Ask the Experts: How Do I Encourage Parents of Competition Dancers to Pay Their Bills on Time?

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Q: What policies do you put in place to encourage parents of competition dancers to pay their bills in a timely manner?

A: After many years of feeling the pinch of not being paid on time, we set clear guidelines in our team agreements and made a payment schedule that requires all expenses to be paid in full in advance of competition season.

At our studio, all competition-team costumes are billed by October 1 and are payable no later than November 15. Any student not paid in full for costumes will not be eligible to compete in February for our first regional event. We attend four competitions, and all entry fees are posted to student accounts six months before each event. Parents have 30 to 60 days after fees are posted to be paid. Any student who has not paid in advance will not be eligible to compete. Most competitions require a $500 to $1,000 deposit in the summer before the new dance season, so we need advance payment in order to secure our dates and release a finalized schedule for the year. What's more, when we pay early, we generally can get discounts that help with the cost of running our program. Any regular tuition, choreography fees, and solos, duos or private lessons must be paid in full 30 to 60 days before our first event. We make it easy to pay by credit card, cash or check, and parents can see the breakdown of fees and rates in their studio account.

It takes effort and consistency to regularly track payments and send reminder e-mails so early in the year, but a fall billing and payment schedule allows for the spring competition season to be a time of celebration. We find our parents truly appreciate the system, and it gives us time to handle any overdue account with sensitivity and timeliness.

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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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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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

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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