January 2013 | On My Mind

Words from the publisher

I recently ran into a dancer for whom I had choreographed solos when she was a teenager. I had followed her successful performing career in New York and Los Angeles, and by anyone’s standards she would be considered a hardworking professional. Now in her mid-30s, she told me she’s ready to shift into the next phase of her career, which is to open a dance school. Her plan of action is to open a studio in a town that doesn’t already have any dance schools. She has saved an impressive chunk of money that will get her new small business off the ground.

I was impressed—until she told me that she planned to teach only the best kids, while the teachers she hired would work with the everyday students. “After all my professional experience, I can’t see myself wasting time with kids who don’t have talent,” she said.

If you read this column regularly, you know that at this point my blood was beginning to boil, but I just listened. Finally I said, “If you are just starting out, where will the strong dancers come from?”

Without a moment’s hesitation she told me that last spring she had gone to the dance recitals presented by the schools in the towns near her proposed studio space. At each show she grabbed the programs and noted the names of the strongest dancers. Via Facebook and internet searches, she found contact information for more than 40 of those students.

It is her plan to send them an audition notice and accept 25 of them on full scholarship so that she can launch her new company. She also contacted several teachers at those schools to try to persuade them to teach her everyday students.

She seemed so proud of herself, while I was completely disgusted with her lack of ethics and respect. Apparently she had never considered that those school owners had spent years molding their strong dancers, putting the right faculty in place, and building reputable businesses. In her mind it was all hers for the taking.

Rhee Gold Seminars

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. The situation will be a live-and-learn one for her—the hard way. She will be one of those school owners who can’t figure out why all the dance teachers in her area can’t stand her. She will be the school owner who won’t make much money because the dancers on scholarship will expect everything for free, and so will those who come after them. She will be the school owner who will lose her everyday students because she doesn’t respect them and the advanced kids as equals. The controversy she will create will distract her, leaching time and energy from her efforts to make her school successful, and she will be alone in her dance community.

As dance teachers you are role models, and with that responsibility comes the obligation to teach young people about ethics. Teach your students that people in the dance world need to respect each other. One way to do that is by showing generosity to your fellow studio owners and teachers. Another is by treating all students as equally worthy of your attention.

Why? Because dance is for everyone.