulder! One of the best things you can do for your students is to establish policies that boost healthy self esteem while keeping them humble. The Dance Exec explained that a confident dancer who is modest and unassuming will be successful both on and off the stage. When you promote these qualities, your studio will become a positive environment where students are comfortable being themselves and working as a team. Here are a few ways to encourage healthy self esteem in your studio, so you can help mold your students into talented dancers who are also kind individuals.
Take Note of Budding Divas
If you spot that some of your students are becoming pushy, it’s best to nip the attitude in the bud before it gets out of control. Dance Studio Life noted that the first signs of an entitled student often come from the parent. If a mother approaches you to request her child gets special treatment, it may be that the student mentioned that she wanted a lead role or a more challenging part. When this happens, your best option is to have a heart-to-heart with the dancer. Talk about the student’s ability, her goals in the studio and how she can advance. Give praise where it is warranted to help the student feel confident, but include constructive criticism as well and explain that the dancer will be put in a lead role when she earns it.
Lead by Example
If you want your students to be humble, you should be a role model of appropriate behavior. Whenever you are in the studio, assume dancers are watching you and act accordingly. When you’re talking to parents or instructors, think about how you’d encourage the students to act, then follow your own advice! Being kind, understanding, and a confident example of healthy self esteem will help your students learn in and out of the classroom.
Encourage Random Acts of Kindness
Your dancers will grow into kind and humble individuals if they learn the rewards of doing small acts for others. This will also help them to build relationships and grow as a team. LoveToKnow Kids recommended encouraging your students to complete small acts of kindness within the studio. One idea is to have students write nice gestures that peers have made each week. This way no one is “tooting their own horn,” but you’re still recognizing kind acts. You can also talk to parents about organizing a charity event within your community, whether it’s a free performance at a senior center or a neighborhood clean up.
Don’t Make Exceptions to Studio Rules
One way you can ensure that no one student is advancing at the expense of another is to stay firm with your studio rules. Naturally, there will be extenuating circumstances once in a while where an exception is warranted, but try to enforce your policies on a day-to-day basis. Explain to the student and parent involved that the whole class is affected when dancers are prioritize their own needs ahead of the rest of the class, and your goal is to create a strong team who rely on each other to be at their fullest potential.
Intervene When Necessary
If you notice a dancer has a poor attitude or is particularly insecure, you may need to intervene. The best way to go about this is to follow the same method you would with any other sensitive meeting. Approach the situation respectfully, and make it clear that you’re looking out for the student’s best interests. Explain what you’ve observed and how it’s affecting the dancer and the class. If you’re dealing with an entitled student, you may benefit from putting the problem into perspective by explaining what would happen to a performer with a diva attitude in a professional dance setting. If the problem is a lack of confidence, try to suggest ways the dancer can step outside her comfort zone and create a sense of healthy self esteem.
Right next to the often stereotyped “pushy dance moms” are the hovering parents. They’re harder to handle than disagreeable parents because they aren’t really doing anything wrong. However, students will often be nervous or intimidated if they know their parents (or someone else’s) are watching from the doorway. Here are a few tips for dealing with helicopter parents without stepping on anyone’s toes.
Prove You Can Handle Student Woes
Many hovering parents are driven by the fear that in a large class, the needs of their child will be overlooked. You can’t blame parents for worrying, and the best way to ameliorate these concerns is to show that you can handle whatever crises arise.
A blogger on Washington Parent said that he was taken aback when the dance teacher banned parents from the studio on the first day of class. The dancers were only 3 years old, and he had planned to hover to make sure his daughter wasn’t scared or nervous. However, the teacher immediately took charge, got the class in order and proved to parents there was nothing to worry about.
The students, as young as they were, were given their first taste of independence and it helped to build their confidence. If parents see their children are in capable hands, it will help them to stop worrying and hopefully stop hovering.
Implement A No-Cellphone Rule
Another good approach for dealing with helicopter parents is to ban cellphones from your dance studios. You can even ban them from the building. This will keep parents from sneaking in to snap photos or videos.
OC Family explained that when kids think they’re on camera, it adds even more pressure and makes them nervous. So keep the phones out of the studio! Banning them from the building will minimize distractions in the texting and phone calls in the waiting room and hopefully encourage parents to get to know one another.
Create Hover-Friendly Opportunities
Some studios use one-way mirrors or closed-circuit video feeds to allow parents to watch, without disturbing the dancers inside. Sometimes, however, even knowing that people are outside watching can affect a dancer’s mindset as they learn. If this is the case for your students, and all else fails (or if you are dealing with a “lawnmower parent“), get creative with your studio policies.
One idea for dealing with helicopter parents who tend to peek into the classroom is to designate one class per week where parents are allowed to watch. Set aside the last 15 or 20 minutes of class and have your dancers showcase what they’ve learned for the parents. For novice dancers, this is a great way to get comfortable performing in front of a crowd.
Outside of the set class, remain firm on your no-parents rule. That means no standing in the doorway and no peeking through the glass. Enforce your rules and make sure your instructors do too.
If you’re looking for a inspiring story to share with your dance students, look no further than that of Misty Copeland. The professional ballerina has gained a lot of attention in the past year, thanks to her lead role in “Swan Lake” and her powerful advertisement for Under Armour. Her story is one of determination and overcoming adversity and can be a fun teaching tool for young dancers.
‘I Will What I Want’
The world of professional dance, along with many other artistic and athletic professions, is brutally competitive and often harsh on young hopefuls. Copeland didn’t start training as a ballerina until she was 13 years old and faced a lot of rejection in her climb to the top. Her story is a great example for young athletes, as it shows that just because one coach or director tells you “no,” you can still be successful if you put your mind to it.
Copeland’s story became a viral sensation when Under Armour featured her in an advertisement. The video, which has been viewed more than 6 million times on YouTube, features Copeland dancing while a rejection letter she received as a young dancer is read out loud. Copeland believes that the ad resounded with so many viewers because it addresses common experiences of rejection and perseverance.
“I think so many people can relate to it – not just as a dancer within the ballet world, but just feeling different, feeling like you don’t fit in,” Copeland told the TODAY show.
According to Copeland’s website, she overcame the obstacles that stood in her way and made history in 2007 as the first African-American soloist for the American Ballet Theatre in two decades. Dance instructors can use the Under Armour video and information from Copeland’s website to start a conversation about goals, hard work and adversity with their students.
Copeland in Print
If you want to assign your dancers a little homework, Copeland has not one, but two books about her journey as an artist. Her memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” is a great read for older students. In it, she talks about growing up with five siblings in a poor household, how she got into dance and what the different struggles have been throughout her career. She also describes her career-defining performances, like working with music artist Prince and as the first African-American woman to star in “Firebird.”
“[Playing the Firebird] was one of the first really big principal roles I was ever given an opportunity to dance with American Ballet Theatre,” Copeland told NPR. “It was a huge step for the African-American community.”
This role was the inspiration for Copeland’s new children’s book, “Firebird.” The story is filled with bright, colorful illustrations that make it perfect for a class of young dancers. It addresses common issues like confidence and self-doubt. The moral of the story is that with hard work and self-assurance, young dancers can achieve any goals they set. The picture book could easily be used to calm novice students before their first big performance!
Continuing Her Growth
While Copeland is performing in Australia as the the lead in “Swan Lake,” the people in Hollywood are planning to spread her message even further. Deadline reported that filmmakers at New Line Cinema are considering making a movie based on Copeland’s memoir. The film would focus on her early years as a dancer and the struggles she faced. Copeland is definitely a star that dance professionals should keep an eye on – her story and message are both powerful teaching tools that can inspire young dancers!
Just when you think that studio life couldn’t be going any more perfectly, mama drama rears its ugly head. All parents want the best for their children, but overly competitive parents sometimes take it too far and create rivalry and conflict in your studio. As the owner, it’s in your best interest to nip any parent disagreements in the bud as quickly as possible. Even though the problem may have nothing to do with you, an unhappy parent might remove their child from your program. If you hear that two parents aren’t getting along, use these conflict resolution strategies to resolve the problem and reestablish a harmonious atmosphere.
Invite all the involved parties to a private meeting, away from other parents and students. Give each parent the opportunity to air his or her grievances without being interrupted. Listen carefully to what is being said. Scholastic suggested asking open-ended questions and for specific examples of the problem. Helping parents to get the frustration off their chest will allow you to have a calm, reasonable discussion. You’ll also want to see if there are some underlying issues. The fight might appear to be about carpool scheduling, but the real problem might be hurtful gossip. Try to read between the lines and get to the root of the problem.
Top of the list for conflict resolution strategies: approach the conflict with the mindset that it can be solved. After you listen to what the parents have to say, take both sides into account and suggest a possible compromise. Be careful not to “take sides” in the argument. Acknowledging that each parent has a justified point will make sure the parties know they’re being taken seriously. Explain that you value each parent as a customer and want to take their needs into consideration as much as possible.
Shift the Focus Back to the Dancers
Whether the disagreement is about scheduling, class placement or student achievement, the best way to resolve a conflict is to remind parents why they’re at your studio in the first place: their kids! The Australian Sports Commission explained that parents don’t realize their conflicts take attention away from supporting their children. Each student is there to learn to dance and have fun, and listening to bickering in the waiting room can hurt that experience. Ask parents that they settle their disagreement for the sake of the dancers so that everyone can learn in a positive, supportive environment.
It’s an unpleasant fact, but you can’t run a dance studio and not deal with mama drama. Parents are paying you to teach their children, and they’re entitled to voice their opinions, whether justified or not. How an owner deals with the complaints and concerns that arise can make or break a studio. Use these practical tips for dealing with a difficult parent and ensure your studio is a positive learning environment for both parents and kids.
Implement a Communication System
The last thing you want is an angry parent confronting you in front of your instructors and students, so it’s important to establish a complaint system and stick to it. According to Dance Advantage, a good method of communication is to have parent/student concern forms readily available in the studio. This gives you a chance to review the problem, decide on a plan of action and set up an appropriate meeting time with all parties involved.
You may also want to establish a no-gossip rule under your studio’s roof. Encourage your instructors to be aware of any grievances that might be expressed in waiting rooms. Some parents may voice their concerns to peers instead of you, so have instructors refer any gossipers in your direction. With this practice, you’ll be aware of any concerns about your studio, both large and small.
Establish Partnerships with Parents
Even though they can give you headaches and gray hair, remember that parents are not the enemy. They generally know their child better than you do and have potential to contribute to your studio’s success.
“For many, many years, I perceived the mothers as pitted against my own desires and intentions, and that didn’t work very well,” Kathy Blake, owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios, told the Dance Studio Owners website. “I have since learned the mothers and fathers are my greatest allies.”
Dealing with a difficult parent can become an opportunity for cooperation in the studio (just make sure it stays out of the classroom). You can always use an extra pair of eyes when it comes to music and costume choices, teacher effectiveness and facility conditions. Don’t view feedback as attack, but rather a chance to make your studio the best it can be. Blake explained that your studio should have good customer service practices, and this will often mean admitting that “the customer is always right.” You probably won’t be able to solve every problem, but acknowledge the legitimacy of each concern and explain to the parent what you can do about it.
On the flip side of the coin, don’t get too friendly with parents. You’re running a business and don’t want to be perceived as playing favorites. Blake warned that while it’s easy to see the best in people, some parents befriend you (or your instructors) to get special treatment for their child.
Recognize Preventable Problems
The best approach to dealing with a difficult parent is to make sure he or she doesn’t have anything to complain about. Be clear with every parent from the day they sign up that they will not be involved in the studio’s decision-making process. Having rules set in stone will ensure that all dancers have an even playing field. Dance Deck recommended that if you find that certain events like casting bring out the worst in parents, send out friendly reminders of your studio’s policies. Politely but firmly explain that you and your teachers work together to assign roles fairly and that there will be no changes once they’ve been announced.
When you set a policy like this, Dance Studio Owner recommended that you put out a general questionnaire to gauge parent reactions. There will likely be a few skeptics, but chances are that the majority of parents will appreciate your fairness and regard for their opinions.
As the owner of a dance studio, it’s in your best interest to keep your students and staff happy. Happy students mean continued business, and happy instructors mean inspired routines. However, it can be tough to keep everyone content, especially with all your other responsibilities. Here are three easy dance studio tips that will keep your students and teachers in good spirits and eliminate problems before they happen.
1. Keep “Mama Drama” in Check
You’re bound to run into a few troublesome parents when you run a dance studio. They’ll want their child in the front of all performances. They’ll want to oversee all your events. They’re more than happy to tell instructors how to do their job. They’ll be eager to share their own dance studio tips with you, even if they’ve never been in charge of a studio.
It’s important to find ways to handle drama mamas, as they can lead to unhappy teachers and dancers. First thing’s first – don’t leave it to the teachers to handle unruly parents. As owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure your studio is a positive learning environment.
If you’ve never had a troublesome parent before, Bree Hafen, a professional dancer and experienced teacher, recommended on her blog that you start by sitting down with the parent to talk about the problem. Explain that the teachers are doing the best they can to include everyone. Also point out that you’re trying to teach the dancers to be independent, so constant hovering is undermining the cause.
2. Cultivate Inspiration
If you’ve ever had a mundane office job, you know how tedious it can be to do the same thing every day. The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing explained that to keep students happy, you need to keep them inspired. You can do this by mixing up the music, warm-up routines and genres.
It can also be beneficial to organize field trips to live performances and foster interaction outside of the studio. Talk to your teachers about switching up classes and allow them to pursue activities they think will engage the students.
3. Foster Open Lines of Communication
The best way to nip problems in the bud is to talk about them. Whether one of your dancers is falling behind or your teacher needs to adjust her schedule, a sit-down conversation is the best way to resolve the issue. Emphasize to everyone that your studio is a place where all ideas are welcome.
Make an appearance in each class, and try to learn as many names as possible. The more familiar people are with you, the more likely they’ll trust you with their problems. An open-door policy is an established way to encourage communication among your teachers and students, and can go a long way to keeping everyone happy.
What about you? What are some of the dance studio tips you’ve used to create a happy, positive atmosphere at your studio? Leave us a comment below!