As a studio owner, there are challenges in and of itself when dealing with other dance studios who are in close proximity to yours. There is constant competition in gaining business, losing business, staying relevant, keeping on the pulse of current trend and offering top-notch training. These are all issues one faces on a daily basis when opening a dance studio.
A further stress comes into play when we are faced with dance students who suddenly feel the desire to dance at multiple studios. To make the situation even trickier, there are students who often dance AND compete at those other studios in a close mile radius. So, how do we tackle this conflict of interest? First off, decide whether it is just that for you- a conflict of interest. Depending on what kind of studio you run will be a big factor in determining how you deal with this issue. If you run a recreational studio, this may not bother you as much as a studio who is a fully operational training facility and competition studio.
For these kinds of studios, many times it is a conflict of interest for multiple reasons. The type of training the student is getting is a prime example. The way you train your young dancers and the way another studio trains theirs may be in complete opposition to each other. Consequently, this may prolong their progress. This is something that may be evident when watching your dancer in class. Now, admitting whether this is actually benefitting the dancer because they are seemingly appearing more and more well-rounded due to the exposure of multiple teaching styles or impeding their development is something only you can decipher with your faculty.
The biggest problem which I have seen arise occurs when a dancer competes for multiple studios throughout the season. This is an extremely delicate issue and can be awkward to deal with if you do not vocalize your stance on it from the beginning. Being clear on studio protocol is up to you and setting that tone from the beginning to avoid confusion is pivotal. Don’t ever take it for granted that students just assume certain scenarios are OK. It’s your responsibility as studio owner to take the guess work out of what expectations are set, inside and outside of class.
Whether or not the dancer and their parents are forthcoming about wanting to compete for multiple studios can still put you and your students in a difficult position. There are so many things to consider when deciding what is right for you and questions necessary to ask yourself. “How will this affect company morale with a fellow dancer in direct competition to them in same category events?” “If the dancer is competing multiple solos, how will that affect the school?” “Who will the student represent onstage, studio A or studio B?” “How will the other studio handle this student division?” “What does a shared class and rehearsal schedules then look like?” There is a lot to consider. Now, if you feel this dancer is a key player for you both and important enough to make it work, you and the other studio may come to a mutual agreement which works for both of you. If it is worth the investment, you may choose to discuss the details of “sharing” the student and what is fair, logistically in terms of similar questions mentioned above.
Just remember there are other logistical things to consider when deciding whether a student dancing at multiple studios will work for your business. Give great thought to whether or not there are conflict in terms of class schedule (i.e. are they missing your classes to be at the other studio for class and/or rehearsal,) rehearsal schedules, meetings, performances, studio functions, etc. Give great thought to how you are going to handle possible resentment from your other dancers who are 100% committed and then experience that divided dancer miss multiple rehearsals, isn’t in class or isn’t available for important events. How will discuss this with them? How will you keep up company camaraderie in spite of this?
Finally, consider the most important issue; is this really the best scenario for the welfare of the student? Ultimately, their training, education and mindset are priority. Is the dancer being stretched too thin? Are they feeling pressure and stress which may also stunt their progress? Are they feeling pressure by their parents, friends and the other studio owner to keep up with their agenda? Is this really what they want? Why? Conversely, does the other studio offer them something you can’t? Will this benefit them and help them succeed in the long run? Will they be gaining valuable experiences from this opportunity? Again, is this really what they want? Why?
Sitting down and being honest with each other and discussing the situation is crucial. Is there something they feel their training is lacking with you? Or, are they just wanting a broader training experience? Understanding the divide may help to shed some light on why this is occurring. Now, when all is said and done this just may not work for you and your other students. It may not be the precedent you want to set for your business and not a can of worms you want to open. Remember, as difficult as the decision is, it’s OK if you do come to that conclusion. You have a whole studio of students to think about. Be transparent. Be honest and express your feelings and concerns from the beginning. Always keep the dialogue open as you come to the best decision for all involved. Remember, you can never go wrong with going with your gut instinct either!