Ask the Experts: Siblings with Different Focuses

Q: Two sisters take class at my studio. One is heavily involved in competition and totally dedicated to the studio. Her younger sister takes recreational classes twice a week and seems on the verge of switching studios to take class with her best friend. How can I keep both girls at my studio?

A: Keeping both siblings dancing when one is more serious than the other can be very challenging, since the two sisters have different focuses. One thing I suggest is to make the younger sister feel special. Make a point of saying hi to her and asking how her classes are going when you see her at the studio. Also be sure to talk to her when you see her at the competitions supporting her sister. Just knowing a student’s name can make a big difference in how she feels about coming to dance.

What I like to do with students like this is include them at competitions as “runners,” to perform small errands like finding out how many numbers ’til our group performs or going to find someone for me. If I have extra competition T-shirts, I’ll make sure they get some, so that they feel singled out. When you allow a sibling to do little things to help you, you make her feel like she, too, is an important part of the team.

You can also give the parents a break on the fees for the sister who doesn’t take as many classes. Our competitive dancers pay a single-student maximum for all their classes, and when a second child attends, we also discount that student’s fees by 30–40 percent, depending on the number of classes she is taking. We are fortunate to have four studios in our building, so we try to have both competitive and recreational classes on the same night to make it a little easier on the parents.

Additionally, we sometimes have a “Bring a Friend to Class Day” for our recreational dancers. This is a great way for students to share their interest in dance with their friends and to simultaneously encourage new enrollment.

Joanne Chapman is the owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Brampton, Ontario.

Photo by Dan Boskovic, courtesy of Joanne Chapman

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