Ask the Experts: Getting Faculty to Respect Each Other

Q: How do I get faculty members to respect each other—for example, letting dancers out of class on time (so they aren't late for the next one) and not playing the music so loudly that it's overwhelming in the next room?

A: I have a teacher's code of conduct that includes running on schedule, not playing music too loudly and speaking respectfully about other teachers and the genres of dance they teach. For the most part, this takes care of any issues. However, I have had to hold private chats with teachers on more than a few occasions. Occasionally, jazz music will be blasting in the room beside the ballet class, and classes will run over by 10 minutes—plus another 10 minutes for the dancers to change into ballet attire. (Sometimes my own daughter is the guilty one, running into overtime with her classes!) In these private meetings, I ask my staff to understand how disrespected a teacher feels when you run over into her class time. I remind them how stressed the dancers become when they know they'll be late for their next class. I ask any teacher who has run over her class time to explain and apologize to the teacher of the next class.

In a perfect world, we would all be able to schedule 15 minutes between classes and have 100 percent soundproof studios. Unfortunately, this isn't realistic. Having a staff of teachers who respect one another is essential to having a great studio environment. If one teacher is constantly the problem, and you've tried mediating the situation repeatedly, then maybe it's time for a staffing change.

Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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