What is a Dance Parent Contract and is it Legally Binding?

Dance parent contracts are becoming more and more common at dance schools especially when signing your children onto dance teams. So what are they and are they legally binding?

A dance parent contract is a written agreement signed by both you and your dance studio in which you commit to uphold responsibilities such as: paying for lessons and costumes on time; ensuring your child attends a set amount of lessons; is available for specific competition or performance dates. Unless you get the agreement or contract read by a lawyer beforehand and they give you advice telling you otherwise…. always assume that YES the contract is legally binding.

Your dance teacher may have had the contract prepared by a lawyer, they might have gotten a template from their local state authority or they may have created the agreement themselves. Many people would argue that what they are committing to and the consequences of breaking a dance parent contract do not deem the expense of a lawyer but it is very important to remind you that you need to read any contract or agreement before signing it. Make sure the agreement states the penalties or consequences of you not adhering to the contract so there is less conflict if problems arise. Finally, remember you are signing your name to a document which means you have read and are agreeing to all and any terms, conditions, and consequences as stated in the agreement.

That said we hope to provide you with some clarification on the most common points in a parent or dance team contract, then you can work out if you are willing to commit to one or if it really is something you need further advice on.

PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT REPLACE THAT OF A LICENSED LAWYER OR SOLICITOR OR WHAT IS STATED IN ANY CONTRACT THAT YOU SIGN.

WHAT’S IN A DANCE PARENT OR DANCE TEAM CONTRACT?

PAYMENT OF FEES

Your dance school might require you to sign an agreement that states you will pay for all classes, costume costs, competition and exam entry fees by an invoiced date. Your dance teacher has every right to ask for their work to be paid for in a timely manner, but more importantly the payment for costumes, competition and exam entry fees need to be paid to external bodies and your dance teacher has no obligation to pay these for you in lieu of a future payment. If they did this for everyone they would go out of business and there would be no dance school for your child to attend! Signing a contract regarding payment gives clarity to both parties on what they are responsible for: your teacher being responsible for providing excellent dance training, paying your child’s entry fees on time and ordering your costumes and yourself for ensuring all payments are made so the dance teacher can do their job.

COMMITMENT TO COMPETITIONS AND DANCE TEAMS

Some schools require both the student and parent to sign commitment agreements or contracts that state that you will ensure your child attends a set amount of technique and team lessons and is available for all rehearsals and competition dates. Some will state that other than a medical emergency there is no reason your child will be exempt from the conditions even for a family wedding or similar event. At the time of signing you will want to ensure that the dates are attached to the contract, so you and the school are 100% clear on what those dates are.

PHOTO AND VIDEO AGREEMENTS

The contract you sign as a dance parent might also include agreements regarding you taking photos and video of your child when in class, during competition or at a recital. Some schools object to parents taking photos or videos during these times due to choreography and copy right issues, others state that it is because you do not have permission from other parents to take images of their children, others because they believe it distracts their students and others because they don’t want the whole audience clambering up from their seats to the front or side to get the perfect view of their child or holding up phones and cameras which distract others in the audience. Many schools now provide professional photo days and DVD’s for you to purchase which can be costly but eliminate all the above problems (side note: this should’t mean you can’t take photos of your child before or after their class or performance, but clarify this with your school). Under the agreement you will probably be signing that you give your dance school permission to record and photograph your child for these purposes and also for promotional ads and social media posts. If you don’t want your child’s image posted in ads or social media this should be accommodated. Unfortunately you have probably chosen the wrong hobby for your child if there is a problem with them being filmed for the recital DVD and best they don’t participate.

SOCIAL MEDIA CONTRACTS

This is a newer addition to some dance parent contracts and can relate not only to the posting of images and video on social media but also to online chats, written posts and more. Your dance school might want to protect not only it’s image but also the identity of its young students and therefore might enforce some sort of social media agreement to do this. In regards to chats and posts your school might also have an online etiquette policy to ensure cyber bullying or similar is not tolerated at their school, especially if they offer an online parenting forum or have whatsapp, facebook or messenger groups.

WHAT YOUR DANCE SCHOOL MIGHT REASONABLY DO IF YOU BREAK THE CONTRACT

CONSEQUENCES OF LATE PAYMENT

If you continually give late payments for your child’s lessons, depending on your school you may be asked to stop coming until they are paid for in advance. Your child might lose their spot in the class for the next term, semester or year.

If you don’t pay your costume fee on time the costume will probably not be ordered and therefore your child will not be able to perform at a recital or competition. A late payment for a costume might mean your teacher is unable to order it after the fact, especially if the company making them only makes bulk orders or runs out of the material needed for that costume. Not having a costume may ultimately also mean your child is taken off the dance team they auditioned to get into.

If competition fees are not paid on time, in particular for solos your child will simply miss out as many popular competitions sell out and have strict cut off days for entry. The same can be said for exam fees. Some examining bodies will only accept entries until a certain date to enable the organisation of the exams.

CONSEQUENCES OF NON PAYMENT

If you don’t pay for your lessons you will be asked to stop coming to classes at the school and it is possible that without an upfront payment in the future your studio will not allow you back. Depending on the amount owing your teacher may or may not follow up on debt collection as this process can be costly to them as well, but if you signed a payment contract it is a viable option to them.

Lastly the consequence of non payment can mean that conflict develops between yourself and other parents and students at the school who might have been relying on your child to show up as part of a dance team. The consequence of having to move to a different school, especially if they compete against each other can also create unwanted conflict for you and your child.

Therefore if you are ever in a situation where you can’t make payments for your child’s dance lessons always go speak with your dance teacher. There is absolutely no shame in doing this and will prevent problems further down the track. Your dance teacher may be able to come up with a payment plan for you or knows of scholarships or alternative ways of providing the dance training your child needs – it might even be through a job cleaning the dance studio?

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO ATTEND ALL GENERAL TECHNIQUE CLASSES:

Attending a set amount of technique classes per week might be a pre-requisite to being on a dance team so that your child learns all the skills or tricks they need to apply to a dance routine they will learn during team or competition rehearsals. Therefore if they continually miss these they will not be able to perform at the level needed and won’t be placed in the routine regardless of any contract. The contract just enforces the importance of these lessons to your child’s dance development.

The same could be said for students wanting to enter examinations. Many dance organizations expect a certain level to be attained before teachers present their students for examinations and if your child does not attend the prescribed lessons your teacher may advise you they are not ready for the exam. There are very few teachers who will allow a student to enter an examination if they believe they will fail.

CONSEQUENCES OF MISSING TEAM LESSONS AND REHEARSALS

Being absent for team lessons or rehearsals for reasons other than illness means your child won’t know the steps for the team routine, they won’t be in class for placement and will therefore simply be left out of parts of the routine. They might also miss out on any cleaning lessons and therefore be unaware of any changes in timing, places or steps, all of which could mean they are pulled out of a whole team routine.

THE REPERCUSSIONS OF NOT ATTENDING A TEAM COMPETITION OR PERFORMANCE

If you or your child decide that another event is more important than performing with your team, meaning you intend to or you do break the contract, the studios course of action may include removing your child from the team and not allowing re-entry for a certain amount of time or even ever, especially if there is not enough time to fix the dances you will miss.

If you have paid entry fees, costume fees or dance class fees upfront you may not be entitled to any of this back especially as your dance studio will no longer have the money having already paid vendors for the costumes or entry fees.

As your child is part of a team, their in attendance might disrupt the teams performance causing mistakes to occur or the inability for the dance to be performed if you child had an important role to play. This could cause monetary loss to your studio as well as other parents and as you have signed a contract your studio may also have legal cause to claim back from you any losses.

Most importantly breaking this contract would mean you are letting your studio and team down when everyone else is sacrificing their time and giving up other events and opportunities to be part of the team. Realistically this means that you will not be very popular amongst the other parents and students who regard loyalty to the club as extremely important, especially if the event you are attending instead is one others have missed in the past or deemed not as important by them than the commitment you made to the team. This might cause problems in staying and training with the studio and in itself is a better motivator to not be absent than any monetary consequence that might occur.

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF I IGNORED A PHOTO, VIDEO OR SOCIAL MEDIA AGREEMENT?

At the end of the day it will depend on what you did. Taking some photos of your kid while on stage, if noticed might give you a stern look, secretly videoing a competition rehearsal and uploading it to YouTube before it has even been premiered at a competition might have your dance teacher asking you to leave their school. This might happen with or without warning and will very much depend on the contract you have entered, and the detriment your actions have caused to their business, the team or to other students and parents. Your dance studio might be entitled to compensation or refuse to give you any money back already paid for lessons. At this time the the contract you have signed is of immense importance.

SO…….SHOULD I SIGN A DANCE PARENT OR TEAM CONTRACT?

Only you can decide if you are willing to sign the contract and if you are able to commit to the responsibilities being asked of you and your child. Now this might not be the answer you were looking for – you originally wanted to know with 100% clarity if these contracts were legally binding and unfortunately as laws differ from state to state and country to country only a lawyer would be able to advise you on that and even then, they can only advise you as to whether you should or should not sign, they can’t decide for you. Just understand that there are real consequences to signing these forms and not all of them are purely monetary so make your decision on what you know you are able to commit to, not what you want or wish you can!

PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT REPLACE THAT OF A LICENSED LAWYER OR SOLICITOR OR WHAT IS STATED IN ANY CONTRACT THAT YOU SIGN.

About the Author

Samantha Bellerose

Samantha is a wife and mother of four kids aged 1-9. She danced and acted from the age of 5 and performed in film clips, on television, and in musical theatre professionally. She also taught dance, but after leaving the profession to backpack through Europe, Canada and the USA with her husband for three years, she then completed an Education Degree and taught within primary schools in Australia. Today she is a business owner with her husband and the creator and writer for Dance Parent 101 where she hopes her previous experience as a dancer, current experience as a dance parent and the research and writing skills she gained completing her education degree will help enlighten parents on their journey with their child through the world of dance.