How hard is it to just stop talking and listen?
When you let go of your opinion of yourself, it is easier to learn new things. You may be the master instructor hired for an event or a new director hoping to make dance happen in your area. Doesn’t matter which one you are, your greatest tool is not in what you will ultimately say, but rather in what you are willing to listen to, and learn from. Your opinion of yourself isn’t important in this setting – you’re just the organizer.
No one really wants to listen to someone brag about their awards, their studio; their this- their that. Boring.. It is much nicer to listen to someone who has a story to tell that benefits everyone; or new dance steps to teach. You need to always be learning from your students. Listen and watch. If your students are too worried about social staging, something is happening that you need to take action on.
SOCIAL STAGING “Only there to be seen. To be in the communities eye. To be perceived as important. Popularity contest”.
I’m like everyone else, I enjoy working with well rounded dancers. Dancers who have other outlets that keep them whole, be that swimming, baseball, gymnastics, internet shopping . I do understand that young minds need to be learning – but too much of one thing can have a reverse reaction – and present you with a non-learning environment. Things can become so mundane and repetitive, that students don’t really want to learn.
Students need outlets that allow them to explore growing up naturally. They need those breaks from dance and especially the high pace (or stress) of competitive events. Too many events crammed together are like eating too many cookies from the cookie jar. You have to stop putting the kids on over load.
Families matter in the dance world. It’s important that families be allowed to back away from situations that occur at competitions, events, and at their home studio, that really don’t involve them. Less people involved the better. Knowing what occurrences are part of someone’s social staging, and which occurrences are actually problematic – takes skill, time and patience. Hot headed directors are problematic. Some thrive on gossip and social staging. Those type frighten me, and I’m an adult. Just think how the kids feel.
How do parents know? How do they learn?
You don’t come with all the knowledge of how to differentiate between problematic occurrences just because you open a business and/or were contracted to host an event. No one expects you to have all the answers. You shouldn’t act like a busy know-it-all. Same is true with the consumer who is looking at your business. Learning is a process, for both those running the events, and those putting their money on your stated experience. You are going to make some mistakes. The first mistake is to “not listen to sound reason”.
“If a person has ran their business into the ground, I don’t know that they would be the best source for advice on how to be successful. They might teach you what not to do, but I wouldn’t let them handle my books”.
In dealing with the many facets of dance education and competitive endeavourers, emotions do tend to play a part in both arenas. It’s how you react to them that makes the difference. We are living creatures, each with our different ideologies and philosophies about life. Just because you put your name on the side of a building and call it open for business doesn’t mean it will be a success. You might feel successful for a while, because your new brand had a modest rise in the market; but is your business a fad or a trend?
If you are social staging and neglect to build a solid plan for your business, you are In for a shock. If you are not capable of continuing the same level of growth and meeting all quota’s – it could become a monetary sticker shock. Some businesses decide to stay small because of these factors. They know they will still be there when the new wears off “you”. Believe me, the new will wear off. But, if you think you have it – go for it. But, If you are already in a flooded dance market, you might want to think twice. How solid are you? Partnership got your tongue?
Strictly business “You open a business to make money”. Once you hang that sign, you own it! That includes the over head.
The art world has a lot of creative people in it. Some are the real artists, some are the students, who want to be artists. Many times you will see the students attempt the business route. That is okay- but not always successful, maybe because they lack the financial and dance education necessary to be successful. On the other hand, being creative might mean you can teach and have strong dance education skills, but can you handle the books; the monetary side of the business?
When you really get ingenious, and you explore the education and financial aspects of owning a business, and are willing to listen, learn, and not repeat the mistakes of others – you might have a chance of success. Take the word “dance” out of your thinking and concentrate on what it really takes to make a “business” successful.
Strictly business. You need to have some form of training to understand what defines a dance niche. It helps if you have had some form of formal dance education. I say this because “education” is different than just teaching someone a dance. Education deals with the raw fundamentals of techniques, control, discipline, and structure.
Finding that dance niche in a flooded market is hard. That flooded market could spill over onto your sandy shores and wash you away. One studio may offer competitive drill style, or contemporary lyrical. Another may offer local recreational dance, and still another belly dance and specialty events for newbie’s. The niche is knowing that you have to be good at what you do in “business”. Build your business away from the sandy shores of others. Establish it on a solid rock foundation, high up on the hill.
Hiring and keeping good quality teachers is another area of concerns for business owners. Partnerships often struggle with this area. Who really controls what? Who is really responsible in the end? My money – your money, who’s is it? Are you hiring kids? Family getting in the way? Partners won’t work or pay bills? Partners in the classroom who really can’t teach? That leads me to a new topic: branding your product – your business.
Brand: a name and/or trade mark intended to identify and differentiate the product of one seller or group of sellers. Brand mark: the part of a brand that appears in the form of a symbol, design, or distinctive color or lettering.
Studios rise and fall because they pump up the parents into believing their child will succeed just because they are on their team and wear their brand. Throw a jacket at them! Brand Mark! Unfortunately, sloppy and/or manipulative business managers use this social staging (branding) as a means to manipulate the market, and thus all they end up doing is creating a “non-creative or watered down dance environment”. The confusion they create for the consumer is hard to weed through, and amounts to nothing more than just flat out deception. It’s like going down the cereal isle in the super market. It’s NEW! It’s packed with sugar! Until the next guy comes along, hopefully selling a more wholesome product, with a better brand name.
Green beans or spinach? Humm…..
Families are left scratching their head and wondering “do any of these people get along with each other”? “Is this really how dance is”? No, that is not how dance education should be. With an emphasize on “education” . You go to class to learn. You are equals with others in your class. What a concept. In the real world, out side of a dysfunctional setting, studios do get along, and work together. Dancers work together and train each other. You have to respect all levels. You have to let go of that self-importance. Listen and learn from others.
Dance education is what it is. It’s education, not competition. There is a difference.
We have recently been asked to refer a dancer to a studio locally. I will be honest at first I didn’t feel comfortable in doing that. I’ll tell you why. With well over 20 years in and around the dance world, we’ve learned a lot at Crickets Dance. You learn “people”. We have learned that no matter how much you tell someone – they only hear what they want to hear.
Frankly, we do have to refer ourselves “Crickets Dance” before anyone else. That only would make sense.
You as a parent and your child will have to first visit the studios in your area, and evaluate what you see. Many times parents want their children to be with friends from school. Sometimes they don’t. There are so many factors to why you might select a studio that have nothing to do with dance instruction. Social Interaction is big with younger moms that haven’t yet had to deal with the issues of a bad technical score sheet.
If you are dreaming of your child becoming a rock star competitor, you will have to hire instructors who know more than just recreational instruction. You have choices to make. Sometimes word of mouth is good, but until you visit, observe, and meet with the instructors – word of mouth is just that. I’ll be honest in saying, there are locations I wouldn’t send anyones child. Places where the level of instruction is so poor, it is hard to call it dance. It just isn’t.
I don’t want to add to your confusion. but, I have to say this:
If you have the opportunity to send your child to camps out of town “do it”. What your students come back with, will change the way they perceive dance forever. They will be able to pick their own studio. They will be able to pick out the fake instruction from the real, right away.
I will make this one referral. Kids Plex in Grand Junction Co. I went there to study with the American gymnastics team one summer. The programs in both ballet and gymnastics are wonderful experiences. I highly recommend them. It can be costly to travel, but it is worth the drive in the end.
Generally, the types of referrals I make have to do with the level that parents want their children to learn and compete at. Money is another factor for some in making a decision to become a competitive dancer. However, now days I have had to look at the level of instruction that a studio is capable of, and kind of scratch my head at some. There are locations that are so weak in technical expertise, it’s hard to call it dance. It’s recreational performance.
I do believe that dancers should have some experience with competition at the soloist level. Soloists tend to gain the upper hand very early on in their dance education. Not all – but most. But your job is to locate that studio or individual instructors that can actually teach technique, and motitate your dancer to excel.
One-on-one instruction, who wouldn’t want their dancer to have it? Hello!
Plan on visiting the studios in your area. Talk with former dancers who have won titles in the bigger arena’s, like multi-state national and overalls. Attend recitals, watch the parades. Get feedback from your dancers. Then make your choices.
Remember, not all dance is created equal. Ballroom and Salsa have their forum, just as Modern, Lyrical and Contemporary do. Ballet and hip-hop are also different. If you hire outside of your dancers genre you get what you pay for. You as a parent, or dancer, have to do a bit of homework to make sure you are matching the skills and the technical levels together properly.
Most good instructors will know a host of different dance styles. For example, a jazz dancer may also be proficient in lyrical, ballet, contemporary, and hip-hop. For those that don’t know, lyrical, ballet, contemporary, and hip-hop make up the standard mix for competitive jazz dancers.
Sure you have instructors who specialize in just one genre of dance, but if you are into competitive dance, you have to have a mix of instruction. One part of their mix will probably be within the instructors own specialty, and in the others parts your instructor will have a level of proficiency(1 to 10). You want to look at a level 5 or better in the secondary proficiencies.
For rural areas there is not a lot of opportunities for dancers (solo and teams) to compete in dance styles like ballroom, bellydance, and salsa. Some rural areas may have these type of classes for older adults (40, 50 and above) to help keep them active. But the reality is that most rural dancers in the K-12/teens/20’s age groups are competing dancers who are trained in jazz, lyrical, hip hop, etc.
It is nice to learn other styles of dance, and we encourage it, but it shouldn’t take away the focus of what you are really good at. Learn all you can, but be careful that you don’t over extend yourself and lose out on valuable training within your own dance genre. I’ve seen this happen, dancers who over extend and don’t focus in on their own technique in the area they are good at.
Sometimes more is less, and less is more.
Be careful with your guidance of students. They need to be taught proper technique in the genre’s that will help them grow. Again, don’t over extend the learning curve. Yes, explore new genre’s of dance, maybe create your next production number around it (Bollywood or musical theater are both good examples). Add to your students repertoire, but don’t let it become a distraction.
Good luck. We wish you success in your competitive endeavorers.
Competition dancers aren’t your mom and pop recital dancers. It’s a life style for them. The average competitor spends a moderate $5000 a year for 13 years, for a total cost of around $65,000 dollars. Now understand I said moderate, so this is probably a low end figure. I personally know it is.
Those costs includes car travel, motel fees, costumes, competition fees, dance studio instruction, solo coaches, gymnastic classes, and a host of other elements. These types of dancers are spending money to go to good competitions where the level of dancing is worth the trip. These aren’t watered down competitions.
Here is a break down of costs to consider when contemplating entering the competition scene. The life style of a competition dancer can be a costly one.
If you consider these cost compared to say a Bachelors degree in any field – you have pretty much paid for that degree. Competition dancers start very young training others to compete as well. They enjoy it! They are encouraged to train others. These are the people who will and SHOULD be training the next set of champions. It’s passed down from one dancer to the other. Like I said before – it’s a life style. Not everyone fits in this tight clic`.
Mom and pop studios who enter the competition scene would do well to pick competitions that are ranked lower at state and national levels. The directors should attend larger ranked competitions however, and learn from them. They really need to have something in their background that speaks to the concerns of the parents and dancers at their studios.
Competition isn’t for everyone. Some studios are just fine at the mom and pop level. They offer a service that non-competitive families want. Once you leave that realm of mom and pop – your life changes. If you don’t change with it – you won’t make it. There is the risk factor. You can choose to ignore the risks – or not.
Dance changes so rapidly, that attempting to stay on top of the latest moves and choreography pieces can be difficult. I don’t envy any mom and pop director their position at all. Rather I have to think that it is unfair to your students to have them waste their money because you didn’t scope out the competition. That’s the bottom line.
If you want to keep your students and your parents happy, you need to really research where you are willing to move your level of instruction into.
Do those at your studio really want to move that way?
Do you really have the level of expertise to train your dancers for hard core competition?
Do you have what it takes to stay on your toes and teach dancers to win?
Is being a mom and pop a better choice for you? Maybe the move is too risky?
These are questions you have to ask yourself. Not everyone has a knack for competition. Some just can’t deal with the level of stress and social interaction that is necessary to be a competition director.
Some times you have to be a bull dog and get into peoples faces who are off base. Back down those bullies! They won’t like you because of it. But, if you don’t, they will continue to beat down the entire moral and spirit of an entire studio and/or dance community. Think about it.
Competition can bring out the worst in people. It can also be good. But until you have experience in the many different aspects, you won’t be able to judge what will happen next. You will just be rumbling around trying to figure things out.
Research first, and then hire people who know competition. Be fair to your studio, your bottom line, your dancers, and their families.
I understand the emotions that go through your mind when a studio closes and when one opens. I like the article written by James Robey from James Robey Dance. The article is entitled Business Ethics for the Mindful Dance Professional. If you are thinking about opening a studio, read this article, and know and understand the code of ethics that he addresses. Comment yourself to the level of integrity that he puts forward. Exhibit best practices in all your business dealings and you will be respected in the community.