The work your faculty puts out the stage is a direct reflection to your name and reputation. The concept, music, choreography, costuming and overall appearance is to be considered with great weight and compromise. Deciding “what kind of studio you are,” in terms of the material you present and how you’d like your business to be perceived, calls for a direct correlation to the faculty you hire and their understanding of your mission as well.
During the interview process, one aims to hire those who are like-minded and on the same page; teachers that understand the integrity you are seeking in terms of choreography and music selection. But, there will always be a time when perhaps you don’t see eye to eye and the balancing act comes into play in deciding how much control you want to impress upon your teachers and their artistic choices.
There are many studios I know where owners hand the teachers the music and there is no option for choice; they select the music and costume and teachers are to just choreograph to what they are given. Then there are other studios where directors devise and overarching concept to the year’s performance season and teachers must select music and choreograph within the confines of that theme. Then there are studio owners who allow complete artistic freedom and allow teachers full reign over their vision.
Now, in my opinion there needs to be a balance. And it is a fine line between allowing your teachers to do what they do best and you having artistic directorship to oversee it all. So, how do we not micro-manage and allow the teacher to not feel stifled but still maintain the last word? Ultimately, you could think to yourself, well at the end of the day it’s my business and I have the last say, which you do. But taking a hardline approach like that may not make for the best working relationship with your teachers.
In my experience, a fair way to go about this is to create broader, general, yearly themes with loser restrictions where teachers have ample ways they can go about presenting the material. Here, they can take the literal approach or go a bit more abstract in terms of what they are feeling. Let’s be honest, nobody wants to create when they feel they are boxed in, so the more they are inspired, the better the work is going to be. Therefore, it’s necessary to provide a vast enough platform for them to make choices.
Another good rule of thumb is to create a deadline for all music choices to be sent to you within ample time to performances. Reminding teachers to hold off on choreographing until they get the “go-ahead” from you, allows you to weed through things that you may want them to tweak or change. It also saves the teacher extra work if they begin their choreography and then come to find out you’d like them to change their music for a certain class. It also helps everyone stay on the same page and allows you to know exactly what you’re getting without any unpleasant surprises.
Now, if the occasion does arise where you need to ask a teacher to look for another piece of music or change certain choreography after observing a rehearsal, always enter the conversation with tact and reasoning. Explain why you think this may not be the best choice for that particular recital and find where to pick your battles. If you feel strongly that lyrics in the song selection aren’t appropriate, or the choreography is too suggestive or even too difficult or easy for the dancers, vocalize this to your teacher and explain your position authoritatively. While they may not always understand your point of view or agree, the bottom line is you do have the final say. However, always be mindful that diplomacy and the way in which you approach the conversation and interact with your faculty will make for mutual respect regarding artistry and the business at hand. It will also allow for amazing works of art with integrity and creativity year after year!
See you in the dance studio,