Before I moved to Pensacola, FL to pursue my dream of becoming a professional dancer and dance studio owner, I heard all kinds of rumors about this area’s dance scene. Several professional dancers who had visited the area told me it was plagued with more drama than any other dance scene they have ever seen. I didn’t really believe it, but I should have.
After nearly a year of living in this area, and seven months of owning and operating my own dance studio, I’ve come to the conclusion that this area indeed is plagued with drama, and my business played a role in it… and I’m not sorry. Allow me explain.
There are two words that sum up how drama is created in this dance community; Option and Choice.
The first word, “Option”, when applied, provides strength and growth to a dance community. Leaders in the dance community create options for dance by providing group lessons, private lessons, special workshops, guest instructors, and weekly/monthly dances, all of which create strength in a dance community. Options lend to a free market system where people can participate in whatever activity suits them best. Options create a higher quality of service to dancers, because, let’s face it, people are going to choose what they perceive as the best value for them. My partner and I created a fantastic option for people when we opened our studio, and we are proud of our decision to do so.
Now let’s talk about the second word, “Choice”. This is the element that creates drama, but only when leadership decides to abuse it. This is the element I have decided not to partake in, and once again, I am proud of that decision. To clarify, everybody has a CHOICE to attend whatever dance function they want to attend. Those choices are affected by many factors (i.e. time, money, preference, etc.). When dancers are left to make their own choices, it doesn’t add unnecessary drama to a dance community. But when leadership tries to directly affect that choice in ways other than providing an OPTION, drama becomes and epidemic that is cancerous to a dance community.
Since opening our studio, dancers in this community have more options… a good thing. But we have never asked dancers to make a choice between the options we provide and the other options available to them. In fact, we encourage people to participate in as many options as are available. We try to influence their CHOICE (if a choice between us and other options is necessary) by providing what we feel is the highest quality OPTION available. We encourage our dancers to go to dances held by other community leaders. In fact, every one of the seven people in our leadership training class attends the other option(s) in town, and we are proud of them for never making a CHOICE or trying to affect the choices of others. That is what I call leadership!
Unfortunately, we see evidence of other community leaders trying to influence choice in a very negative way that becomes the root cause of unnecessary drama in our local dance scene. Here’s a couple examples:
- Not long after we opened our studio, a well-known dancer in the area visited our studio. One of the first things this dancer did was to ask me not to post anything on Facebook about him being at our studio. He said he didn’t want [insert dance community leader’s name here] to know he was participating in our dance. He then walked up to our photographer and told him not to take any pictures of him dancing for the same reason.
- While all of our leadership team attends the other dances in the area, almost none of the members of the leadership from the other dances participate in our activities.
- On numerous occasions, I have dancers tell me things like, “I’m so glad I didn’t listen to [insert dance community leader’s name here] and decided to come check you guys out for myself.”
These are just a few of many examples that illustrate the difference between providing options to the dance community and trying to directly influence the choices dancers make. Will this stop? If history has anything to do with it, it’s not likely, but there is one thing you dancers can do to help… You can make choices based on your own first-hand observations and experiences. Personally, I would like dancers to go to every dance they can fit into their budget and schedule. I simply want them to dance! If a choice has to be made based on time and money, I hope dancers would come to us because of the quality of our services, not because we spoke negatively about another option or because we pressured them with guilt tactics or aggressive sales methods.
In short, leaders in a dance community create strength by providing OPTIONS, and they create drama by meddling with the CHOICES dancers make. My challenge to all dance community leaders is to promote the options you provide by executing quality or service while staying away from speaking negatively about other options. If your quality is high, you should not feel threatened by the other options in town. Don’t EVER steer people away from other options with negative talk. If there is negative talk, it should come from the consumer, not leadership. If you are worried about losing dancers to another option, then ask yourself “why?”
Just about all our patrons also go to other dance events and in some way associate with other dance professionals, and we are very proud of them for doing so. That is the sign of a truly sophisticated and matured social dancer and we hope they appreciate the fact that we value their open-mindedness and ability to see beyond the DRAMA!