Dance studios and teachers all across the world are sometimes in a position of facing challenging student behavior and disposition. This often occurs around the pre-adolescent or adolescent age when personalities are strongly taking shape and perhaps other interests begin to take over their passion for dance. I often get questions about what to do with young dancers who, “don’t want to put the work in,” “have lackluster attitudes and lazy energy in class,” “expect instant gratification and advancement without the commitment of putting paying their dues” and “show little respect in the studio space.” My answer is always the same. It’s less about implementing rules and procedure but flipping that thought process on its head to create a consistent expectation of good habit and studio culture.

It begins with you and the examples you set and require for your studio and class. It’s about follow-through and not veering away from the mission you believe in. It’s about recognizing it’s OK to have an expectation where dancers need to ship up or ship out. It’s also about collectively believing in and creating a positive atmosphere which eventually becomes the norm. It’s about sticking to your guns. It then becomes a given that this is the culture of the studio. This is what you ALL stand for and how you as a dance family learn and grow.

So how do you this? For studio owners, it’s delicate to stand ground and maintain business but for every rotten apple that is eating away at your studio’s soul, politely let them see the door and watch new energy and students float in. It has to be the right fit for everyone. Sometimes just as you are not the right teacher for a particular student, a particular student may not be the right fit for you and what you stand for…and that’s OK. You are NEVER going to please everyone all the time. Even if your studio thrives and is successful so why not put the wheels in motion to create the atmosphere for the training you want to provide.

The beginning of the season is always the best time to set “expectations, rules and procedures” (studio culture) so that everyone is on the same page from the jump. Having dancers and parents sign contracts is always a good way to set the tone and makes them accountable for behavior and expectations. While it’s always wonderful to take your students feeling into account, the bottom line message is, it’s your way or the highway. Everyone needs to get understand what you are trying to provide that way they can partake in the mindset. Setting examples and frequent dialogue are key, so it becomes second nature. The norm. Quickly you will see how everyone starts to understand and follow suit. This goes from dress code, attendance, performance in class to things like attitude, respect, peer support and work ethic. While it may feel daunting in the beginning to get everyone on board, the end results over time will lend itself to creating a studio atmosphere where everyone is aligned, attitudes are positive and the joy of dance is infectious!

Good luck! Have a great start to your season!

See you in the studio!


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