By: Melissa Croushorn
Tired of getting grabbed by a parent while you’re on the way to the restroom or feeling like you’re having to share the same information over and over again?
Parents can be the MVP’s of your studio, if you’re dedicated to making space for them.
I began learning this as a college student, while working for summer dance programs and directing a small ensemble. In a summer program dynamic, the window to form a relationship is short and intense in a high stakes environment - parents have invested tremendously in their dancer’s growth and development, dancers’ hopes and dreams are unveiling in front of them - and you’re positioned as the gateway to all those things. In a studio or classroom setting, there is a longer arc to build a relationship, get to know each other, connect inside and outside the studio.
Empowered parents will empower your dancers, you, and your teaching staff. With my ensemble, I was eighteen years old and way in over my head trying to run a production. Investing in parent relationships gave them confidence to invest in me, which helped things take off. One was a geologist by training and created a beautiful set for me, complete with a cave. Another needed some financial assistance but had the ad-selling, sponsor-getting mojo, and because of her efforts we were able to cover her dancer’s costume costs, and actually make money on the performance.
During a summer program, I had to enforce a policy that really rankled a parent. Because of the thorough training I received, I was able to communicate effectively and respectfully even when tensions began to rise. The next day, I received a follow-up call from that parent, apologizing and thanking me for sticking to policies that were designed for the safety and well-being of all our students. Those calls don’t happen a lot and I knew it was because I had been prepared for just such an encounter.
Parents are part of your team, not understudies. You both need each other. Your dancers will thrive from your being in sync with their parents which will make your studio or company flourish.
Melissa works with artists, families of artists, and arts leaders to architect their place in the dance industry - saving time, money, and resources from being wasted on inadequate training, unnecessary extracurriculars, and unrealistic expectations - so they can focus on achieving dreams.
A former high performance athlete and dancer, Melissa’s decade of experience in dance and art education across institutions positions her with a uniquely broad perspective on building careers in the performing arts. She previously worked at Boston Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Miami City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet in Residence Life and The Joyce Theater in dance education. In Higher Education, she held a hybrid position at Penn State focused on student engagement in the arts.
She is a somatic movement practitioner with an emphasis on trauma-sensitive methods. She has written for Brooklyn Rail, Broadway World, and various arts publications. Melissa holds a B.A. in Communication & Theater Arts from Virginia Tech and a M.A. in American Dance Studies from Florida State University. You can learn more about her work atwww.emceemovement.com.