I have a group of students who have danced together for years. Some of them have begun to advance more quickly than others. How do you address students (and their parents) when they question why they aren’t moving into a higher level?
One of the most complicated scenarios we have to work through is explaining to frustrated or confused parents why their child has not advanced while her peer has. This is why you must clearly communicate early on your criteria for advancement—determined by you and your faculty—via your studio website and/or handbook. At our studio, we have eligibility requirements, placement classes and ballet testing to assess and advance our dancers. Most of our intermediate and advanced-level dance styles have prerequisites for participation.
Your curriculum/syllabi will give you concrete benchmarks to help you decide if a student must remain in a certain level. We recommend you meet mid-year with parents and students to offer constructive feedback and discuss their progress, goals and expectations, so they know what they must work on.
It is also useful to explain to parents that some students will advance more quickly than others due to factors related to physical development, such as strength, flexibility and the ability to apply corrections. Others may need more time to develop the skills necessary to move on to the next level. Give options of how to further develop practice and training—for example, by taking advantage of more technique classes, private lessons or performing opportunities, such as a competitive dance program.
With clear explanations and a professional approach, you can help them respect and appreciate your choices and commitment to each student’s progress. They will understand that advancement is objective, based on criteria—not peer group or favoritism.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.
Photo by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety