Q: How do you handle class placement policies? I try to factor in both age and talent level, but I often have to deal with irate parents when their kids aren’t placed in the level they want them in. How do you deal with this?
A: We do not hold auditions. When a dancer comes to our studio, we invite her to take a range of class levels for one week, and then we meet with the student and her parents to discuss where we feel the dancer is best suited. We adopted this process because it gives us a better idea about a student’s work ethic, technique and ability to pick up choreography and apply corrections. Of course, we still have parents who do not agree with where we placed their child.
If parents are being very difficult, don’t respond right away; give them a chance to cool off. Arrange to talk or meet with them in a couple of days. When you do talk, start with the positive about their child. Point out the things that you feel the dancer needs to work on in order to improve, and make suggestions on extra things they can do to help. For example, you could suggest that the student take classes that are down one level to work on strength and recommend some exercises for practice at home. Explain to them that you are a dance professional and that you have their child’s best interest at heart. Placing a child in a class that she is not ready for creates bad habits, damages self-esteem and puts her at risk of injury.
Go with your own judgment, and don’t be bullied into placing a child where you don’t feel she belongs. If the other dancers in the class see that you have allowed a dancer who is not quite ready to move up a level, they will all start to question their placement. Parents will also infer that you can be pushed around and think that they can call the shots.
Joanne Chapman is the owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Dan Boskovic, courtesy of Joanne Chapman