Monday, March 22, 2010

"Ain't No Sunshine"

I have a riddle for you...

When is there actually no sunshine?

When I have to get up for a 7:00am call time for competition!

I think my largest complaint about dance competitions in recent years is that they schedule us to have 14-16 hour days at them!

The competition we are attending this weekend starts at 8:00am everyday (Friday-Sunday) and the last awards are at around 9:30pm each night. So let me translate that for you... it means I have to be there by 7:00am for our first number, which equals getting up before 6:00am to be able to get ready and drive there in time. Then the final awards each day won't be done until at least 10:00pm, and then I have to drive home and wind down for bed.

And is it me or are competitions not scheduling in lunch and dinner breaks anymore? They just do an awards session with a 15 minute delay afterwards and get right back into it. I know that the students can leave and go eat as they have breaks all day, but where does that leave us teachers? Dance competition directors expect dance teachers and studio owners to spend all day in the Theatre, without proper nutrition and breaks, and they wonder why we complain so much about everything to them!

I know here in Canada that there has been a surge in the past few years of competitions being started by dance parents. I don't think there is anything wrong with it as I think that parents see a great opportunity to turn their experience at dance competitions into some cash, but I feel that they overlook the most important aspect. The dance teachers/studios owners are your most important clients! They are the ones that choose to come to your competitions. They are the ones that spend all day there taking care of every routine from their studio. They have to deal with all of the parents from their own studio who might have a complaint, because god forbid they can come complain to you about something they don't like! They are the ones that will make the overall decision about what they thought about your competition and thus decide whether or not they want to give you their business in the future.

So why don't you take care of us???

Competitions that are run by former teachers, studio owners or even dance professionals seem to have a better grasp on this concept. They might still start their competitions at 8:00am, but they might have some breakfast snacks backstage at the music table for teachers to grab on the go. Even something as small as providing bottled water, or drinks and candy for teachers in a little room would not break the bank at the end of the weekend.

Competition directors seem to be forgetting all of the little details that make a competition enjoyable for everyone, and instead are handing out bigger trophies, having dancing mascots at awards, and they may have even gone way out there and put some balloons up in the lobby for decorations! You're not fooling me at 7:00am with your glitzy decorations... I'm just looking for caffeine and a pen to mark up my program with!

Most people who know me are aware that I used to own a dance competition up until a few years ago. It was too much to run a competition and a studio and thus I had to choose to dedicate myself to one. I used to organize the competition with a lot of careful thought as a fellow studio owner. I made a rule about not starting any earlier than 9:00am ever, we had an unlimited supply of pens and highlighters available backstage and we never compromised about lunch and dinner breaks. We even offered 3 fully catered meals to studio owners and teachers all weekend. Yes, you heard me correctly! It was an expense we chose to take over other little things, like laminating the front covers of our programs. We set up a lounge for teachers at every competition where we had beverages and snacks all day, along with 3 hot meals, which you could either sit down and enjoy or grab and run. It seems like something so simple, and it was. Sure, we might not have done everything right, but I'd like to think that I took care of the studio owners and teachers the same way that I would like to be treated.

Last year I received a schedule from a competition my studio was attending that had one of my Intermediate dancers performing one of her groups at 10:30pm on Saturday night, only to be the first soloist to perform at 8:00m on Sunday morning. I know competition directors might not be looking out for the best interest of my students, but I am. I sent out a big red flag to the competition director about this issue and told them I was not happy. I feel I have a right to tell them I'm not happy... I sent them a big cheque on behalf of my clients.

I completely understand that dance competitions are a business, and taking 50 extra entries at a competition may extend your days by a few hours, but it's also hard to turn down that $7000 entry fee cheque that goes along with it. So they fill up three entire days with dancing, which in turn leaves very little time for anything else.

Maybe competitions should go back to being a lot smaller and focusing more on doing an exceptional job for everyone. Take 1 or 2 less studios per weekend, and then start your competition an hour later each day. You can then allow for a nice dinner break and end at a decent time of night for all the kids who have stuck around to support their fellow dancers, but who have to be there by 7:00am the next morning.

Sure, competitions are going to be long and stressful regardless, so why can't competition directors try to help alleviate some of that? Don't you want the kids to be happy, dance their best and thoroughly enjoy your competition? They can't do that on 5 hours or sleep and lack of food... and neither can their teachers!

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