It was a familiar conversation that day. She sat in the plastic seat across from mine in the teacher’s lounge at the dance studio, red eyes cast downward, feet shuffling restlessly below her, ponytail sitting high and slightly to the left, confused mother searching my face for answers.
“I’m burned out,” said the 14-year-old, eyes welling up, biting her bottom lip. And I knew at once that I wouldn’t be able to offer this family much more than emotional support in our meeting that day, because in one statement she had asked a thousand questions, none of which I had answers to.
“Why am I at the studio 7 days a week?”
“How do I know that all my time spent here is making any difference?”
“Should I keep competing?”
“There are other things I want to do in dance, can you help me?”
And mom’s eyes relayed no fewer questions:
“Why did I default on my mortgage payment this month to pay her dance tuition?”
“Why is there so much drama among peers here?”
“What is the best way to encourage her at home?”
“How do I know we’re at the right studio?”
“Will she even be able to dance after high school if she wants to?”
I would be lying if I said there weren’t similar questions running circles through my own head:
“Why did I work 25 hours this week and only get paid for 10?”
“How can I inspire my students if there is no continuing education for me? How can I keep pouring out if there is no one pouring in?”
“Does what I’m teaching in my classes even line up with what she’s being taught in her other classes?”
“How do I navigate this pull between supporting families and remaining loyal to the bottom line?”
“I see that she’s on the verge of injury, but where are my tools to help her avoid it?”
It is countless conversations like this one, asking myself and others these questions (plus many more), and believing that there are answers, that led me to start The Dance Difference, a small but significant online corner dedicated to shaping a powerfully different dance studio culture. I have this idea. An idea that the dance studio can be different. That the students, families, and teachers can be different. That the input and outcome can be different. Even maybe better.
We are at the beginning of this journey. There are still a lot of questions to be asked, and a lot of work to be done to begin answering those questions in a way that brings life to everyone involved.
I want to welcome you to the conversation. Please join us, at The Dance Difference.