Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Hometown Glory"

This blog today might strike a nerve with some people... but I generally don't let that stop me from saying anything!

I was working on an incredible solo today with Savanah, and at one point I looked at her and had a major flash back to when she was 6 years old doing her first solo (even though she's only 13 now!).  There is something very nostalgic and rewarding about being part of a student's dance career from the very beginning.  I feel a deep sense of pride when I watch her dance and grow up as a person, knowing that I am helping to shape her life in so many ways.

She also is just one of those kids who is very loyal to her studio and to me, and also takes a lot of pride in where she comes from as a dancer.  I know when she is old enough to go to University or start her professional dance career she will be very proud to acknowledge my studio, my work with her and all those years we shared.  Even if she ever left my studio to go to another studio, she would always give me credit for helping make her the dancer she is today.

For the first time in my teaching career I lost a competitive student to another studio this year.  She was very talented and was an important member of my Company since almost the very beginning.  As much as I had a lot of hurt feelings when I found how she was at another studio, I got over it quickly for the sake of my teaching.  However, what bothers me about the situation is the lack of respect she showed to my studio after she left.  A card, or a phone call, or even an email from the student herself thanking me for all the years of training, dedication and love I showed her would have meant a lot.

It's kind of ironic that she went to a studio where I am very good friends with the studio owner.  He called me himself to let me know that she was coming to his studio and he wanted to make sure I was okay with that.  Mostly because he knew I had poured my heart into this kid and didn't want me to think that he had coerced her into coming to his studio.  I knew the truth behind the situation so I was at ease with her going there, knowing that she would at least be continuing with strong training.  The rest of the conversation about this student will remain between the two of us (lol), but I have to say that the respect he showed me as her former teacher is something to marvel.

I know it happens to every studio, almost annually, and in return students come to me as well from other studios... so it kind of all equals out in the end.  However, I wish these students changing studios would never so easily dismiss and forget what their former teachers have done for them.  When another studio gets to take credit for all those years of your work, it can really send a knife through your heart.  But maybe we need to just remember that if they go on to have a successful dance career, we do get to own a part of that.

Dance studios are like any other business, where clients can come to you if they want to, but also go somewhere else if they want.  There is no contract of loyalty you can account your students for, but you'd like to think that it's an unspoken bond you have with them.  When they leave, for whatever reason, it stings, but c'est la vie!  With recreational students it is a lot more open to your interpretation of loyalty, as they don't generally have many other reasons besides convenience of choosing to come to you.  But when it comes to competitive students, there is a greater sense of bonding and dedication that comes with those relationships.

My new thing with competitive students coming to me from another studio is that I make sure they send at least a card to their old studio.  The card is to acknowledge the part those teachers plaed in their life, but also to let them know that they have decided to go somewhere else.  Let's face reality here... you're probably going to run into your old studio at some point at a competition, or along your dance travels, and why would you want it be awkward?  After the student sends the card, if the old studio still has hard feelings about it, then that's their issue.  Teachers/studios need to get over it an move on so that they can concentrate on what they still have at their studio.  Kids are free to go wherever they want for dance training, but I just want to help them be honest about where they come from and who they have to thank for playing a part in them loving dance.

Sure, it would be wonderful to watch my former student as a professional dancer and read in her bio that she was proud to list my name as a mentor... and who knows, maybe when she grows up she'll surprise me and do so!  But even if she doesn't, I won't lose any sleep over it.  I'm going to continue down my own path, and work on creating excellence with the students I do have.  I'm always going to feel a sense of pride for any former student when I watch them dance, but it will never equal that feeling I get when I watch the kids at my own studio.

It's not that I object to students changing studios, if they feel it is the best choice for them... just don't forget that your dance teachers have feelings to!


New Wife said...

you know that when you achieve your 10 yr goal, that specific student will indeed use your name as someone she took classes from.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you might want to contact her and find out why she left. In an earlier blog you talked about getting feedback from clients - here's a perfect opportunity!