If you are a dance studio owner, if you run a dance education program that serves children in your local community, if you run any kind of business that provides the service of dance to clients, what is your primary responsibility?
Some might say their main responsibility is to introduce students to the art of dance and to help foster a love for dance for all students.
Some might say that it is their responsibility to properly prepare all students for professional careers in dance, including careers in dance performance, dance education, arts marketing, arts fundraising, dance research, and more.
Some might say they are focused on using dance as a tool to empower their students, giving them a lens through which to see the world and a voice for self-expression.
Perhaps your primary focus is social and restorative justice. Maybe your programs are focused on repairing and uplifting the people in communities that have been forgotten and neglected.
Maybe you feel that you’ve moved on from all of the above. Now you’re focused on making money. It is a dance business after all, right? If you don’t meet your bottom line, the business ceases to exist.
Maybe you love the marketing, the digital content, the UX design, the social media. Maybe that’s your primary focus and responsibility. Because, no matter what you’re doing, if you aren’t bringing in clients, you can’t really do what you want to do anyway, right?
Is your primary focus simply being organized? Handling registrations, hanging those flyers, getting those dance team jackets out, directing rehearsals, overseeing end-of-semester surveys and technique progress reports, making sure every student has the correct front-stitched leotard or slip-on jazz shoes, ensuring that all students and their parents know how to correctly sew elastic onto their ballet slippers?
Maybe you have mastered the art of delegation, and you are now primarily responsible for making sure your team does all of the above. Your team has to know and live out the values of your organization, manage the day-to-day tasks, communicate effectively with students and families, be a positive representation of your dance program in the community, ensure that regular outreach is happening, manage the social media accounts, teach the classes, keep students engaged and challenged, and more.
So what do I think? What is the primary responsibility of someone who owns or directs a dance business?
All of it.
Yes, when you’re running a dance business, your primary mission is to make sure that all.the.things are getting done, every minute of every day, by any means necessary.
I talked about how challenging finding balance can be in Episode #7 of The Happy Dance Podcast. I also talked about how we may sometimes be doing really well with doing the things that naturally bring us the most joy, while simultaneously failing (yes, failure is a thing… it’s just not a forever thing) at doing all the things that are the most tedious, the most time-consuming, or the most stressful.
So how do we do it? How do we stay motivated? How can we keep worrying about things like performance costumes or even on innovating within our established programs when we are in the middle of a slow season and we want to dedicate all our time and all our funds to marketing and outreach?
We can leave for a while, but we have to come back. This is a paraphrasing of some advice I got from my world religions teacher in high school, by way of my mother. I remember my mom told me that, during a parent-teacher conference, my former teacher mentioned to her that I spaced out during his class sometimes. He was fine with me letting my mind wander, as long as I always brought myself back.
This is what I believe we need to do as dance business owners.
We literally are some of the people in the world who DO IT ALL. (See also: women, moms, stepmoms.)
It can be daunting. It can be exhausting. It can be overwhelming in a terrible way. It can be impossible.
But impossible is nothing.
If you’re a dance educator reading this, you likely already know that huge responsibility that we have in the world as well as the great opportunity that we have to make an impact.
Follow your dreams. Model your educational philosophy. Develop great dancers and great citizens. Live your business mission and see the vision through.
Do it all. And if you ever just can’t do it all, then leave it for a minute… then get up and get back to work.