The unfortunate but honest truth is that girls make up the majority of students at dance studios across the country. Dance is too often viewed as a feminine pastime, and as a result, boys who may be interested in taking classes are sometimes hesitant to ask. So what should you do if you want to bring boys into the studio? Here are a few steps you can take to encourage dance for boys and make your school a welcoming place for males and females alike.
1. Consider Your Facilities
The first thing you should do if you’re trying to attract more boys to your studio is take a good look around the premises. Are the walls pink? Is the waiting room decorated with pictures of female ballerinas? Are your changing rooms for girls only? These design choices may be in line with your current clientele, but they will likely work against you when it comes to selling dance for boys in your studio. Dance Advantage explained that simple, vibrant decor in neutral colors is often a good choice when catering to both genders. You should also be sure to feature a variety of dancers and genres in your artwork.
2. Rethink Marketing Efforts
In the same way that your studio might be female-centric, your marketing efforts might give off feminine vibes as well. Revisit your website and consider whether it’s clear that you welcome and host dance for boys. You may want to consider adding a note that you offer classes for males on your advertisements and promotions as well. Don’t just assume that boys know they’re welcome – make it crystal clear in your marketing efforts. It may also help to rethink where you’re advertising. Consider putting up fliers in community centers that boys frequent or reaching out to male youth groups in your town.
3. Find a Male Representative
A strong male role model can go a long way toward increasing your male enrollment numbers. Dance Teacher magazine explained that a talented and dedicated instructor is often the reason that studios become a mecca for male dancers.
“You need to find someone who is committed, community-centered and not self-centered,” Erik Saradpon, director of hip-hop at Temecula Dance Company in California, told Dance Teacher magazine. “You want someone reliable and dependable who can see the program in terms of years and isn’t impatient.”
If you have a few male students already, it might be worthwhile to have them speak to potential students about their experiences at your studio. Boys likely want to know that they’re joining a facility that focuses on athleticism, and they may be more convinced if they hear about classes from a peer.
4. Be Prepared for Their Needs
When you finally get a few males to come in for a class, be sure your instructors are prepared to meet their needs. Boys may respond better to different teaching methods than their female counterparts, so it’s best to delegate the task to a teacher who’s worked with males before. Dance Magazine explained that guys often get bored during the same classes that females thrive in, so teachers should try to mix up activities to really engage the students.
“One time we brought a mini trampoline into the studio to work on entrechats,” Peter Boal, director of Pacific Northwest Ballet and the PNB School, explained to Dance Magazine. “The boys were so excited, it was as if had we had turned on the TV.”
For your first few male classes, be sure to have an arsenal of activities ready so you can find what resonates with the students. If you wow them during the first few sessions, you’ll likely retain more male students and be able to grow your enrollment.
Social media sites – especially Facebook – are useful tools for dance studios, as they can aid in marketing and communication with students. However, there have also been many instances where teenagers and sometimes parents abuse the sites, using them to hurt other people or businesses. Because of the potential harm that can be done on Facebook and other social platforms, many studio owners choose to create social media policies for their businesses. These guidelines can be beneficial, but there are a few considerations to take into account when creating dance studio policies that regulate social media use.
Focus Social Efforts Through a Main Page
The first factor that you’ll want to take into account is who will be authorized to post news and announcements on behalf of the studio. Sometimes businesses can get into sticky situations when instructors post unauthorized information on their personal pages regarding the studio. Dance Teacher magazine recommended that you establish expectations that all student and parent communications occur through the main studio page. If teachers have something they want to share, have them forward you the information before posting it live. This way you’ll be able to monitor and approve all posts.
Establish Criteria for Acceptable Posts
One of the benefits of social media is that your followers can chime into conversations with their own thoughts and ideas. This is a great way to get students and their parents engaged with the studio, but sometimes people will post mean or derogatory comments on a public page. To address this issue, you’ll want to explain to students your expectations for posts on the studio main page. Any remarks, photos or videos should be appropriate and reflect well on the studio. Be sure to explain that you reserve the right to delete any harmful or unnecessary comments.
Be Careful Regulating Personal Posts
While you can control what third-parties are posting on your studio’s social media pages, it’s important to realize that what gets said on private accounts is a different matter altogether. Some studios include stipulations in their dance studio policies that bar students from defaming the school on their personal social media accounts. However, Dance Studio Life explained that there have been lawsuits filed to keep businesses from enforcing these types of regulations, as they are often construed as limiting freedom of speech. Be careful how you word expectations about posts on personal accounts. It’s generally best to phrase these rules as suggestions instead of hard policies.
At the studio, the dance experience can be enriched when parents bring the experience full circle with a post-class conversation. The conversation can be based around one or multiple questions listed below. Asking dance questions will enhance the familial experience, and dancers will undoubtedly appreciate their parents’ interest and involvement in their activity and extracurricular.
Tell me about a move you learned today.
Do you think you could teach it to me?
Did you learn a new vocabulary word in class today?
Did you make a new friend in class today?
Were you kind to someone at dance today?
Do you think we could stretch together tonight?
What is some of your favorite music you hear in dance class?
Did you do something particularly well today?
Did you struggle with a skill today?
Did you have fun?
Of course, children also love invitations to show their moves, create choreography, and produce mini shows.
Encourage these opportunities, and involve yourself with your dancers’ love for their art!
There will be times in your career when parents don’t always agree with your choices or teaching methods. Even as an adult, it’s hard to deal with criticism from other people, especially when it’s said behind your back. If parents are unhappy during or after dance competitions, chances are that they will talk about it in the studio waiting room or even on social media. These instances can be hard to handle, so use these tips for dance competitions to make the most of an uncomfortable situation.
Set Expectations Beforehand
The first step toward dispelling negativity during or after competitions is to set up clear expectations for students, parents and teachers. DanceStudioOwner.com recommended that you explain to everyone that it’s necessary to stay professional and keep a positive attitude in person and on social media. No matter how well students perform, the experience shouldn’t be all about winning, but rather learning and having fun.
It may also be helpful to explain to parents that their words and behavior have a significant impact on dancers. Many young athletes, dancers included, will eventually give up competitive sports because they feel as though they’re under a lot of pressure to perform and the game is no longer fun. Encourage parents to do everything they can to make competitions fun for their children and alleviate the pressure to win.
One of the best things you can do to flesh out any discontent or complaints about competitions is to promote dialogue between parents and staff. If you notice that parents are only expressing their concerns to each other, it might be a good idea to host a town-hall style meeting or one-on-one conferences to get these thoughts out in the open. However, keep in mind that if you want parents to feel comfortable voicing their concerns and complaints to you, it’s essential to remain empathetic, understanding and professional. Chances are that parent grievances are not an attack on you as a business owner, even though they may initially come off that way.
Establish a Social Media Policy
While you can’t control what parents and students post on their own social media accounts, you can ask them to remain respectful and positive while posting on or about your studio’s page. Many studios choose to create a social media policy that outlines what content they encourage and what type of comments will be removed. For example, the New Zealand School of Dance states in its policy that they “welcome feedback, comments, reviews and ideas from all followers” but request that these contributions are respectful and appropriate for all viewers.
There’s a good chance that the parents of your dancers will want to see the class perform more than once per season. In fact, Dance Informa magazine explained that many parents actually take this factor into consideration when choosing a dance studio. For this reason, many schools hold parent observation classes once or twice each month. This gives your students a chance to show off and parents a peek into the action without anyone peering around corners. If you’re thinking about implementing a regular observation period, use these tips for dance teachers to establish best practices that will make the experience positive for all parties involved.
The first step toward having a successful parent observation class is to discuss the expectations of everyone involved. This means taking a few moments to talk with your teachers, students and, of course, the parents. The Dance Exec explained that you’ll want to discuss timing, introductions and demonstrations with your teachers well in advance so they have time to prepare. Talk to your dancers about what they can expect while their parents are in the room and the opportunities they’ll have to demonstrate their new skills. With parents, you’ll want to emphasize the importance of being on time and remaining respectful in the classroom.
Have a Game Plan
Some teachers might just want to wing it when it comes time for parent observations, but you’ll feel better going into these sessions if you have a plan. Figure out how long instructors should spend running drills, letting kids perform and answering parent questions. It’s often a good idea to run through pieces that dancers are comfortable and confident with, otherwise they may be nervous about forgetting the steps or missing their tricks. Whatever game plan you come up with, be sure it highlights the best that your dancers and teachers have to offer.
Don’t Rule Out Participation
If you really want to give parents an idea of what their kids are learning, consider taking observation opportunities to the next level. Dance Studio Life explained that a participation class can cultivate a sense of respect and closeness between students and their parents. It’s a great way to show adults just how hard their budding dancers work each class. Plus, it’s often a fun activity to break the ice with parents and get them comfortable with teachers and the studio in general.
If your studio offers mostly low-key recreational classes, chances are that you don’t really need to dole out a regular dance school progress report. However, as you start to offer more pre-professional services and competitive classes, it’s in your best interests to give dancers consistent and thorough feedback on their performance. Many dance studios choose to give students progress reports, but there are certain factors you should keep in mind when setting up an evaluation system.
Since our last post, TutuTix has created a sample dance progress report template that you can download and customize for your studio’s needs. Check out the template by following our link below:
Wanting to keep working on your own progress report? Check out the tips below:
Do: Use a Specific Form
Before you go ahead and hand out midseason evaluations, it’s essential that you create a standardized form to complete for each and every dancer. DanceStudioOwner.com recommended that you use a rubric with sections for social, personal, technical, cognitive, spatial, musical and performance skills. Figure out how you want to rate each, whether it’s on a scale of one to five or with letter grades. You should also leave ample space for comments, as there will often be times your recommendations won’t fit precisely into one evaluation category.
Don’t: Go Overboard on Criticism
Sometimes you may find that instructors focus too heavily on negatives when completing progress reports, and that’s not good for dancers’ morale. Be sure to include a positive comment for each criticism that you provide, and keep your feedback constructive. It’s easy to get carried away providing commentary that you think will help the dancer grow, but you’ll want to point out what students are doing right as well as what they’re doing wrong.
Do: Make Them a Tool
A dance school progress report shouldn’t just be a sheet to tell parents how their child is performing in class. They should be a tool that dancers can use to improve their skills and become stronger performers. Work with your teachers to make progress reports educational and useful. It’s also important to discuss the feedback with your dancers and let them know you’re willing to go over the report one-on-one if they’d like. Keep your door open to both students and parents, and allow them to come to you for clarification or with questions. This can go a long way to keeping your clients happy and furthering the education of your dancers.
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.
When you decided to open a dance studio, your goal was probably to teach young children an appreciation for the beautiful art form. Most studio owners offer classes predominantly for children and teens, but there’s a growing market looking for a dance class for adults. There are a number of benefits that adults can experience from structured dancing, as it’s a low-impact activity. AARP explained that dancing can help strengthen bones and muscles, improve posture and help to ward off illnesses associated with a sedentary lifestyle. There are definitely benefits to offering adult dance classes, but you might not be certain if it’s right for your studio. Consider the following questions if you’re thinking about expanding your class offerings to accommodate an older crowd.
Do you have the right market?
Just as you (hopefully) evaluated your neighborhood for potential young students, you’ll need to consider whether or not your studio is in a good area to cater to adults. Think about if there are any businesses in the vicinity that would compete with your dance class for adults. This doesn’t necessarily have to be another studio – gyms and community centers often offer dance exercise classes for adults and could take away from your pool of potential students.
If you think that you’re in a good location to attract older students, you’ll also want to consider exactly who those dancers would be. Dance Studio Life explained that you may want to offer different classes for young professionals, middle-aged mothers or senior adults. If you can narrow down your potential student base to a specific demographic group, you’ll be in a good place to target them with marketing and able to design classes suited to their needs.
Do you have the right instructor?
The next important consideration is whether you have the staffing to provide high-quality classes for older adults. When teachers are working with younger children, most will be at the same skill level and progress at roughly the same pace. If there are students who excel, they can always hop up to a more advanced class that fits their needs. However, when you’re working with adults, the teacher must be able to cater to a variety of different skill levels, abilities and potentially ages. Chances are that you’ll start off with just one or two classes, and you might get a mixed variety of students. You’ll need an experienced and dedicated instructor who is able to comfortably lead a dance class for adults.
How can you get people in the door?
Once the logistics have been straightened out, you’ll need to consider the best way to promote these new offerings to your target market. It’s important to realize that while many young dancers are ready and eager to try something new, it might take a little convincing to get adults to step outside their comfort zone. Be sure to note the benefits of dance in your advertisements and promotions, and reassure interested individuals that the class caters to beginners.
If you’re targeting mothers for a daytime class, DanceStudioOwner.com recommended offering a discount for parents whose children already patronize your studio. Once you get a few customers in the door, word of mouth will help you with your marketing. When targeting seniors, you should consider visiting local retirement communities to talk about your classes. You can even offer a trial class at the facility to get residents interested. If you’re hoping to cater to young professionals, consider placing fliers at popular restaurants and coffee shops or offering class coupons on social media or Groupon.
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.
If your studio offers a variety of classes for dancers with different skill levels, you’ll often be faced with challenges on when it’s time to consider advancing dance students to the next level. One of the most notable decisions is advancing ballerinas to pointe, but moving students to a more advanced class in any genre can be tricky. After owning your studio for a few years, you’ll find a method that works best for you, but here are some general tips on advancing dance students.
Do: Set Specific Criteria
Creating a set criteria for student advancement will make your life and the lives of your instructors a whole lot easier. Write up evaluation sheets that outline the skills and techniques needed for each class level. You can even use point systems to evaluate whether a dancer is ready to move up. In addition to technical aspects, you should also consider evaluating the dancer’s attitude, practice schedule and response to instruction, as these all play a crucial role in more advanced classes. Having a structured criteria will make the process fair and logical, and it’ll be a lot easier to explain to dancers and their parents what needs to be done in order to advance.
Don’t: Make Advancement a ‘Right’
There are bound to be dancers who feel that because they’ve completed so many seasons at a lower level, they’re entitled to advancement. This shouldn’t be the case. Advancing dance students who aren’t ready can be dangerous for the student and frustrating for the rest of the class. The dancers who are ready for the challenge will often be held back as unprepared students struggle. Dance Advantage explained that a student becomes a better dancer through dedication and practice, not by completing a certain number of classes. Advanced classes, including pointe, should be reserved for students who take the craft seriously and are 100 percent ready for the challenge, both mentally and physically.
Do: Take Time to Explain Your Decisions
When you make tough decisions to hold students back, realize how hard it will be on the dancer. The best thing you can do in this situation is sit down and have a conversation about how you came to the decision. Be prepared for tears and bargaining, but stay firm with your choice. Dance World Takeover explained that the best dancers will take criticism and use it to their advantage. Give your students as much advice as possible and be clear about exactly what it will take to get to the next level. After such talks, it will become clear which students are serious about pursuing their dreams and unafraid of hard work.
Don’t: Advance Students to Be With Friends
One of the most common complaints you’ll hear is that a student is being left behind while his or her friends advance. When this happens, you’ll want to acknowledge how the dancer is feeling – disappointed, let down and maybe a little embarrassed. However, explain that it wouldn’t be safe or fair to advance students so they could remain with friends. Make it clear to your dancers that it’s possible to catch up with peers if they put in the time to practice and stay focused during class. You can use this opportunity to light little fires under your students and help them to reach their full potential. Chances are that once they start class next season, they’ll quickly make new friends and focus on their love of dance.
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.
Whether your students are toddlers or pre-teens, you’re sure to have a few conflicts during the year. Dancers who are upset or angry can interrupt the flow and atmosphere of class, so developing strong conflict-management skills is a crucial part of being a studio owner. Implement the following policies in your studio to improve conflict resolution for students and get everyone back to doing what they love.
Teach children to discuss conflict
Make it a studio policy that students talk to each other about problems. Responsive Classroom explained that student-to-student conflict resolution will help children learn how to deal with disagreements in a positive manner and prevent conflict in the future. These skills are extremely valuable, especially for young dancers, and they’ll carry the lesson with them throughout life.
To resolve a conflict, bring the two or three parties into your office for a low-key conversation. Before anyone talks, have the students take a few deep breaths and do a few of their favorite stretches. This will help everyone cool down and prepare them to talk calmly. Let each student say what is bothering him or her, and make sure the other students listen without interrupting (gee, does this sound a lot like parental conflict management or what?). Then work together to brainstorm a solution to the conflict and discuss how the issue can be avoided in the future.
Have a whole-class exercise
If you find that student conflicts are a common occurrence, it might be time to plan a lesson for the whole class. You may think to yourself, “Do I really need to be lecturing kids about problem solving? I’m supposed to be teaching them to dance.” However, if you have professional dance experience, you know that squabbles between dancers persist throughout all skill levels and can cause big problems. If your dancers are serious about pursuing their dreams, interpersonal skills will be imperative to their success.
Discovery Education recommended that you discuss different kinds of hurtful behavior with your class and then work together to develop coping strategies. Set aside 15 or 20 minutes of class time to run this activity. Have your students share a time when their feelings were hurt, either in the studio or in school. If they’re not comfortable sharing out loud, have them write on index cards. Then, work as a class to develop methods for dealing with name-calling, gossip, exclusion and any other problems that come up. You can display these coping strategies on a poster in your studio or have students sign a contract saying they’ll stick to the policies.
Instructors can often get stuck using the same phrases while teaching dance. Saying things like, “that was great” or “don’t slouch” can quickly become a habit and lose meaning to students. It’s a tricky task to figure out what language students respond to, especially when you have a number of different classes.
However, if you can learn to communicate efficiently with your dance students, you’ll grow into a much better teacher and your pupils will leave with the knowledge and skills they desire.
Use Action Language
Dance Teacher Magazine explained that the more descriptive you can be with your instructions, the better students will understand. Phrases like “jump higher” are vague and hard to measure. When teaching dance in class, use a descriptive action to explain what you’re looking for. A good alternative might be, “Imagine you let a balloon float up to the ceiling, then try to jump up to grab the string.”
When students have an action with a goal attached, it will be easier to complete the action. It will also make an impression on your dancers so you won’t have to remind them as often. Similarly, use specific imagery when you’re giving praise. Don’t just tell students their run through was great, but explain exactly what about it was successful.
By being consistent with how you ask dancers to do a certain movement, you can clean up sloppiness and make dancers appear more fluid, controlled, and deliberate.
Try to banish the words “don’t” and “stop” from your teaching vocabulary. Instructions that focus on negatives won’t be as well received as those that focus on positives. Four Dancers suggested that students will respond better to a correction if it’s prefaced with praise.
So instead of saying, “Don’t scrunch your shoulders,” approach the topic from a different angle. Commend the student on keeping their arms flowing while they dance, and suggest they try extending that motion up through their shoulders.
Describing to students what you want is a more productive way to teach than telling students what you don’t want.
Adjust as You Go
Finally, give yourself permission to experiment and try new things. Each class you teach will have a different dynamic, and there won’t be a one-size-fits-all communication style. Just like your students are new to your class, you are new to these students!
Allow yourself a little time to figure out how to best communicate with them – you don’t have to get it right from day one.
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.