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.
"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.