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Should Dance Parents Have a Greater Say in How the Studio Operates?
By a Real Dance Parent   By Connie

I have been thinking about this for a while – years actually.

Every month I write a tuition check to my daughter’s dance studio. Then I pay them for costumes, for makeup, competition and workshop fees (I’m sure the studio gets a cut of those), recital fees, and on and on and on.

I pay this studio several thousand dollars every year, yet the studio director has total control over my life. Sure, I know the class schedule when we register each year, but it’s not like I have any choices in when they are offered. If my daughter is going to take hip-hop, it’s going to be on Wednesday -- the night and time that the studio decides.

And I really have no voice in the competitions we attend, the workshops we attend, the public shows we do, and the dates and times of all the rehearsals sandwiched in between. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s the studio that decides when my family can and cannot have dinner together.

Vacations? Are you kidding me? Spending every waking hour (and some sleeping hours) of a weekend in the oversold ballroom of the Fargo Days Inn watching 200 sweating teens smack elbows in a workshop for six hours, followed by the 684 competition act (half of which are six-year-olds getting in touch with their emotional side for lyrical solo performances of “My Immortal,” and the other half who apparently need to travel to Toledo between numbers for each costume change) is not my idea of a vacation.

If the director wakes up some morning and decides to change the studio colors or logo, it is I who gets to fork over the cash for a new wardrobe of team dancewear – new leotards, shorts, wind suit, dance bag, etc.

Then there are those “optional” (who are we kidding?) guest teacher master class at the studio. Do we have a voice in what instructors come in? No. The studio owner invites her friends who, presumably, invite her to return the favor at their studios.

I feel like I’m held hostage and am obligated to do everything the studio owner decides, whenever they decide I should do it, and at whatever cost she assigns to it.

So what do I want? I think the parents of the dance team – the people writing the big fat checks that keep the studio in business -- should make some of these decisions. The parents should get to select at least half of the competitions and workshops to attend. The parents should decide if we need new dance team uniforms, and the dancers should get to vote on colors and style, since they are the ones who must wear them.

We should not need to get our vacation plans pre-approved by the studio as if we were probationary employees.

And will someone please answer me this… Why is it that dance parents are expected to volunteer for fundraisers, volunteer as ushers, volunteer as event organizers, volunteer to make scenery and props, volunteer, volunteer, and volunteer again, while the studio expects to be financially compensated for every second they spend even thinking about dance?

Somebody once said that the customer is always right. I think dance studio owners need to realize that the parents are their customers – the people who keep them in business – and they need to give us a greater say in the operation of the studios.

 

Signed,

 

"Stuck in a Ballroom in Fargo"

 

Dear “Stuck in a Ballroom in Fargo:”

Do you have a greater say in how your dentist operates his practice? Or how your supermarket is run, does the Theatre manager ask you for your input about which show should be booked, do you have a say in when your child’s sports team has a practice, or do you have any say in when your gas station receives deliveries and how much you are going to be charged for this fuel?

Studio owners have many hats to wear. First and foremost, a dance studio is a business. Yes, the main function of a business is to generate a profit, therefore allowing the owner to live their life like everyone else, hoping to make enough money to pay their bills. I have never seen a “not-for-profit” dance studio. The owner of a dance studio must secure a building in which to offer classes. This means either renting space or purchasing a building. In order to have classes, the owner must then employ instructors to teach the classes. Quality dance instructors are not a dime a dozen. If the owner wants to employ instructors that will be beneficial to your child and to the studio, then there are salaries and employment taxes to be paid. If your studio has an office, there is a staff to hire to help the owner keep things running smoothly. Last time I checked, office assistants don’t volunteer their services. Then, they must stock their studio with supplies -- shoes, leotards, tights, bags, accessories needed -- the list goes on and on. But, all of these items must be purchased in advance. Then there are just the normal requirements for daily life -- electricity, water, gas, maintenance, health insurance, etc.

Then, the studio owner depends on his or her customers to make their tuition payments in a timely manner. Many customers have their own payment schedules, which unfortunately doesn’t help to pay the rent, electricity, or payroll on time. They must deal with many different personalities and needs of their students and the parents who bring these students in to learn. Just as in any business, there are customers that never have a problem, and then…there are those that have a problem every day.

Yes, I too have paid many thousands of dollars to a dance studio over the years. I often wondered if perhaps I didn’t have a screw loose. (Actually, if I took the time to add everything up over the past 15 years, I might need to be committed!) I agree that all of the costs associated with being involved with a performing / competing dance company are huge. But…the costumes, competition fees, makeup, and workshop fees are not something that is generated by your studio owner.

 

They must procure costumes, makeup, accessories, shoes, leotards, etc., from retail establishments, and the fees for workshop/competitions are set by someone other than your studio owner. Recital fees offset the costs of putting on your annual show, which I am sure everyone enjoys, but everyone probably does not totally understand what is involved in setting up the annual recital. Most fees are charged months in advance of the actual show. Each time you travel to a competition, workshop, or special dance performance, the studio owner and instructors must also pay their own travel/food/lodging costs. They may get a small break on fees for classes during a workshop, but not always.

Class schedules…don’t always agree with everyone’s personal schedule. A basic schedule is set by your studio owner based on several things -- instructor availability, classroom availability, interest in classes. I am sure you understand this… the same concept as your child’s school -- U.S. History is offered at a certain time, as is Spanish I and Freshman P.E. Sometimes, you have to give a little to obtain the schedule that you want.

All in all, after stroking huge checks for classes, costumes, shoes, workshops, competitions and trips, it was all worth it to see my child learn, grow, make friends, learn to be a team player and a beautiful, talented young lady.

 

Connie



"Pro and Connie" is an exclusive feature of DanceMom.com that's designed to make you see both sides of issues related to raising a dancer.  Connie is a real dance parent who responds to real issues raised by other real dance parents.  Our challenge to Connie:  Be the Devil's advocate.  Take the opposing side on every issue.  So no matter what she truly believes, Connie's job is to oppose you, to challenge you, and to make you see both sides of the issue.  Are you ready to take on Connie?  If so, please submit your column to
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