As promised for TEACHERS by Kimberly McCluer, January 31st, 2018
Studio owners and teachers…..first of all Thank You! Thank you for all you do beyond the one hour dance classes. Thank you for holding auditions, hiring teachers and choreographers, researching competition dates and times, booking hotels and travel, selecting costumes, meeting with seamstresses, measuring little bodies, ordering costumes, booking recital and performance venues, putting together the logistics of a recital or performance, selecting music, cutting music, hugging, nurturing, waiting for the late parent when you just want to go home to your child, eating dinner at 10 pm, wiping noses, listening to teenage drama, going to the competition, staying for all 3 days, staying for the last awards when you only have one solo left, driving home at 2 am, putting other people’s kids before your own, paying fees even before everyone has paid theirs, paying building bills, electric, water, trash, gas, insurance, music licenses, setting up fund raisers, working fund raisers, distributing the funds, attending parties, weddings, baby showers, buying gifts, maintaining the building, buying TP, soap, cleaning supplies, computers, Internet, having someone clean, ……..oh so much more I have forgotten! Thank you!
This all hit home with me when I got on a website the other night where dance moms regularly bash competitions, each other, and their studio teachers. The recent topic, with the most posts, was moms questioning the dance teachers expecting money from them. I was baffled! I read through all 823 posts and replies in shock. Many people truly believe that this “business” should not cost them. So here is my explanation of your fees as I see it.
Enrollment Fee….a basic fee to cover the cost of processing your dancer into the studio, hiring teachers, and contributes to, but does not cover, the basic startup of the new season.
Class Fees…..usually charged individually or offered in package deal….Your fee here ONLY covers the class, the teachers’ pay for that class, the music and the use of the classroom. It is up to the parent to decide how many classes they can afford as a family.
Recital Fees…..many studios do one or two shows a year, some do more. These fees cover the building rentals (which is often astronomical), building insurance (mandatory), additional, and required in some venues, sound and lighting technicians, janitors, house managers and security. It should cover your teachers’ time in planning this and cover the extra staff for their time, but this usually does not happen. Most of your teachers are there without additional pay beyond the hourly class pay.
Costume Fees….now we get a bit sticky…..Teachers SHOULD up the cost of costumes. This fee should cover the cost of the costume, the time to order, measure, sorting and distributing. I would guess the average teacher spends 40-60 additional hours on this process. They have to select them, often locate or meet with seamstresses, then do what it takes to order, often sending back, chasing companies on the phone for hours, and even shopping for them in local stores. I look at the costume prices in the books as wholesale prices and your teacher has every right to mark this wholesale price up, and should without fear of the parent “finding out”. Catalog prices are teacher ONLY prices that are not even available to the parents. It is set up that way by the costume companies for a reason. Guess what……every store in the whole wide universe is charging you more then they pay. It is called business, and it covers many things. Dance teachers should not be questioned about this practice, it’s not “sneaky”, it’s business.
Now let’s add OPTIONAL competitions…..yes, I did say OPTIONAL because I do not know one studio that requires you to be on their competition team. They might invite you, encourage you, even beg for that exceptionally talented dancer to join, but no one makes you add this expense. This becomes a family choice and you agree to the number of competitions, how many solos, how many groups, what hotel you stay at, how many days and classes a week. And you have to understand that all of this comes at an additional cost…..to you, the parent!
Fees might also include….
Audition camp, or clinic fee….this camp/workshop allows the teacher to see those interested together, to build groups…often they hire someone to come in and judge or teach. These fees should help offset the start of competition season for the studio.
Competition team class fees…..often special classes just for the competition team, time to learn choreography, clean routines and in general train for the commitment of competition. Beyond these fees there are often choreography fees. Many studios hire in special choreographers for certain routines for competition, but these people and routines come at a price, sometimes steep. It also often includes travel, meals and hotel for the guest. These fees should also cover the studio teacher’s cost to attend competition, travel there, eat and hotel stays. It’s an umbrella fee.
Solos, private lessons….you notice above I said “team”…this is the part where you as a parent dissect it further and want more
for your child in the form of solos…..One solo, two solos, three solos……four…..no more! Solos will cost you lots of extra money. Choreography and practice time in the studio should be charged in addition. You will also need special costumes, and your entry fees will be higher at comps….much higher. This is on you, and you AND your child must be committed. Committed to practice and committed to extra days at the competition. I get teachers that truly stress out on solo days. I have to ask, “Why does the teacher have to be there for all the solos?” I think the teachers should charge an extra $50 dollars to be in attendance for a solo. This is a parent choice and I doubt I could find 10 solos this year that the teacher is getting any additional money for being there on Friday or Sunday night….teachers, stop being so nice! Your time is worth it…..mom can put that child on stage in an “optional” solo performance. Please, moms, at least give your teacher a Starbucks gift card for them being there.
Finally, and I know different studios host many different things with additional cost, I am going to address competition fees….
Competition fees in my opinion are, or can be, considered wholesale pricing. If your teacher has not covered her cost of travel, hotel, meals, child care for her own family and pets, and for her teachers, then adding a studio competition fee is more than fair. Please don’t call our office and complain about this, because I will support the studio teacher/owner every time. They either need to add a fee per routine, or have an additional one time competition fee applied early in season to cover it. I see nothing wrong with it. Also, studio owners should never put their own money down to cover your child for a competition, well, maybe in a tragedy, tragedy meaning death. TOP as well as many other competitions can no longer wait for payment. Every show so far this year someone has pulled out 3 weeks prior because they cannot get the fees collected by deadline. TOP cannot wait and accept payment at the door. We have deadlines too….and not enforcing them almost always leads to bad situations for all involved. Dance studios need to collect fees from you on time to meet their own business obligations. You cannot take a cruise without payment in full… same thing goes for dance competition! We, along with your studio owner/teacher, are not trying to be mean or uncaring when we request the fees you agreed to, to be paid on time. We’re simply trying to run a responsible and successful business. A business that provides your child with a wonderful childhood hobby, a safe environment in which to spend his or her extra time, friends for a lifetime, and in some cases, a fulfilling career.
I’m tired of seeing teachers cry, give up their family time and get themselves in financially difficult situations. I had a teacher friend tell me she loved my earlier Facebook post on the same subject, but couldn’t share it because parents would get mad. That makes me sad. Teachers, please share if you want to, and hopefully you will only need to share once. Reality is, if a parent is behind beyond a two week window for anything payment wise, you are heading for trouble. Don’t let it go on for months, it will rarely ever get corrected. If they did not have the first $120 dollars you had to ask for, what makes you think they’ll have the $600 you’ll need to request in the future. One wise teacher, who just this week kicked out 9 nonpaying families, said, “I had too. If they are not paying me I cannot count them as students anyway, and they take my time away from those who do pay and keep my business afloat. The non-payers gain me nothing but stress.” So much truth in this business woman’s statement! Stay strong teachers, you are worth every penny and more! Thank you!