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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Studio Owner should teach less - how to handle?


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Any advice on how to handle a situation where the Owner of your Ballet studio needs to stop teaching so many classes? She is in her 80s and not able to demonstrate and seldom gives constructive corrections. She either says nothing or is downright nasty to younger girls (age 8-12).

We just had a sub teacher and it was a world of difference (in a very positive way). We have thought about changing studios, but our DD has several friends and is happy. I’m not saying that the Owner shouldn’t teach at all. BUT, she shouldn’t be teaching the majority of classes. Further, the communication at the studio is a mess at the studio and there is no marketing. Several families have left and I suspect they are financially breaking even.

We have considered talking to a family member of the owner (who is in the Dance Community). But, am concerned it could get nasty or that there will be a “take it or leave it” given.

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Unfortunately I think that you do not have a say in the matter.  She is the owner of the business.  The AD of our dance school is also older.  I have heard parents of younger dancers complaining among themselves that since she can not demonstrate she should not be teaching.  Parents of older dancers have a lot of respect for our AD.  I'll just advise that just because a teacher can no longer demonstrate does not mean that she can not teach.  Good teachers remain good teachers and do not need to demonstrate.   Did you know that in competitive sports the coaches rarely demonstrate?  My 13 year old son competes in springboard diving at a national level and his 70 year old coach does not demonstrate for him.   

I don't know your studio owner though.  It's possible that she is not one of the best teachers and maybe as she gets older she should no longer be teaching.  Before you make your mind up you should consider how the dancers do on their ballet exams, if they take them, and you should look at the dancers in the advanced classes.  This will give you an indication of what you can get out of this school.  Since it is a business the only way you can really make a difference is by taking your business elsewhere if it is not the quality that you need.   

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I've learned over all the years that studios really are take it or leave it. I pick what my daughters are doing based on the teachers, and I'm not afraid to leave or change schedules if my expectations aren't met. For my family, in my small town world, seeking out what we need has created a situation where my 2 daughters going to 3.5 studios. Really look at what your expectations are and seek out a situation where they will be met.

Could your particular problem be fixed by adding a demonstrator or helper? My 8 year old has a 17 year old student who comes in and demonstrates for the teacher in her ballet class. That way the teacher is able to watch more and focus on corrections. That being said, the 17 year old doesn't do the combinations with the students the entire time, just when asked. Otherwise the students wouldn't have the opportunity to learn to pick up quickly and by verbal instruction. She does however help the teacher physically correct as it's a large class (the teacher keeps a close watch on what the student teacher is doing).

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I agree that just because she can't demonstrate, doesn't mean that she can't teach. That said, it was pretty obvious with the recent Sub that there are better teachers out there. I think one of the big problems is that the owner just has the student "run through there dances" during class and it is not enough! My dd can do that at home.

I do think that if they added a demonstrator would greatly help.  I can say that the owner has used my daughter to show the class. Which is great for my daughter's ego, but there is still plenty of work she needs to do.

As far as exams...Year 1: I think that 6 of the 14 (or so) girls taking the exam achieved the Highest level (I'm being vague on styles to remain anonymous). BUT, it was a different teacher.

Year 2: I think that only 2 of the 14 (or so) girls received the Highest level. The year started with the different teacher, but she left about 2 months before the exam. Part of the different teacher leaving, I do blame on the studio.

This year... My dd has another teacher for 1 class and the Owner for another. We were going to add a 3rd day for the exam, but it is the Owner teaching it. We are seeing if the Sub is available at some time for some small group lessons. Also, we know some former professional dancers and will get some coaching. 

Speaking someone that works in the office, enrollment numbers are down. I'm just concerned that the Owner won't recognize that she is part of the problem.




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It sounds like you are ready to find a new school.  The thing to remember is,  this teacher is the owner.  She has the right to run her business how she sees fit.  Or how she feels is best for her.  Outside of legal parameters saying otherwise she has this right.   

The only way I would speak to the family member, unless that person is a personal friend, is if you have either resigned yourself to leaving or if you will plan to leave if that conversation doesn't go in your favor.  There are only two options, that I see.  Either the family member will agree and have power over the owner to say "it's time".  Or they will not.  But realize that if the school has already taken a financial hit because of this, there may not be funds to pay another teacher.  Studios generally do not make as much profit as we believe they do.  Taxes and insurance take a huge hit before one class is even taught.  

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Thanks all for the advice!

My wife and I have had various conversations about this. The general thought is that if the studio remains the same and our daughters passion continues, that we will be leaving in the next 1-4 years. We will look to send her to camps at other studios next summer. If something clicks at one of them and dd wants to change then we switch.

Crazy as it sounds, we are considering adding a class in checceti to help improve technique in case we do switch.

As far as talking to the family member, you are right. We need to be prepared to move on if the conversation doesn't go as we would like.

thanks all

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thinking about it... the "pickle" we have is that because enrollment is down, they problem don't have the money to pay other teachers.

But, for now... it's wait and see.

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You could be wasting your time there if she is not getting demonstration or progressing. Unless she herself doesn't want to leave, you could be the strong parent and decide for her and encourage her to leave. My daughter was also at a studio where they did not demonstrate - it's very academic to hear the language but not see the steps. She is also hearing impaired and the director would mostly sit and the other instructors followed the culture of talking softly or just saying the combination. That style doesn't work for her. At the studio she has been at the last few years they are much more energetic - loud voices, loud encouragement, all the teachers do the combinations full out. Occasionally an older student will assist and demonstrate the entire warm up. True, there is a lot of loyalty and affection and it hurts to leave an older, respected teacher, but they are used to having students come and go as well. 


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