Ask the Experts: Parents Inquiring About a Studio Change

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Q: At our last competition, I was approached by three families from a competing studio. They asked if they could come and try some classes. How should I handle this situation, given that they're still dancing at their present studio and have a commitment there?


A: I've been in this position many times. I believe we have to hold high standards of ethics and integrity and lead by example. I have too much respect for my fellow dance educators to allow their students to come and take class at my studio behind their backs. I can't do something to someone else that I wouldn't want done to me.

I would ask the parents inquiring about making a studio change to e-mail you and set up a meeting to talk. But when it comes to taking classes, I would tell them that they have to fulfill their obligations at their current studio first. That means finishing the entire year—recitals and national competitions—before they can take a class at your studio.

I've heard horror stories about studios that allowed students from other comp teams to jump ship, mid-comp season, and be added into the new studio's comp routines. How can we expect our students to be respectful and have integrity if we don't behave that way ourselves? The fact that you're asking this question tells me you're already choosing to take the high road.


Music
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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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