Quit being quiet.

In the midst of this pandemic I have been approached by many other studio owners. “What are you doing?” “When are you reopening?” “What’s your recital looking like?” “What’s your plan?” “Governor Kemp said…”

Some of these are conversations, a sharing of ideas. Some of these are prayers for all of us to do the right thing by our kids, a want to do the right thing by our families, our art. Some have been incredibly helpful for myself.

In some cases I’ve seen exact replicas of my postings reworded and used on social media. And that’s fine! But in other cases, on community regional calls that I couldn’t be of because I was already teaching or taking part in career days…I was called out for not being on them and thus, “isn’t it interesting who isn’t on the call?” as though I was suggesting by not being there, that I was “too good” to be on it. (Even though I requested a recording of the video and was on the next call…).

It’s unfortunate because these feelings of uneasiness run deep. The constant “what will it look like to my community if I do or don’t do something?” I’m honestly more driven by what is right for my individual students on any given day of any given year. But again, the uneasiness is long seeded. A fellow teacher in town, of a different studio, studied under my own mother for her entire pre-college education. My mom even helped convince this girl’s father that her desire to study dance in college was a good thing. When her younger sister didn’t get into our studio’s performance ensemble because she was still very young…. well.. that loyal family has never uttered another word to our family since (maybe there were other reasons they left, but we’ll never know because in over 15 years no words or Facebook friend requests have been accepted). This teacher won’t even look our way when we’re in the same room. And even though the teacher’s bio says that she studied in this town, she never mentions my mother’s name as her teacher.

So my whole life, I’ve watched my mom have to pay for trying to do right by a kid and then people backstab and leave when they don’t hear what they want to hear, even when it’s in what we always pray to be a child’s best interest. She would never speak this aloud herself, she’s much too classy, but I’ll stand up and say it for her. I’ll say it because I’ve watched it. And I say all of this now because it’s time it stops. It’s time we all stand by WHY we teach dance, not for politics or for personal gain, but for the growth of our kids, culture, society, and community. And loyalty is important. More than ever. The example we set is important. Again, now more than ever.

The politics of our town run deep. And to be honest, I hate it. It’s gotten better, but it still exists. I’ve heard some of my own students’ parents tell me that when “shopping” for studios in town, before coming to us, another studio told them that they’d be doing their child a disservice if they went to any other studio in town.

This is APPALLING to me. Every studio in this town offers something different, and we are lucky that our kids have so many options in town. But to speak like this is so unprofessional. So unnecessary, especially when now these studios want my opinion, and when people wonder why we can seem indifferent about other studios, that’s why. Also, because I’m focused on the students I have and how I need to help them grow. But truly, the arts need to come together instead of tear each other down. And I don’t mention who does what because each family needs to decide what culture is right for them.

But right now, as a studio owner, I’m upset sharing my ideas and plans and trying to be a team player and leader and still being met with just an emoji thumbs up or a “wow. Sounds good” when, while I may lead with my heart and soul a lot, I know that my business ideas are made with a lot of thought and strategy. And honestly, each business has to do what’s right for them. Again, happy to share my ideas, but not cool with people being flippant. We’re either teammates or we’re not. I might be an eager and optimistic person, but I remember character.

This being said, I have also had some wonderful conversations with studio owners and I am doing my hardest to be a team player in my own town, but I am struggling to trust some. And honestly? At the risk of sounding like a jerk, I’m more concerned with my own kids and what happens in my own doors, than seeming like someone that is agreeable all the time.

So, again, at the risk of sounding aggressive and shedding a lot of light and maybe making people mad, I’m speaking to maybe give others an idea. Your actions matter. Your actions are seen. Your actions are heard by the next generation. My actions are seen and can be judged too. But it’s time we all be better. More than ever, see the bigger picture. We must be better in all aspects of life.

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