by Sandi Duncan
The dance studio industry can be competitive. Owning a studio may lead to insecurity, fear, doubt, and complete exhaustion. As owner, you have many people around you, yet the loneliness can be overwhelming.
Often we build walls around ourselves for fear of being hurt or disappointed by clients or our competitors. We shut down, grow a tough outer shell, put on our big-girl pants, and move on. These walls may keep you temporarily safe from emotional hurt. Yet in the long run, you may be missing out on life-changing experiences and people in this beautiful world of dance.
Here in New England, where I am based, a deep bond of friendship exists among many of us dance educators. We cheer on each other’s students, and we help each other out when times are tough. We have watched each other maneuver through the waters of owning, and selling, studios; buying buildings; losing students; and undergoing all sorts of family challenges and celebrations—weddings, divorces, deaths, children growing up and moving on—and always, there is a ton of love among us. At conventions, classes, and competitions, we reunite with affectionate hugs.
“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” —Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Are you feeling a bit alone or lost? It may sound strange, but I would bet that your closest competitor experiences similar feelings of loneliness and would welcome a phone call from you. Why not reach out to teachers, choreographers, and studio owners in your area? Why not build a local community of trust, support, and friendship?
Yes, business is competitive, but it doesn’t have to include anger, mistrust, and fear. Step out of what feels comfortable, and challenge yourself to reach out to other like-minded souls. I think you’ll be glad you did. If someone rejects your overture, do your best not to take it personally, and try another business owner. You will find your people if you are persistent. Never give up on building your tribe.
Another way to build relationships is to join a local and/or national dance membership group such as Dance Masters of America (DMA) or Dance Educators of America (DEA). DMA is where I have forged some of my strongest friendships. Being among these friends brings a sense of warmth and comfort. They know my life. They get me—and for that I am forever grateful. If you crave connection and understanding, and long for someone who understands what you are going through in business and in life, then surround yourself with amazing dance-world people who will get you!
Building deep human connections in your field benefits your students too. Positive relationships with competitors show students that you are secure and confident in yourself and your vision. And if they witness you building friendships with local studio owners, they will feel they can do the same with peers from other studios.
Just picture this: a group of students from various studios, backstage at competition, all cheering, supporting, and congratulating one another on their performances and accomplishments—even if they are dancing in the same categories. These students are sharing love and passion for this beautiful art. They begin a new cycle of building their tribe of like-minded people; if they wind up teaching, they pass on the love to their future students. The cycle continues, bringing ever more love into our world. Could there be anything better?
Sandi Duncan is a senior staffer at Melissa Hoffman Dance Center. A certified life coach, she conducts team-building seminars and workshops for studios nationwide.