While many dance schools may set out folding chairs in a studio for informal student showings, some school owners have transformed their educational spaces into performance-ready theaters. While an in-studio performance space may sound like an ideal alternative to expensive theater rentals and seems to offer the flexibility of holding shows whenever the recital bug bites, building and maintaining a studio theater come with a variety of challenges and rewards. The owners and directors of five dance studios with convertible studio theaters provided a broad range of perspectives on the costs and benefits of an in-house performance space.
In this issue’s “Ask Rhee Gold” column, I advise a school owner on how to approach a delicate situation. You’ve all encountered complex issues among your students’ families—divorces, deaths, substance abuse, and so on. But as our world changes, so do its complexities. The question this woman asked isn’t one that any of us would have heard even five years ago, but it’s likely to become more common.
The advice sought was about how to respond to—and how to explain to other students and their parents—a young transgender student’s request to be recognized as Jessica rather than as Josh.
In less than nine months, I have had to notify my studio’s staff that two students’ mothers had died. A second-grader lost her mother to cervical cancer, and a seventh-grader lost hers to leukemia. I was saddened to think how much these two young girls were suffering—but their losses also made me reflect on my own behavior. How many times, as the owner of a studio that is dominated by girls and their mothers, would I use language like “Moms Only” or “Mom Volunteer” without realizing how thoughtless it might seem?
Next in our business series on opening a dance school, we cover the search for a location and facility. The questions that follow will guide prospective studio owners in the process of picking a location that works for their students and a facility that’s right for their business goals. We’ll hear from several studio owners about how they found their facilities and ways they saved money on start-up costs.
Last year, for our 10th anniversary, we established a new annual tradition: the Dance Studio Life “Generous Heart” Awards. The people and organizations selected by publisher Rhee Gold and the editorial staff do important, innovative work in dance education and provide much-needed services to the dance community.
The criteria that define these Generous Hearts are simple: they are risk takers, community-minded, and devoted to a cause, a practice, a belief. They use dance in a way that contributes to the greater good. They are sources of inspiration to the dance world, and to the staff here at Dance Studio Life, and they prove that dance, when used to its full potential, can be a vital and transformative force.
We are delighted to honor this year’s recipients of the annual Dance Studio Life “Generous Heart” Awards, and we thank them for the good work they do.
Honest. Trustworthy. We all label ourselves with those words, and that’s a good start. Next up: having the integrity to prove them true.
When Urbanity Dance opened in Boston’s South End in 2008, the contemporary troupe consisted of only six dancers. The company’s studio space of less than 1,000 square feet initially served it well, but the growth of its school to more than 350 students made the space unworkably cramped. Urbanity found a 2,000-square-foot rental space, but it required $100,000 for construction and renovation—money the owners didn’t have. One solution: Kickstarter.
Logowear—it’s everywhere you look in the dance world and it’s an important part of a dance studio’s business model and marketing plan. It can be as minimal as a simple T-shirt with the school’s name on it or as extensive as a designed line of clothing and other products. Here’s how to plan, implement, and troubleshoot so that your school’s logowear does its double-duty best as a publicity tool and moneymaker.
For a school to be successful, its staff needs to be motivated, committed, and on board with the studio owner’s goals. Retaining staff helps your studio thrive; achieving that means communicating clearly about your studio’s culture and helping your staff feel invested in it.
Instagram is a fun (and free) way to engage your students and increase your school’s visibility. This photo-based social media app is very popular with tweens, teens, and young adults, and it’s easy to use—you simply upload photos you take with your camera or smartphone to your account. With a studio Instagram account, you can post pictures of classes, publicize studio announcements and student achievements, promote your registration days, and so on.
This month, Dance Studio Life kicks off a multi-part business series on opening a new school. We’ll take a comprehensive look at each step in the process, exploring best practices and hearing from studio owners about the successes they’ve enjoyed as well as the challenges they’ve faced.
In this initial installment, we examine four questions every prospective studio owner should consider when brainstorming a vision for her school. These questions will aid in identifying the purpose, goals, and defining qualities of a school—all of which are key elements of a mission statement and business plan.
Words from our readers
All dance studio owners strive to find excellent teachers to fill their faculty rosters. Yet it is not uncommon for owners to crave more variety for students—to provide a roster of instructors similar to those of professional studios in large markets such as Los Angeles or New York City. At Wildwood Dance & Arts, located in America’s heartland near St. Louis, Missouri, owner Leah Cordiano-Siemens has found a solution to the need to broaden her hip-hop offerings: she typically brings in at least one guest teacher each month. In so doing, she exposes developing dancers to current dance steps and choreography and gives them a taste of the world of professional dance.
Running a business requires many skills. It also requires good instincts and a willingness to act on them. Take the case of Maura, a successful school owner. Her weaknesses are a fear of confrontation and a tendency to be too trusting—and too willing to squelch her intuition.
Words from our readers Thank you for including my studio in the October issue in “Ready, Set, Show!” The article is wonderful and my students love to see themselves in the magazine. Thank you for continuing to inspire us and for motivating studio owners and dance teachers to always strive . . .
A difficult incident in my intermediate teen jazz class prompted me to give a spontaneous talk in an effort to squash unkindness and reinforce the positive studio values I have worked hard to create.
Boost profits and fun with kid-cool dance parties By Megan Donahue Birthday parties can be big business, but not every child is interested in princesses or pirates. For the high-energy boys and girls at your studio and beyond, consider an addition to your birthday party list: hip-hop. Downtown Dance Factory . . .
The artist [Savion Glover] wishes to thank you and the Dance Studio Life team for such a wonderful spread and interview [“Talking Tap,” August 2014].
What’s up in the dance community:
An Academic Approach to Ballet
The Power of Dance
Storm-Battered NYC Artists Show Resilience
I made one of the biggest leaps I’d ever taken when I decided to stop renting space for my studio. It took two and a half years, six bank applications, two builders, three funding increase requests, four bank closings, five expensive changes required by the city, several court hearings, and countless sleepless nights—but now I own instead of rent, and I can look back at lessons learned.
Recital time: your studio has worked all year for this. Dancers, teachers, and parents have all thrown themselves into the whirlwind and want to come out glowing. What more important moment than the recital finale—the Big Finish to your studio year’s big finish? What’s the best way to craft your finale and bring down the house? The choreographic approach you choose will depend on the message you want to convey.
Sixteen framed recital program books line the hallway at my studio, one for each year my business has been in operation. I lovingly categorize them as follows.
Dance troupe lets Arkansas locals collaborate, create, and perform By Joseph Carman A pineapple symbolizes hospitality. So says Pineapple Tree Dance Company co-founder Sally Ashcraft. When the dance troupe, located in Fayetteville, Arkansas, was founded in March 2013, the founders’ prime motive was to bring dance teachers, dancers, choreographers, and . . .
Everyone has heard the saying “Happy wife, happy life.” For studio owners, “Happy staff, happy life” is more like it. The question: is how do we keep them happy?
When I opened my dance studio 17 years ago, registration opened shortly before classes started in September and closed in November. Over the years, however, I lengthened the registration cycle, and now enrollment happens nearly year-round.
Choreography has become a never-ending task for studio teachers, which means they’re on a relentless quest for quality music and fresh inspiration. They face overwhelming pressure to outdo the previous year’s work and meet the expectations of students and their parents. Choreographers need to acquire a vast amount of music and fill thousands of counts with movement, all while showcasing the specific strengths of their students. Often, these demands lead them to rush the choreographic process.
Email is a quick and inexpensive way to keep your students and their families up to date on studio happenings, to alert them to new classes or other opportunities to get involved with your studio, and to keep them apprised of other important news. It can function as a marketing tool, and can help your studio run smoothly by keeping students, families, and staff informed about schedules, events, deadlines, policies, and news. There’s a catch, though—people don’t always read emails. Sometimes they don’t even open them.
It was an emergency. My son, then a sophomore in high school, approached me after a dance. “Mom,” he said, “when you dance, do you go back and forth, or side to side?” He demonstrated both, shifting stiffly from side to side, and yes, back and forth. Aghast, I gave him a quick lecture/demo on moving from his center and never bobbing his head.
As the cover makes obvious, with this issue Dance Studio Life celebrates 10 years of publication. I’ve been on board for seven years as editor in chief, but I had a hand in some of the earlier issues as a freelance editor—which means I’ve seen how much the magazine has grown and changed since its inception. The anniversary is Rhee’s topic this month in “On My Mind,” so I won’t say more than this: the most gratifying part of my job is seeing you, our readers, respond with enthusiasm to the magazine’s evolution. Our goal is to make a difference, helping you develop as business owners and teaching artists, and offering you new paths to creativity. Like you, we take our work seriously, and that’s as it should be.
What’s up in the dance community:
Sign Language and Dr. Seuss
17 Studios, 14 States, 12 Days
IADMS Names Bill Evans Honorary Member
Forsythe Joins USC Kaufman School of Dance
Ten years. It’s quite a milestone to be celebrating, especially for a supposedly doomed publication. What is the secret to our success? A combination of factors: a humble passion for education and the art of dance, the commitment of editors and writers who understand the soul of the dance community, and a constant desire to be on top of an evolving dance education field.
The article [“Viva Villella!” March/April 2014] was a great tribute to Edward Villella. Yes, viva Villella! I had the pleasure of meeting him at a Dance Masters of America National Convention.
Dance studio owners face the ever-present challenge of managing cash flow and turning a profit—to pay rent, pay teacher and staff salaries, and, hopefully, to pay themselves. Nick Waynelovich and his daughter Kimberly Williams have not only found a way to build a profitable dance and performing-arts organization, they have developed two additional income streams that keep the organization on top of its bills.
Ten-year-old Rhee Gold’s mother, Sherry, looked at him. “Go sit under a tree and write something.” Rhee thought that sounded like the stupidest thing he’d ever heard. But he did it, and he discovered that he liked to write.
A 10th anniversary deserves a nod. We’ve given ourselves one in several ways: by devoting this issue, in part, to marking Dance Studio Life’s launch date with a retrospective by publisher Rhee Gold and by giving the magazine a fresh look with a major redesign. But we’ve done something else that we hope will have even more lasting effect: we’ve established a new annual tradition: the Dance Studio Life “Generous Heart” Awards.