What is it? Why does it matter?
I have had a few experiences lately that have reminded me about dance studio culture and why it is so important.
The other day I had a parent on the phone and she made the statement “…your dance studio has such a different vibe. Janie loves to dance, and for years we were at XYZ studio. I can’t describe exactly what it is, but we love the environment at The Movement Box”.
A few nights later I stood in a crowded dance studio, watching one of my soloists leave her heart on the dance floor as she showcased her piece for the upcoming dance competition season. Fellow dancers had tears in their eyes watching her (and maybe a teacher too)… of joy? of love? of simple support? All of the above. They weren’t afraid to show her how much she had moved them. And the group of adult dancers, who had their class interrupted? Well they were absorbing her in complete silence, enthralled.
Those same adult dancers later gathered for an evening drink. Women from every background. Some older, some younger. Some with children at the studio, plenty without. Some with prior dance training, plenty without. And we laughed, talked, and commiserated on nothing in particular outside of general life, our joy in seeing each other every week, and commentary on our dance year thus far. The camaraderie of just enjoying one another was strong.
This got me thinking about studio culture and how grateful I am for the environment within our space. I think that studio culture plays a HUGE role in determining whether a dance studio is the correct fit for you, your dancer, and your family. It can mentally, emotionally, and physically impact dancers and teachers on a day to day basis. However, it seems to be something that is largely difficult to assess prior to enrollment or choosing a dance studio.
What Is Dance Studio Culture?
Let’s define what constitutes dance studio culture! The best definition I have found reads like this: “The atmosphere created by the behaviors and attitudes of everyone involved in your studio family”.
The dance studio family encompasses EVERYONE within a dance studio. Dancers, Parents, Teachers, Staff, and Directors. Studio culture is created by the people within this dance family. So yes, every one of my parents and dancers are also responsible for the energy they bring into the studio. This is obviously along with what my teachers, staff, and myself are all contributing! That’s a lot of dynamics, behaviors, and attitudes!
Why Is It Important?
I believe strongly in some core values that are nonnegotiable and inherent to what we try to do within the studio on a daily basis. I believe that when we enforce these values regularly, and lead by example, with fairness and respect, magic happens…. I would like to think that at it’s root, our commitment to a certain environment has never wavered. We have created one that is founded on passion, energy, dedication, progress, discipline, respect, and gratitude.
For dancers and teachers, these values insure they are able to come to dance and work effectively, happily, and in and environment were they feel safe and supported. And while competitiveness, frustration, and challenges pop up from time to time- those aren’t negative things in and of themselves. It’s in our reactions to them that the real import lies. For instance, a little competition among advanced dancers is necessary for progression, but how we react to it, support it, and ENJOY it are the keys to that positive culture.
So when a parent calls and tells me “the vibe is different” I know what she means, and my heart does a little happy dance all it’s own. It’s that positive culture. It means she feels welcomed. It means that she feels like her dancer is as important as every other dancer in the studio. It means that she feels like she belongs within our studio family.
And when that advanced dancer performs her solo, it means all her classmates are crying tears of joy at her skill and talent, instead of focusing on any comparison. They are celebrating her for HER talent and ability, without diminishing their own. Do you know how POWERFUL that is for a teenage girl?
It is in these moments, and a million more, that I smile deeply. Never taking for granted the depth of what they mean, and being forever grateful I am part of such a community.