Nina Koch, owner of East County Performing Arts Center (ECPAC), is at the forefront of a push to bring more regulation to dance studios.
According to Koch, it requires more paperwork to become a dog groomer than to become a dance teacher, and that simply isn’t acceptable.
“It’s important for parents to know that they are bringing their children to a dance studio that is committed to having safe practices,” Koch said.
She believes that county, state and national-level regulations, licensing and safety standards are coming to the dance industry in the next decade and wants to be ready when they’re instituted.
“I think we are always committed to being the industry leader,” Koch said. “As our industry changes, we want to be in the forefront of that change, so then when the time comes for licensing to actually be official, we are already in front of the curve and we have already done our due diligence to have everything above board.”
Koch is asking that all her teachers be background checked and certified through Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (YPAD), a nonprofit organization founded to help end the exploitation of children in dance. In addition, they must be certified in first aid and CPR and have a minimum of five hours of continuing education each year. When asked how her employees were responding to these requirements, Koch said they were open and responsive.
Kristi Ortiz, who has taught with EPAC for 13 years, has been background checked, fingerprinted and tested for tuberculosis to volunteer for her children’s sports teams and in their classrooms. For her, this process is just as simple and necessary.
“I think they are really good,” Ortiz said of the new requirements. “Any time you go into any organized sport, you are required (to get) a background check ... I feel like any time you are working with children, it’s perfectly OK to have all that information. I would feel more comfortable as a parent, knowing that all of this is happening.”
She added that Koch’s push is keeping the studio at its current high standards, and her fellow teachers are all in favor of the process to maintain a higher quality culture and dance studio.
East County Performing Arts Center is located at 3901 Walnut Blvd. in Brentwood. For more information, call 925-240-5556 or visit www.brentwooddance.com.