I need some advice on an extremely sad, unfortunate situation. As a member of Dance Masters of America, I uphold a code of ethics. I respect my colleagues and do my best to maintain a professional working relationship with everyone. Recently, though, a full-time teacher of four years at a local dance studio got arrested for multiple instances of lewd and lascivious acts with minors. One incident occurred at a dance convention. The studio owner knew about it and still kept this teacher on staff for several months. When the owner finally let her go, she still planned to have the teacher choreograph privately for the school’s competition team. My problem is that this has lowered morale and trust in dance studios and teachers.
There are countless intangible benefits to being a dance teacher, including being a mentor, having a positive influence on students, creating, expressing yourself through movement, and introducing children to the joy of dance. But there are practical issues to contend with when choosing this path—a traditionally low-paying one that offers few full-time, benefited opportunities—as a career.
In a dance studio at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point (UWSP), enthusiastic voices call and respond in a rhythmic scat-singing pattern. Sounds like these are more often heard in a music class, but these voices emanate from a Jump Rhythm® Technique (JRT) class taught by associate professor Jeannie Hill. She is one of a handful of college-level teachers in the country instructing young movers in this unique method.
A typical dance school year provides a feast of opportunities for images that you can use to convey the personality and professionalism of your school. And who’s better positioned to record them than yourself? Because you’re a familiar face, your young subjects may be less self-conscious than if they were being photographed by an outsider. Also, you’re there every day, which improves your chances of recording the kind of wonderful, unscripted events that arise around the studio or the beauty captured in a formal photo shot.
Once the cabinet has been fully refurbished, it will await a buyer in one of four adjacent studios, alongside antique dressers, lighting fixtures, credenzas, and trunks. In the meantime, it will be admired by a steady stream of dance students. What? A dance studio/furniture store? In Manhattan? Yes and yes.
As it so happens, there is a little bird that can help keep your customers informed and do much more—Twitter. As you probably know, it’s a micro-blogging social network whose logo is a bird, and the messages exchanged are called “tweets.” But have you thought about it as a marketing tool for your dance studio? Twitter can reach your customer base and beyond, giving your school a connection to prospective customers, your customers’ family members and friends, and other dance organizations.
My children have learned to embrace dance and how to put it to use in their everyday life. The studio is their second home. I am happy knowing that is where they want to be in their free time; that is all because of her. She is dramatic—aren’t all dance teachers?—but at the same time she recognizes when a child needs to be given a hug because maybe her day did not go so well. She knows each and every child and all of their quirks.”
This month we zero in on creativity, which immediately brings to mind the artistic aspects of dance education. But creativity is a state of mind that can flow into all areas of life, including our attitudes toward our businesses. Being creative means being open to possibilities and exploring options. So let’s look at how that mind-set can play out in these imaginary scenarios involving two studio owners.
“Walk like a person!” Thelma Goldberg reminds her students each time her warm-up music begins to play. It is more than a simple instruction. Joining them on the floor, she will not begin drilling rudiments until her dancers are striding with purpose on the downbeat, making eye contact with each other, smiling, and offering friendly greetings.
As dance teachers know, sometimes the best lessons are learned from direct experience. It’s a rule that holds true in the classroom, and unfortunately, it also applies to the financial end of the dance-school business, specifically fraud. Dance schools are not immune to the threat of embezzlement.
Like Fred and Ginger, dance and music go hand in hand. So why not teach them under one roof?
Dance studios cannot survive without attracting new students. But retaining the ones you already have makes sound business sense.
if you base your business model on who YOU are, what you have to offer, and what makes you UNIQUE from the others, I’ll bet you’ll achieve the success you seek.
Recreational dancers make up a huge part of many dance studios’ enrollments, and they often bring in the top dollar per class in tuition. Most teachers see these dancers only once a week, for an hour or less at a time. Since we’re trying to give them as much instruction as possible over the course of a school year, that’s a very limited amount of time.
For a studio in a low-key beach town, Santa Barbara Dance Arts is big: 8,200 square feet, with 70 classes a week and 450 students. But co-owner Alana Tillim says it is bigger than all that.
Patricia Reedy and Nancy Ng have an audacious plan: to change the perception of the field of dance, one teacher at a time, and to cultivate choreographers from childhood, while the limits of imagination are boundless.
Size matters. Or does it? It’s important if you’re a sumo wrestler or are eyeing a piece of chocolate cake, but what about dance studios? Is bigger always better, or can contentment be found in studios large, small, and somewhere in between?
What can email do for your business? If you’re like me—not a computer whiz—it’s probably more than you think.
For many dance studios, summer is a time when families take time off for vacations, trips to the pool, and other summer-only activities. Attendance drops off dramatically—and so does your income.
Anita Olson—named after the grandmother she never met who was a professional hoofer—didn’t envision that she would take over the family’s 27-year-old business, Muskego Dance Studio. It was her mother’s idea, a deathbed wish bestowed on her in 1988.
The studio owners and teachers filling The Gold School studio had a million questions—about marketing techniques, dealing with problem personalities, balancing work and family, providing quality education, and making money.
After 65 years, Miss Jeanne’s School of Dance Arts must be doing something right. Last Memorial Day weekend saw more than 60 adult dancers, ranging in age from late teens to 60-something, performing a finale for the school’s 65th recital.
In this video, Rhee Gold shares his humor and passion for the dance teaching profession. It is an excerpt from his keynote speech at the 2009 DanceLife Teacher Conference in Scottsdale, AZ
Why can’t people see what dance brings to children and the community? We are going into our seventh year, and when most studios are growing we are not. Enrollment is low and parents think we are like Burger King and that they can have it their way. Parents don’t like rules here and the whole town revolves around church and sports.
I have read wonderfully insightful articles about the struggles of children whose dance teacher is their parent, such as “My Life as a Studio Owner’s Daughter,” in the January 2009 issue of this magazine. All children who live in the shadow of a parent with a dance studio experience both struggles and advantages. But what of their non-dancing siblings? What kind of pressures and problems do they face when they don’t share that world?
After reading about the sofa school owner Kelly removed from her observation room because of a sleeping parent (“Ask Rhee Gold,” DSL, December 2009), I have a story to tell.
From humble beginnings and homemade costumes, through decades of new dance trends and new family members, Dance Generation in Montgomery, Alabama, has remained true to its hardworking, high-striving roots.
As a dance teacher, you feel that you’ve paid your dues—teaching classes day in and day out, coming up with recital and competition routines, and following the protocol of the studio you work for. You’re ready to be your own boss, and you think you understand the business enough to be a successful studio owner. But is it smart or realistic to start a studio from scratch? Or should you consider buying an existing business?
Previews for Precious are rolling, as are tears down my cheeks. A mother in a scene from the film throws a frying pan at a child and later snarls, “You’re a dummy. Don’t nobody want you, don’t nobody need you.” Some people are embarrassed to find themselves crying at the slightest provocation (even Hallmark commercials can make me reach for the Kleenex), but I’m not. I like to think of my quick-on-the-draw emotional response as part of my professional equipment as a teacher. It leaves me open to moments that can touch my core and lead me on a spirit-filled journey of reflection and gratitude for a life in dance.
I have a confession: I am the other woman. Sort of. The other teacher, actually. I worked for someone and left to open my own studio. But it’s not what you think.
Some teachers complain that they’re sick of answering the same questions year after year. Forget about it and realize that to them it’s a new question and you’re the expert. It should be easy to give a clear and informative answer; after all, you probably don’t even have to think about your response because you’re so familiar with the question.
“Your fall registration will only be as good as your last recital!” These words were often repeated by my mother, who believed that the quality of a recital had much to do with a school’s success. I think of those words every time the topic of recitals comes up at my seminars.
Often, we’re comfortable within the classroom but we tend to feel a little “on-edge” when it comes to collecting tuition or other fees owed by our clientele. Some school owners don’t want to create “waves” that could result in losing a student.
COLUMNS Ask Rhee Gold 2 Tips for Teachers A Better You On My Mind Teacher to Teacher EditorSpeak DEPARTMENTS Thinking Out Loud Mail Teacher in the Spotlight | Kim Lampp FEATURE ARTICLES Ballet Scene | Minding the Men by Theodore Bale As the Dance Teacher Turns by Julie Holt Lucia . . .
Think you’ve got your hands full running a dance studio? Now imagine running seven. We’re talking 2,500 students taking 600 classes a week from 20 teachers. Think of the scheduling, the payroll, the phone calls . . .
It’s time for our annual recital issue, and I think you’ll love this one—it’s packed with great information and new ideas. And though I’m sure that’s what you’re expecting me to write about this month, I’ve got something even more important than recitals on my mind right now.
When my dance teacher friends come to my annual production, they always comment on my crew of backstage helpers, staff, and recital aides. Many of those helpers who make my show run so smoothly and professionally are one of a dance school’s most valuable resources: volunteers. If my friends only knew the number of volunteers that I enlist year round at the studio—at last count it was more than 100!
When it comes to recital time, do you dream about putting on that perfect fantasy production? Well, think again—it might actually be the right time to consider cutting back. “Cut back!” you say. “Forget it! Last year’s recital was really good and I am going to have to do something to top it.” But cutting back on recital expenses might be the best business move you could ever make.
No two people are alike, so it follows that no two businesses are alike either. There might be a dozen dance studios in the country with identical names, all of which offer jazz, tap, and lyrical, but if you look beyond the surface, each is distinct. What makes them so? You, the school owners, that’s who. You are unique and your one-of-a-kind personality infuses your business. If there’s one idea I came away with after spending four days with roughly 500 dance teachers at the DanceLife Teacher Conference last summer, it’s that each dance studio is different.
A majority of my lifetime I have been dancing with you.
It could not have been better spent,
and I could not be more grateful.
They come in with hopes and expectations. Enamored of the pink slippers and the possibility of someday wearing a tutu, these little girls glimmer with light in their eyes and dreams in their heads. Their parents, too, carry hopes and dreams. Maybe they secretly want them to curtsey at the Met or high kick on Broadway, or, more plainly, they just want their children to find a friend and fit in.
Ever wonder why the kids of America are rushing to the nearest dance school to sign up for classes? The answer is hip-hop, and it’s a genre that poses a particular set of challenges for school owners and teachers. It can make older teachers feel out of touch and uncomfortable. Sometimes the students are undisciplined. Sometimes the lyrics are dirty—profanities aside, the words can be a minefield of innuendo. Much of the content is sexual, and some of it is demeaning to women. The lyrics can be hard to decipher, and it doesn’t help that the slang and the catchphrases change at a dizzying rate. It can make you doubt yourself: Am I being prudish here?
Honest answers to parents’ questions By Diane Gudat When we are faced with those inane questions from our students’ parents, what we actually say and what we want to say are often as different as Kool-Aid and tequila. Though the dance business requires us to take a deep breath, smile, . . .
Owners of dance studios that participate in competitions know that to do well requires hard work, good choreography, and dedicated and talented dancers. So when you hear “And the first-place winner is . . .” and your studio’s name is called, you have reason to be excited and proud of your accomplishments. It’s likely that a lot of people participated in making that number first rate: the teachers who gave the students good technique, the studio owner who provided them with the opportunity to compete, the choreographer who shared his or her creativity with them—and of course the students themselves, who carried out the assignment effectively.
Do you love being an independent professional? Do you relish the freedom, the flexible hours, and the 4:00 p.m. naps? Sure, but chances are you don’t savor the quarterly taxation and high start-up costs, and most likely you will miss out on the paid vacations, insurance benefits, sick leave, and other pluses that employees enjoy. There isn’t much you can do to avoid the taxes, but there is a way for you to squeeze by the other pitfalls. Are you looking for a creative way to save money or, better yet, not deal with money at all?
For dance teachers, enduring a year feels like being stuck on a warped carousel. Through the ups and downs, there is no way to keep it from spinning or to slow it down. For the most part, the ride is fun and exciting—you never know what is around the next turn. But since dance teachers do not live the same kind of life as people in other professions, why should we adhere to the same calendar? I’ve devised one with a more realistic view of our year, plus some suggestions to make it more suited for our nontraditional needs.
You’ve invested the morning planning lessons and creating choreography. You’ve spent the afternoon searching for the perfect sequins to accent a set of costumes. Now you’re headed into class, ready to give your students your all—but the phone is ringing and a parent wants to schedule a makeup class. While you’re grabbing the phone, pulling out your planner, and glancing anxiously toward your waiting class, another parent brings in an overdue payment and a student dashes in saying that her baby sister put her doll down the toilet. You drop everything and head to the bathroom, where water is flowing across the restroom floor.
Dear Rhee, I opened my school eight years ago without any other faculty. Since then I have taught every student at the school. By the end of the last season, my teaching schedule was 6 days a week and almost 40 hours. I do have a secretary, but I am also doing some of the office work, cleaning, returning calls, and the list goes on.
There is a famous book that claims that everything we need to know in life can be learned in kindergarten. I might be slightly biased, but I think there is no better format for presenting life’s lessons than the dance classroom. Dance training and exposure to a good dance teacher can enhance a child’s life in immeasurable ways. We build confident minds, open hearts, and sensitive artists (who occasionally learn to move well!). Here are the lessons learned in every dance class, along with a few old sayings that help to make my point.
There comes a time for every businessperson when cash reserves won’t cover a necessary expense: expansion, new equipment, or additional inventory. Though you might be tempted to tap your personal funds, the best thing you can do for your business is to establish corporate credit—before you need it. Even if you can handle day-to-day operations on a cash-flow basis, get that line of credit and use it. Then, when the time comes, you can get the loans you need.