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Dance Studio Owners

Expectation. It’s a word in which we often tip toe around. Especially in regards to our younger generation. Are they expected to handle too much? Do too much? Manage too much? Cope with too much? Be responsible & accountable for too much? Demonstrate too much? Etc. Etc. Well, the honest answer is sometimes yes, sometimes, no.

There is a difference however, when we are referring to the term, “expectation” in the context of unsubstantiated and unfair stresses which are not age appropriate vs. the expectation of one’s ability, responsibility loads, work ethic and rising to challenges to be the best they can be.

Expecting your students to hold themselves to a level of excellence, self-respect, pride, and work ethic is not a bad thing. Sometimes we as dance teachers and studio owners blame ourselves for expecting too much of this from our students. Therefore we back-peddle and enable them to slip. But, if we look at what it is we are expecting of them, you’ll come to recognize we are doing more of a disservice to our next generation if we don’t prepare them for the world and help unleash the greatness which lies within themselves.

So, the next time you question whether or not you are in the wrong, in terms of expectations from your students or how you handle your studio business and mission, take a look at my, “Yes. It’s OK,” list below and recognize you actually are OK. And not alone! You’re doing great. You are setting the barre high for your studio family and that’s a wonderful thing when done with authoritativeness in combination with love and positivity. Together, you can all accomplish great things. You can also take a breather to trust your gut that you are doing the very best for your students and only trying to bring the very best out of them, as a dancer and as a human being.

Yes! It's OK to expect nothing less that 100% in class and rehearsal...consistently.
Yes! It's OK to constructively and objectively critique, evaluate and give feedback to help a dancer improve. That's your job.
Yes! It's OK to not give everyone a solo or a feature just because they want it and make them earn it.
Yes! It's OK to make dancers start from the bottom up and work their way up.
Yes! it's OK if not everyone gets a trophy every time.
Yes! It's OK to not give into a student's instant gratification of advancement when unmerited in order to make the parent happy.
Yes! It's OK that dancers must audition for Company positions.
Yes! It's OK to expect that your dancers show up to class appropriately dressed and on time.
Yes! It's OK to require your dancers take ballet if they are interested in more than recreational pursuits.
Yes! It's OK to expect your older dancers to set an example for younger ones and be role models.
Yes! It's OK to have a strict attendance and make-up policy.
Yes! It's OK to speak with your dancers, call them out and talk with them openly and honestly when they aren't working up to their ability to find out what's going on.
Yes! It's OK to demand their all and have them rise to the challenge.
Yes! It's OK to require all dancers at all rehearsals.
Yes! It's OK to not advance a dancer to the next level when you know they aren't ready.
Yes! It's OK to get emotional when your dancers make you proud.
Yes! It's OK to want a doctors note for an injury or illness and conversely for when it's OK to return.
Yes! It's OK to have midterm meetings with dancers and parents to, "check-in" and discuss progress, goals and concerns.
Yes! It's OK to require Company dancers to attend summer intensives and dance over the summer.
Yes! It's OK to give challenging exercises and combos that are outside their comfort zone just enough, so they rise up.
Yes! It's OK if your dancers aren't feeling your (or a teacher's) choreography. They still need to show respect to faculty and perform it like they do.
Yes! It's OK to insist on technique warm-up on a day students just want to, "do their dance."
Yes! It's OK to insist on technique warm-up every class.
Yes! It's OK to praise them when they do a great job or achieve something new.
Yes! It's OK to remind dancers about etiquette, hygiene, professionalism and other peripheral lessons dance teaches us.
Yes! It's OK to ask your dancers to clean up after themselves and treat their studio with respect.
Yes! it's OK to expect dancers be mature enough to take care of their shoes and costumes.
Yes! It's OK to expect tuition, costume, competition and all other fees to be paid on time (unless discussed privately as to a personal issue.)
Yes! It's OK to remind dancers the energy they bring into the space affects your teaching and mood just as much as your affects them.
Yes! It's OK to instill in your dancers that you only get out what you put in.
Yes! It's OK to reinforce your studio's mission and stick to your guts for the sake of a positive, fun, learning environment and your dancers’ best interest.

Good luck!

See you in the dance studio!



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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