DT on Dance Moms: What's in Your Contract?

Oh, the moms this week. Once again, Abby Lee Miller is caught in the epic fight between coaching the girls for competition (this week at Energy Dance Competition in Michigan) and dealing with the adults. It's becoming clear why the show is called "Dance Moms"—the show is totally focused on the mothers' drama, unfortunately leaving only glimpses of the student dancers, rehearsal process and studio scene.


A quick recap: Melissa was accused of setting up Maddie's skipping CD last week at comp, forcing the win. Maddie and Chloe danced beautifully during their duet "Inside of Me" (which, if you missed it, watch! It's about 26 minutes in.). Kelli and Christi were unfoundedly upset about a costume switch, and after placing second place in two categories, Christi complained that Abby's choreography is sub-par. I'm sure Christi's MFA in choreography gives her an acute eye for composition.


But before this episode truly kicked off, Abby Lee took mother Kelli aside and handed her a copy of the team contract that Kelli signed (pictured above) and explicity read, "Foul language or unsportsman-like behavior by a dancer or parent will risk expulsion from Abby Lee Dance Company." Way to go Abby Lee!


Having parents and dancers sign contracts up front every year is the best way to actively avoid conflict. When students and their families know expectations, rules and consequences, there is no excuse for poor behavior, tardiness or any of the like. And you can't be too specific or lengthy. Make sure all your bases are covered; even if you feel something is so outrageous it would never in a million years come up—it can and it most likely will. And remember, contracts work both ways. Let the parents know what they can expect from you. They'll appreciate your professionalism and there will be no confusion down the road.


Each month, studio owner Kathy Blake and daughter Suzanne Blake Gerety answer your questions about studio policies. It almost always comes down to having a thorough contract with your dance families and your employees. For instance, this month's question asks about staff members interacting with students over Facebook, and the answer lies in establishing a clear social media policy in your employee contracts. (Click the link to read the full answer.)


Have a question for our experts? Ask! We're answering everything from business practices and competition strategies to how to let technology help you in the studio. Visit our homepage www.dance-teacher.com to ask a question (in the righthand column), and the answer may appear in an upcoming issue of Dance Teacher magazine.


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