A Dance Mom Gets Schooled by a Ballet Mistress Who Can Write

Someone using the handle “Simpcodancer mom” posted to a public email list at my daughter’s ballet school:

Just wondering when the cast list will finally be out. It is late. It was promised last week, and now it is almost October. We pay our fees on time. I teach my kids to always be on time where ever they go, especially dance. We received the email to donate to the school’s fundraiser this week on time. But no cast List. This is a teachable moment to demonstrate that being on time, especially when a promise is involved, is important.

About a half hour later, this response came from the school:


Creative Commons image by Peter Voerman. “Dance Perdormance.”

I understand that waiting for the cast list can be frustrating. Unfortunately for me and very fortunate for our dancers, it is my obsessive need to make every child as happy as possible, provide the most individualized educational experience possible and leave the best memories as possible and that can delay the process. Other factors such as illness, the last minute knowledge of some dancers not returning, staff suggestions all complicate matters. The cast list this season should have been easy but it has not. It has become a bit of a nightmare. Most parents are aware of the quality of our school, the dedication of myself and staff to their children and they fully appreciate the expertise behind everything we do, as well as every sacrifice and decision we make. Acknowledging those facts, they use moments such as these to teach patience, to reiterate that a delay in cast list is an indication of our genuine affection and dedication to our students and getting it as perfect for them as possible. Patience is definitely a virtue and you are correct in that this is a teaching moment.

I sent the list and a request for it to be posted on-line this afternoon but have rescinded that request. A hard copy would have been posted tomorrow at the studio but I’m not certain I can do that now either. It would seem as if I’m bowing to parental bullying and I’m definitely sure that is not the lesson I want to teach so I may have to wait until Monday to ensure the point.

Emailing a private request for the cast list release would have been more appropriate and a more reasonable, well thought out avenue for your frustration. Emailing and appearing to chastise me publically shows a genuine lack of knowledge, appreciation and respect. Emailing using an address we can not identify and failing to sign your email shows a lack of conviction. Failing to understand that it is a relatively easy thing to discover your identity through your IP address is another indication that your action was not thought through. If the lessons you wanted to teach here were your own ignorance, arrogance and cowardice, you’ve succeeded.


Judy Rae Tubbs
Resident Choreographer/Instructor
Laurel Ballet Theater

24 thoughts on “A Dance Mom Gets Schooled by a Ballet Mistress Who Can Write

  1. This just goes to show the value of communication. If the teacher had only iterated the issues to the group, then all would be as in the know as the teacher. As it is, the teacher is using information as power. When people relish being kings of their fiefdoms, then info is the weapon, which is clearly how the teacher intended it.

    This dynamic highlights an issue I have with public, primary education. The schools talk of student self-advocacy but don’t offer avenues to model this. Parents are asked to let kids work it out with teachers, but they then shoot the kids down. The results: anonymous letters for fear of retribution. How wrong is that?

  2. It occurs to me that perhaps I should note that parents paid a performance fee to be in this show, so the question the missing cast lists answers is not “Did my kid get picked to dance in the ballet (so that I’ll know whether to keep the peformance weekend free)?” but rather “What ROLE will my kid dance?”

  3. What a shame that the educator decided to punish everyone by withholding the cast list because she was angry. That is very telling about her ethics. I would have hoped She could have taken the high road as the educator/model for the kids. Maybe there’s a reason the parent went anonymous. Having said that, the mother could have “adulted” with a private email or discussion.

    • The original writer had several options, including sending a signed or unsigned message; sending it to a large group or just the person responsible for the casting; adopting any tone, including (but not limited to) scolding, polite, or neutral. The teacher also had options when she wrote her response — and as a writing teacher I find this whole thread very interesting.

  4. This is interesting, Dennis! All interesting perspectives and good points. This made me think more about courtesy and (semi) public shaming. I don’t think either of them behaved well, and I wonder if there is some backstory such as the child of the parent having been reprimanded for tardiness and told she needs to be more responsible. The parent may have had a chip on her shoulder and took the opportunity.

  5. I’m not a business owner. But if I were, I’d politely apologize and ask for patience. I’d explain that there were scheduling complications. I also would delay the posting a day or two after my apology so it didn’t look like the dance mom forced my hand. There’s a need to balance “the customer is always right” with maintaining the direction of the business

  6. I assume the list is parents of current students. This is the cast list for a show in December, by the way — almost 3 months away. Thanks for the responses, folks.

    • It would be interesting to know how people’s opinions on this vary based on if they/their child has been heavily involved in performing arts, casually or not at all. I think those of us who are involved have been “trained” not to question certain things or people, like cast lists and directors. Someone outside “the business” may question the seeming double standard.

    • The content of the cast list (or of the production, or the costuming, etc., etc.) is not to be questioned, certainly. Those are decisions directly related to the area of the director’s expertise. I maintain that sloppy communication is a reflection of the director’s disdain for the peons who pay her salary.

  7. Is the email list actually “public” (including prospective parents) or just for current parents of enrolled students who are presumably in the same situation? It was a little snarky to talk about a “teaching moment” but the parent did not accuse her of anything like arrogance and cowardice .

  8. It’s been a lonnnnnng time since I had a kid in dance school, but my feeling on the matter is that a delay in posting a cast list, when a date for said cast list was clearly stated ahead of time, is a big disservice to those who are waiting for it. I wouldn’t argue with the point that there are numerous legitimate reasons for said delay, but as either a parent or a student, I would be frustrated and disappointed at the discourtesy — indeed, I’d call it downright rudeness — of this ballet mistress’ failure to state that the cast list would be delayed. I certainly fault her ethics. This is no way to run a business.

    True, the parent wanting to know why this information was delayed did some toe-stomping in the manner of her asking. I don’t recommend that either. But if I HAD a child in this school, I’d have pulled her out, and I’d be telling all the other parents what had prompted my decision.

    • I think there are far worse things in life that happen than for a cast list to be a week late. As with life, things do happen out of your control and it’s a shame that we live in a world with people who require immediate gratification and it’s a “me, me, me” kind of mentality. Instead of being patient, and polite or understanding you would rather pull your child out of the play because of your frustration for the delay? If I were the instructor, I would say good riddance. You, yourself agreed that the reasons it was late were legitimate yet your still unsatisfied. That’s also the spoiled mentality that people have now a days. Entitlement. As a mother, and a role model for my child, I would never pull my child from a program for something that trivial. Not everything in life bends at your will or works out the way we always want. If that were the case, my son wouldn’t have stage 4 cancer. But things happen in life, it’s all a matter of how you process them. Just my personal thoughts and opinion.

      Ps. I do agree with you that a polite communication from instructor to students and teacher would have appropriate regarding the delay.

    • Angelyn, you don’t know me.
      I don’t know you. And I don’t have a dog in this fight. I don’t live in the area, and I do not have a child who has an interest in dance.
      But Dennis, whom I know from college, put this whole mess up on Facebook with A SLOW CLAP (!) for actions I find completely unprofessional out of a person who should be professional enough to communicate properly.
      I am sorry about your son.
      But I am utterly unwilling to spend any money – which, for my family, would be hard-earned and would need to be well-spent – or any of my child’s time with a professional artistic person who is so consumed with a perceived threat to her authority that she has lost perspective on how she will actually receive payment for the artistic expertise she owns.
      One does not criticize one’s director for artistic decisions on the tempi for Carmina Burana, for example, or for the decisions of casting or even which pieces are to be performed. Or, for that matter, the color of the programs.
      However, poor communication is not to be excused. A person who slams a parent’s complaint about an administrative – not artistic – matter in such a way is not a person I choose to have in my life.
      This is not a spoiled mentality. This is a mentality of Avoid The Unnecessary Crap. I would certainly, if my child were interested in this program, be finding another program. Since I live where I do, that would mean driving an hour to find a professional instructor whom I could admire. That, I would do.
      Keep this touchy dance mistress involved with my kid? No way.

  9. If the ballet school had stated that the list would be out, they should have sent notice, out of courtesy, to parents and students when it seemed evident that it would be late. This ballet mistress is a good writer, perhaps, but lacks the humility to admit error.

  10. Maybe coming from another person I would say this is a great lesson for parents. Isabella went to this dance school from ages 2-4 and patience was something they certainly lacked. There were many times they kids were referred to as stupid and asked to sit in a corner.

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