Respect your Roots
By Tonya Goodwillie
This is a blog that was written many years ago that still feels very relevant today.
We, as dancers, all had to start somewhere. Do you remember when you were bit by the ‘dance bug’? Chances are there was an inspiring teacher that helped to make that happen.
The dance world is getting more competitive every day and dancers, as well as their parents, are constantly looking for the best training. I completely understand that there can be a time when a dancer might be looking to make a change. A dancer could be considering relocating to another dance studio for a variety of reasons; looking for more of a challenge, wanting to specialize more in a certain area or even due to a disagreement with studio policies, etc… Every dancer’s situation is different of which I absolutely respect.
I happened to experience this for myself at twelve years old. I was looking for a more challenging and competitive studio to attend because I was in the highest level dancing in the adult class. My parents and I were looking to find a new place for my training where I could continue to grow and be pushed to new levels. We decided in January which studio we would make the transition to and as much as I wanted to leave and go there right away, my parents made me fulfill my commitments through June of which I will never forget. However, the subject of commitment is worthy of its entirely own blog! However, I changed studios, I was challenged and it was a good choice. My point, being, that ‘I GET IT!’ I know what it means to have to seek further training elsewhere.
Nowadays, this is a very common occurrence and it truly concerns me for many reasons. I am hoping that it is being done in a respectful manner full of sincerity and honesty, but I know in many instances it is not. You have the right to make the decision of where to train but I hope that dancers and their parents are aware of the feelings of others’ as well, (and remembering that the dance world is small...don't burn bridges!)
For whatever reason you decided to leave your studio to move on to another, try to look at all the positive that they did for you. If you are in the middle of a disagreement with them, you might have to battle through the feelings of anger to find the positive but I assure you that it is there. If this was your first studio, they gave you your roots. There was a teacher, or many teachers, that planted that seed for the love of dance and inspired you to continue dancing after that very first intro class. If it was a studio that you were at for a long time, they continued building the foundation blocks of your passion for dance and you made that studio your home away from home for many years. I am sure, especially when it comes to teenagers, that your dance teachers also helped you in ways far beyond what teaching dance calls for. Why does the appreciation of all of this get thrown out the window when you decide to attend class somewhere else? Maybe many dancers even fail to realize everything that I listed as well?
What I wish I could say to all young dancers wanting to make a change is, ‘I understand that you love dance and you want to get the best training possible but you have to appreciate and have respect for your roots.’ My advice is to be honest to your teachers and/or studio owner about your reasons for leaving. Leave the studio on good terms… make every effort to do this even if it isn’t reciprocated. Truth is that the teacher, who probably sees her/himself as your child’s mentor, will be deeply hurt. Dance teachers are emotional beings that care immensely about their students! Even if they are hurt at first, they will eventually see your kindness and feel your sincere appreciation. Fulfill your commitment with the current studio and show your team thankfulness as well because they were also a huge source of your inspiration. When you go to the new studio, please do not talk negatively about your old studio, just be honest with them about what you are hoping that the future holds. Please continue to be friendly with your old studio even after you are on the team at the new studio. Give hugs to the teachers from your old studio whenever you see them- imagine the precedence that this would set for others and, trust me; your new studio will respect it as it speaks highly to your character. Parents: this all means you as well! Your young dancer will follow your lead and you need to be the role model in this situation.
Since being a teacher and studio owner, I have been involved in the situation explained above from both sides. I have been the teacher hurt because I was lied to, talked poorly about afterwards because the consistency of my policies angered them or simply hurt because I cared so much for the young dancer and was going to miss them dearly. I have also been the teacher/studio owner that has accepted dancers looking for a new place to train, have welcomed them and their hunger for more knowledge. However, I can assure you, that I never solicited for them to come to Allegro OR put up with them gossiping about their old studio. Allegro actually has an application process for ‘newcomer’s’ to fill out and explain exactly why they are making a change and to make sure they handle it appropriately.
Hopefully we can be a part of the solution and encourage others to follow suit as well.
Dance is an emotional art form and we all feel strongly about sharing our passion and reaching our dreams. The dance world is a small one, be respectful to your roots, be thankful for all of the teachers that have crossed your path and always remember that when you finally reach the "top" you were not alone in getting there.