Between choreography, costuming and scheduling, you’ve got more than enough to stress you out during the competition and convention season. The last thing you need to worry about is your dancers—and their families—adding unnecessary pressure. Dance Teacher asked five studio owners to share their rules and expectations for dancers and parents, and how they keep everyone in line.
“I host a parent meeting prior to auditions and convey my expectations regarding commitment, behavior, fees, costumes, etc. I also try to explain my mindset about casting. There is always someone who is unhappy with my decisions after auditions, and it comes in handy if I can reference what I talked about in the meeting. Dancers and parents sign a code of conduct, and parents also sign a financial agreement covering fees and what happens if they quit or fail to follow through with their payments.” —Sue Sampson, The Dance Studio of Fresno, Fresno, California
“During the dress rehearsal before our first competition of the year, we sit down with all the parents and dancers. Our main focus is teaching the dancers respect—we want them to be respectful of the other studios and of the competition. They are told to sit together at awards wearing our studio sweatshirts, clap for everyone and behave onstage and backstage. It’s important that they’re kind and supportive so the competition world is a nice place to be, instead of a competitive one.” —Lisa Bunker, Vision Dance and Learning Center, Herriman, Utah
“Each year the dancers write down their goals, and we put them all in our ‘good luck charm.’ Before every performance, each dancer in the routine touches the charm before going onstage. At Nationals, we open the charm to see who achieved their goals. Of course I have my own goals for them and for my choreography, but it’s so important that they accomplish their own personal goals.” —Heather Soccio, Dance Arts Academy, Boonton, New Jersey
“We ask our dancers to sign a ‘three strikes’ contract. By being part of the Spotlight team, they are held to the highest standards when it comes to their behavior in and out of the studio. Dancers must respect their bodies—a lot of kids are peer-pressured into making bad decisions, and this contract gives them one more reason to be aware of their behavior. I want them to make the best decisions possible when it comes to their lives. —Liz Schmidt, Spotlight Dance Works, Chesterfield, Michigan
“Every year starts with a mandatory parent meeting. We’re very upfront about the rules. For example, for every routine, we have understudies who are ready to step in as needed. All of our dancers are required to attend every competition throughout the year. But if they can’t be there for some reason, that dancer still has to pay the entry fee for the routine. The understudy then steps in and gets to perform for free. —Sam Renzetti, Xtreme Dance Center, Naperville, Illinois
Photo: Sam Renzetti's Xtreme Dance Force (by 2sisphotos.com, courtesy of Xtreme Dance Force)