Studio Owners

Ask the Experts: How Do I Handle Comp Dancers Who Want to Pick and Choose Their Classes?

Photo courtesy of Showstopper

Q: Some of my competitive dancers want to pick and choose what genres they train and compete in.


A: At our studio, we address this problem by having different levels of commitment for different teams. Our part-time team trains for less than six hours per week. They must take ballet and jazz, but whether they take hip hop, tap, contemporary or acrobatics is their choice. They have leeway when it comes to missing classes, and they only compete at three competitions.

Our full-time company dancers are a different story. These dancers must take advantage of all opportunities offered to them. They are required to take all genres of dance, including ballet, jazz, acro, hip hop, tap, contemporary (lyrical for the younger dancers) and production. They're only allowed to miss class once from the start of choreography until the last competition, and they have to attend two conventions and four competitions a year, as well as a Nationals every other year.

Whether your dancers fall into the full-time or part-time competitive level, it's important to set class commitment standards and stick to them. I don't think the days of fully committed, well-rounded dancers are gone. But I do think there's room for the part-time dancer, too. Either way, you need to decide what works best for you and your studio.

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 onstageblog.com, 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
Getty Images

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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