We are very excited about the ‘Ask the Exec’ component of our site! If you have a question, email it to info@danceexec.com (you can choose to share your name or be listed as ‘anonymous’), and we will select one question per week to feature on our site. The power of collaboration is strong, so please feel free to share your suggestions in the comments section below, too.

Our first question is from an anonymous reader:

Dear Dance Exec,

I trained at a studio that was competitive, stressed the importance of technique, yet still managed to keep up with the always progressing industry. I go to college in a different state and was recently hired to teach at a studio that has been open for 15 years. I’m working with their advanced students, the dancers who compete, and I’m noticing that they lack ballet fundamentals, despite being with the same ballet teacher since age 3. They also aren’t getting the push they need in classes, I recently had to tell their most advanced dancers (ages 16-18) to try a triple pirouette in class because they had never been asked to do anything other than a double.

The studio itself is very old-fashioned (they just switched from lyrical sandals to foot-undeez) and although the owner is wanting to change and be more contemporary, she doesn’t seem confident enough to make the changes happen. What bothers me is that the dancers have potential, they’re just rooted in bad habits and stuck in an environment that does not prepare them for success in the present industry. They go to one convention a year, although it’s the same convention every year, and they also only attend competitions that they have done in previous years because they know that they will consistently score high with the talent pool that attends.

As an instructor, do you have any suggestions as to how to approach this situation in a positive fashion that can help both the studio and dancers grow? The studio owner is willing to make changes, she just doesn’t see the need to and is therefore lacking motivation. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Sincerely,
Anonymous

Here is our suggested course of action:

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for being invested in your students’ dance education! It is wonderful that you aim to see their growth and progress, and I applaud the studio owner for being open (albeit reluctant) to change. Keep in mind that the studio has been open for 15 years, so it is likely that their corporate culture and beliefs are set.

However, the power of knowledge is strong, so if you are looking to influence the studio’s culture during your tenure, I would recommend creating a detailed guide of recommended events, suggestions, and resources (it could address conventions to social media to competition to in-studio curriculum to dress codes). With each section, be specific about advantages and disadvantages and detail the benefits of your recommended opportunities. When you present the studio owner with the guide, let him/her know that you listed some suggestions that you feel may be beneficial for the growth and development of his/her studio. Invest time in this guide and make sure that you present it positively as recommendations and suggestions. Sit down and have a conversation with the studio owner and share your thoughts. If you are genuinely interested in the betterment of this business, I think the studio owner will be appreciative of your efforts. And, if the studio owner chooses not to take action, maybe that signifies this is not the best job opportunity for you.

At the end of the day, it sounds as though the root of your frustration is a difference in corporate culture, and I strongly believe that is one of the preeminent, underlying factors in job dissatisfaction or conflict. And, though you may try to impact the infrastructure of the studio (and, hopefully, will succeed in at least a small way), I fear that your frustrations will continue to increase. Check out this blog article from the Harvard Business Review, When Choosing a Job, Culture Matters. I think it will offer some insight on the importance of culture and it’s applicability to your particular situation.

Keep us updated on your impact. Happy Dancing!

Chasta Hamilton Calhoun

The Dance Exec

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