Q: How long do you allow debt to accumulate with a student? What’s your policy for dealing with that and getting parents to pay up?
A: Students with outstanding choreography, costume and competition fees or overdue tuition is a tough problem. Our policy is to charge a 10 percent fee on all accounts past-due over 30 days; if the account has not been cleared up within 60 days, the child may be removed from class. However, enforcing that policy has proved challenging.
Because we never want to see our students suffer, we as studio owners tend to make exceptions and do what we can to help families out. But this can send a conflicting message to parents who are chronically late with payments, avoid coming into the studio and don’t return calls. I’ve had parents who wait until the choreography has been completed and the costumes have been ordered to start falling behind in their payments, often accumulating thousands of dollars in debt to the studio. I have sent letters and e-mails, made phone calls and even had meetings with them to try to get them to make payments. It’s hard because I don’t want to hurt my dancers’ feelings by removing them from routines—which, in turn, would hurt the other dancers as well.
But the bottom line is that I cannot afford to carry these debts. On the advice of an attorney, our studio has begun requiring parents with end-of-year outstanding balances to sign a promissory note with a schedule of payments over three months if they want their children to participate in our recital and Nationals trip. The promissory note is necessary in case I need to take the case to small claims court. Most parents, when confronted with this option, choose to pay the remaining balance in cash, eliminating the need for the promissory note.
I love my students and hate to see finances cause tension or be the reason that they cannot continue to dance. But it is important that I maintain good business practices.
Joanne Chapman is the owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Brampton, Ontario.
Welcome to the new dance-teacher.com. Now you can enjoy all the news and inspiration you've come to expect from Dance Teacher magazine in a captivating daily format—from your desktop, your phone and your tablet. Personal perspectives, exclusive photos, how-to technique videos, lesson plans and much more.
Dance-teacher.com is where the best in our field share their passion for dance education. Get the latest teaching advice, recommended methods and tools, career options and business solutions. For teachers and studio owners alike, whether your setting is a private studio, conservatory, the convention floor, college dance or the k-12 classroom. This is your community.
Dig in, we hope you like it! Produced by Dance Teacher magazine. Powered by RebelMouse.
You can take the dancer out of Balanchine, but you can't take the Balanchine out of the dancer—or at least, that's Darla Hoover's experience. As artistic director of Ballet Academy East's pre-professional division, following an 11-year career with New York City Ballet, she readily recognizes that aspects of her class—the speed, clarity, musicality and energy—are inarguably Balanchinian. But she was surprised to find she also takes after the late, great choreographer when it comes to classroom demeanor: "Just like Mr. Balanchine would say, I'll tell my students, 'Great! That was so much better.' They'll think, 'Oh, thank goodness,'" she says. "And then I'll turn around and say, 'More. Do it bigger.' That was always him—it was never enough." That constant quest for perfection will be on display this month, when the BAE students perform Balanchine's Donizetti Variations, a cheery but technically challenging 26-minute ballet, in their spring recital, May 19–21 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College in NYC.
Should your music go out or skip—and it will, every director attests—make sure you have backups ready, whether digital or on a separate device. Always give your dancers the chance at a do-over, too, says Carole Royal. "We'll either replay the music right then—have them leave the stage and come on and do it again from the beginning—or we'll wait two numbers while we get it set up and then have them come back and do it again," she says.
Tony Waag knows from experience that your audience will be relieved by a fresh start. While on tour singing with a big band for a Hoagy Carmichael music show, Waag started singing and realized that his mic wasn't on. "I raised my hands and got the whole orchestra to stop playing. I said, 'We're going to try this again,'" he says. "It was such a relief—people get really uncomfortable if you pretend that nothing is going on."
Carole Royal, owner, Royal Dance Works, Phoenix, Arizona
Tony Waag, American Tap Dance Foundation, New York, New York
This Sunday, master ballet teacher Finis Jhung turns 80. After a career as a soloist for both San Francisco Ballet and the Joffrey and a principal for Harkness Ballet, Jhung carved out a unique place for himself as a ballet teacher in New York City. He's coached the boys of Billy Elliot: The Musical, developed a popular video and DVD how-to series and STILL teaches seven classes a week at the Ailey Extension. He's graced the pages of this magazine to offer his time-honored wisdom again and again, and he's currently working on a memoir. (We can't wait to read it.) Happy birthday, Finis!
Since 1989, tap dancers have been celebrating National Tap Dance Day (NTDD) on and around May 25, the birthday of tap dance legend Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. This year, prime events are happening in Philadelphia, New York and Chicago.