Seeing the value
Our studio values are Kindness, Respect, Community. But what do these words mean, and how do they translate into practice?
We consider it important to articulate our values clearly, so they can be understood and shared by everybody. We also want to highlight some of the ways we manifest Kindness, Respect, and Community through tangible actions – proving our words are far from empty.
At Dance Northside, we purposefully create and actively maintain a culture of kindness and respect. Among our staff, students, and their families, we foster community by emphasising connection and putting people first. We truly live by our values: they inform everything we do.
Alongside this, we are following the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations declared by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Council of Australian Governments, with which our values are aligned.
With this values-guided approach, we’re proud to be leading a cultural shift within the dance industry that is seeing child safety and wellbeing take precedence.
The value of Kindness is aligned with Child Safe Organisations Principle #1: “Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture.”
Kindness means prioritising the health and happiness of our dancers, teaching in a way that supports their physical and mental wellbeing. We take a holistic approach to dance education that does not impose unrealistic expectations of perfection on students, striving instead for enjoyment, increased confidence, and a positive body image. At Dance Northside, the dancers’ role is not to actualise the vision of teachers and choreographers; rather, the job of teachers and choreographers is to meet dancers where they are at and serve their individual needs. More than just bodies, we see dancers as human beings with hearts and minds that must be nurtured. Students are supported to become the best version of themselves as people and as dancers, and not made to compete against others. This ensures children and adults who participate in dance classes for recreation have a positive experience.
How we implement Kindness in practice
- Corrections are given gently, while also highlighting what the student is doing really well.
- All new students are sent a welcome video from their teacher before their first class, to help reduce any anxiety they may feel.
- We hand out cards with positive affirmations written on them to help support dancers’ mental health.
- To audition for the Performance Team, students are not asked to present solos; instead, auditionees learn routines together as a group. This puts less pressure on students.
- Students do not undertake exams or any other form of assessment. Their level is determined by their age, meaning students dance alongside peers in a class that matches their stage of physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development. This keeps dance recreational.
- We avoid language that reinforces gender stereotypes and the notion that one’s worth is defined by one’s appearance. For example, staff are trained not to comment on female-identifying dancers’ clothing (i.e. ‘what a pretty dress!’), instead asking them about their thoughts, interests, and activities (e.g. ‘what are you looking forward to doing on the weekend?’).
- Our teachers will never, ever yell at or criticise students.
- We do not enter our dancers in eisteddfods; competition has a place elsewhere, but not in the arts (especially when it comes to children).
Respect means recognising and protecting every individual’s right to learn dance in a safe environment. A major aspect of this is bodily integrity and autonomy. Our students are never forced to do anything they are not physically capable of doing or don’t want to do. We model consent, teaching children that they have authority over their own bodies. Another way we show respect at Dance Northside is through our commitment to age-appropriate music, choreography, and costumes: we will never encourage children to look, dress, or dance like an adult.
Teachers at Dance Northside earn their students’ respect through trust, instead of demanding it through fear. They know being afforded that respect is a privilege, and understand they must work to keep it.
Our students and staff choose to work to the best of their ability, out of respect for themselves and each other. We value the time we have been gifted with our dancers, so we strive to deliver a quality dance education. Likewise, students try their hardest in every class.
Dance Northside is a safe, welcoming, and inclusive space for people of all identities and abilities. Our philosophy is that everybody can dance.
How we implement Respect in practice
- When being offered a sticker at the end of class, students are asked where they would like the teacher to place it (on their hand, t-shirt, water bottle, etc.), practising and modelling consent.
- Our Minis (3.5 – 5 years) class playlists include the song ‘Boss of My Own Body’ by Teeny Tiny Stevies, which teaches bodily authority.
- If it is necessary for a teacher to make physical contact with a student for the purpose of giving a correction, helping with a costume, providing first aid, etc., they always ask the student’s permission first, explaining what they would do and why; if the student says no, the action is not taken.
- Students are instructed to keep their hands and feet to themselves and stay within their own ‘safe dancing space’.
- Our teachers learn and remember students’ names.
- The message and themes of the songs we use are appropriate to the students’ age, and we never use songs that contain swear words or derogatory language.
- We don’t enter competitions – adults judging children on their performance and appearance doesn’t sit well with our child-first approach.
- There is an Acknowledgement of Country displayed in our studio, on our website, and at the bottom of our emails.
- We are mindful and inclusive of neurodiversity. For example, we ask about sensory sensitivities on our concert costume form so we can make sure the clothes we provide will be comfortable for students.
The value of Respect is aligned with Child Safe Organisations Principle #2: “Children and young people are informed about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.”
The value of Community is aligned with Child Safe Organisations Principle #3: “Families and communities are informed and involved in promoting child safety and wellbeing.”
Community means connecting with each other through a shared love of dance. Our main purpose is to help students form friendships, find a place where they belong, and feel confident to be themselves. In this way, we create a network of mutual support. At Dance Northside, everyone knows they are important and valued. Students and their families have the opportunity to voice what they need, and these needs determine the direction of the studio.
How we implement Community in practice
- Staff are trained to follow a procedure for how to welcome new students, ensuring they are greeted, familiarised with the studio, and introduced to other members of the class.
- Every student receives a birthday card.
- We run social events such as discos and movie nights, where students can connect with their peers in a relaxed setting.
- Adults classes regularly go out for dinner together with their teacher.
- Parents and carers are invited to attend wellness events at the studio, where they can get to know other Dance Northside families.
- Every week during term time, we publicly acknowledge and celebrate a ‘Legend of the Week’ who has modelled the Dance Northside values and/or shown improvement in their dancing.
- Classes come together for an informal performance during their last lesson of the term, in which they present what they have learnt to their peers and families as a way of celebrating progress.
- At the end of the year, we put on a community concert, where our dancers give an in-house performance and fellow users of Kaleen Community Hall get involved by providing food and entertainment.
- We maintain an open door policy, meaning parents/carers are welcome to watch the class.
- Many of our teachers have grown up through the studio, starting out as students when they were children, and now pass their lived understanding of the Dance Northside culture and values on to the next generation of dancers.
- Students are often given a say in the songs we use and the costumes they wear.
- We survey families to get their preference regarding how we do things. For example, we asked the parents/carers of our Minis (3.5 – 5 years) students their thoughts when we were considering changing the format of our annual concert for this age group (having them perform at the studio in a more child- and community-focussed setting rather than in a professional theatre).
- Classes and events are offered based on community interest, gauged through surveys.
- During lockdown in 2021, we provided online classes live via Zoom, so students could continue being able to connect with their teachers and peers.
- Teachers take the time to learn about their students, asking a getting-to-know-you question at the beginning of every lesson.
- Our assistant teachers are student leaders who have been empowered to serve as role models within the studio community.