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It can be a tough pill to swallow when a student who has been with you for quite some time decides to leave your dance studio. On the other hand, it can also feel like a huge relief when that one negative, pot stirring student (and family) decides to leave. Or, you kindly ask them to leave because you value their happiness and don’t see your studio as being a good fit for them.

Each scenario has their own grieving process, albeit maybe one a little longer than the other. However, what do you do when any former student decides to bad-mouth your studio, your teachers and your current students? Social media today makes it even harder, with its quick ability at the click of a button to reach the masses.

So, how do you go about it? What I have learned is, people can react very negatively and defensively when you start vocalizing boundaries. Where they take it as a personal attack, it really is more of, “xyz is just not OK with me anymore…” It doesn’t have to be combative or ill-willed, but speaking up can make people uncomfortable and take it as a personal attack when in reality, it’s just you asserting what works for you and what doesn’t. And nobody should ever apologize for that, as long as it’s done in a respectful way.

Taking the high road is really the way to go here. As long as you know your truth and have a clear conscious that YOU did everything you could to salvage the relationship, were communicable, respectful, listened with opened ears and tried your very best –that’s all you can do. You cannot and will not ever control others.

All you can do is control your actions and behaviors. If you are living in your truth and moving with good intention, let them talk. It can feel difficult at times and of course we are human. Our feelings get hurt and we question how things may have went down or what we could have done differently. But, at the end of the day, just move with grace and well wishes. Eventually the cream always rises to the top and the naysayers usually expose themselves to who they really are.

Remember, everything has a certain shelf life and this to shall pass. Most of your students and their families just want to dance and have fun and are ready move on when someone leaves. They don’t want to get involved with any negative vibe that someone may be trying to say about your studio.

Just continue to stay in your lane, wish them the best and keep your students’ dance education, health and happiness at the forefront and you will never go wrong.

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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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