Doing a competitive production number and including 5-year-olds is challenging enough without new comp parents adding in their two cents! I’ve learned that educating parents along with their children is a huge challenge; getting parents to trust your professional judgment is another. Stick to your guns, and let them know that a production is an extra opportunity to perform, not a competition for stage time.
This is how it works at our studio: Our mini dancers get to participate in a competitive production routine. The piece is seven and a half minutes long; our minis have a section onstage by themselves for 30 seconds, and they also join the rest of the competition team at the end of the number for 35 seconds. That’s it.
We include the minis because it allows them to see what the older dancers can do and how hard they work in class. They see what is expected of them in the future and get to go onstage with all of the advanced dancers they look up to. We make it clear to parents that this isn’t where the minis learn to dance—they do that in their regular classes where technique and dance vocabulary are tailored to their level.
To prevent parents from comparing their kids’ stage time to everyone else’s, I create my production numbers in sections, so my minis aren’t even in the room with the older kids until the whole piece is done. When each level of the company comes in to learn their section, we already know what part of the music is theirs, and the choreography is finished. It’s not until the last two lessons that we bring everyone in together.
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