Ask the Experts: How Can Studio Owners Be the First to Hear of Parents' Concerns?


When parents have concerns about the studio, they'll often tell one of my teachers rather than me. How can I solve problems I don't officially know about?

It's natural for parents to feel more comfortable bringing their concerns to their children's teachers rather than to you, as the studio owner. You have to create a culture of open communication and regularly seek feedback.

At our studio, each teacher has access to student/parent/teacher concern forms. They are required to submit them to our office when presented with problems—no matter how small or large they may seem. On the form, the teacher details any conversation they've had that they feel needs special attention from the owner. They may also report anything that seems out of the ordinary, like dress-code violations, underperformance or attendance issues. We then read and investigate the issue, call or contact the parent involved and resolve the problem. We make it clear to parents that as a studio, we address every concern with care and attention.

Train your staff to report any and all issues, and implement a procedure for addressing them. Sometimes the resolution will be to send out a studio-wide e-mail reminding students of studio expectations. In other cases, a personal conversation is the best solution. When you take action, you let your parents and students know that your entire staff is working as a team, and what they say to anyone will be reported and addressed professionally and sensitively.

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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The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

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According to, 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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Teaching Tips
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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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