I have been in the field of dance for over 3 decades now. I have been a professional dance teacher for 11 years. I teach mostly ballet and work with kids of all ages. I work with some of the most talented, incredible teachers and I love what I do. In my years of teaching I have come across some things that I feel parents of kids in dance need to hear from a teacher who really cares about your kids and their learning.
Full Participation is Required
Dance is like a team sport and when you don’t have your kid participate in the performances it drops the moral of the entire class. Hold you child accountable and have them finish things they begin. If they want to quit dance, then it happens at the end of the season not in the middle. When you let them quit when it gets “tough” this teaches your child that it is always an option to quit and not finish things. These habits will follow your kids throughout life. Set them up to win and have them finish their commitments.
Humility and Trust
Although your child may be gifted and have lots of potential, they also have a lot to learn. Let them fail, let them mess up, and let them grow. Be honest in their development and also remember they are their own person. Trust that we, dance educators, do know what we are doing. If you do not trust us in the training of your child in dance and you think you can do it better, or that someone else has a better school, than by all means dis-enroll your child and teach them yourself or take them somewhere else where you think they will do a better job. Trust us, then we can work together to help your child reach their dancing goals. We simply want to see your kid succeed, not only in dance, but in life.
Your dance teacher is likely living below the poverty line and/or working several jobs in order to pay the bills, remember that before you treat them poorly and have an attitude of entitlement towards them. In all my years of teaching I have rarely had a parent genuinely thank me for all I do for their kids. It has happened, but I guarantee, your child’s dance teacher feels under or completely unappreciated. Most likely your teacher has had an extraordinary career in dance and is very gifted and has spent their entire life dedicated to this art form. When your child shows up late, has sloppy habits, misses rehearsals and shows, you are not only being disrespectful to this person who is sharing so much with your child, you are saying to them, “you don’t matter, dance doesn’t matter and I don’t care about any of the time, energy and love you have poured into my child’s life.” This is huge disrespect, you wouldn’t do this at a job. Why teach your children that is ever acceptable to be entitled, late, sloppy and inconsistent? Those aren’t good habits for a job and life and not good habits in the dance studio and/or theatre.
Passion and Commitment
It takes time, discipline and commitment to reach extraordinary heights in the field of dance. If your child wants to be the best, he/she must attend regularly and work hard in every class, rehearsal and performance. Having talent isn’t enough, it takes passion, drive and a willingness to learn.
The Golden Rule
Gossip is like poison from your tongue. You may feel better when you talk bad about the teachers, administrators, other moms, or other kids, but you are willfully hurting people and causing unnecessary drama. If you want to help your kid succeed teach them to be kind, self-sufficient, self-accountable and self-disciplined. Lead by example. If you are gossiping, your kids will do the same and then the entire atmosphere becomes poisoned. Treat others how you want to be treated, even your kids’ teachers. In the professional world we all know that gossip never makes allies and friends. If you want your kids to succeed teach them to work well with others and be kind.
You are Not Special
Although, I know your child is very special to you, and they should be, let us not teach our kids that because they have arrived at a certain level of achievement in dance that they are somehow “special” beyond all other people in the community. Here is something you might say, “Cool you just had a wonderful performance, won a scholarship, won an award, had a standing ovation; Now let’s go feed the homeless, spend time with the elderly, do community service.” When we grow up thinking we are somehow special, we tend to have an entitled attitude, as if we should have special treatment. So even though your kid is definitely special to you, to make them a truly special person to lots of people we must teach them to be humble, kind and giving.
Discipline and Hard Work
I know you spend exorbitant amounts of money on lessons and therefore feel that you are owed only the best, I do understand you want to get what you pay for. But what you are really paying for is for us to train your children to dance and teach them how to be disciplined, passionate, humble, learning and growing people. Your child has to put the work in, we cannot do it for them.
In my closing comments I would like to note that I am grateful that on some level you must see the value in dance and want your child to learn all the wonderful things he/she will get from an education in dance. And my intention in sharing this with you is so that you can work together with your child’s dance educators. We both want the same thing, for your child to succeed.
To your child’s success in life, dance and community!
Cynthia is a dance educator, choreographer, dancer, yoga teacher, activist, wife and mom of two adorable bunnies. She resides in Colorado with her husband and two bunnies where she teaches dance and yoga, choreographs ballets and dances on the stage occasionally.