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Studio Owner Article



It’s inevitable. At some point in owning your dance studio a student is going to want to part ways and stop dancing. If you’re lucky, it may happen only a handful of times over the course of your career, but the reality is it’s going to happen. To add insult to injury, unfortunately it’s sometimes the dancers that we can’t fathom losing because their presence and talent in class and rehearsals inspire us and make us better at what we do. But, many times it is.

So what do we do when we get that inevitable memo that a parent and student want to meet with us? While our insides might be stirring with thoughts of how we will make things work, change dances, formations, competition routines, etc. the priority needs to start with concerning yourself with the welfare of this dancer and understanding the mindset they are in for making this big decision. It’s also important to understand how they came to the decision, the reasoning behind it and how you can support it going forward so they are the happiest individual they can be.

A lot of times, this sudden revelation occurs with dancers right around the beginning of high school. For a number of reasons including, settling into the high school experience, increased workload, difficulty with time management, emotional issues at home, overextending themselves with other commitments, wanting to explore new avenues and spending more time with friends in their new environment. While this rite of passage is undoubtedly valid, dropping dance all together is not necessarily the answer either.

When you are confronted with this meeting of student and parent, ask how long a student has been feeling this way, whether or not they have thought about what they would be giving up and if they’ve thought about how it will affect their day to day life. Remember, while these questions may seem like tough-love so they really think about their pending decision, it’s also not OK to approach the dancer with a combative or defensive demeanor. Regardless of how you’re feeling, the main priority is always the dancer’s well-being.

A lot of times you will also find that the parents are the ones to quickly want to pull their kids out of dance because they want to comply with a child’s instant gratification of feeling overwhelmed, too much on their plate, etc. Rather than working with their child to honor their dance commitments or thinking of alternatives like cutting back classes, numbers they are in, coming up with ways to time manage better in terms of scheduling and working with the studio so the dancer can maintain their training to even a lesser degree, a lot of times for them it’s all or nothing. This isn’t necessarily the best approach either, but, in the end all you can do is offer alternatives and help to work with the student. If their heart is really set on leaving, they’re going to do so.

The best thing you can then do as studio owner is to remind the dancer and their family that the studio doors are always open and to wish them well. Many times, dancers realize within a few months or the first year that the grass is not always greener and miss their dance classes and friends at the studio only to return. Supporting their decision at the time with understanding and compassion will go a long way. We’ve all been at that age and sometimes we need a break to miss what we truly love and are meant to be doing.

Alternatively, if a dancer leaves and doesn’t miss it, then that was probably the best decision for them and for you as well. Nobody should ever want to force someone to be where they don’t want to be. The joy of dance should be celebrated and your studio should be filled with students who want to be there to learn and move. While you may lose a few along the day, keep your eye on the hundreds of dancers who will go on because of what your establishment taught them. That love for dance starts with you. Whether they do continue or merely have a special place for dance in their heart throughout their lives, it’s because of the lessons you taught them. 

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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