For a company production, dancers are asked to register ahead of time of any given audition so that I can plan an effective use of the 3-4 hour audition, which also serves as our first rehearsal. I give dancers until the morning of the audition to register. I sort out tentative casting grids, a budget, a musical score, get licensing, get event insurance, plan stage directions and choreography on a spreadsheet and make all the necessary changes the night of or morning after any given audition. It's tedious and precarious and one change of child or costume has a domino effect on the entire grid. I also start doing costume research based on the number of dancers, the budget, the necessary quick changes and choreography in mind weeks prior so that the second I have the final number of participants, I can order said costumes, scenery and backdrops and have them arrive 4-6 weeks before the show - just enough time for adjustments, tailoring and a dress rehearsal.
This is not a chorus singing a song where any number of sopranos and altos will do. There are a very specific number of spots, available to a specific number of dancers within an age and level range. We also have a limited number of seats in the theater so seating for families is assigned before the casting grid is finalized.
In our upcoming production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, we have 10 spots for youngsters. I had an initial plan of choreographing for between 6 and 12 dancers. I needed an even number to make the choreography work so actually kept a lilac belt in the younger tier to make it happen. She did not complain - I think she gets the bigger picture. I also kept a red belt in the scene who could have leveled up - she also gets the bigger picture. You have to do what the production requires.
Knowing that show planning begins long before the actual audition, and that we would not have time to bend over backwards to accommodate latecomers, we informed dancers that pre-registration was necessary. We opened pre-registration in December for an audition on Jan 26th. We sent three reminder emails, posted it online and left notices out at the front desk. I even personally emailed and called dancers who said they were participating, or usually participate, but hadn't submitted their form as we needed advance knowledge of attendees. The other 90% of people had absolutely no trouble submitting the one-liner online form. They had up to Jan 25th to pre-register but I accepted registrations through 4pm on 1/26. We had ten people pre-register for the age group in question below. I spent the better part of the week before and the day after the audition preparing for these ten dancers.
Most of the thousands of families I have worked with over the years have been amazing. But there are more than a few who think that bullying and guilt-shaming is an effective tactic to get what they want, and that they aren't required to follow the same rules that others are required to follow. Then they call me names, threaten to lie about us on social media and site rumors (probably started by other bullies). It's absurd.
This scenario has played out four times this school year already and countless times in the past, and it needs to stop NOW. It is exhausting and is a huge distraction from what we, as a school, need to actually be focused on. It's a waste of resources which is a burden on the students themselves. It's an ongoing problem that I have seen happen in other schools where I've worked, and that other studio owners face everyday. I have tried everything to prevent and resolve this. As a board, we spend way too much time dealing with unreasonable demands that ask us to abandon rules and protocol and are unfair to the other, majority of students.
And the hostility that I personally face when I enforce a rule is astounding. I am always kind, but I am direct - I've tried being gentle, I've tried using humor, I've tried to respond thoroughly, I've tried to respond concisely, I've tried to respond slowly, I've tried to respond quickly, I've tried EVERYTHING I can think of to avoid upsetting people when enforcing a known rule. But it doesn't matter; Whether its because people think they can get away with it, or its going to help their cause, or I'm just the first target, I'm still not sure. I do know that sadly when our one male board member sends the same information to the same person regarding the same demand, he gets a helluva different response..
I have no idea what more to do. I do know that my time and energy needs to be focused on the 150+ students in the 30 hours of classes I teach every week, supporting my staff of 10 teaching and administrative professionals, choreographing and rehearsing 3 yearly productions, private lessons, professional development and operating the school. NOT on dealing with families who demand the rules shouldn't apply to them.
And I can tell you that making exceptions to rules and procedures is the absolute worst thing we can do as a school. The rules we have in place are not for anyone's personal benefit Especially not mine; It would be far easier for me to give into people and not deal with the confrontations. They are for the benefit of the children enrolled in the school, period. They are there so families can have clear guidelines and expectations. I am not in a position to break the rules for anyone. Even our most senior teachers and student teachers have to follow our rules. Our board of dedicated volunteers follow the rules. There is no one person on the planet who is so important to our studio that they would be entitled to an exception to any rule (because if they were that important, they'd be already happy to follow the rules!)
We have rules that maintain a productive environment for everyone. I do not agree that I'm 'hostile' because I enforce them. I am sick and tired of dealing with abuse because I actually uphold our school's simple and straightforward policies. The people who follow them know that I am very accommodating and will do anything and everything for any one of my students. If you want your child to grow up thinking rules are for suckers and the best way to get out of them is by being a bully- you are not welcome here. In my opinion, if you can't follow a rule, you don't belong in any school. I am definitely not going to tolerate it and I don't think any teacher should have to.
People have told me not to let the bleacher-seat people bother me. It's obvious these outlier families are in the wrong and I should just deal with it and then move on. But frankly, rumors about our organization are damaging and deeply, deeply concerning to me. There is no way we could function without having and upholding standard rules and procedures. I need to be able to uphold rules and operating procedures without enduring personal attacks on my character, lies about the school itself, and the incredible time-wasting that goes on.
In our tradition of transparency, going forward, all emails sent to our organization will be a matter of public record and our staff has been advised that we are only to correspond in writing. Please do not think that attacking me or spreading rumors about our school is going to be an effective strategy for getting what you want at the expense of other students.