Ask the Experts: Should We Do Separate Recitals for Comp and Recreational Dancers?


Q: Our recitals are too long when we have both competition and recreational dancers performing, so I'm considering having two separate performances. Do you have any advice on how to do this without creating drama?

A: If you get a reputation in the community for long shows, it can have a negative impact on attracting new students for future registration. Your recital reflects a year of hard work for your faculty and students. Beyond this, it's an opportunity for your parents to see why this financial investment in their children is worthwhile. You want them to leave the show absolutely delighted and looking forward to next year.

Depending on your student body and the availability of your venue, you can distribute your numbers in a pleasing and workable way. For instance, we have an evening show that is for teens and adults only. But our matinee shows are for a mixed group and include more recital numbers than competition numbers. Our daytime show represents the diversity of age, levels and styles we offer at our studio. We keep our shows to no longer than two hours with no intermission, and add additional shows if necessary. Some studios have found success with very short, under-one-hour, preschool-only type of showcases that are separate from their full-cast show.

We recommend you position any change as a positive improvement for your entire studio. Have a plan in place to address questions or concerns by creating an FAQ sheet and section on your website, hosting a parent-info night about the recital, or hosting a Facebook live for people to watch when convenient. If you can come up with a financially viable yet family-friendly approach, it can help create a positive buzz about your studio growth and evolution.

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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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