Ask the Experts: Competitive Parents


Q: I have several parents at my studio who are very competitive. Unfortunately, their kids—though talented—are laid-back. These parents will tell me, "Push her! Make her do it!" It's frustrating. How should I handle this?

A: Over the years, I've found that it's not uncommon for competitive, go-getter parents to have children who are the exact opposite. In many cases, the parents' attitudes are so overpowering that their child's personality seems to get lost. It's frustrating and unfair to hear parents say things like, “This is going to be her year, Joanne—make her do it!"

Here's how I handled one of these moms: One evening, when I knew she'd been watching her daughter in class, I asked her to come in and talk with me. I told her that her daughter had potential and was making good progress, but that we—me, my staff and her—needed to focus on growing her daughter's confidence. I explained that pushing her daughter too hard and too quickly could have a negative effect on her confidence. Instead, we needed to let her know that we support her—and that her parents support my training methods. That's how to help her succeed, going forward.

No teacher can make a dancer perform; we can teach, motivate and encourage our students, but it's up to the dancer to put it all together. It can be a challenge to convince parents that this process takes time, but the reward of having a happy child who loves what she's doing is worth the wait.

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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Dancer Diary
Claire, McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

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Mary Mallaney/USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

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