Ask Rhee Gold

After 16 years in business I am purchasing a building to make a new home for my studio. The new space is close to downtown, where there are a couple of schools that are very competitive. I have always done my best to stay on the good side of both owners.

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Ask Rhee Gold

I attended the DanceLife Teacher Conference in Phoenix last summer. I have made the exciting move of opening a studio, and I thank you for giving me knowledge about this process. Now I am creating a philosophy, goals, and a business plan, and I wondered if you could provide me with a few key elements that I should or shouldn’t include. Thank you! —Sophia

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Straight Talk

Ever wish you could pick the brain of a competition judge? Sure, you pay attention to the critiques, but sometimes those polite comments don’t seem to scratch the surface. What do judges like? Dislike? Admire? Applaud?

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Ask Rhee Gold

When I opened my school more than 12 years ago, a school owner a couple of towns away from my location decided that my little school was now her big competitor. As soon as I signed my lease, trouble started. Friends in my community told me that they had heard things like I wasn’t a qualified teacher or that I was a scam artist. Each time people told me something negative they’d heard, it got traced back to the other studio owner. The hard part was that I had no idea who this person was.

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Mail

I had to let some time go before I responded to “Happy Ending” by Amy Moy in your October issue [“Thinking Out Loud”]. The studio I work at is all about family as well. We support each other through the tough times, which hit home for me when I’d been on the wild ride of my mother’s illness. After the year-end show, I let my dancing ladies know that I probably wouldn’t have my mom much longer. The next day my mom went into the hospital for the last time; a week later I saw my dancing ladies at the funeral, and a month later they were at my home for our annual picnic.

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Ask Rhee Gold

A few years ago I became the director of a dance studio where I had taught for years. The first year our enrollment flourished, and the second year it held steady. This year has been very difficult and enrollment has dropped. However, the students who no longer dance here did not leave on a bad note; they graduated or wanted to try new activities. Those families said they loved our classes and teachers but did not want to overextend their children with activities.

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Ask Rhee Gold

What would you do about a student’s monthly tuition if she was injured (in athletics, not dance, and it required surgery) and out for a couple of months to recover? She is part of a team and her mom wants me to hold her place in the choreography. I’m on the fence about this since she cannot dance; the problem is that she was supposed to be in eight dances, and all of the teachers will need to remember to factor her in. I’m not opposed to waiving her tuition while she is out, but I want to make sure I don’t start something that snowballs with all the other “ouchies” in the studio. Thanks for your help! —Shelly

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Ask Rhee Gold

As an owner of a dance studio for many years, I wonder if it’s necessary to be at the studio every day. I’ve attended many of your conferences and I know your philosophy about how the owner sets the mood of the studio. I agree with that. But personal life has its ups and downs. I love the studio but feel burned out from time to time. I watch my customers take vacations as I work on the next project. Summer is a busy time preparing for the next season, so I feel like I don’t get a break.

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New Reality Series Offers Expert Advice to Ailing Dance Studios

Collins Avenue Productions and Bryan Stinson Casting are looking for dance studios that need assistance with everyday business stresses of hiring the right staff, scheduling classes, managing money, paying bills, and putting together a winning team, and would like to be featured in a new reality series, Dance Studio Revamp.

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Ask Rhee Gold

The wife of one of the teachers who works for me was arrested several months ago. She received four years of probation for running a drug operation out of their house. The teacher hasn’t been implicated at all, but I feel like he is, in a way, because of their marriage. He and their child are staying with her, hoping to work things out.

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On My Mind

A 7-year-old should not dance to “Love to Love You, Baby,” because she doesn’t know how to love him.

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Ask Rhee Gold

I have worked as an instructor at the same studio for seven years. A year ago I was promoted to manage our recreational department; it has suffered over the past few years. I raised the numbers a bit, but our studio’s company has always made up the bulk of our enrollment.

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EditorSpeak

I volunteer in a program that offers support to high school seniors—all the first in their families to attend college—as they write their college application essays. At our second meeting a recent high school graduate and program alum, who has been accepted to the University of California–Berkeley, spoke to the group of 50-odd coaches and students.

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Ask Rhee Gold

I recently learned that my landlord has leased the space next to my school to a tattoo parlor. I’m devastated. I recently expanded my school, but I’m sure future business for me will be grim because people will see what’s next door and drive down the street to the next dance school. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Ask Rhee Gold | Advice for dance teachers

I am having a difficult time. I run a small studio with only one room and one teacher, with around 150 kids. About five years ago we were kicked out of a mall because the businesses didn’t like the noise; about a year later my studio burned down. It turned out that our insurance covered losses only if we were the cause of the fire, and since the furnace blew and it was ruled that no one was at fault, we were out of luck and money. Then, about a year ago, my mother (and business manager) passed away from breast cancer.

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Mail

I wanted to thank you for including me in the article on seniors [“Aging Boomers, Dance Boom,” May/June 2013]. I was so pleased to be interviewed with such an amazing group of instructors who have a passion for the same demographic. Thank you so much!

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Ask Rhee Gold

One of our competitive dancers told me she overheard a group of other competitive dancers (all are that fabulous middle-school age) making fun of another competitive dancer while watching a video from a recent showcase. We have our first competition of the season this weekend and would like to avoid tons of drama. All of these girls are in several dances together, and we do not want the ones who are not involved to suffer. This town is so small that anything that happens is news!

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On My Mind

Recently I got a phone call from a frantic school-owner friend looking for advice. She had started a business selling dancewear to her students and the community, and she was panicking because she was still losing money after four years. She told me how she had worked so hard to make the business a success. And then she said, “I can’t stand the thought of failure.” She was worried about what her family or friends would think of her if she couldn’t pull it off.

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Decades of Dance

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be on the far end of a 40-year dance career? How do teachers over the age of 60 adjust their teaching style? What lessons did they learn? To gain some insight and advice from people who have danced into their 60s or 70s, we asked three longtime teachers, all in the Oregon dance community, to share their thoughts.

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Ask Rhee Gold

I have a dedicated 14-year-old student who shows up for every class and rehearsal by walking or taking the bus to the studio. Her life has been one tragedy after another. Her mom died when she was 8. For a while relatives dropped her off and picked her up at the studio. They were always late with tuition and other payments, but I let it go. About three years ago her older brother was killed and recently her father had a mental breakdown. Now no one drives her to dance or pays her tuition, but she manages to get to the studio almost every day.

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Ask Rhee Gold

I own a school that was founded by my grandmother. I grew up knowing that someday I would take the reins and I always looked forward to it. I am proud of what we have built, but my children have their own interests, and they don’t include directing the family school.

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Ask Rhee Gold

Do you have any advice about working with competition kids and determining who is in the front row, back row, etc.? These are 7- and 8-year-old kids in their second year of competing. It is only a group of 10, so the majority of times they’re in either the first or second row. I try to rotate them as much as I can, but there are always the stronger ones I need at that age. It bothers me because I always try to make sure they all feel important and a part of the routine. How should I base which dancers are in the front row—do I assess them or give preference to the kids who have been with the studio longer than the others?

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Mail

I can’t begin to express what a beautiful job you did capturing the essence of our ballet scholarship competition [“Classical in Connecticut,” September 2012]. Thank you for bringing such exposure to the dance community and beyond. It also brought recognition to our CDA [Connecticut Dance Alliance] organization. I appreciate your quoting me on the educational aspect and opportunity it provides for growth. We want to continue to deliver that each year.

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Ask Rhee Gold

I need some advice on an extremely sad, unfortunate situation. As a member of Dance Masters of America, I uphold a code of ethics. I respect my colleagues and do my best to maintain a professional working relationship with everyone. Recently, though, a full-time teacher of four years at a local dance studio got arrested for multiple instances of lewd and lascivious acts with minors. One incident occurred at a dance convention. The studio owner knew about it and still kept this teacher on staff for several months. When the owner finally let her go, she still planned to have the teacher choreograph privately for the school’s competition team. My problem is that this has lowered morale and trust in dance studios and teachers.

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Ask Rhee Gold

Dear Rhee,

Today one of my teen students told me that she has to leave the school where I teach because her parents can’t afford the lessons, shoes, and costumes. She is such a good dancer, with a personality that cannot be beat. She’s at the studio all the time and I look forward to seeing her because she fills the room with joy. I want to ask the school’s owner to give the girl a scholarship, but I know he is having a hard time financially too. I was thinking of paying for part of the tuition myself, but I can’t afford to cover all her expenses. I am looking for advice on how I can keep this student in the classroom.

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Ask Rhee Gold

Dear Rhee,

I teach for an amazing woman who built a big school with the help of her mother, who worked in the office until she died over a year ago, at a young age. It was stunning to all of us involved in the school because she really was the one who prepared and had everything organized for everything that happens outside of the classes. She died in the spring, so all the teachers and friends jumped in to help get through the rest of the year. It worked out fine and everyone bonded, feeling like they were part of the team. It was very rewarding. When the next season started my boss had hired a new studio manager to replace her mother.

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Ask Rhee Gold

I don’t want my students or their parents to believe that I am not offering them the best training I can, but I know they are getting from my school what they need. And I know this girl should move on. Are my teachers right?

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Ask Rhee Gold

I have been teaching for 13 years at a school owned by my best friend. We have been friends since middle school. She has devoted herself to her business and dance forever. Her dream was to own a school and my dream was to teach without the pressures of a business. The relationship has been pretty much perfect for many years.

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Ask Rhee Gold

When an injury takes place, either at the studio or at a performance, you need to make an accident report. This means that you write down everything that happened in great detail, including what the injured party was doing when the accident occurred and everything the injured party says and does. In this case, I would have written down what the parents said at the hospital as well.

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On My Mind

People write to me for advice on an enormous range of issues, and I usually feel that I can offer something useful because I’ve been in the dance field for a long time in a lot of different roles. But some letters, especially the ones that make me really feel someone’s pain, leave me asking myself: What do I say to this person?

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A simple smile or compliment

It could be a simple smile or a compliment that makes it a great day for your students/dancers. Today is as good a day as any to make that happen. AND remember how lucky you are to have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of so many . . .

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Ask Rhee Gold | March-April 2010

Hi Rhee,
A parent signed her kid up for a 4:00 p.m. jazz class for 5- to 8-year-olds. We didn’t have enough children to run the class, so the secretary asked the parents if the children could move to the 4:45 p.m. jazz class and told me that all three moms said yes. I sent an email confirming the change before winter break, since we were ordering costumes. No one contacted me to say they were not interested in the change, so I ordered the costumes. After the break the class met, and one mom claimed her daughter left in tears and hated it (which didn’t happen because I was there to see how it went), and she wants a refund for her costume.

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Ask Rhee Gold | February 2010

Dear Rhee,
At the start of last year I hired a well-respected ballet teacher. She is a good teacher who is well prepared for her classes and I have noticed a big difference in my students’ technical skills. They are taking their ballet classes seriously, wearing the proper attire, with their hair in a bun, all of which I hoped for when I hired this teacher.

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Ask Rhee Gold | January 2010

Dear Rhee,
I am interested in selling my studio and am willing to stay on as a teacher. (My older girls would likely leave rather than stay for the new teacher; this way we could transition them over a few seasons to the new program while the younger girls build their loyalty to the new regime.) Do you have any suggestions for how to sell or find a buyer without broadcasting to my competitors (or clients) that I’m looking to sell? I have no staff or teachers. I have almost two years before my next lease renewal and figure the process will probably take a year.

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2 Tips for Teachers | Dealing With Disruptions

A child who disrupts a class obviously wants attention. If the child is young, explain that you need to have someone hold your hand; then firmly and kindly hold that child’s hand. Or give the child a special place in the front of the class, along with the responsibility of being the class model. It usually works well.

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A Better You | Frenzy Free

Everyone would agree that the year’s end is a difficult time. It usually involves frantic list making, wrapping up the fall season’s dance programs, and facing increased family and social commitments. And then there’s coming to terms with what did and did not happen in the business plan for the year. If that isn’t a recipe for hyperventilating and an impending sense of doom, I don’t know what is.

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Ask Rhee Gold | October 09

Dear Rhee,
I am a studio owner who is starting to see the effects of the economy in my area, and I’m worried that this will be my last year due to financial pressures. I have been in business for seven years. I just took 17 kids to Dance the Magic in California and had a great time. My clients are happy, but the numbers are just not there. If I can’t get out of this debt, then I will have to close, and I really don’t want to do that. I’m doing everything I can, but with seven dance studios in a five-minute driving radius, I just don’t think I will survive.

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Ask Rhee Gold | September 09

Dear Rhee,
I have been teaching for 25 wonderful years and still love what I do. That said, I have been presented with a dilemma. My studio has a competitive team, and we have only done regionals to this point. However, a parent is pushing for her 9-year-old daughter to attend a national competition because it is close to where we live and her daughter wants to do it. The competition does not accept individual entries; therefore, I would have to enter it, and it happens to be the week of my recital.

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Ask Rhee Gold | August 09

Dear Rhee,
I recently discovered that one of my students, Joanne (not her real name), who is 15 and has been with me since she was 3, is having issues with drug addiction. This young lady is talented, sweet, and focused when she is at my school. I have taken her under my wing because her parents have had their own problems with drugs and alcohol. Sometimes I see her sitting outside, waiting for her ride home, and it never comes. Her parents forget to pick her up, so I give her a ride. A couple of times she has cried all the way home because she’s embarrassed. I assure her that I don’t judge her by her parents’ actions and that I will be there for her if she needs anything.

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Ask Rhee Gold | July 09

I am a ballet school owner who has been in business for 21 years. Recently a student’s mother told me that her daughter would not be returning in the fall because they feel that I am old-fashioned. (I am 44 years old.) The mom said that requiring my students to wear a black leotard and pink tights to ballet class was “out of style” and that her daughter wanted to wear colors that would look better with her complexion. She also told me that it was ridiculous to require my students to wear their hair pulled back.

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Ask Rhee Gold | Feb 09

Dear Rhee,
For more than 25 years I have been teaching at the studio where I trained as a student. I loved working for the school owner, who was my teacher and a tremendous mentor. Last year she had a stroke and has been in a nursing home for several months. It does not look like she is going to become well enough to return home or back to the school.

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2 Tips for Teachers | Lines & Circles

How do you get students to keep straight lines when dancing in a group or ensemble for a competition or recital? It’s simple: Teach them to look directly at the back of the head of the dancer in front of them (right at the bun, if it’s a girl).

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Ask Rhee Gold | January 09

Advice for dance teachers Hi Rhee, This year a family left our studio, which was expected and is really better for the studio as a whole. The problem is this: They convinced six other families to go with them and have been harassing the studio since they left. They continue . . .

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Ask Rhee Gold | December 2008

Dear Rhee, I have a student who has a mischievous side that seems to come out when she is at my school and, from what I understand, at public school too. She does things like drop mean notes in the other students’ dance bags. Sometimes she calls them fat or ugly and is always just plain mean. She never signs her name to the notes, but we have determined that it is her because of the handwriting.

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