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Dance Studio Owners

          We all want to hire a faculty who has the same mind-set as we do; who shares in the same philosophies and has a vested interest in the development and success of our students. When we take the time to interview potential teachers and choreographers, we look for those traits which we instinctually believe will “fit” into the model of the mission statement we seek to set forth. More importantly, we all desire “a family” of like-minded individuals who work together as a team to achieve a common goal and support one another as well as our dancers.

            The thing to remember however is that most times the teachers we hire are that of a “freelancer” status, or “independent-contractor.” Most, teach at other studios as full-time schedules are difficult to provide them; with only so many classes available in a given week as well as honoring the importance of providing students with an eclectic array of teaching styles. Another thing to remember is that teachers are most often not salaried employees; do not receive benefits, sick days, paid holidays, etc. With that said, there is a very fine line of what we can hope our faculty will do outside of teaching their classes and what we expect them to do. 

            In my travels, I have spoken to many (and have experienced myself) studio owners who sometimes exhibit a sense of entitlement over their teachers and become disgruntled when they have other commitments outside of their studio. Not out of laziness or desire to want to contribute more, but not given the respect of their personal time and value as an employee. Our teachers are going to help our business thrive and make our dancers what they are…and we must remember that.  I have seen examples include studio owners who get upset because their teachers do not show up for every last one of the competitions the studio attends, or every single night of recital. Those who find it unprofessional that teachers will not rehearse a private here and there for free or attend multiple, lengthy faculty meetings because they can’t take off from another paying job to do so. The scenarios go on and on. It is an assumption that we really need to stop taking for granted.

 While I do believe it is appropriate to expect teachers to “give and take” and not nickel and dime a studio director for every last thing, they should want to show up for competition because they want to see their kids perform and support them. They should want to be there for recital nights; even if they can’t make it to all. If we’re finding that teachers are not doing this of their own free-will and desire to be there for their dancers, then that is a whole other issue that needs to be looked at in terms of commitment from their end. What I am talking about here is balance. Not taking advantage of those teachers who you know do their best and expecting them beyond what is appropriate.

If you do decide these are things that are of the upmost importance to you, then there are a couple of ways to go about it. The first way is to compensate them for their time. Whether it be their hourly pay, their travel expenses, etc.  If it is essential for you to have a teacher at a particular competition or meeting on a day when they are perhaps working elsewhere, you cannot expect them to take off and lose the pay for that day. We all know the ramifications and how much losing one day’s pay can set someone back. Be sensitive to this fact. And if you need them there, then you need to pay them. Another option is to put them on a salary if they have enough full-time hours at your studio. If they are a salaried employee then their hiring contract will include these outside job requirements to which no extra compensation needs to be distributed. A third option is to provide little incentives and “thank you’s” throughout the year, whether it be at holiday time and/or at the beginning or end of the year to show your appreciation. Providing little perks, whatever they may be, really will let your teachers know how much you value them. The last, is if you remain a firm believer that a teacher should be “on-call” for everything the studio needs them there for, then it is your responsibility to make the expectations very clear in their contract agreement at the time of hiring. It is only fair then for a teacher to be given fair warning before signing to know what is expected of them before committing to it. It then becomes their obligation to follow-through.

Again, keep in mind that what I’m discussing here is about balance. Valuing each other and respecting each other’s time, commitment and effort put forth. We should all want to do the best job we can because we love our kids. We should want to be there in any capacity we can for them, but be mindful of people’s time and respect that commitment our teachers put forth to every studio they teach at!


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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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