Honest answers to parents’ questions
By Diane Gudat
When we are faced with those inane questions from our students’ parents, what we actually say and what we want to say are often as different as Kool-Aid and tequila. Though the dance business requires us to take a deep breath, smile, and babble something diplomatic, a more scathing answer is taking shape in our guts—something snippy but immensely soul-satisfying. Just for fun, let’s imagine that we’ve taken the filter off and can say exactly what’s on our minds.
What follows are actual parents’ questions that I have fielded over the years and the responses I wish I could have given. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Is it OK if Suzie misses her rehearsal on Saturday? I know they have a performance next weekend, but her school classmate is having a birthday party and she really needs to be there. We do not want to let her school friend down.
What are her dance classmates—chopped liver? They are counting on her too! If everyone went to every birthday party, we would never be able to rehearse. But then again, birthday parties are fun and rehearsal usually isn’t. When I asked her to commit to the performance group I could never have imagined that she would have a huge conflict like this. Obviously, you must do what is best for her. Her friend will probably have only 70 or 80 more birthdays.
Would you please move Sallie to the advanced class on Wednesday with her older sister? It would be much more convenient.
First, Sallie is two years younger than her infinitely more talented sister, and second, the rest of the appropriately aged students in the classroom will probably not care if it is more convenient for you. I have a great idea! Let’s leave Sallie where she is and move her older sister back. And I am sure you will not mind if I move 4-year-olds into that class to better work around their nap times.
Betsy just hates to wear her hair in a bun for ballet class, so I am going to let her wear it down today, OK?
Does Betsy get to do everything she wants? As my dear, unbelievably frank mother would say, “People in hell want ice water, but they are not getting it either.” There is a reason that dancers wear their hair up, not the least of which is that sweeping hair off the floor is my absolute pet peeve. Do you let her wear her swimming suit to school?
Why does the other class get that pretty purple costume? Purple is Jane’s favorite color and she is very disappointed.
Well, Jane is in jazz class and that pretty purple costume is a ballet tutu. Besides, Jane’s class is dancing to “I’m Blue.” Also, were you not the parent who called last week to complain about how much her (less expensive, by the way) costume cost? Get her a purple Popsicle and tell her to keep her hopes up for next year.
Jessica’s Girl Scout meeting has been moved to 4:00. Could you please move her class to 5:00 so she can stay in Scouts?
Sure, no problem! The other 12 children in her class will not mind that a bit and I will call the other 60 dancers whose classes are after hers to move them back an hour. The high school kids will not mind finishing at 10:30 p.m. Girl Scouts are great! Let me know when she is selling cookies.
I know Kate’s class wears black tap shoes, but she fell in love with these black-and-white ones at the dance store and I got them for her. I was sure you would not mind.
Well, our dress code was distributed in August with the idea that all of our dancers would have matching shoes for our recital at the end of the year, but I am sure the other dancers will not mind the fact that Kate’s shoes stand out in the line. I will put her right in the center and plan the choreography around her. Perhaps she would also enjoy having a costume that’s a different color than the others. Just let me know.
I noticed that the girl who beat Sophie at the last competition did those turns where she stuck her leg out. Would you put some of those in her solo for next weekend so she has a better chance of winning?
Let’s break this one down. No one beats anyone else at a competition! Dance is an art, not a sport. There can be no losers other than parents who put the emphasis on what size or color award their dancer brings home.
If you do not know what a dance move is called, it is a big clue that you do not know what you are talking about. I gave your dancer what she does well and hoped to build her confidence with solid performances you could both be proud of. No big trick will change the results of a competition, but if it makes you happy I will put several “stick your leg outs” in her routine in my spare time for free.
If you do not know what a dance move is called, it is a big clue that you do not know what you are talking about. But if it makes you happy I will put several ‘stick your leg outs’ in her routine in my spare time for free.
Joanie’s cousin from Arizona will be here next week and I told her it would be OK if she takes dance class with Joanie. She does not dance but always wanted to. I thought it might be fun.
Sure! I will make a welcome banner, bake cookies, and plan some dance games. Bring your video camera! Never mind that I have had students fighting to get into that class for the last three months and have turned them down due to lack of space and talent. We are two weeks from a performance, but we can stop to entertain guests. Let me know when you schedule the family reunion and we will plan the week around it. It will be fun!
Paula is going to have to drop class for January and February so that she can be in the junior high musical. Please order all of her recital costumes because she will be back after a short rest in mid-March. Could you mail me the newsletters?
Sure, we will put everything on hold until she gets back; you take your time. A class without Paula is like a day without sunshine! We will let her get back to class and get comfortable, and then we will start working on routines when she feels ready in April. I am sure that four weeks is enough time for her classes to prepare for recital. Let me know when the musical is and we will close the studio so everyone can go.
Why did you correct Julie during class last night? She came home very upset. We want her to take class just for fun.
I am a teacher. I correct students. The art of dance requires a certain amount of personal discipline. I was asking her to do her best. She has taken class for four years and I thought she might want some input. I must have lost my mind.
Josh does not feel well. He was up sick all night and stayed home from school, but he was driving us nuts so I brought him in and he is going to try to take class.
Great! You take a break! I hope we will all catch what he has and get to stay home tomorrow.
My daughter wants to try out for her high school dance team but has never had time to take dance class. Could you give her a solo lesson so she can learn one of those double pirouettes and a back handspring for tryouts next Tuesday?
No problem! Double pirouettes and back handsprings are about as easy as it gets. It will probably only take about 10 or 15 minutes to show her. Those silly kids who come several times a week for five to six years make it all seem so complicated!
Can I postdate this check?
Can I kick you in the shin and steal your wallet?
I know Katie is supposed to be at her solo rehearsal in 15 minutes, but she has a chess club meeting after school. Can we reschedule?
That’s great! I will just sit here for that hour and think about what my family or another dancer might have done with an hour of my time. I have unlimited time in my schedule and Katie should learn that my time will never be more important than a chess club meeting. Please let me know when she has a free moment; maybe I can come to the house.
Alicia is in a wedding the day of dress rehearsal. If you could move that event to the morning, it would fit into our schedule much better.
An intermediate ballet student’s personal schedule certainly outweighs the cost of the facility rental fee and the plans of all the other dancers. I will check with you next year before booking. Please bring me some mints and a piece of cake.
When you hand out newsletters, could you please make sure that Ashlee gets three of them so that she can give one to her father, because we do not get along, and another one to her grandmother, who might bring her from time to time?
Of course! I will color code them and ask your 5-year-old to make sure that Mommy does not touch Daddy’s because Mommy and Daddy are counting on her to eliminate the tension in their relationship. Obviously, Mommy does not communicate well with Grandma either, so I’ll also tell her to keep one until she sees Grandma. While I’m at it, I’ll ask her to tell Daddy and Grandma that Mommy does not pay for her classes. That way, maybe I will get three checks!
Emma cannot attend class next week. I am hoping that you have a video of her routine so she can work on it before next week. Just let me know and I will pick it up. If not, maybe you could videotape the class she missed.
Finally! I have a full library of all my completed recital dances by November of every year. I also have every class professionally videotaped just in case a student cannot attend—perhaps you have seen the crew in the back corner of the room each week. I have been doing this for 25 years and you are the first parent who has asked me for a copy. I knew if I hung in there the expense would be worth it. You have got to be kidding me!
I know you teach dance, but what is your real job?
Well, when not answering endless emails, returning redundant phone calls, preparing for 16 classes each week, selecting and ordering hundreds of costumes, renting theaters, writing the newsletters that you ignore, choreographing 126 pieces (and that’s a slow year), cleaning the daily mess at the studio, figuring out how to pay the studio bills on the tuition you constantly complain about, preparing music that won’t offend you or your child, and evading you at the mall to avoid yet another conversation about Jenny’s progress while trying to buy pants for my daughter that she has needed for six weeks (plus a very belated birthday present for my husband), I am on the neurosurgical team at the research hospital and enjoy playing cello for the symphony orchestra.