A pitfall is a hidden or unexpected challenge! And here’s the thing…we all run into them from time to time. But when you find yourself falling into stretch pitfalls, you need to identify and address them. Otherwise, they will negatively affect your stretch programs and efforts. This will directly affect your dancer’s flexibility, mobility, technique, and performance by causing “gaps” to form in their technique. And no one wants gaps….
One common and sneaky pitfall comes in the form of “lack of time.” In my 20+ years of working in the dance world, I have seen it creep in many times.
Here are a few examples:
Have you ever told your dancers to “go ahead and stretch on their own?” You probably did this due to “lack of time.” Or a need to get something else done, which is related to, “lack of time.”
Have you ever cut your warmup short so that you could get to other things like cleaning dances or practicing their technique? Again, “lack of time.”
Now you get it! You have a LOT to fit into your weekly dance schedule…. jazz, ballet, pointe, contemporary, hip hop, tap, choreography, ballroom, acro, tumbling, turns and leaps and, let’s not forget, cleaning and rehearsing your competition dances.
With so much to do, it can be easy to push your stretches to the side. But don’t! With all that dancers are being asked to do, it’s critical that they sufficiently stretch. They need balanced stretch sequences that provide variety and are dance specific – meaning they address the muscles and muscle groups commonly tight in dancers.
Learn More About How To Recognize And Correct For Lack Of Time:
So while, YES. It may save you time in that moment to have your dancers “stretch on their own” or skip their stretches entirely. It will NOT save you time in the long run. Nor is it safe and effective. And it certainly does NOT create healthy stretch habits in your dancers.
I mean the last time you told your dancers to “stretch on their own” did they do the stretches they NEED or did they do the stretches they LIKE? I am willing to bet they did the stretches they LIKE! Which generally are NOT the stretches they need.
Allowing to let “lack of time” keep you and your dancers from doing the stretches they NEED, on a weekly basis, is like putting a bandaid on something that needs much more than a bandaid!
Meaning – rather than addressing the fact that you need an effective and consistent stretch curriculum you continue to stretch when it’s convenient and skip it when it’s not. But consistent and proper stretching is essential to success in dance. So rather than falling victim to the immediate stretch pitfall “lack of time”. Implement an effective stretch program.
Following a weekly stretch curriculum will systemize your approach to stretching and create familiarity. Not only that. When you implement a comprehensive, age appropriate stretch curriculum, that includes the exact time it will take to complete your stretch sequence, you can plan accordingly! It’s like time blocking your warmup and stretches. Which increases productivity and gets you and your dancers closer to your long-term goals!
So, if increased productivity, helping your dancers reach their flexibility goals and saving time sounds good to you, then our weekly stretch curriculum is your solution!
And while, yes, it will take some extra time upfront to implement the curriculum. Once it’s in place it will save you time and ensure you never say, “dancers stretch on your own” again!
For the love of dance education!
Looking for more tips on improving your studio’s stretch habits? Check out the following articles:
Should I step back from teaching to focus on studio business?
There are only 2 questions you need to answer to make this decision.
I meet a lot of studio owners in my travels, and there seems to be one thing that unites us—we all have a similar backstory. Somewhere along the way in life we fell in love with dance. We became dedicated to creating a career out of dance; we were passionate about the power of dance to change lives; and we were resourceful at using our skills and connections to make a difference in the lives of others.
I believe that studio owners are unique in this way, and this passion for sharing our love of dance is what drives us to succeed. But as we grow in our studio careers, we realize that the job of running a studio is about so much more than dance. We discover that we need to learn how to lead people, manage accounting, develop programming, understand new marketing trends and more. As your studio grows, the business needs can begin to rival the artistic side for your time and attention.
When this happens, you might feel like you’ve come to a crossroads. I know I did! This is where you have to start making decisions about the best place to direct your focus in this new season of life.
Should you step back from teaching to focus on studio business? Continue reading to see the only two questions you need to answer to make this decision.
There are only two questions you need to answer when deciding if you should step back from teaching:
Where is my zone of genius at the studio?
Your zone of genius is the place you want to be! This is where your talent and your passion intersect, and it may very well be in the classroom. If you wake up in the morning and can’t wait to teach—and you are a skilled teacher—then this is a strength area you can’t ignore or suppress.
If this is you, I would encourage you to stick with teaching because you flourish there! Your zone of genius might be in other areas too, so take note of those now before moving on to Question 2.
I am not shy to admit that although I am an excellent teacher, choreography was never my real zone of genius. I can do it, but I really have to work at it and have others on my team who are more naturally gifted in this area. Me? I prefer to “choreograph” the business side of things; creating new programs and marketing efforts to promote our work in the community.
When I was scheduled to teach several classes a week, the preparation time alone would cause me angst because it felt like it was taking time away from the areas of my business I was much better at handling (not to mention time away from my growing family).
With that realization, I made the decision to step back from teaching (to only one class per week) and focus on my leadership skills. Eventually, I stepped out of teaching altogether to focus on my family and running the business.
Who can I equip (or hire) to work in the areas that are NOT in my zone of genius?
If your zone of genius is in teaching, then it’s essential that you are surrounded by a team of people who are talented in the other areas of your business. For example, you may need an office manager who can take on more customer service and administrative responsibilities, or you may need a bookkeeper to make sure your accounting stays clean and up to date each month.
If your zone of genius (like mine) is in an area other than the creation of dances and preparation of lessons, then it’s probably time to step out of the classroom or to consider a reduced teaching schedule. Talk with your staff members to see who is interested in accepting more opportunities to teach, or begin the hiring process to bring new teachers on board.
If you are currently the primary teacher at your studio, consider stepping out of the classroom gradually—over a year or two—to make the transition smoother for your students and their parents. My transition out of the classroom was a five-year process that took me from teaching 27 classes per week to four, and then eventually to none.
I should pause and note here that even though I no longer teach weekly classes, I am still responsible for the quality of our classrooms and the artistic choices that end up on our stages. No matter which side of the business you decide to focus on, you still have responsibility for oversight of the other side of the business—even if you are not in the daily details of that aspect.
As a business owner, you will always have different hats to wear at your studio. But because of your personal history and passion for the art of dance, it can be a challenge to know whether “teacher” should still be one of them.
If you’ve ever thought about whether or not you should still be in the classroom, reflect back on your answers to the two questions here. Harmony can be found with both “the business side” and “the teaching side” of your studio; they are both vital to your studio’s success, and you will naturally have more strengths on one side than the other. I encourage you to play to those strengths and stand in your zone of genius as much as possible!
Connect with me @mistylown on social media or email me at [email protected] if you’d like to talk about where your zone of genius is, or to share your own experience of staying in or stepping out of the classroom. I wish you success as you determine which direction to dance in next!
Looking for more dance studio owner insights? Check out these other articles and resources:
It’s the holidays, which lets us offer a gift to those people who make such a difference in our sons’ and daughters’ lives: dance teachers! Take a look at this list of dance teacher gift ideas that could brighten their season!
It may seem cliché, but a gift card is simple and gives your teacher the freedom to use it how they want to, when they want to! Some gift card ideas to think about might come from:
iTunes, since dance teachers always need new music for class.
Amazon, where they can get pretty much anything.
Starbucks, for coffee lovers!
There’s few things that sound better to a tired dance teacher than a spa session.
Whether it’s a massage or a mani/pedi combo, your teacher will absolutely appreciate the opportunity to sit back and relax for a day.
If you’re looking for other ideas to make your teachers cozy, consider:
Bath bombs, which they can use at home
Candles, which can brighten up a space (or help a dance studio smell more….festive)
Chocolates, because dancing takes a lot of energy, right?
Dinner and a Show
Dance teachers spend many of their evenings at the studio, or planning for future time when they’ll be at the studio. Treat them to a nice dinner, or maybe tickets to an upcoming show in the city!
It’s not always “things” that make the best gifts, and since you know your teachers well, you’ll know if that upcoming concert or a new restaurant in town might be extra special for them.
Handmade and from the Heart
The reality is that sometimes a dancer might have two, three, maybe four dance teachers, plus a choreographer, plus whoever else is important at the studio! And that can add up to a LOT of gifts.
Dance teachers work to make your sons and daughters better, more expressive people, and recognition that they’re accomplishing that can really go a long way. Sometimes a simple “thank you” card written by you and your dancer can communicate your thanks! Or maybe some nice baked goods (only if you know nobody is allergic to anything!!), or a knitted scarf.
Also, keep in mind that it’s not just the teachers on the front lines who would appreciate thanks. Behind the scenes of every dance studio are husbands and wives who support teachers working long nights and traveling to competition. Add them to your holiday list and it’ll really make a great personal impact on your dance studio family.
We hope you found these ideas helpful! Please feel free to share this article on Facebook or browse our “Dance Teacher Gift Ideas” board on Pinterest.
Also, you’re welcome to comment below with any gifts you’ve given that teachers particularly loved!
Substitute Dance Teachers. Even the very mention of the words can put one in an anxious, uncomfortable state. After all, it directly impacts your daily operations and disrupts your studio’s organizational flow.
How can you make the substitute process easier?
(1) Handle all substitutions through your main office. Do not have instructors individually manage their substitute assignments.
(2) Have a systemic, documented request system and communication infrastructure for absences.
(3) Encourage teachers to have curriculum notes and music playlists prepared for substitute instructors.
(4) Know your substitutes’ areas of strengths/weaknesses, schedule availability, and preferred contact information (email, text, phone call, etc.).
(5) Have some additional substitute dance teachers on your list that are not part of your regular staff. Make sure they are familiar with your studio’s culture and expectations.
(6) Prepare the substitute with proper teaching materials and a class roster/attendance sheet.
Pre-Planned Absences offer the opportunity for more advanced planning, but you should try to apply the same approach to emergency/unexpected absences, too. Stay calm, procedural, and professional, and people will appreciate your systemic approach.
By now your studio’s season is officially in full swing and your classes are humming along. Your students and their families are getting used to their new dance schedules, school commitments, and carpools. Your staff members have also settled into your new routines around the studio and you are starting to find your “new normal” with the fall schedule. It can be such a satisfying feeling as a studio owner to finally feel like the pieces of your puzzle have fallen into place!
It’s completely fine (and encouraged!) for you to celebrate the success of starting off the new season right. But don’t let that satisfaction turn into complacency when it comes to your leadership: your team is on the front lines of service every day, and they need your active support, direction, and motivation to keep moving forward and offering up their best selves.
It’s probably been at least a few weeks – maybe more – since your new-season kickoff meeting with your team, which means it is the perfect time to re-cast your expectations and set the pace for the year ahead.
Keep your staff members feeling excited to come to work and on the right track by implementing these 3 Best Practices For Coaching Your Dance Studio Staff This Fall:
One-on-one check-in meetings
Different from an annual performance review and with less formality, a one-on-one check-in meeting with each employee in September or October can give you the opportunity to receive feedback from them on how the season has started: what’s going well and where they need help. I recommend scheduling 15-30 minutes per staff member with the intent to do more listening than talking. If they need prompting to start the conversation, use just two guiding questions: 1) Which parts of your job are the most rewarding right now, and which are most challenging? And 2) How can I help you achieve your best work with both? Your team members will appreciate that you’re hearing them out, and you can use the information you learn to better support and direct them in the moment and in the coming weeks. It may even become a habit that you want to do these one-on-ones more often with your team, to keep your finger on the pulse of the studio and prevent fires before they start!
Inspect what you expect
By the time fall classes are in full swing, your staff members have probably already attended at least one staff meeting where you laid out your expectations for them as employees of your studio. For example, your front desk team probably knows that they are expected to follow-up with all trial class participants in a certain way. For the sake of this example, let’s say they follow four steps: they ask for the sale on the day of the trial class, making a follow-up phone call within two days to those who didn’t sign up, after which time an email is sent, and if there’s still no registration, the child’s information is put into a “general interest” email campaign. You know your front desk team knows and has practiced all of these steps, but are all the steps being completed (and correctly)? The only way to find out is to “inspect what you expect”: take the time to observe the process once in a while, and ask your team how it’s working for them. You may find a part of the process needs a little tweaking, or that a staff member needs a refresher on how to handle certain types of situations. Help redirect your team before any small glitches become waves.
Praise the progress
Make sure your team knows that you notice their hard work! As humans, we all have the desire to feel like we belong, and to feel appreciated. When you see or hear a staff member do something awesome, say something! Say your receptionist does an exemplary job converting a trial class participant into a student, and you happened to overhear the interaction – don’t just say “well done!” in the moment, also praise their work in a private email or in front of the team at the next staff meeting. That positive interaction offers the staff member a well-earned ego-boost and encourages them to repeat their efforts. I know it sounds almost too simple, but think about yourself: isn’t it a great feeling to be recognized when you do a good job at something and have set an example for your peers? And doesn’t it make you want to keep doing the thing that earned you the recognition in the first place? Yes! Case closed! Your team members need to hear that kind of special, personal affirmation from you when they are doing great work. It shows you care, and shows you notice them – and not just for showing up each day.
Fall is THE perfect time to ensure that your studio’s season is set up to run smoothly for the busy months ahead and to take care that your team has started the year on the right foot. Implementing these 3 Best Practices will help you coach your staff members to success! Tell us in the comments which practice helps you and your team the most, and connect with me on social media @MistyLown to continue sharing your leadership journey. I wish you AND your team a wonderfully productive fall semester!
Looking for more great studio staff management ideas? Check out the following articles:
An important method of keeping your staff on track is evaluating their teaching methods in class via announced and unannounced observations. Using a systematic evaluation system, constructive critiques can be beneficial in the following ways:
Helping staff members grow as teachers
Creating consistency within the classroom, and
Providing tips for professional improvement
At The Dance Exec’s Studio, each staff member has a folder with an evaluation sheet for each pay period. Some topics addressed include:
If classes are starting/ending on time
If classes are following the curriculums and guidelines set forth by the studio
If in-class questions are being addressed in an appropriate manner
If instructors are showing equal treatment to all students in class
Any other policy issues and requested days off are documented, too.
Prior to receiving a check for the pay period, the staff member and owner sign off on the evaluations.
This tracking system is advantageous in several ways:
It holds staff members accountable for their actions.
It serves as a coaching system and notates improvement or regression in patterns of behavior.
It can be used to reward staff members that are on task.
It serves as documentation for potential cases of staff dismissal.
Every studio should maintain some regular system of documentation and evaluation. Your staff is integral to the success of your business, and employees that are committed to fulfilling your vision will be respectful, sensitive, and open to the constructive coaching. At the end of the day, it will ultimately improve your business and will eliminate staff members that are not invested in your culture and business.
In addition to evaluations, in-service opportunities are valuable to staff, too. You may choose to take staff to conventions, or you may go to conventions, offer the staff notes and have them take a brief quiz for a reward (gift card, etc.), or bring knowledgeable guest artists into your studio. With any career, continuing education is integral in maintaining current standards within a respective industry.
As a studio owner, you must ensure that you are on the cutting edge trends of the industry, and in turn, it is your responsibility to keep your staff informed while giving them opportunities to learn and grow.
Replacing a Dance Teacher
Please remember that everyone is replaceable. The idea has been reiterated numerous times, but it cannot be reiterated enough.
At The Dance Exec’s Studio, eight staff members were dismissed within the first three seasons. While that number may seem relatively high, the bottom line is that the studio has high expectations that are non-negotiable. Before opening the dance studio, it was decided that the studio would operate by the philosophy that “every single person is replaceable.” A person would only remain on staff if they bought into the culture the studio aimed to create.
Along the way, the studio has learned to spot red flags that indicate whether a person may or may not be a great candidate for the studio. The studio has also implemented standardized interviewing procedures and strategies that generally work in identifying employees that are optimal for the studio.
Based on prior experience in studios, the workplace atmosphere often becomes too friendly, too personal, and too casual. Often, this can result in hanging on to “dead weight”, or employees that are no longer interested or invested in your business. Studio owners refuse to fire the dead weight because of fear of repercussion or fear of detriment to the personal relationship, and the cycle becomes deadly to your business.
If you take nothing else away from these recommendations, please understand that keeping toxic employees as part of your staff is detrimental to your business. This vicious cycle can affect student retention, new student registration, and the overall well-being of your dance studio.
There is a lot of interest surrounding firings because it is never an ideal situation. Ultimately, every decision you make should be in the best interest of your business. Below are some case studies that detail The Dance Exec’s choice to let employees go:
Case Study #1
The Dance Exec’s Studio hired an instructor for the first summer session, and, as a result, the instructor was asked to teach at our Grand Opening celebration. The instructor arrived 30 minutes late to the Grand Opening (without any legitimate reason), and as a result, was dismissed. First impressions are a time when an employee is trying their hardest to impress you, and as demonstrated by the employee’s lack of regard to timeliness, it was evident that this employee would not be an optimal fit for the studio’s culture.
Case Study #2
The Dance Exec’s Studio had an instructor that over-shared personal details and announced inappropriate comments in the lobby. For example, she announced that our 6 and 7-year-old competitive team needed to be dressed in “sexier” costumes. This instructor also took choreography from conventions and competitions and claimed it as her own. Since this did not fit into the culture of the studio, she was not rehired for the following session.
Case Study #3
The Dance Exec’s Studio had an instructor that decided she finished teaching class ten minutes prior to the actual end of class (and, this was the last class of the night and the instructor had closing responsibilities). The instructor left the studio, leaving her students under the supervision of another instructor. Since negligence is a zero tolerance issue, the instructor was contacted for dismissal. The instructor said she was “over” teaching and quit.
Case Study #4
This case study was undoubtedly the most difficult dismissal because the employee was a personal friend. Over several months, the employee’s energy had dwindled. Her attitude was affecting the business and its clientele. Students were quitting because of this teacher. The first inclination was to fire her nine months before the actual firing occurred, but the Business Manager advocated her loyalty and kept encouraging additional chances.
As the months passed, the detriment of having her on staff was evident. The dismissal was difficult, but, ultimately, it was worth it. In the weeks following this dismissal, several parents came forward and stated their children’s love for dance had been rejuvenated; in fact, many of these parents mentioned that they were going to pull their students from the program because the students had lost their passion. Because of this experience, the importance of trusting your first instincts was learned; it is important to take action sooner rather than later.
Letting Staff Go
Of course, along the way, there have been many wonderful instructors that have chosen to venture on to other endeavors. (We also have some instructors that have been with us from the very beginning.) As a business, you have to respect and encourage people’s personal development and realize that if they do not want to be a part of your business (or cannot continue to be a part of your business), you should not force them.
You must reiterate and live by the philosophy that “everyone is replaceable.” At the end of the day, over reliance on one person or feeling inoperable without a person can lead to situations that will harm your business. This is your business, and you are the only person it needs to operate successfully. You must take every measure possible to protect yourself and your investment.
When a staff member is no longer an asset to your business, you must remove them from your staff roster. If you have a staffing conflict disciplinary system in place, you will likely see indicators that a staff member is no longer contributing to your business. When the time comes to release a staff member from his/her duties, it is important that you handle the process in a professional manner. Remember, at the end of day, this is your business and your livelihood and you must protect those interests before anything else.
Make sure that you call the staff into the studio for their dismissal (if permissible) and be prepared to present them with a letter stating their termination. For meetings like this, it is helpful to have a non-partisan witness in the room.
Thus far, firing has been discussed as fairly commonplace; however, it certainly is not meant to detract from the seriousness of the issue. Letting a staff member go is not easy, but once the “letting go” has occurred, there have repeatedly been noticeable, positive changes in the studio.
Of course, the other side of firing personnel, especially in the dance studio business, is being prepared to handle the backlash. You have to explain the change to students and parents and must be prepared for any negative publicity/stories that the disgruntled employee spreads. One suggestion to make the process easier is to have a qualified, likable replacement ready to step into the vacant role (preferably immediately).
In addition to staff members being replaceable, it is also important to remember that studios and studio owners are replaceable, too. A client can choose to leave for another studio or another extracurricular. It is your responsibility to make sure you are doing everything in your power to run the best business possible.
Need to Review?
You can find the other two parts of the Dance Staff Management Guide here:
One element of the dance studio that can make or break your business is your dance staff. From executive roles to administration to instructors, every piece of the dance staff puzzle must fit perfectly to implement a smooth operation that reflects your culture, mission, and brand. This begins with the hiring process and leads into detailing roles, responsibilities, and expectations.
In order to keep your studio running the way you would like, you must consistently:
Offer feedback and training sessions
Know when it is time for a staff member to move on to another venture.
Undoubtedly, staff management is one of the most challenging components of owning a business. You are bringing together an assortment of people with entirely different backgrounds. That group is then supposed to maintain and uphold the values and beliefs of your entire business environment.
Additionally, you are not dealing with employees in a competitive academic market (like, technology companies, for example). Most of the time, you are dealing with artists that may underestimate the underlying business strategies required for dance studios. Creating and maintaining a “dream team” staff takes time, energy, commitment, and frequently, mistakes, to ultimately create a team that pushes your business towards greater success.
STEP 1: Defining Leadership Roles
Within your business, it is absolutely essential that you have explicitly detailed and defined roles of who is in charge of each facet of the business. At The Dance Exec’s Studio, the executive role is broken down into two divisions: Business Manager & Artistic Director.
The breakdown of your executive duties may differ (as may task assignments), but the duties required will be similar for all studios. This insures completion of tasks and organizational efficiency.
The Business Manager oversees the logistical and financial operations of the business. This includes: accounting, payroll, building maintenance and repair, cleaning of the facility, registration and enrollment, and all financial transactions. If a particular item is beyond the Business Manager’s skill set, it is their responsibility to arrange and oversee its completion (i.e. tax preparation or serious repairs). The Business Manager is the only person at The Dance Exec’s Studio that handles money.
The Artistic Director oversees class scheduling and curriculums, staffing, parent and student issues, the competition team, the work-study program, recital planning, community partnerships, and marketing. The Artistic Director also oversees the Business Manager’s transactions.
In reading these descriptions, you can see that each role is detailed. If you attempt to manage all of these tasks independently, it is very likely that something will get “lost in the shuffle”. You should never let one area of your business suffer because it becomes “too much” work.
Running a dance studio is a very involved process, and you must guarantee that you have the help needed to make your business a true success. (Please note that help does not have to be employees. It can be an accountant, maintenance person, cleaning service, etc.)
Additionally, it is important to note that “too many hands in the pot” can be just as frustrating as not having enough hands. The executive roles and responsibilities are critical to the success of your business, and you should avoid carelessly distributing the roles to multiple staff that may not have accountability or investment in your brand. At the end of the day, studio owners cannot independently accomplish everything that is required of their business, so it is important to delegate tasks to people you trust.
STEP 2: Finding the Perfect Cast
When you are venturing into the hiring process, think of the procedure as casting a show. Each role needs just the right person. If you cast the tenth best person for a part, your ticket sales and show reviews will not soar. The same goes for your in-studio hiring considerations. If you miscast a role with the wrong instructor, it will lead to more headaches for you and your business.
Take the time to make the right choices, but do not be afraid to correct an incorrect choice. Everyone makes mistakes, and this is certainly a learning process.
How do you go about finding your instructors? Many studios rely on online postings, local college programs, or former students.
Whatever search techniques you utilize, it is imperative that your ad postings be reflective regarding the quality of instructor you are seeking for your business.
What character traits do you value? For The Dance Exec’s Studio, we reiterate that prospective employees must be motivated, enthusiastic, professional, punctual, and organized. We also value educational and instructional experience, especially with children.
In our posting, we ask that interested candidates provide a cover letter, resume, and headshot. This request alone will assist in weeding through candidates that are not detail oriented enough to be a part of our business.
In candidates’ responses to your posting, you should look for the following:
The prospective instructor should include a resume, headshot, and cover letter (per your request). If anything is missing from their response, you should immediately eliminate them from your search because it shows they cannot follow very basic instructions.
The resume should be properly formatted and condensed to one page. The experiences listed on each person’s resume should be checked for accuracy (internet searches greatly help with this process). If a person lies or exaggerates on their resume, you should eliminate them from your list of potential candidates.
In the cover letter and resume, check for use of proper grammar and formality as indicators of professionalism and attention to correctness. Since professionalism is a character trait valued at The Dance Exec, it is imperative in making it to the interview process. This also indicates levels of a candidate’s seriousness and shows a glimpse into their personality.
Use the candidate’s headshot to determine if the request was taken seriously. Is the photo a professional headshot, or is it a snapshot or something pulled from Facebook? If a candidate sends in a snapshot from Facebook of him/her partying, he/she is likely not a good candidate for your business.
Remember, whatever the prospective candidates have sent you, they are putting their best foot forward in their initial interaction.
If this does not appeal to what you want, then you should follow-up with a response that indicates that the candidate is not best suited for the position. If you find the applicant to be a decent but not great candidate, you can always state that your staff positions are currently filled. But, let them know that you will keep their resume on file for future openings.
If their resume is appealing to you, then you should promptly follow-up with an interview request. Offer a list of times that would work for you (obviously, offering a variety of times, if possible). If the candidate is interested, they will find time to meet with you. State in this email that if the interview goes well, the candidate may be asked to teach a demo class. Keep in mind that this is the candidate’s opportunity and attempt to put their best foot forward. Consider anything less than impressive as a red flag.
When the candidate attends their interview, there are several observations you should note:
How early does the interviewee arrive for the interview? Did he/she take the time to find your location in advance? If an interviewee arrives late, they should not be interviewed or considered for the position. This shows a less than exemplary work ethic and poor planning.
What is the interviewee wearing? Even though this is the dance industry, The Dance Exec’s Studio likes to see potential candidates taking the interview seriously. As such, expect candidates to dress in business casual attire.
How is the initial interaction with the candidate? Is the candidate gracious and mature? If the candidate’s behavior would not work in a corporate interview, then it should be noted as a “red flag”.
During the interview process, The Dance Exec’s Studio prefers to ask standardized interview questions. This allows all candidates an equal option to answer, but, often the questions will distinguish the higher qualified candidates from the mediocre or weaker candidates.
Some examples of questions include:
If you had a choice between seeking and avoiding challenges in the performance industry, where would you place yourself? Please give an example to support your choice.
This type of question asks the candidate to place him/herself on an industry-related spectrum while also showing levels of ambition and motivation. Ideally, the candidate will back-up their ranking with a legitimate example that supports his/her self-perception.
What is the name of one of your close friends? What did (your close friend) think you would grow up to be? Tell us what you may have done to make him/her feel this way.
This type of question allows the person to give a personal reference. The story he/she chooses will give you insight to his/her personality as well as a back story. If the candidate struggles to think of anyone, it could be indicative of a weaker candidate.
Please tell us about a time you dealt with a challenging child in the classroom environment. Justify your rationale for handling the situation in such a way.
This type of question allows insight into how the candidate would handle conflict. Through their answer, you will gain insight to their thought process, diplomacy, regard to instruction, etc. Based on their answer, you will know if their method of conflict management ties into your culture and brand.
Based on these questions and questions you create on your own, you should gain a lot of insight into the interviewee’s personality and thinking process. With open-ended questions, you are allowing the candidate the opportunity to tell stories and engage you via examples and observances throughout their life. Such questions can make some interviewees feel uncomfortable.
Use this exercise to observe a candidate’s communication skills, thinking strategies, and behavioral gestures. Through this process, you should be able to identify confident, well-spoken, thoughtful instructors that could be an asset to your business.
In your interview, avoid asking “yes” or “no” questions. Try to steer the candidate towards open-ended questions so that the candidate has time to provide more details. Questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” are often the easy way out and do not give you a complete representation of a candidate’s personality.
In your interviewing, make sure that you never ask questions concerning protected classes as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
If a candidate succeeds in the interview, invite him/her to teach a demo class with students. The Dance Exec’s Studio always pays teachers for instructing demo classes. The studio wants there to be an understanding from the beginning that this is a strictly professional work environment.
Ultimately, there is no greater way to judge a candidate’s qualifications than putting him/her directly in the classroom environment. During the demo class, make sure you observe the teacher’s preparedness, confidence, teaching style, charisma, and enthusiasm. After the class, ask for students’ opinions, and more importantly, value your instincts. After the demo, do not feel obligated to immediately let the instructor know your decision. Thank him/her for teaching the class and take the time to truly consider if this person is right for you and your business.
Whatever your decision, you must let the person know. A prompt response shows professionalism on your part, and people will have greater respect for you (even with a “no” answer) than they will if you neglect to respond. Through experience with dance studios, some owners do not place enough value on communication. With so many readily available communication devices (email, cell phones, etc.), there is no excuse for not responding to prospective candidates.
Paying staff is also a hot topic of discussion for dance studios. There are the questions of dance teacher salaries versus hourly rates, and how much for each?
At The Dance Exec’s Studio, there are two salaried employees (the Business Manager and the Artistic Director). The remainder of the staff are paid on an hourly basis.
Our hourly employee rate begins at the baseline of what is commonly paid within our region. To increase pay from the baseline, we consider the following factors:
Commitment to the art of dance and teaching dance
Loyalty/time with the studio
Yearly reviews are performed for staff members each season, and based on performance, staff members may be eligible for raises and/or bonuses.
Your studio should have a set pay schedule/calendar, and you should make sure checks are distributed in a timely, professional manner. If you are having employees submit time sheets, inform them of the expectations upfront and be prompt in delivering their paychecks.
Keeping Staff Engaged
Aside from regular pay, you must determine a way to keep your staff fresh, excited, and committed to your vision. To do this, we encourage employers to reward their staff members with things like:
Gifts of appreciation
Annual opportunities for pay increase (if deserved)
Recognition within the studio
Inclusion to studio events/conventions/trips
Based on your budget, you may do one, some, or all of these, or you may choose a more homemade approach. Regardless of your approach, taking the time to say “thank you” goes long way in keeping your staff aligned with the culture of your dance studio.
How do you maintain your accountability as a dance professional?
Here are some thoughts for maintaining your relevance and staying refreshed:
Research New Ideas
Network with Other Professionals
Continue Your Education
Reflect on Your Career Progress
Consider Progress & Evolution
Have A Responsibility to Share
The responsibility to share promotes the practical application of research, network, education, reflection, and progress & evolution.
Find Your Outlet
As an example, with The Dance Exec, I enjoy the process of finding new content and information about our industry. I enjoy thinking through my teaching and choreography style to see what and how I can improve and evolve as an instructor.
It expands my network and worldview, and in turn, it makes me approach all of my work with a unique perspective.
What is your outlet for professional accountability? What do you do to make yourself the best professional?
Connecting with students is imperative to the lasting success and legacy of your business. You have an opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life and inspire their appreciation for the performing arts. Being a dance teacher is a huge role, responsibility, and opportunity, and it should be taken seriously. The following tips will help you connect in meaningful ways that are fruitful for yourself and your students.
TIP 1: Be a Role Model
When you work with children on a regular basis, it is important you take your job seriously and that you strive to be the best role model possible. Students should never see personal vices (cursing, drinking, smoking), and you should always have the students’ best interest at heart with each and every interaction.
TIP 2: Be Realistic with Expectations
Some students may choose to pursue a professional career in dance, but, for many, the experience will be about building self-confidence, leadership, physical fitness, poise, discipline, time management, and an appreciation for the arts. Even the students that are not destined for professional careers are important, and you should treat them with an equal level of significance.
TIP 3: Be Knowledgeable
When students come to you inquiring about professional opportunities and avenues for personal growth, be prepared with an accurate and helpful response. Familiarize yourself with area dance programs, conventions, summer workshops, colleges, benefits of varying majors, conservatories, industrial work, theatrical work, theme park work, agencies, etc. You should know every avenue available to students; they are relying on you for that information.
TIP 4: Be the Teacher
When instructing students throughout their lives, it can be difficult to maintain professional boundaries; however, it is critical that those boundaries exist for the relationship to be effective in the child’s development. In order for the student to have respect for you as an instructor, there must clear boundaries in place. Communication should only be managed through professional outlets (i.e. the studio), and owners/instructors should avoid unprofessional relationships via social media outlets (remember, you are the adult, so the student is relying on you to utilize professional protocol).
TIP 5: Be Truthful
Always be open and honest with your students. Inform them when they are doing great and let them know when they can improve. If students respect your truthfulness, the relationship will flourish and grow.
TIP 6: Teach More than Steps
The dance world is full of history, knowledge, and culture. Make sure students know their terminology, origin of steps, and important figures and moments in dance history.
At the same time, instill lifelong values in your students; teach them to be strong, productive, good-willed citizens and leaders. You can do this through community service events, supporting their artistic and scholastic endeavors, and offering them multiple avenues to express themselves and acquire leadership roles (Work Study Programming, Junior Membership Organizations, etc.).
TIP 7: Resist Parent Influence
When working with children, parents’ behavior can easily influence the treatment of a child in the classroom setting. Try to rise above this desire and objectively view the situation from the child’s perspective. Your kindness and professionalism will go a long way in impacting the student, and it may even result in a change of heart from the parent.
TIP 8: Refrain from Judgment
Sometimes, students need to leave the studio to venture on another path in life (whether it be a relocation, studio change, activity change, etc.). If you approach these changes with support rather than resentment, the students/parents are only going to respect your business and brand.
When one door closes, another usually opens. Celebrate the opportunity and take solace in the fact that the change was likely for the benefit of all parties involved.
If clientele have a positive exit experience, they will share it with others and will recommend your studio. The Dance Exec’s Studio makes a point to let people know that “our door is always open.” And, countless times, we have had clients return.
In The Little Mermaid, Ursula tells Ariel “don’t underestimate the importance of body language.” The line is true in real life, and it’s important to pay attention to dance teacher body language in the classroom!
Think about how your body language motivates and encourages your students (or, if the body language is negative, how it might deter your students). Your posture, engagement, confidence, and connectivity influences your class as much as your verbal language.
Do you find yourself standing in open or closed positions?
Do you allow yourself to roam around the classroom, engaging with students, or do you find yourself in a more stationary position?
How do your students react when you move around them?
Do you ever catch yourself with tight shoulders?
Try and monitor your facial expressions during the next dance class. Are you smiling more often than not? Frowning? Do those frowns come at appropriate moments?
If you make even slight adjustments to your dance teacher body language, you will be surprised at the difference it can make in the energy of your classroom!