July 2017 | On My Mind

Words from the publisher

I recently traveled to Glendale, Arizona, to present weekend seminars at the Spisak Dance Academy. It was a different seminar experience than most I’ve had, because I got to work with everyone involved—the faculty, the students, and their parents. The kids and the teachers were easy for me, but the parents gave me a bit of hesitation; I haven’t had much experience working with parents in a seminar format.

Photo by Mim Adkins

I am happy to report that I loved it! The parents wanted to better understand dance education and the benefits that their kids gain through the process. I explained that their children develop healthy bodies, gain a sense of balance by managing their commitments to both dance and academics; work with mentors who are focused on the students’ success both inside and outside of the classroom; enjoy friendships that could last a lifetime; and feel a sense of belonging to an extended family of fellow dancers, teachers, and parents. These parents listened intently and asked lots of questions.

There was a point when I explained that I can teach the same movement or curriculum to two kids who are exactly the same age, and yet those same two children will progress at different rates. Many of us in the dance education field might take that bit of knowledge for granted, but I knew from the silence that followed that the parents had never heard it before.

From experience, I know that dance is an individual art form and children must be allowed to learn at a comfortable pace. I explained that encouraging children to be the best that they can be, regardless of what others may achieve, is the way to go, because I believe that young people should focus on themselves, give their all, and be satisfied with their own accomplishments, and that parents should do the same.

For years, I have asked teachers to name their hardest challenge; they always say that it’s dealing with parents. I have experienced tough parents myself, but I have always believed that good communication skills on the part of the teacher and/or the school owner are key to alleviating many parental issues. So I encourage you to share your knowledge and experience with parents. I am convinced that they want to understand the process and trust you to handle their child’s dance training in a positive way, but they also want answers to their questions, and they don’t want to feel intimidated about expressing their concerns.

When parents feel that you’re working with them to help their children become the best they can be, they will be less likely to question your motives, spread gossip, or drop out. Developing the parents’ trust will create an atmosphere of support for the studio and fans who will help to grow your business and reputation. What more could you ask for? —Rhee

DSL publisher Rhee Gold has owned a dance competition, presided over national dance teaching organizations, and founded Project Motivate. His book, The Complete Guide to Teaching Dance, is in its second printing.