In December I attended Ballet West's Nutcracker in Salt Lake City. The show started about 15 minutes late, and during intermission one of the company's PR reps came to apologize. He let me know that the backstage/stage area was too cold, based on the union's rights, and that it had to warm up before the dancers could perform.

This idea really struck me. I hadn't thought much about the rights dancers had to a backstage that was warm. Having spent most of my life as a comp kid performing on concrete floors, it never occurred to me that I should protect my body from an environment that might be harmful to it. We just danced wherever we were told to.

Ever since that performance last month, I haven't been able to get the idea of union rights and studio kids out of my head. Every dancer, professional or not, deserves a safe space to perform. I reviewed union benefits for the Screen Actors Guild—American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) and the Actors' Equity Association (AEA), and determined a list of five rights I believe studio kids should be entitled to. I'm not advocating that they unionize, but, dance teachers, make sure you're taking care of your kiddos!!

Let us know in the comments on our Facebook page what you think about union rights and studio kids!


1. Safe workplaces

Do your due diligence to make sure your studio is a safe place for your dancers. Be vigilant about hiring teachers who are responsible and caring, and who won't bring physical or emotional harm to your kids.

2. Reasonable working conditions

I know there isn't much we can do about the fact that conventions are held on the concrete floors of hotel ballrooms, but do your best to create reasonable conditions for your dancers. Fix the bubbles in your marley floors so that nobody breaks an ankle, keep the space clean and void of mold, and don't ask your dancers to do work that will obviously cause physical harm (even if it will look cool onstage).

3. Guaranteed breaks

While there is certainly a lot to get done in preparation for rehearsals and performances, water and lunch breaks are important. Make sure you schedule some rest time during your long rehearsal days. Your dancers need it!

4. Regulated work hours

Though the number of dancing hours a student is capable of safely maintaining varies among individuals, there is certainly a point where studios cross the line. Be smart, and consider setting a limit on how long your dancers can be in the studio. Help them find balance between school, dance, family and friends. Their emotional well-being and ultimate success depends on it.

5. Vacation and sick days

Let your dancers take the day off if they are puking their guts out, even if there is a competition that coming weekend. Don't require your dancers to rehearse on important national holidays. You need the day off, too, so make vacation and sick days a priority!

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Photo by Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine

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As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

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Martin Harvey brought a little movie star charm into morning ballet class at our New York Dance Teacher Summit. (His acting credits include Gossip Girls, All My Children, Dirty Dancing, A Chorus Line, Carousel, plus Metropolitan Opera productions of Carmen and Manon Lescaut.) Educated at the Royal Ballet School in London, he danced many principal roles for The Royal Ballet during his 12-year career.

Mark Your Calendar

Join us in Long Beach, CA, July 26–28, or in NYC, August 1–3, for our 2019 Dance Teacher Summit.

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Q: Is teaching for an after-school program a good way to find a job in K–12?

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