How to throw spellbinding fairy-tale princess parties
By Carol Yearout
Hosting children’s birthday parties is a popular sideline business at many dance schools. Along with bringing in more revenue, these parties can boost your studio’s enrollment; once parents have been introduced to your school, they might decide that it’s just the place for their children to explore dance. So you’ve got two great reasons to offer them a party like no other.
What little girl doesn’t dream of being a princess? With fairy-tale princess-themed parties, you’ll be making her dreams come true. Here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Getting ready
Make a one-page flyer to include in your sign-up package for new clients. Additionally, create a poster-size version and post it in a prominent position so that parents know the school is available for birthday parties. Don’t forget to advertise on your website too—once you’ve given a few parties, post some pictures of the fun.
Reserve a two-hour block for each party. Saturday afternoons are a good time. Base your fees on two hours of studio time, plus setup and cleanup, three helpers, and anything else you want to offer, such as refreshments. Typically, pizza, cake, and ice cream will keep everyone happy. You can include the food in your package price or allow the parents to opt to provide their own food. One large pizza should be enough for five children.
Limiting the parties to roughly 12 attendees makes the group manageable. If there will be more than 12 children, simply make sure you have enough helpers, costumes, and food.
For invitations, look for something with a fairy tale or princess theme. Try prom supply stores like Stumps (stumpsprom.com) for blank, castle-shaped metallic invitations. You can make the invitations available to parents; sell them for twice what you paid for them and then let them put anything they like on them. Encourage them to get creative with something like this:
“One enchanted day, when twinkling stars fell from the night sky, Samantha was born. Come celebrate Samantha’s Happy Happy Birthday with us at [time], Saturday, [date,] at [school’s name and address]. RSVP: [parent’s phone number].”
Have a big box of beautiful princess costumes for the party guests to use. (Collect them at yard sales or salvage them from past dance recitals.) Make sure to have something for the boys as well. Capes, crowns, and swords are always appropriate. (Boys can’t seem to resist fighting with any weapons, even soft, rubbery swords, so designate a helper to keep the boys on track.) Or if you prefer, you can specify that the children should come to the party dressed in their own princess or prince costume.
Choose a fairy tale to read at the party and then go to a bookstore or library and get the biggest, most beautifully illustrated book you can find.
Buy or borrow the classical music for the fairy tale you’ve chosen. For The Sleeping Beauty, I like to use the Philharmonia Orchestra version of the music, conducted by John Lanchbery. There are many great recordings to choose from. For example, EMI has a complete recording with André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra ($11.98 for two CDs on Amazon), and many recordings of the suite are available.
Craft and game supplies
Choose a project for the children to do and purchase the supplies you’ll need at a craft supply store or order them from Oriental Trading (orientaltrading.com) or similar sites. Tall, pointy princess hats and wands are popular with girls; choose crowns for the boys.
Base your fees on two hours of studio time, plus setup and cleanup, three helpers, and anything else you want to offer, such as refreshments.
You’ll need enough tables to give everyone room to work and glue guns to attach feathers, jewels, ribbons, and other bits of decor onto the hats or wands. Buy several colors of ribbon to use as streamers, which can be attached to the top of the hats. For wands, have the children add jewels on one side and feathers on the other, with ribbon streamers on one end, extending down the handle.
You’ll also need two pieces of carpet, approximately two feet wide by three feet long.
Ask the advanced dancers at your school or older girls who are good with children to help out with the crafts and dancing. You’ll need one helper for every three children.
Step 2: The party
After all the children arrive, put the rug pieces down about 15 feet from each other (leaving enough room for the children to run and jump over them). Then gather the children together, use a dramatic voice, and tell them this scary story:
“Children, I have something to tell you. This room looks like a regular room in a regular dance studio, but once upon a time, it was seething with dragons. Yes, children, dragons! Right here in our own dance studio! Now, they don’t often come out anymore—because everyone knows dragons aren’t real—except if somebody steps on these rugs. If someone steps on them, it opens the gate for them! And they sometimes poke their heads out and breathe fire—yes, they breathe fire! So, children, I want you to run as fast as you can, and when you get close to the rug, jump as high as you can over it. Yes, you can do it. Don’t step on that rug! Don’t let that dragon out! He might blow fire at your ankle!”
Have some of your helpers keep the girls and boys lined up and ready to go on one side of the room and another helper on the other side to start a new line. Have the children run and jump over the rugs one at a time. Once all of them have done so, they can run and jump from the other side too. You can play this game many times. After each child jumps over, ask, “Did you see the dragon? Are you all right?” And if a child accidentally steps on the rug, be dramatic and say, “Oh! Sara! Are you all right? Did the dragon breathe his hot, hot fire at you?”
This game lets the children blow off some steam. Next, it’s time to settle down and concentrate on lots of fun prince and princess dancing as you read the fairy tale you’ve chosen.
Get out the costumes and let the children choose what they’d like to put on. Tell them how beautiful or handsome they look and instruct them to sit at your feet while you read the story. Let’s use “The Sleeping Beauty” as an example.
After reading about the party for Princess Aurora’s 16th birthday, pause and have the children do the first dance (princesses and princes at the ball). Have one of your dancer helpers be the leader for the children to follow if they wish. (You could let the birthday child lead the dances some of the time.) There is no wrong way to dance like a prince or princess! After three minutes, ask the children to sit down again and then read another part of the book, describing how Princess Aurora arrives at the party. Stop reading and let the children dance again. Continue alternating reading and dancing until you finish the story.
You may need to explain what’s happening for each dance, for example, “Children, here we’re pretending to be the lovely princesses and handsome princes who are at the ball,” or “Now we’re the beautiful Princess Aurora’s fabulous friends.”
After the dancing is over and the costumes are off, serve the pizza, cake, and ice cream and let the birthday child open the presents. Then do the craft activity (and have an extra game ready in case the activities end before the two hours are up). When it’s time to go home, the children will be talking about how this was the best fairy tale princess party ever!
Fairy Tale Readings
You can market your school by doing fairy tale readings at your local public library and bookstores. Call them and offer to read to the children as your schedule allows—twice a month or even twice a week. (Barnes & Noble stores usually offer story times three to five times weekly, as do many libraries.)
Specify that you would like to do the story times for 3- and 4-year-olds and 5- and 6-year-olds; they are your target markets. Try to read on a few different days of the week (for example, Tuesday and Saturday mornings), so that many parents will see you. Read a fairy tale story like “Cinderella” or “The Sleeping Beauty.” Choreograph some simple, short dances for very young children and bring music and something to play it on with you. Have a student helper demonstrate the dances (home-schooled students can often help out with weekday readings), and then have the children dance with her. Both boys and girls enjoy the movement and dancing.
Prepare inexpensive goody bags for the children with a ballet notepad and pencil, information about your studio, and a magnet with your studio’s information on it.
Fairy tale themes are so successful because children and parents know and love them. They’re a great way to draw young children to your school.