It’s almost the end of another year, and dance studio owners just like me are putting their finishing touches on our end-of-year performances. Late nights of music edits, creating headpieces, printing running orders and stage cue sheets are only the tip of the tasks. Everyone’s tired, but the joy, and the value in seeing our students shine on stage, is the fuel that keeps the fire burning.
The confidence and life skills students gain from participating in dance classes and dance performances does come at a cost. Naturally, a financial cost to the parents, but also a personal cost to the teachers, and our families, as the many nights and days of devotion begin to roll into one. No one asks us to go the extra mile; we do this to ourselves, because we want to provide the best experience we can for our students. We know firsthand the impact it made on us as children and teenagers, and we want to pass this on. And so we do, with love. But love….. love doesn’t pay the bills.
Recently, an article suggesting ‘Parents in a spin over dance costs,’ (The Daily Telegraph and Adelaide Advertiser, Saturday 2 December) compared the costs of dance and sports, which, according to the writer, Mercedes Maguire, come in at a much lower price.
While it’s agreed that participating in sports and dance both have significant benefits to the individual, that’s about where the comparison ends. For the most part, sports are run as Clubs or Associations, which entitles them to apply for equipment grants and Government or Council subsidies for venues. Additionally, Sports Clubs are often powered by volunteers, who dedicate hours to paperwork, sausage sizzles, coaching and general club organisation.
Conversely, dance studios are private entities, with the cost of tuition covering expensive leases (dance studios need a lot of floor space), equipment, resources, licences, memberships and professional services such as legal and accounting. In addition, classes are taught by qualified paid teachers whose wages are governed by FairWork and Award Wages. Adding to this is the cost of annual training and professional development, not withstanding our initial training. I’ve three qualifications to ensure I’m offering the safest and most up-to-date teaching strategies to my students.
Performances, while immensely valuable, are expensive and financially risky to mount, with minimum theatre hire figures enough to make you gulp. Theatre hire, technician hire, lighting hire, teachers and supervision all quickly add up. If you ever wondered why you have to pay to see your own child to perform, this is why. There’s literally an army of people working to make it happen, all expecting, rightly so, to be paid for their time and expertise.
Australia has a long love affair with sports. As a nation, we agree it positively impacts our children’s wellbeing, and we’re prepared to invest financially in it. Historically speaking, dance is still finding its feet, with the first ballet company established around 45 years after the Australian Football League. Eight years ago, dance also suffered a major set back thanks to the ridiculous antics of the fake American reality TV show, Dance Moms, who quickly made our industry the source of many jokes and de-valued the important work that dance educators had been quietly doing in studios across the country.
All is not lost, though; in fact, despite the constant pull of sports, and the media misrepresentation, the very same newspaper article concluded that dance is the second most popular activity for girls. To me, this is immensely encouraging. Parents can readily see the value and benefits gained from their child’s involvement and participation in dance classes within a high quality dance studio. For dance studio owners like me, our focus needs not be on constantly defending our fee structures or even our right to earn a living but to consistently communicate the value we offer.
As a teacher of 25 years and a studio owner for 14, I know I’m more than ‘just a dance teacher.’ The dance student-teacher relationship often spans over 10 years, and throughout this time, we play a major role in guiding and mentoring our students as they grow from pre-schoolers into young adults. The lessons shared cover more than how to dance well, with much of what we do not featured within our job descriptions, and it’s certainly not on our time sheet.
I can’t help but think of the MasterCard advertisement of time gone by….
Dance tuition: $300 a term
Performance tickets: $28
Lessons learnt: Priceless
By Jane Grech of Dance Informa.
Jane Grech is the founder and director of JG Creative, a South Australian company which operates Jane Grech Dance Centre, Pirouettes Dancewear and Adelaide Institute of Vocational Dance. An empowering leader, Jane’s businesses thrive from the power of a positive culture by design. Working with vision, her teams are a united and determined force. By embracing and enjoying challenges and celebrating success through having fun, her people are not only personally and professionally fulfilled, but her businesses greatest strength.
Jane is the creator and founder of DanceStep, a unique training program that works in partnership with dance schools around the world to offer Assistant Teacher Training programs. Through her work Jane is empowering studio owners to grow young leaders who give back to their studio communities.
Jane is an author and speaker on the topics of dance education, entrepreneurship and leadership. Passionate about encouraging, supporting and inspiring others Jane writes articles for Dance Informa Magazine and at her own blog, Dance Studio Success. Previous speaking engagements include Dance Teachers Unite, Come Together Dance Teachers Conference, ‘Exchange’ and Victorian Dance Festival. Jane shares her experiences with dance studio owners from around the world through her work as a Leadership and Studio Growth Coach with Dance Studio Owners Association.
Jane works part time in an effort to successfully navigate the challenges of combining a career with her greatest role, that of mum to Alana, Caitlin and Liam and wife to Brian.