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Everyone is replaceable. That's the truth. We gently remind our dancers of this during their training so they realize that without professionalism, dedication, a good attitude, hard work and consistent practice there is always someone with equal or greater talent waiting in the wings. The same goes for any industry really, even our dance faculty.

However, when studio owners, assemble their dream team of teachers, the union can make magic. The possibilities for student growth and studio success become endless. Creativity soars and everyone is on the same page regarding the artistic and educational mission. Establishing this kind of dynamic however, takes time and effort. As studio owner, being diligent is key on the selection process to ensure a teacher is the "right fit," for your business and your students. Is their vision aligned with yours? Are they experienced and knowledgeable? Are they committed? Are they passionate and eager to learn themselves? Does their artistic integrity blend with other faculty? Does their unique teaching style provide variety for students? Does their disposition bring a good vibe into the studio?

These are all questions that you determine during the hiring process. So once this team is assembled, how do you maintain a harmonious relationship, growing and evolving together for years to come? Well, the truth is, like any relationship, both partners are equally responsible for the effort they put out. Equally responsible for the energy they bring into the space. Equally responsible for what they bring to the table. Equally responsible for getting the job done and being committed to their dancers. Equally responsible for being excited about teaching the next generation of dancers. Most importantly, they are equally responsible for demonstrating mutual respect, value and appreciation for what the other does. Without that, the relationship will just not work.

From the studio owner perspective, we are often so busy that sometimes demonstrating that appreciation goes overlooked through no fault of our own. Pausing for a moment to recognize the talent, accolades and job well done your teachers do during a season goes a long way. Remember, yes, you may be paying them, but they are also helping your business grow. Like any boss, good employees should be recognized... and we all know teachers are known for doing a thankless job much of the time. So, if you do feel fortunate enough to have a faculty that you want to hold onto, take the time to show them. It doesn't always have to be a grand gesture but that acknowledgment will go a long way and mean more than you may realize.

So how can you do that? There are so many ways – regular raises and bonuses of course are always most appreciated but if your studio is not currently in the financial position to provide that or you're just starting out, there are tons of other ways to go about it. Offering more classes, buying them lunch, surprising them with a gift card to ITunes or Starbucks, a thank you note waiting for them in their mailbox, a mention at your yearly recital, a faculty breakfast, a gift basket, an email blast to your studio community highlighting a specific contribution they made, etc. The ideas are endless! It's the gesture that counts!

Conversely, if an issue, conflict or disagreement does arise (and if you're together long enough, it's almost par for the course,) go about resolving it with mutual respect. Hear each other out, listen. Avoid power trips and threats even if it truly is best to part ways. Otherwise, this is entering dangerous territory. Demonstrating diplomacy and professionalism go a long way. Remember you are the boss and how you deal with it is a direct reflection on how you run your business and are perceived. Most importantly, always revert back to the thought above. You are a team and both equally responsible for the energy you bring into the space. Your teachers should value the employment you have provided and you, as studio owner should value their service and dedication. Keep making that dance magic happen...together! Your dance students will be all the better for it and reap the biggest rewards from the dream team!
Good luck to all!

See you in the dance studio,


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Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford is a native New Yorker and graduate of NYU Steinhardt's Dance Education Master’s Program; with a PK-12 New York State Teaching Certification. Her double-concentration Master’s Degree includes PK-12 pedagogy and dance education within the higher-education discipline. She also holds a BFA in dance performance from the UMASS Amherst 5 College Dance Program where she was a Chancellor's Talent Award recipient. Jess now works extensively with children, adolescents and professionals as choreographer and teacher and conducts national and international master-classes specializing in the genres of modern, contemporary, musical theatre and choreography-composition. Jess’ national and international performance career includes works such as: The National Tour of Guys & Dolls, The European Tour of Grease, West Side Story, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, Salute to Dudley Moore at Carnegie Hall, guest-dancer with the World Famous Pontani Sisters and IMPULSE Modern Dance Company. Jess has been a faculty member for the Perichild Program & Peridance Youth Ensemble & taught contemporary and jazz at the historic New Dance Group and 92nd Street Y in NYC. She was Company Director at the historic Steffi Nossen School of Dance/Dance in Education Fund and in 2008 traveled to Uganda where she taught creative-movement to misplaced children. The experience culminated with Jess being selected as a featured instructor at the Queen's Kampala Ballet & Modern Dance School. She has conducted workshops for the cast of LA REVE at the Wynn, Las Vegas and recently taught at the 2011 IDS International Dance Teacher Conference at The Royal Ballet in London, UK. She is also on faculty for the annual Dance Teacher Web Conferences in Las Vegas, NV. Currently, Jess is a faculty member at the D'Valda & Sirico Dance & Music Centre and master teacher & adjudicator for various national and international dance competitions. Recently, she has finished her NYU Master’s thesis research on the choreographic process of technically advanced adolescent dancers and is the creator of “PROJECT C;” a choreography-composition curriculum for the private studio sector. Jess is also faculty member, contributing writer and presenter in the choreography and “how to” teaching segments on the celebrated For more info, visit her website at

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