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Schools Have Personalities Too.

OFTEN WE see similar traits or styles of behavior in different people and we interpret and categorize them by their personalities. But look a little deeper and you find that each of us is like a fingerprint; no two are exactly alike. Everyone is unique in character, disposition and nature.

Like each of us, a dance school has a personality all its own. Even though we may remember that trip up the stairs to that special place, a building does not have human characteristics. Those who direct, manage and teach are responsible for the attitudes and reputation that combine to be the personality of the school. This "personality" is the main ingredient that attracts certain clients to our studios.

Let's say, for example, that you are the best technical teacher in the city. You educate and train dancers who move on to professional careers and no one else in your area does such fine work. You also bring in guest and master teachers to expose your students to the best. And you continue your own studies to be a better teacher. You have one hundred students while Miss Mary Jane's studio up the street has four hundred enrolled, and in your opinion she doesn't produce the high quality of career-ready dancers you do. You ask yourself, "How could this be? If I am a better teacher, why am I not better rewarded?"

Let's examine some possible reasons.

Maybe your style of school is too professionally focused for average parents looking for a dance school where their offspring will learn culture, grace and poise, have fun, meet friends and have the chance to perform in a recital at the end of the year. Or for mature dancers who want simply to return to the classes they love for health and community with other dancers.

Dance progression is like a pyramid: It shrinks as you approach the top. If you choose to teach only professional preparation, you are likely to find your numbers smaller and smaller as your students grow older. Dig deep to analyze the personality of your studio and determine why you have fewer students than your neighbor. Is your school's personality too elitist?

If you want or need to broaden your student population base, look to Miss Mary Jane's success. What does she do that you don't do? Maybe she and her faculty spend time in their waiting room talking with parents and caregivers, educating them to the dancing school culture and building lasting loyalty to their program. Is her teaching and reception staff always upbeat and welcoming? Do they appear clean, tidy and organized? Are there inspirational and artistic pictures on the walls, and is fine music playing? Average parents know little or nothing about technical dance training. They do know when their child is happy, safe and learning.

Open yourself up to offering some of what the Miss Mary Janes offer. Attract more students with a basic foundation program that is fun and meaningful to them, then move those dancers who show potential into your more professional programs. Students and parents follow a gradual progression much more easily when they understand what they are spending their effort, money and time for.

Teachers and dancers project their school's personality when they travel to conventions or festivals, especially those with competitions. Many seem to have it all together. To them, organization is a key ingredient to success; they arrive early or on time at the events with a friendly and relaxed attitude. They have a natural love for what they do and for their colleagues in dance. You can see it and feel it. It simply comes across as who and how they are. Onstage, they are the ones who express a genuine sense of confidence without much effort. Audiences and judges can feel it and appreciate it, sometimes without even knowing why.

On the other hand, it doesn't take heightened perception to see a studio with a personality disorder. Frazzled teachers and their dancers are those who arrive late and unprepared for their meetings or performances, often missing the proper shoes or a part to a costume. This absence of organization projects an impression of irresponsibility and a lack of confidence and control. Everyone is uncomfortable. This may not be the personality of each dancer, but students are so influenced by their teachers, to whom they look for guidance, and the school environment in which they are trained that a frazzled studio may be considered acceptable or normal.

"Together" or "frazzled," your studio's personality--like your own--has a definite influence on your success and that of your students. Analyze your school's personality and be open to change if it's needed.

Rhee Gold is co-founder of Project Motivate, sponsoring retreats and seminars to reinvigorate dance educators.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:dance school environments
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2000
Next Article:Only the best Will Do.

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