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Why Your Dancers Need a Mission Statement

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You probably have a mission statement for your studio and can recite it in your sleep. But do you have one for your performance teams? Like many owners, teachers, and choreographers, you may have felt like your teams went through a bit of an identity crisis last season, when competitions were scrapped, venues were shuttered, and community gatherings were canceled. The spring season, usually one of joy and community, felt more like a cold and isolated winter. So what do your student competitors do, if they can’t actually go to a competition? What are you rehearsing for?

Whether these specialized teams inside your studio population are community performance-based or elite-level competitive, chances are they could benefit from a mission statement that will unite all team members (including parents) under one purpose, solving the identity crisis.

If the thought of writing a team mission statement seems daunting, consider TED. We’ve all seen a TED Talk at some point in our lives—world-class speakers captivate an audience with simple presentations, on a wide variety of topics. The sheer logistics of gathering all those experts, and utilizing technology to organize and distribute their material, must be mind-boggling. The mission of TED, however, is very simple: “spread ideas.” That’s it. Of course TED goes on to explain in more detail how spreading ideas will make the world a better place, and why spreading ideas is important, but if you’re having trouble starting a mission statement, remember: you only have to begin with a few simple words.

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The most important thing to remember when crafting your team mission statement is that everyone wants to be on a winning team. Winning is fun. This explains why some people who have never even visited Massachusetts wear Harvard University t-shirts, and many parents share even the most humble paper-plate award on Facebook so strangers can see that their kindergartener won Best Stick Figure Drawing. 

It’s your task, then, to tell your team in very clear language what winning at your studio looks like and what each member can do to help the team go for the gold (or platinum, or diamond …). The mission statement serves this purpose; it becomes not only the road map to the podium but also the lens through which you will pass every decision for the season. Whether to attend a particular event, whether to wear a specific costume, whether to move one dancer up to the next level, whether to have that tough conversation with a parent—all decisions get funneled through the mission statement. If it serves the mission, it’s a yes. If it doesn’t, let it go.

Your mission statement should answer a few key questions. Why does your team exist? What does it do and who does it serve? And finally, how will your team measure success, i.e. what does winning look like? Taking the time to answer these questions now will help you steer the narrative later for the kids and families you lead, especially during tough times like disappointment tears over casting, frenemy struggles, financial woes, and more. Highlight the perks of membership through visionary language, and your mission statement becomes a north star for your team to return to again and again. Bonus: a strong declaration of purpose prevents powerful personalities (hello, stage moms) from taking control of your story.

Once you have your mission statement crafted, don’t let it languish in a drawer (or more likely, your Google Drive). The reason the mission statement exists is to be seen and shared! You could send a simple email to your team, print a document and post it in the classroom, or invest in a beautiful graphic piece—the crucial part is that every member sees it and learns it by heart, whether intentionally or subconsciously. You could even have some fun by testing students every so often, putting them in the “hot seat” and asking them to stand up and recite a portion of the mission. The more it becomes their declaration instead of just yours, the more you’ll see their unity and enthusiasm grow. Then suddenly it doesn’t matter whether they have to wear a mask to dance or whether the venue will allow 500 people in. The team itself becomes the goal.

Moving forward into the 2020-21 season might feel uncertain, but taking one hour to write a simple mission statement for your team could end up saving you multiple hours of heartbreak later on. “The task facing teachers and choreographers post-COVID is to keep the joy going,” says Michael Taylor, a South Florida-based educator and judge who travels across the US and Canada for American Dance Awards, Headliners, Dance Masters of America, and Dance Educators of America. “The camaraderie and teamwork is more important than ever. Dancers want to take class with their peers and they want to be motivated by the people in the room.” Whether that room is in the studio, on a stage, or online, the mission is clear: being part of a team matters more than ever before.

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