I know you have had a lot of experience in the competition field and I am hoping that you can help with me with some advice on how to become a judge. For the past couple of years I have been sending my resume to many of the national competitions inquiring about a judging position, yet no one ever contacts me.
My credentials include dancing on Broadway, on tour, and in videos with Janet Jackson, Madonna, and others. I have appeared in soap operas, movies, and almost every other professional venue out there. Last week I went to observe a competition and discovered that the judges had very little professional experience and most of them were from small-town dance schools with no professional performance credentials. How do the directors of competitions skip over my experience in favor of a local dance teacher with no experience? What do I have to do to get on a judging panel? I would think my experience would put me at the top of the list, especially above the rinky-dink dance teacher. Please help. Thanks. —Gordon
I am so glad you wrote, because I feel like you’re not alone in your thinking. As a former competition director, I appreciate the opportunity to express my views on this subject—although I have a feeling you might not like my answer.
First and foremost, the professional credentials you have do not make you a qualified judge for dance competitions. The most important credential is experience in the classroom, which gives judges the professional know-how of what it takes to get a group of 10-year-olds to dance on the same foot on the same beat in the music. These “rinky-dink” teachers, as you call them, do understand what it takes to make a group of children look good because they work with them on a daily basis, year in and year out. You do not.
In your email you do not mention any experience teaching or choreographing for children. That’s the professional experience that these teachers have that you do not. In my opinion the best judges are those who teach or are studio owners. You should be proud of your accomplishments, but they do not make you more qualified to judge a dance competition than the average dance teacher.
If you really want to be a judge, get rid of the attitude that you are better than those who are judging now and get yourself into one of these “rinky-dink” dance studios to see what it takes to be a professional dance teacher. Try your hand at choreography for a group of 7-year-olds or beginner teenagers so that you can sit in a judge’s chair with a true understanding of what you are watching and what it takes to make it happen.
I apologize if this response seems harsh, but I have heard your story many times and I’ve never had the opportunity to express my feelings on the subject. Add to that the fact that I am proud of the “rinky-dink” blood that flows through my veins and I relish the opportunity to defend the thousands of dance teachers who are working in the trenches every day. Thank you. —Rhee
Today I feel like I want to close shop. I just received a call at home from an irate mom who is questioning the class placement of her child. It’s the same old story of the mom who believes that her child is better than everyone else in the class, but this situation is more than that because this woman is beginning to scare me.
I asked her to stop calling me at home, and she has called me three times since then. She always tells me that she is sorry to bother me at home, but then she goes on a rant for anywhere from a half-hour to two hours. She cries and cusses me out every time and today, before she hung up on me, she told me that I should watch my back because she wasn’t going to take it anymore.
I can’t take another call or another rip-the-dance-teacher-apart session. I am confident that her child is in the right class and I know the child knows that too. She is always happy in class and I can tell that she is embarrassed by her mom’s actions. How do I get this to stop? Do I throw the kid out? And if I do that, will this mom be lurking in my driveway one morning, ready for a fight or worse? I think I’m dealing with a very unstable person. Any ideas for dealing with her would be appreciated. —Gina
This is serious and not the typical disgruntled-parent scenario that so many of us deal with. As far as I am concerned, you are being harassed and when she told you to watch your back, she threatened you.
In my opinion, the child and the mom have to go, and that’s too bad for the child because she has to live with her unstable mother every day. Before you do anything, you need to go to your attorney to discuss what has transpired so far. If I were in your place, I would ask the attorney to contact this parent to let her know that she and her child are not welcome at your school and that she should refrain from contacting you again. If she persists, then it may be time for a restraining order, which your attorney can help make happen.
In the meantime, you have the power to refuse to listen to this parent when she calls you at home. Screen your calls or at the least, when she calls, tell her you’d be happy to discuss her concerns at the studio and that she should call the school’s office manager or secretary if she’d like to make an appointment. Then politely say goodbye and hang up. Another option is to change your home phone number and do not list it in the phone book. If she obtains it anyway, then continue to politely refuse her calls.
It is too bad that there are parents who act like this; I can only imagine the influence that her actions have on her child. However, you don’t deserve to be harassed or threatened one second longer. Go to your attorney right away and get this behind you. Good luck! —Rhee
Your magazine is such an inspiration for me and I love to read about dance teachers who are dealing with the same issues I am. When I read your advice column, I feel like you are right on. So I have decided to throw a question your way.
When I was growing up in a dance school, I had a very loving teacher who had a passion that rubbed off on me. However, I learned early in my teaching career that my training was not all that good. Since I opened my school, I make it a point to learn as much as I can by spending my summers studying in New York and Los Angeles, training and observing classes in every style and level that I teach. I know that I’ve become a strong teacher because of my consistent continuing education and my desire to learn.
Today my school has seven faculty members from a variety of backgrounds and experience. Some of them come from the same kind of training that I did. They all love what they do, but I know they need more knowledge in order to offer the kind of dance education that I want for my students. I hear that there are teacher-training programs out there, but I have never been to one. Are they something that will help my teachers become better, and where do I find them? Any information you can offer is appreciated. —Shelby
I appreciate your drive to learn and be the best teacher you can be—you should be proud of yourself for taking the initiative to always improve your knowledge. That’s what makes a good teacher!
Throughout my dance life, I have been involved in many of the teacher-training programs, especially those associated with the dance teacher organizations. Actually, I am a proud graduate of the Dance Teachers Club of Boston Teacher Training School, and as a past president of Dance Masters of America, I was involved in their program at the University of Buffalo. And there are others that I have been a guest speaker for, including the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, Cecchetti Council of America, and Dance Educators of America, among others.
I am an advocate for these programs because, for the most part, they are developed by organizations that represent the private-sector dance educator. They know the classrooms that we come from and they understand the knowledge and tools we need to handle the variety of styles and skill levels that are unique to the private-sector dance educator. Some programs are offered over a series of years, concluding with a certificate of completion. Others are more intense and last a shorter period of time. Many are now offering post-graduate programs for teachers who complete the program but still want to continue their study.
You can find ads for these programs in many of the national dance publications, including Dance Studio Life at times, and if you type “dance-teacher training schools” in your browser, you’ll discover a ton of options. I wish you and your faculty the best in your pursuit to be the best dance educators you can be. —Rhee