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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Forming Parent Associations


maineballet

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Has anyone had any experience in forming a parent guild or parent association for their school? I currently run the guild but would like to get more parents involved in a more formal association. I guess similiar to a PTA. Any help would be appreciated.

 

Maine Ballet

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maineballet, I wish I could offer some input - alas, I am unable. Tell us about your organization is it open to anyone are there elected positions and what exactly do you all do?

 

Three ballet programs ago, we developed an ad hoc group of mothers (sorry, no fathers unfortunately except on rare occasions) who got involved with designing and sewing costumes, and arranging wonderful receptions after performances with an extensive variety of food and drink.

 

The second to last program in New York City, did not want parents to be involved in any conspicuous way. Read that as - no volunteers and no above board activities except at the final recital AKA workshop performance when we were called upon to organize the aftermath of food and drink.

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Some ballet schools frown upon formal parent guild groups because they fear it will be a breeding ground for complaints. They prefer to have a group of parents they can call on themselves - kind of like a classroom parent, formerly known as "room mother" :devil: - when they need extra help such as providing snacks or drinks for functions.

 

I have mixed feelings about such groups. I once saw a ballet parent group forget their supportive role and it became a contentious place till they were finally asked to disband. Of course, that left hard feelings that took years to soften. But, when done right, when run by reasonable people, they can be quite wonderful.

 

In Irish dance, we've gone through this too. Many years ago, a group of our parents created an ad hoc group meant to support the school. There were many times I wished they hadn't done so! That particular group was difficult to deal with. We've since had years without a parent group and other years with an informal one. These have all been fine. You know something's wrong when, as an administrator, you're spending more time talking to the parent group than it would take to do the work yourself. B)

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We don't have a formal association or anything. What we have is a dedicated group of parents who can be called on when needed.

 

Has the school asked you to form this group? Or, have you talked with the school about how such a group would interact with the teachers and administration? I, too, would like to know more about what this group's purpose and structure would be. Parents can serve a wonderful support function in all types of schools, but these relationships are most fruitful when they are true collaborations. Remember, PTA stands for Parent-Teacher Association -- a group composed of parents AND teachers. Sadly, it seldom works that way.

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As our guild currently stands, it's really just me. My main responsibility is the gift shop for Nutcracker and selling food at school performances. We cannot sell food at the theater. Our AD approached me with the idea of a more formal group as we are looking at trying to take dancers to Russia and possibly other trips in the future. This groups main function would simply be fundraising for these dancer related trips and needs. They have staff that handles the major fundraising for the company and the school. I'm just not sure how to set this up. With PTA there were dues associated with being a member of the group. I'm not sure that's what we want to do. I think that I just need to have the parents behind me in working on the fundraising projects. It's just difficult to get parents of our little dancers to fundraise for projects that benefit the older dancers. Any input is greatly appreciated.

 

Maine Ballet

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Vagansmom and Treefrog are right -- when such a group is well-run, with a clearly defined purpose, it can be wonderful. Happily, our guild has been extremely effective. The main goals are to help fund-raise for performance needs and to supply whatever help the directors require -- driving sets and props, fitting and mending costumes, helping in the dressing rooms, ticket sales, video sales, boutique, cast party, working backstage (we call 'em "The Backstage Boys"), etc. This really frees the directors to teach and rehearse. It is a collaboration, to be sure, and one that produces extraordinary performances because there are so many helping hands. However, there is complete separation of church and state. The Guild never gets involved in any artistic issues.

 

I wasn't around years ago when it was organized, but I can tell you it is a very well oiled machine with committees for the above areas and more. Each committee has co-chairs, and parents can volunteer where they wish. For Nutcracker and spring performances, each family is required to fulfil a certain number of volunteer hours. You can pick tasks that you can do while you're waiting at the studio, or things that can be done at home.

 

Of course, it does require the right leadership. Maineballet, feel free to PM me and I can give you more details.

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