Ask the Experts: What to Do About Parents Wanting to Observe Class

Getty Images

Q: Our dancers' parents want to observe class, but students won't focus if I let them in the room. I've tried having them observe the last 10 minutes of class, but even that can be disruptive and bring the dancers' progress to a halt. Do you have any advice on how to handle this?

A: Minimizing classroom distractions is a priority for teachers and studio owners. However, today's parent is very interested in being kept in the loop on their child's progress and growth. When it comes to dance class for preschool and elementary-age dancers in particular, we notice that parents genuinely enjoy watching their children participate, try new skills and express themselves in class. If you frustrate parents by making it hard for them to view or know what's happening on a regular basis, you may end up with waiting-room gossip or general dissatisfaction.

To address this issue, we have installed closed-circuit cameras in all of our studios, with a large color monitor in every waiting room. We used a local security company to do the installation, but you can also buy a system from a local retailer and install it on your own. Systems like this allow you to close off any distractions from a door or window, while still letting parents view class from the comfort of the waiting room. We find that the camera does not distract the teacher or student, and when class is over, the parents can share their excitement at having watched their dancers' progress in the class.

Beyond projecting class on a monitor, it's a great idea to schedule a couple of "watch weeks" when parents can come in the room and observe for the last 10 minutes of class. This is a chance for the students to experience performing for a live audience. We really encourage parents to take photos and videos during these classes, and find that they love sharing them on social media.

While investing in technology that lets parents observe class may seem burdensome, it's well worth it. Giving our parents regular viewing without distracting the dancer or teacher has elevated our customer satisfaction significantly.

Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.