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Ethics

Business Ethics for the Mindful Dance Professional

Once upon a time, a dance teacher opened her own studio down the road from her former employer’s school, taking advantage of her former teaching position to start her own studio. Sound familiar? This is an all too common story in the dance studio business and unfortunately, this is no fairy-tale.

We have all heard a version of this story or perhaps experienced it first-hand. Poaching students–direct or indirect solicitation of another’s students–is a practice that mindlessly fragments and divides the dance community. In addition to poaching students, other subtle, but just as divisive, practices include: making negative remarks about other teachers/schools, misrepresentation of the self by making false, exaggerated, or ambiguous claims, and making disparaging comparisons or references about others.

What drives otherwise enterprising individuals to engage in business practices that burn bridges, sow the seeds of deceit, and model mindless behavior?

Darwin. You heard me–Darwin is to blame. Well, not really Darwin himself, but the misinterpretation of his theories into a business context is at the root of this dilemma. When the business world adopted the neo-Darwinian philosophy of “survival of the fittest”, they unleashed a ready-made excuse for unethical action.

As a culture that witnessed the “cola wars” first hand, we picked up the idea that anything goes when it comes to business and marketing. Ethics and morals need not apply. “That’s business” they say while defending their actions. They fail to see the big picture: to look mindfully at the situation. They unknowingly hurt the larger dance profession and therefore themselves. It is a case of one’s right hand shooting one’s left and thinking this is good.

What makes one feel justified in approaching the business of dance studios in this mindless manner?

At the root of the neo-Darwinian business approach is a sense of isolation and scarcity. These teachers believe that it is “them against the world”–or, more directly, “them against the other local studios/teachers.” Add to this sense of isolation a sense of scarcity–that there are not enough students to go around–and you start to understand how one begins to rationalize why stealing students is necessary for survival. However, these twin concepts–isolation and scarcity–are illusions in the dance world.

Studios fighting over the same group of students create a negative atmosphere in the community. Parents sense this negativity and choose alternative activities for their children because they seem more wholesome: the potential young dancer takes up soccer. However, in a community where more than one dance school thrives without negativity, a greater number of students enjoy dance as an activity. This greater number of students translates down the road into a greater number of future dancers, dance teachers, and, most importantly, audience members. If dance studios stopped seeing each other so much as competitors and more as colleagues, the entire dance profession would benefit.

The solution starts as simply as making replacements: replacing mindless competition with mindful collegiality, mindless isolation with mindful interconnectedness, and mindless scarcity with mindful abundance. We must realize that the dance profession, from the smallest recreational dance class to the largest professional company, is interconnected. The entire web of the dance world is vitally linked.

For example, the dance community is rather small in comparison with the larger world of sports. There are many more children participating in sports than the arts. Rather than interpreting this as a reason to fight for resources, we should embrace a sense of abundance. There are more than enough potential students out there to sustain every school if we focus on bringing more students into dance rather than fighting over those already there. It is to the benefit of the dance profession at every level to include more of the non-dance world inside our walls rather than put up walls within our own.

So, how can we begin to break down the twin illusions of isolation and scarcity in the dance studio world and open our eyes to interconnectedness and abundance?

We need to base our actions and practices on ideals that reflect the dance world as a healthy and vibrant community rather than a dire and hopeless one that lends itself to mindless behavior. Adopting a code of ethics that reinforces a mindful and wholesome outlook will not just serve as guidelines, but also help promote a positive environment for those whom they effect.

Going forward, we all need to embrace a code of ethics that addresses these issues. The following list is nowhere near complete, but it is a place to start.

Business Ethics for the Mindful Dance Professional

In all professional and business relations, the dance professional shall exhibit respect, honesty, and integrity for themselves, clients, and colleagues.

A. Respect

A dance professional shall refrain from making negative remarks that may discredit, malign, or in any way cast reflection on the professional standing of another school/studio or teacher.

A dance professional shall refrain from making any disparaging references to, or disparaging comparisons with, the services of others

A dance professional shall refrain from publishing, or causing to be published, any notice, newspaper advertisement, or any other matter likely to damage or depreciate the reputation of any colleague.

B. Honesty

A dance professional shall accurately portray his or her qualifications or affiliations to the public especially in advertising material and avoid any ambiguity or exaggeration.

A dance professional shall refrain from portraying his or her qualifications or affiliations to the public in a way intended to deceive the uninitiated. For example: having danced a child role in the Nutcracker with a professional company and listing it as to portray having danced professionally with the company.

C. Integrity

A dance professional shall refrain from directly soliciting business from another teacher or studio by approaching, in any manner the pupil, pupils or employees of another teacher and, for any reason at all, to try to induce them to join his/her school.

A dance professional shall refrain from indirectly soliciting business from another teacher or studio by making adverse criticism against other teachers’ methods, by offering free coaching, by citing the advantages to be gained by the pupil from the change (e.g. offering roles/parts), or other similar methods.

With each of us taking responsibility for our own actions by embracing a mindful ethical base, we can co-create a healthier, connected, and abundant environment in the business of dance schools. Moreover, with all we have in common, we might just discover we make better friends than enemies.

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Ethics

Dance Ethics and Codes of Conduct

Just like any sport or hobby, dance has a code of ethics, as well as a code of conduct. One of the most important things that all dancers should remember is that everyone is there to have a good time. We must all share the dance floor and be kind and courteous to other dancers. Never video another dancer, whether on the social dance floor or in a dance class without first asking permission. If you are in a class situation remember to be respectful of the instructor as well as other dancers.

While you may have already learned what the instructor is teaching, it is very possible that your partner has not. If there is a question, be sure and direct it to the instructor. That is what they is being paid for. Excessive chatter is disrupting to the class and you, or your partner may miss that little piece of information that you needed to improve your dancing or execute a particular pattern. This may sound harsh, but try and remember that everyone is there to learn.

Proper clothing and foot attire is highly recommended. The last thing you want to do while dancing is worry about your clothing staying on or being too constrictive or uncomfortable. As far as foot wear, you need either leather or suede bottomed dance shoes or boots. Thick rubber soles or shoe that fall off your feet can lead to injury. Sandals can be especially troublesome, more so when they do not have a back strap.

Since we are all dancing closely together a shower, clean clothing, deodorant and breath mints are in order. It is also recommended to forgo, or use perfumes sparingly as many people have sensitivities to them. If you sweat profusely, a towel and an extra shirt or two may be in the cards for you. Chewing gum is not recommended as it often ends up on the floor and then on someones expensive dance shoe. Not to mention that it looks pretty tacky to see a dancer out on the dance floor chomping on gum.

Be tidy and respectful to the club or studio that you are dancing in. You should also always pick up after yourself. This is especially important in a classroom setting. Classrooms often have mints set about the studio for their students and picking up all the little wrappers from around the room after the class is not the instructors job. Leaving empty water bottles is also, “Just not Cool!” While social dancing it is proper etiquette to to accept an invitation to dance, but it is also acceptable to decline. If you decline, it would be improper etiquette to accept another dance offer to the same song.There are always exceptions but try to follow these guidelines.

While some of these suggestions may seem rather obvious to most, look around and I am sure you will see at least one or two offenders! Sometimes people are just unaware or do not think, or are just so wrapped up in remembering all they need to do during a dance that they just plain don’t think about anything else. Here’s hoping to bring awareness to those who are unaware and thanks to those of you that are! Let’s all work hard at maintaining an awesome dance community!