Q: This is one of my first years with a competitive program, and quite possibly the first time we have a real chance at winning. I would like to set a policy for any monetary prizes we may take home. What’s appropriate action for money my students win?
A: Allocating prize money can be a controversial subject between studio owners, teachers and parents. As a general rule, competitions hand the winnings to studio directors or owners. Therefore, I believe it’s up to you, as the studio owner, to decide how to handle the money. You are definitely on the right track with setting a policy: Whatever you choose to do, it’s most important to put it in writing, make it clear to everyone and always stick to your plan.
At my studio, any prize money won for solos, duets and trio performances goes to the dancers. However, I do not hand them money; we credit the students’ studio accounts to help pay for lessons or any outstanding balance they may have.
Money received for group performances belongs to the studio, and it’s used to offset competition expenses, including teachers’ hotel rooms, props and transportation. On rare occasions, we do give the winnings back to the students if the prize is large. For instance, when we won the “Studio of the Year” at The Dance Awards in 2011, we distributed a portion of the winnings to the 30 dancers who represented the studio. They received scholarships for monthly tuition. We also gave a portion of the winnings to our teachers and choreographers in a check, and the rest of the award was donated to three of our favorite charities.
Joanne Chapman is the owner of the award-winning studio Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Ontario, Canada.
Photo courtesy of Dance Teacher Summit