If you perceive the role of studio parents to be dominated by providing transportation to and from classes and paying the bills, you’re mistaken. In years of interviewing and visiting customers, we’ve heard and seen many ways that parents get involved in the activities of their little dancers. From daddy-daughter dances, mom’s muffin mornings and family dinners to stoning and prop building crews, parents take a leading role with their student’s dance studio.
During a recent visit with Fancy Feet Dance Studio in Matthews NC, we talked to Treshawn Brown, General Manager of Fancy Feet, about what studio parents do for them. We were impressed by their commitment!
Fancy Feet provides recreational, competition and private classes. Their students compete in four regionals and one national competition. They also perform an annual recital that follows the Spring competition season.
Two huge components that complicate springtime are costume customizing and prop creation. With teachers’ time and energy consumed by choreography, music selection, rehearsal schedules, prop/background planning and choosing, sizing and ordering costumes, they have little bandwidth left to manage the customization of costumes and creation of needed props and backgrounds.
Enter the studio parents. Crews of moms and dads step in to save studio staff’s sanity.
The Moms’ Crew
Moms pull out needle, thread and sewing machines, putting their skills to work in customizing costumes and often sewing original designs from scratch. Today’s costuming may start with some catalogue ordered costumes, but these require significant stoning to compete with the look that competition stages demand. Individual/solo performers’ costumes must be even more unique and have their own dazzling stoning designs.
“Customizing our costumes is yet another way that we can show our uniqueness and personality. It’s critical to set ourselves apart from other groups in every way that we can. We work endless hours creating fresh choreography and finding music, costumes, make-up, props, backgrounds and lighting styles that support the excellent performances by our dancers,” comments Treshawn.
After deciding on stone designs for each group’s costume, the moms take over and complete the painstaking and tedious work of perfecting each costume. Those who sew take the individual costume designs and put together fabulous unique creations that set off each solo dancer’s style and movements.
“Each costume can take hours of needle work and endless patience. The finished customized costumes can end up being very expensive. Stones are not cheap and when you add hundreds to one costume, it adds up,” adds Treshawn. “If we had to hire outside resources to sew and stone, it would drive costume costs out of reach. The staff pitches in to help too, but there aren’t enough hours in the day for just a few of us to sew and stone everything. We’re fortunate to have very skilled and committed moms who help.”
The Dads’ Crew
The commitment doesn’t just come from the moms. A crew of dads takes over when prop and background designs are finalized. Whatever programs require, Fancy Feet’s studio dads manage to come up with it.
“It relieves us of a tremendous burden to hand prop and background creation over to our dads’ crew. Just as with stoning and sewing, paying for outside construction resources would make it too costly for us to have the items that we feel properly frame our routines and themes,” says Treshawn.
When it’s time to travel to competitions, the dads’ crew steps in to help again, taking the lead in packaging and loading props and backgrounds in rental trucks for transport to competitions.
The Family Culture
The level of involvement from its parents that Fancy Feet enjoys helps to create a culture of family for everyone as they prepare and participate in competitions. Everyone doesn’t travel together because every student doesn’t perform for the entire competition weekend. It doesn’t make sense for everyone to be there for every routine. To gather everyone together, the dad’s host a cookout. This gives teachers, parents and students the opportunity to come out and grab a bite to eat and fellowship during the long competition day.
“The cookouts have an amazing impact on our sense of team and support. Our competitors are very focused on their performances and to know that everyone – teammates, parents, instructors – are behind them gives them confidence that can truly make a difference in their results,” comments Treshawn.
Dance studio owners, managers, and instructors have their hands full regardless of what time of year it is. The support that parents can provide – especially during competition and performance season – is critical in helping studios and their students reach their ultimate potential.