Ask the Experts: Competing Against Former Faculty

A former teacher of mine, who left with many of my students when she joined a nearby studio, now competes with her new studio at one of our favorite competitions. I don’t want to compete directly with a former faculty member—seems like too much bad blood. Do you think I should skip the competition (and hopefully the drama)?

When a popular member of your teaching faculty moves on to another local studio and takes students with her or him, it can put you, the studio owner, in a difficult position. To avoid this, many studios now put their faculty under contract. These contracts include a noncompete clause, which, if legal in your state, limits where and when departing faculty can teach. For instance, I think it’s reasonable that a teacher not teach at or open a studio within a 25-mile radius of your school for five years after they leave your studio. [Editor’s note: For more on this controversial topic, see “Making a Graceful Exit.”]

If you don’t have this kind of contract in place or consider it unfairly strict, you have two options. One is to attend a different regional branch of this competition. If your parents need convincing, explain that you love this competition but think it’s time to try a new location. Impress upon them how competing against new schools will be a learning experience for the dancers. The dates for this regional competition may even fit better into your competition schedule for the year.

The second option is to attend the competition, at the same location—but to go in with a positive mindset and encourage your dancers to do the same. Don’t put your former faculty member or former students down in any way. Wish them all good luck, and tell them “good job” and “congratulations” afterward. Negative energy is unproductive; don’t waste your time on it.

Joanne Chapman is owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Brampton, Ontario.

Photo by Dan Boskovic, courtesy of Joanne Chapman

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