A site that for years has housed Oregon Ballet Theatre’s dance studio and school is set to become part of the latest building craze in Portland: apartments.
Portland Business Journal reported that Mill Creek Residential Trust, a national development firm with several projects underway in Portland, signed a sale agreement for the studio building, which is located at Southeast Sixth and Morrison. The company, which focuses primarily on multi-family housing, will build 200 market-rate apartments on the site.
In a statement, OBT said the sale will help relieve some of its long-term debt. The company will be looking for a new space for its studio and school by fall of 2015.
Sam Rodriguez, Mill Creek’s managing director, said the firm is currently developing drawings for the development. He had few details to share, but said there will not likely be any retail component.
To see the original story, visit http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/real-estate-daily/2014/10/developer-will-build-200-apartments-at-former.html.
A California couple’s plans to replace their longtime studio garage space with a larger stand-alone facility cost three years and an unexpected additional $250,000, but on November 1, The Dance Gallery 2 owners will celebrate a grand opening at their new Roseville studio.
“The idea was to move the studio so Doug and I would have a house proper,” Lucy McLemore told the Sacramento Bee. Over their 23 years of operation, Lucy McLemore would find dance instructors sharing a meal and the sofa with her husband as he watched television in the living room. And people would sometimes open their front door—which leads to the kitchen—as if it were a traditional business entrance.
The couple began the project in 2011, with the understanding from the county that as an existing business, they wouldn’t be subject to new zoning rules. But they soon discovered otherwise. The McLemores found themselves stymied by local, state, and federal rules that demanded they fund and build a turn lane, secure a zoning waiver, and improve the water and plumbing system.
The new facility has been more or less complete for three years, but went unused while the couple jumped though one hoop and then the next. The new facility’s original price tag of $235,000 was eclipsed by unexpected, new charges—the turn lane alone cost an additional $200,000.
Despite the obstacles, loss time, and extra cost, the McLemores have no ill will toward the county. “The county has been real good at helping us achieve our goal,” Lucy McLemore said. “We never really had any opposition. My take is nobody knew what to do with us.”
To see the original story, visit http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article3216807.html.
Joann Tabeek always encouraged her daughter, Krystal, to follow her dreams, but didn’t live to see Krystal through her 15 years of competitive dance. Working as a vice president and partner at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center, she was one of the nearly 3,000 people who perished in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
“My mother never made it out [of the World Trade Center] on that horrific day,” Tabeek, who was 12 when her mother died, told Staten Island Live. “She always pushed me to follow my dreams, so this is the year I made it happen.”
Krystal combined her love for dance with a desire to own her own business this September when she opened Studio 11 Dance Company in the Grant City neighborhood of Staten Island. Her father, Al, helped her launch the dance school named in memory of her mother.
“I’m following in my father’s footsteps. He owns and operates the James and Joann Tabeek Memorial Softball League in both my mother’s and brother’s honor. My brother, James, died at the age of 3 from meningitis two years before I was born,” she added.
Krystal, now 24, hopes she can pass on the inspiration she received from her parents. “My father has given to numerous charities across the Island throughout the past 28 years. My plan is to do just the same, and to make a positive impact on all those who are in need of our love and support,” she said.
To see the original story, visit http://www.silive.com/eastshore/index.ssf/2014/10/competitive_dancer_realizes_he.html.
6ABC.com reports that Bucks County Dance Center in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, was badly damaged in a fire early Monday morning. Investigators say it was arson.
The brother and sister owners of the studio were too upset to comment on camera. Relative Michael Licata said, “They are pretty devastated, and they just have to collect themselves and figure out what to do next,” he said.
Bensalem Police say a patrol officer spotted the building on fire at around 4am. Firefighters got the blaze under control and no one was injured, but the building appears to be a total loss. The building housed two vacant apartments in the back and investigators say an arson dog detected accelerants there.
According to Licata, the center was established in 1958 by his wife’s parents, two performers who decided to settle their family in Bensalem. Thousands learned to dance at the center over the years, and roughly 200 students were currently enrolled in classes.
The owners will try to find a new space in which to operate until they can rebuild. Licata said, “I can’t imagine that there would be anyone who would have malicious intent against the studio.” The investigation is continuing at this time.
To read the original story, visit http://6abc.cm/1wAf7yu.
Seventeen teens from Starr’s Studio of Dance in Kent, Connecticut, got a crash course in soccer while in New York City in late September before playing the roles of soccer teammates in an episode of the CBS TV series Madam Secretary.
The Litchfield County Times said the dancers met actress Téa Leoni, who plays Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord, and Katherine Herzer, who plays her youngest daughter Alison, when they traveled to New York City to take part in the episode’s filming.
The dance students worked with a coach on a Thursday, rehearsed on Friday, and went on the set at 6am Monday. In the show, two of the students play prep-school students, while the other 15 make up the soccer team playing against Alison’s team.
Starr Jeffreys, owner of Starr’s Studio of Dance, is an active member of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union and is working to have her students qualify for union membership. “I want my students to have the same opportunities I did when I lived and worked in Manhattan, without their having to live there,” said Jeffreys.
Jeffreys said her students are well-rounded and professional. “If we get a call, I can have them ready to do anything,” she said. “Kids want to perform . . . it is magical to see their faces light up.”
To see the original story, visit http://www.countytimes.com/articles/2014/10/08/news/doc54359fbd600b7865475160.txt.
Twyla Tharp’s new position as Joyce Theater Foundation’s 2014–16 artist-in-residence comes with something she’s never had during her esteemed 50-year choreography career: her own school.
“I’ve always been interested in how people learn,” Tharp told the New York Times.
The position provides Tharp with a free rehearsal studio, administrative space, office services, and an annual salary with benefits. As part of the residency, she is now offering company classes to the public at the Joyce’s Dance Art New York Studios.
The opportunity gives Tharp the chance to develop a technique-based curriculum useful to dancers of wide-ranging backgrounds and experience. The classes, which began last week and are taught by Tharp ballet masters and dancers, focus on improving strength, speed, and coordination, or as Tharp described it, “driving the nail—we’re not building the building, but we’re working on driving the nail.”
Company members also attend the classes, something that Tharp said was vital in her own education as a young dancer studying under Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham.
“In both instances company members were in the classes, and it was critical to see people who did the performing also executing the techniques,” she said.
People are quitting their jobs at a faster clip and that’s pushing small-business owners to work harder to hold onto top talent, reports the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
Dance studio owner Andrea Bisconti has experienced the challenge firsthand. When Kellie Love, an instructor there, said she was planning to leave to start a business of her own, Bisconti decided to act. Love inspires students to keep coming back for more lessons and brings in more than a quarter of the studio’s revenue, says Bisconti, owner of a Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Willoughby, Ohio.
“My most terrible fantasy was I would see students walk out the door in droves and I would be scrambling,” says Bisconti, who has started negotiations to make Love a business partner.
As the economy and job market improve, keeping the best employees is becoming vital for small businesses. Forty-three percent of owners are working to keep top staffers, according to a recent survey by Principal Financial Group. The reason: a growing number of employees are giving notice. The Labor Department reported more than 2.5 million people quit their jobs in July, up from 2.3 million a year earlier.
The trend is expected to continue. Thirty-eight percent of workers plan to change employers in the next five years, according to a 2014 survey by the management consultancy Hay Group. That’s up from 30 percent since 2010.
Other strategies being used by company owners include communicating and mentoring, setting realistic goals, promoting a healthy balance between employees’ work and personal lives, giving constructive criticism, and paying attention to workers’ quality of life.
To see the full story, visit http://www.jsonline.com/business/small-firms-struggle-to-hang-on-to-top-employees-b99363153z1-278177001.html.
Ninety-year-old Pamela Leonard says just because she’s older that isn’t an excuse not to exercise. Dancing—which she still does every day—has become a healthy habit and essential to her optimum health.
“I want people to know that no matter how old they are, they can still do things,” said Leonard, a Palm Coast resident and former St. Augustine ballet studio owner, told the St. Augustine Record. “If they start younger, working out some way or another, they’ll still be in good shape when they’re 90.”
Leonard started dancing when she was 3 and growing up in Hollywood, a neighbor of Ginger Rogers and Errol Flynn. Her father owned a studio where he recorded radio shows for personalities such as Bob Hope; her mother was a dance teacher.
Leonard met her husband, Larry, while performing with the Ballet Musical Company, and the couple toured the world dancing before founding a studio and ballet company, the Floridian Ballet Guild, in Miami.
When they moved to St. Augustine in 1971, their ballet school—Leonards’ Ballet Theatre—was the first in the city. The couple also taught classes at Flagler College and the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. One of her students, Lori Ladwig, eventually took over the Leonards’ school (now known as St. Augustine Dance Conservatory.)
After retiring, Leonard began exercising with three other women. For more than 30 years, they’ve worked out weekly. Because of her activity level, she said, she hasn’t had a cold in more than 20 years and takes no prescription medication.
“She just continues to be an inspiration to me,” Ladwig said. “I certainly hope to be dancing just like her when I’m at the age of 90.”
To see the full story, visit http://staugustine.com/living/sunday-life/2014-09-27/born-dance#.VCltW890yUl.
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.
Work, however, isn’t everything. As I write this, I’m freshly back from southern Italy, where I did my best to share in la dolce vita (“the sweet life”). And there’s another phrase that describes the Italian mind-set, perhaps even better: la dolce far niente, or the sweetness of doing nothing.
Nothing could be farther from the American way. But in Italy, life is to be savored. Take the traditional passeggiata, a time-honored evening stroll when sidewalks and streets are packed with people socializing, flirting, or celebrating soccer scores—or lamenting them. Mothers and daughters hold hands; lovers lean against seawalls and kiss; neighbors greet each other as if they were long-lost friends. Spirits are high, and so is the volume of voices and laughter.
Travelers to Italy get another taste of this relaxed approach to life when they arrive at a shop that opens at 9:30am (so a sign claims), only to find its doors still locked at 10, or 11, if it opens at all—and we Americans sputter and protest and wonder why that shop owner doesn’t worry more about his bottom line.
The truth is, that shop owner—who perhaps decided to go fishing, or see a friend, or run an errand for his mother—arguably has a better sense of priorities than we do. I’m not saying bottom lines aren’t important or that Italians don’t work hard; they are, and they do. True, unemployment is rampant in Italy, especially among the young, but those who don’t have jobs are not the only ones who gather in piazzas to share stories or a gelato. Business owners, fishermen, farmers, and service-industry workers find time for friends and family too. They understand that life is about more than work.
Here in the States, overwork is the new status symbol; we all complain about having no time, about being “crazy busy”—and while we claim to wish things were otherwise, many of us, if we’re honest enough to admit it, say the words with hidden pride. We are working longer, but we are not necessarily working better. Welcome to burnout.
I know this because I’m quite good at managing two jobs (plus, for two years, grad school), but relaxation? Not so much. Yet in Italy, despite my typical “overachiever” nonstop pace, I felt my mind grow languid. I let beauty—in the form of volcanoes and green seas, paintings and stained glass, eggplant and gelato—consume me.
Yes, it took going to Italy to remind me I need to slow down at times. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By the time you leaf through this issue of the magazine, it will be July, the dead heat of summer. For a morning, an afternoon, a day, even a week, squash that urge to be über-productive. Instead, do nothing. La dolce far niente. Perhaps a better translation would be “the sweetness of a healthy life.” —Cheryl A. Ossola, Editor in Chief
Sign Language and Dr. Seuss
When David Palmer was a little boy growing up in a remote, TV-free area of Fiji, books like Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham engaged his imagination and taught him to love language. So when Palmer, associate artistic director of The Washington Ballet, transformed this beloved classic into a ballet, he didn’t leave language behind.
Palmer meshed American Sign Language with classical ballet movement to create a narrative that could be followed by both hearing and hearing-impaired audiences. An ASL consultant worked with TWB’s Studio Company dancers during rehearsals that were fun, but also frustrating, “especially when you marry having to learn specific signs to the meter of music and movements of the other parts of the body,” Palmer told Dance Studio Life. “Partnering poses a challenge when you are trying to sign at the same time.”
Guests at the May production included students from hearing-impaired communities and schools, including Gallaudet University. Their appreciation was “truly rewarding,” Palmer says. Dancers agreed. “It melted my heart when we saw the deaf audience members signing their applause instead of clapping,” says Studio Company dancer Daniel Savetta. “It was such an amazing sight from the stage.”
17 Studios, 14 States, 12 Days
Studio owner Louie Perez was looking for a way to celebrate both the 10th anniversary of his VP Dance Academy in Fishkill, New York, and National Dance Week when a student’s father had an idea. “You could dance across America,” he said. So Perez did, teaching a free one-hour jazz class in 17 studios in 14 states over 12 days.
Coast 2 Coast: Dance Across America kicked off March 28 at VP, followed by two classes at nearby New York studios. But the cross-country driving tour got underway in earnest on April 23 when Perez and two friends began a trek that would take them through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Nevada. The tour ended May 5 at the Debbie Reynolds Studio in North Hollywood, where, many years before, Perez had cleaned the studio in exchange for lessons.
Along the way, Perez told Dance Studio Life, he made “hundreds of friends” and was inspired by many, such as a young amputee in Wichita and another severely impaired dancer in Las Vegas. The tour was “life-changing,” he said, and he is planning a repeat next year, with the ultimate goal of teaching in 50 states in five years.
“You have a choice,” says Perez. “You can either sit on the couch and let life go by, or you can be proactive and dance!” For a video diary of the tour, check out DJJSIZZLE.com/coast2coast.
IADMS Names Bill Evans Honorary Member
Bill Evans, a Dance Studio Life columnist and DanceLife Teacher Conference faculty member, has been named an honorary member of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science for his contributions to dancers’ health through his integration of somatic education and dance technique.
“My long life as a healthy dancer is no coincidence,” Evans says in the IADMS announcement. “I was guided by generous and engaged dance kinesiologists at crucial points in my career over five decades. IADMS has created an international community in which dance scientists interact with dance teachers to share investigations and findings that improve the health, well-being, training, and performance longevity of dancers throughout the world.”
Evans joins IADMS honorary members Darcey Bussell and Christopher Wheeldon.
Forsythe Joins USC Kaufman School of Dance
It has been a very good couple of years for dance at the University of Southern California.
Two years ago, USC founded its own School of Dance thanks to a generous gift from philanthropist Glorya Kaufman. In April construction began on a 55,000-square-foot state-of-the-art dance complex. And in May, USC News announced that one of the school’s professors will be esteemed choreographer William Forsythe.
Forsythe, who has been based in Europe for years, began his career with the Joffrey Ballet. He has created works for ballet companies in the U.S. and Europe; virtually every major ballet company in the world has one or more of his pieces in its repertoire.
“Dance training needs to be choreographic,” says Forsythe, describing his teaching philosophy, “because I can’t imagine any choreographer today not working in some collaborative sense. Dancers are asked to be part of the creative process. They need to learn how to think choreographically about their dancing.”
It comes as no surprise, then, that he is working with USC on plans for a Choreographic Institute that will collaborate with other USC schools, such as the Thornton School of Music and the School of Cinematic Arts.
Forsythe will begin at USC Kaufman in the fall of 2015, along with the first cohort of BFA dance majors.
Words from the publisher
Ten years. It’s quite a milestone to be celebrating, especially for a supposedly doomed publication.
When I launched Dance Studio Life in July 2004, many of my well-intentioned friends and colleagues warned me that print was dead, and that digital was the way to go. It was not very encouraging advice, considering that I was investing my heart and soul, not to mention a lifetime of savings, in a print publication. Then I became so busy building a staff and learning about publishing that I had no time to contemplate the fact that my magazine was supposedly facing an imminent demise.
Despite that dire prognosis, what started as an every-other-month publication soon increased to seven issues per year, then eight, then nine; for the last five years, we have published 10 issues annually. It’s not easy; print is pricey. The cost of paper has doubled since 2004, and postage fees have risen dramatically in the last decade. During the hard times following the financial crisis of 2008, I did wonder if I had made a mistake in not listening to those who thought digital publishing was the future. But that period was the exception in our 10 years of growth. Defying the odds, Dance Studio Life is alive and well, with new subscribers and advertisers coming on board with every issue. Today the magazine is the largest single publication in the dance field.
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.
We pull it off with a dedicated team. The West Coast is home to editor in chief Cheryl Ossola, whose efforts are responsible for a huge part of the magazine’s success; her West Coast team includes associate editor Lisa Okuhn and editorial manager Arisa White. On the East Coast, associate editor Karen White, production manager Scott Oxhorn, and advertising manager Rob Adams, plus support staff, keep the publication rolling. Boston-based art director Mim Adkins gives the magazine its distinctive look—which, as you’ll see in this issue, she has redesigned for our move into the next decade of publication.
What the digital world makes possible is impressive: news faster than anyone could have imagined 20 years ago, and an online community that gives voice to more ideas than ever. Digital publishing has its downside too; speed isn’t everything. But I’m not interested in voicing negativity about a process I embrace; Dance Studio Life has an online presence, and the Rhee Gold Company has multiple websites. However, I will say this: to me, there’s nothing like feeling that glossy cover stock and the heft of our information-packed issues. There’s nothing like sitting down with a cup of coffee and perusing the table of contents to decide what to read first. There’s nothing like turning the pages, feeling the substance, the permanence.
Dance Studio Life is there for you, on your kitchen table, or in your studio’s conference room, waiting to be shared and revisited.
Ten years and counting. It’s there for you.
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.
Beaumont Ballet Theatre
I’ve been struggling with discouragement about my studio lately. It seems I can never make anyone happy, despite my greatest efforts to do so. I love dance and teaching with all of my heart but have been asking myself “Why?” Tonight I opened my copy of Dance Studio Life [March/April 2014] and your words of encouragement and love jumped off the page to me. Thank you for encouraging people like me. During this crazy time of year when stress and emotions are high, thank you for being a grounding force. You are truly inspirational.
Studio 1 Dance Center
What a combination of both intrinsic inspiration and business innovation this issue was [May/June 2014]. I always read each issue from cover to cover; and either my heart is encouraged or my business practices enhanced. But this issue, for me personally, covered both of those elements. It was so informative I almost wished it had come with a study guide! I would love to explore some of these topics more in depth. Great issue!
Arts Academy Charter School
Diversifying helps profits flow
By Jennifer Kaplan
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.
Waynelovich, a retired public school music director in the Western Massachusetts town of Turners Falls, in the foothills of the Berkshires, realized early in his career that he couldn’t afford to put his four kids through college on a teacher’s salary. A pianist who managed the music department (including budgets, student tours, and producing the high school’s musical), he decided to use his talents off-campus as well. So, nearly two decades ago, he created Ja’Duke (the name is a play on John Wayne’s nickname, “the Duke”), initially a swing and Dixieland band that played at parties, nightclubs, and the like.
The preschool is another way to build clientele for the performing-arts academy. “The preschoolers have weekly dance and choral classes as part of the curriculum, so it sparks interest,” Kimberly Williams says.
Ja’Duke took on a new identity when Waynelovich and Williams joined forces. At age 2, Williams followed her older sisters to dance class—and never left. Later, as a college student studying business, she decided she wanted to open a dance and performing-arts studio. She had trained in a competition-based studio and wanted to create something that offered more performing opportunities with a less competitive approach.
In 2004, Williams and her father opened the doors of Ja’Duke Center for the Performing Arts and welcomed their first 100 students.
“We quickly outgrew the space we started in,” Williams says. “So three years after that, in 2007, we built a space in an industrial park with 8,500 square feet on the bottom floor and 4,500 square feet of storage on the top floor.”
Today Ja’Duke offers classes in tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, pointe, acrobatics, contemporary, musical theater, chorus, and acting. It produces 8 to 10 shows each year—musicals, showcases, and a winter holiday spectacular. Williams is the primary dance instructor, teaching 28 classes a week; a part-time teaching staff handles the rest of the classes.
Preschool fills daytime hours
When the performing-arts center opened, Williams also opened a preschool, which uses the same studio space as the afternoon and evening dance classes. It serves infants as young as 8 months old through children aged 5, and is open from 7:30am through 5:30pm to accommodate working parents.
The preschool enables the dance studio’s little-used daytime blocks to become an income stream for Ja’Duke. The rooms convert from one use to the other in less than an hour; each afternoon, staff members transform the classrooms into dance studios.
“Two of the rooms are completely collapsible,” Williams explains. “At 2:30 every day all of the cubbies collapse; everything folds away behind cabinets. Everything comes off the walls. We do that every day for the studio kids who are there from 3pm through about 9pm. You wouldn’t know there’s a preschool in there during the day.”
The Ja’Duke preschool accommodates about 100 children in the equivalent of approximately 45 full-time slots. Fully licensed and regulated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it has a certified director, and each preschool room must have a trained and licensed lead teacher and a co-lead teacher; some rooms have an additional assistant. Williams recently became a certified teacher (though not a lead teacher), enabling her to fill in on short notice. The licensing and certification processes require a good deal of work and attention, but these are demands Williams is happy to meet.
Waynelovich views the preschool as another way to build clientele for the performing-arts academy. When those children outgrow preschool, they’ll be ready for dance and performing classes, and their parents will already be familiar with Ja’Duke and its staff. “The preschoolers have weekly dance and choral classes as part of the curriculum, so it sparks interest,” Williams says.
Setting the stage for success
The preschool is only one of Ja’Duke’s non-studio income-producing programs. With Waynelovich at the helm, Ja’Duke has made a name for itself as a full-package (sets and drops) rental company for musical-theater productions. Its catalogue comprises nearly 50 shows, ranging from Aladdin, Blue’s Clues, and Little Shop of Horrors to Rent, Urinetown, and The Wizard of Oz.
When Ja’Duke builds a set for a school show, Waynelovich says, it isn’t thrown out after the run, a common practice. “We upsell it and rent it out for years to come. We make many dollars off of each dollar we put into building it.”
Each year when planning the school’s musicals, Waynelovich ensures that the sets will be portable and adjustable to various stage sizes. After the show, the set is stored and entered into the catalogue. He also offers printed drops made with a 64-inch aqueous printer from client-submitted designs.
These drops and sets are in demand from high schools, performing-arts studios, community theaters, and union houses. The trick to generating business, according to Waynelovich, is to rent them to school theaters, most of which operate on restricted budgets, at very reasonable rates. For example, renting two drops for a week costs $600. He will rent out an entire set for $1,200 to $1,800 for up to two weeks.
“As a retired music director, I feel that one of my strengths is knowing what people in the business can afford and why. I design my sets so they can go into the smallest high school and meet their production needs at a reasonable rate.” He usually delivers the sets himself to venues along the East Coast corridor, and ships them via truck for longer distances. He has sent sets abroad as well, from Canada to the Cayman Islands.
Waynelovich is willing to undercut his costs for the initial rentals, because he knows that his customers typically do repeat business and that the sets will be rented to a number of clients over the years. “Our products go out all the time,” he says. If a potential client wants a set that’s not in Ja’Duke’s inventory, Waynelovich will build it for the cost of the materials, because he knows he will earn a profit on future rentals.
A proud moment, he says, was receiving a call from the president of Theatrical Rights Worldwide, an important holder of musical-theater rights. Waynelovich says, “About a month after I retired from teaching, I was walking down Broadway on my way to meet with the president of Theatrical Rights Worldwide and talk about my business.”
These days, when theaters and schools purchase rights, Theatrical Rights passes along a recommendation to use Ja’Duke for drops and sets. “It’s funny,” Waynelovich says, “how these things work out.”
How they do it
Things work out, yes, but father and daughter “work hard and put in long hours,” Williams says. Those hours might not all be at the studio; both Williams and her dad take work home with them. Williams has two young children, one an infant, and Waynelovich has spent many hours on the road delivering sets. He’s hoping to transition away from that task soon, with a new hire. In the scenic shop, he has one near-full-time employee and hires others as needed.
The multifaceted nature of Ja’Duke grew from Waynelovich and Williams’ understanding of the performing-arts and dance studio businesses. As Waynelovich says, “My general philosophy is that if I’m going to do this, it’s about being my own company [and not a nonprofit]. Being your own company, you have the freedom to do what you want. We own property; if you’re a nonprofit, the building is not yours.”
Either way, he says, an organization has to earn enough to pay bills and salaries. Today his guiding business principle is this: “I want to get $3 for every $1 we spend. It’s basically about upselling: if you enroll someone in the preschool and then sell them dance lessons, you’re upselling them. If we build a set for our own show, and after that we rent it out for years to come, that’s upselling. So we’re making many dollars off of one dollar; that’s what we try to do.”
“My dad is a true entrepreneur,” Williams says. “He’s always looking for the next thing we can do. We’re going to keep doing what we love doing, but we also have to keep our heads above water.”
For Williams and her dad, a sustainable business is the result of creative thinking and diversification of income streams. “People can sustain themselves with a career in the arts,” Williams says. Pointing out that no one complains when private corporations earn a profit, she adds, “Why should it be any different with the arts?”
Dance Studio Life’s 10th anniversary brings memories of 50 years in dance
By Karen White
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.
In a life defined by the language of movement, he kept coming back to the written word. He wrote about his high school for the town newspaper, the Randolph [MA] Herald, before dance lured him out of school and into the working world. As a teen, he found himself in the office of William Como, Dance Magazine’s editor in chief at the time, transfixed by stacks of old issues, some dating back to the 1920s and ’30s. Years later, he wrote for that same magazine, and when his columns came back slashed with an editor’s red pen, he studied those corrections in order to become a better writer.
He did more than that. This year, Rhee Gold—dancer, teacher, competition director, studio owner, motivational speaker—celebrates the 10th anniversary of the magazine he founded, Dance Studio Life.
1963–1970: The family business
As a kid, Rhee thought every family had a dance studio in its basement. Each day, soon after he and his twin brother, Rennie, and older brother Tony came home from school, some of their classmates—plus other neighborhood kids—showed up and trouped downstairs for lessons from Sherry. One or two days a week, Rhee followed them. Reluctantly.
For Rennie and him, life was often a “roller coaster,” Rhee says—dance masters like Gus Giordano building them up with encouragement, school bullies trying to tear them down.
“I really didn’t want to dance,” he says. “I didn’t want to put in the effort, and I found it hard to stay focused.” Often he’d say he’d had enough and go upstairs, where his father had cooked dinner.
That was life growing up in a showbiz family in the suburbs. Sherry was a professional dancer; her husband, Al, was a theatrical agent. Other than dance classes in the basement, the household was very Leave It to Beaver, Rhee says—mom in a stylish dress, dad in a suit and tie, the twins riding bikes, playing in the woods, or tormenting Tony (as only kid twin brothers can).
Yet showbiz always peeked through that suburban façade. When the twins visited their father’s Boston office, his friends would provide entertainment—the comedian Lou “Uncle Lou” Bernard would tell jokes; magician Sammy Lyman would pull rabbits out of the boys’ ears. If they ventured across the hall to a former burlesque stripper’s costume shop, they could keep busy all afternoon making buckram bases for pasties.
These people were, Rhee recalls, “diehard showbiz folk from an era that had gone by,” but he and Rennie found them fascinating. And while Sherry stressed the importance of proper dance technique in her classes, “the entertainment thing” was a part of life. “The bottom line was that you had to entertain an audience,” Rhee says.
1971–1980: The spark is lit
The Park Plaza Hotel, Boston: something was wrong with the stage. Rennie and Rhee started their duet, but found themselves smiling at the back wall instead of the audience. They stopped and stated their concerns to the Dance Masters of America competition officials. The officials conferred, then agreed to let the 10-year-old twins—who, after all, had entered from the wrong side—start again.
They did. They won. And attention rained down.
“That was the exact moment when the switch flicked on,” Rhee says. “In the next class, I knew what my mother meant when she said, ‘Dance full out.’ ”
From that day on, he saw himself in showbiz. By age 12, he was taking class five or six days a week, working hard to excel, eager for any opportunity to jump onstage. For Rennie and him, life was often a “roller coaster,” Rhee says—dance masters like Gus Giordano building them up with encouragement, school bullies trying to tear them down.
The bullying “was tough,” Rhee says, “but the more I dealt with it, the more I wanted to be good at dance. It was something to prove—very emotional, but also a huge motivation.”
He found his passion for dance, but for his parents—their marriage stymied by a 26-year age difference—passion was a thing of the past. After the divorce, Rhee’s mom threw herself into teaching and choreographing, attracting pupils from as far away as Maine. She found new friends, an “interesting ’70s showbiz party crowd,” that was in and out of the Gold house. The studio’s performance team, The Sherry Gold Dancers, was a hot act, booking TV appearances and live shows all over the Northeast.
Despite his mother’s success—or perhaps because of it—“the dance thing that was so cool from a child’s perspective” began to show a darker side. City officials worked to shut the studio down. Neighborhood kids stopped coming to class. And, perhaps worse, other dance teachers let their jealousy show.
“I started to realize that some teachers didn’t like other teachers,” Rhee says. “There were times when someone would say something about my mom, and it was powerful. It hurt me. The Sherry Gold Dancers were winning everything, but instead of being excited, we’d leave competitions hurt because others were so unhappy.”
He remembers how his mother’s classroom confidence often faded in social situations, making her appear snobby or intimidating. “I’m like that myself,” he says. “I can get up and talk to a room of 200 teachers, no problem, but if you said, ‘Want to go to dinner with me afterward?’ that would be an issue.”
When the twins were 12, Sherry showed them how to separate whites and darks, measure detergent, run a washing machine. She wanted them to be independent, to know how to take care of themselves. Three years later, Rhee decided the time had come to step out on his own. He opened his first studio.
Most of his students at the Chatham West low-income apartments in Brockton were poor; some had chaotic home lives or were being raised by grandparents. The room where he held class had no mirrors, but after dark, students could follow their reflections in the sliding glass door. Students paid $12 a month, and every night Rhee hid the record player in a cupboard for safekeeping. He put on recitals, learned to choreograph, convinced the Carwoods costume company to let him pay his bills in increments. At age 15 he was teaching three days and supporting himself on $150 a week.
Looking back, he believes many seeds that would shape his future were sown in those days. His desire to see dance teachers support each other in their art became Project Motivate. His mother’s doggedness to keep her studio open fed his own stubborn business sense. And the Chatham West experience taught him that every child, regardless of income or talent, was important—a lesson he often shares at the DanceLife Teacher Conference.
1981–1990: Mr. Dance
Of the twins, Rennie was the stronger dancer, Rhee says. In Dance Masters of America’s 1979 Mr. Dance title competition, Rennie came in first runner-up; Rhee attended convention classes but wasn’t entered for the title. The following year, neither boy entered the title competition. But in 1981 Rhee entered himself, unbeknownst to his mother. “We were not necessarily going to go again, but I was determined to win this,” he says.
After the Randolph studio zoning battles, Sherry had found a fresh start in Brockton, Massachusetts, buying a home, plus a studio building on North Montello Street. Each night, after 10pm when the new studio was quiet, Rhee would work there alone, running his choreography to Queen’s We Are the Champions five times in a row. He found a costume—headband and all—and secured a purple jacket and white pants as formalwear. He went to DMA, and he won. He was Mr. Dance.
“That gave me total confidence in my ability,” Rhee says. “I gained a positive outlook on life. I was also teaching a lot and getting a great response. I look at that period as a really cool time.”
When he gave up his title a year later, Dance Magazine editor William Como was in the audience. The “twin dancers/teacher mom/basement dance studio” story captured Como’s attention, and the subsequent Gold family cover story in Dance Magazine threw a national spotlight on the twins and their mother.
There were weekends when the three of them would be booked to teach at the same event, and weekends when they taught at different events in three separate cities. Como took the twins to Brazil to teach alongside Russian and American master teachers at the Second Annual Congress of Dance; another time, he took them backstage to meet the director of Béjart’s Ballet of the 20th Century. He “pushed us, it seemed,” Rhee says, “a little beyond where we thought we could get ourselves.”
The twins decided if they could teach on the road, they could teach at home, so they opened a dance studio on Boylston Street in Boston. It was the start of three rough years. Days when they didn’t have enough money to get the car out of the parking garage were balanced by days when their adult-centric jazz classes were jammed with students.
When they lost that lease, they moved to Massachusetts Avenue to share a rental space with ballet director José Mateo. The landlord threatened to kick out the dancers because of the noisy jazz and tap, and Rhee withdrew rather than cause trouble for the ballet company. He closed the studio for what he thought would be two weeks. “But I left and never went back,” he says. “It seemed too hard to do it again, like it would be a step back from where we had been.”
Rennie had already left, pursuing a career as a stager and choreographer at Disney World. Back home in Brockton, twin-less for the first time, Rhee taught master classes, sold 10 dance routines for $99, and, in his mother’s garage, ran American Dance Spectrum, a dance competition the Golds had started years before (as Gold Family Presents) to raise money to purchase costumes for a Sherry Gold Dancers engagement in Las Vegas.
1991–2000: The national stage
Rhee was encouraged to expand American Dance Spectrum from one city to three by Carol Fox of Portland, Oregon, whose daughter had traveled cross-country to take lessons from the Golds. Fox provided both financial and emotional support for the expansion, and within a few years the competition was held in 10 cities. Seeing that several other competitions had grown large enough to “go national,” he and Tony took out a home equity loan for $30,000 so they could follow suit.
“I was so scared,” Rhee says. “Mom was scared for us, too—she thought Tony and I would lose our house.”
That fear propelled him to make the expansion a success. For three years, the competition made enough to pay back the loan, but not enough to finance the next year’s events, and another loan was taken out. Finally, in the fourth year, the competition turned enough profit to continue without further loans.
For 14 years, the competition, with the new name American Dance Awards, grew rapidly, until the regional schedule included 50 cities. On some weekends, up to seven events happened simultaneously in cities as far-flung as Montreal, Dallas, and Los Angeles. In 1999, when the competition grew to 25 cities, Rhee brought in Gloria Jean Cuming as a partner to help with the workload. “Then ADA exploded in size, and I was in the same place I had been before,” he says.
No longer serving as an onstage host, Rhee worked as the competition’s troubleshooter. From his office far away from competition events, he’d field a call from Montreal about a delayed judge; while trying to find a replacement, he’d get a call from Dallas, where the venue was locked and the ADA crew couldn’t get in to set up. By the 20th year, he was beginning to feel burned out.
The end came in the form of a phone call from a St. Louis dance teacher claiming that her students had been “psychologically devastated” by receiving a high bronze medal. Rhee wanted out. The competition was 24 years old, but Rhee couldn’t even consider trying to make it to the 25th anniversary.
“After 9/11, with finals in New York City, again it was a struggle to fill a room block,” Rhee says, a headache he hadn’t dealt with since the competition’s infancy. “I turned the reins over to Gloria.”
But only for the competition. Gloria and Rhee were still partners in Project Motivate, launched in 1998.
In ADA’s early days, when dance competitions were new and few, everyone participated fully: parents and students sat through all the numbers (not only their studio’s), and teachers enjoyed the experience. But Rhee noticed that as time went on, teachers became less and less happy. “I’d see how they reacted to each other’s success and think, ‘These dance teachers need to talk,’ ” he says. That thought became Project Motivate: weekend events, half business workshop/half motivational seminar, where teachers and studio owners would be encouraged to talk to one another.
2001–2010: A leap of faith
“What had I done, and what was I going to do now?” ADA was gone, and Rhee needed a new business and a new source of income besides Project Motivate. He had a life’s worth of dance knowledge and dance studio experience—could he do something with that?
He could. With only one employee, he began to create and sell faculty, staff, and student handbooks for studio owners. In 2004 he wrote a book, The Complete Guide to Teaching Dance. After collecting advice and articles from friends, he spent $10,000 to print and post Goldrush, a newsletter for dance teachers and studio owners.
Teachers loved the newsletter, but it was expensive to produce; after several issues, Rhee printed an announcement about the newsletter’s demise. Then a phone call from costume company owner Larry Cicci set Rhee’s mind spinning: he suggested that Rhee sell ads to dance industry–related companies. “Larry hadn’t read the article,” Rhee says, “or he would have known that was the last issue. It was a fluke how the magazine got started.”
He took Cicci’s advice. He studied other magazines’ media kits, made one for Goldrush, and drummed up enough interest to sell 14 full-page ads. Master teacher Finis Jhung gave him permission to reprint one of his articles on education. Rhee now had a full-fledged magazine—though it didn’t make money for four years. But he kept at it. “Advertisers were willing to try it,” he says.
In 2007, Goldrush became Dance Studio Life. “We printed an issue every other month, then seven issues a year, then eight,” Rhee says. “Then 10, which is where it is now, and where it should be.”
As it celebrates its 10th anniversary, Dance Studio Life attracts new subscribers every day. And while well-known, established magazines have gone digital or disappeared altogether, Rhee sees Dance Studio Life as the successful exception.
“The secret is that the magazine has a unique focus. I feel that I and my editors know what the dance teacher—our readership—wants,” he says. “People count on it. They save the issues, use them later as a reference for classroom and business advice. We have found an identity.”
Along the way, there were other jobs, other adventures. After Sherry died, Rhee ran The Gold School for two years, sustaining its momentum and reputation for quality dance instruction until Rennie returned home from Disney and took over the school. And while the Sherry Gold Dancers are long gone, Rennie’s Project Moves Dance Company presents concerts laced with a message of self-affirmation, respect for others and the environment, and the joy of dance. Under Rennie’s guidance, The Gold School celebrated its 50th anniversary in June.
“The school has definitely changed; Mom would not recognize it,” Rhee says. “People say, ‘You guys are so lucky—look what you have.’ But there are two generations behind that school. It’s taken a long, long time—but as we go, we only get better at what we do.”
Rhee’s conviction that dance teachers could work together for the good of all was a solid one, and the intimate Project Motivate spawned the massive DanceLife Teacher Conference—four days of technique classes, business seminars, and motivational sessions that attract hundreds of dance teachers and school owners from the U.S., Canada, and overseas.
At the DanceLife Retreat Center, a teacher/studio-owner oasis in Norton, Massachusetts, Rhee is steadily growing a spring/summer/fall schedule of small-group seminars in a log cabin center where he works and lives.
“Things are settling in,” he says. “I look at life, and at age 53, I want to enjoy the rewards of all this effort. I see myself publishing, writing—and not traveling. If people are interested in hearing what I have to say, they can come to this place.”
He has to struggle, though, to slow himself down. He’s used to having multiple irons in the fire—teaching, directing a competition, running a studio. (“If I had 100 people working for me, we’d be doing 100 things,” he says.) He’s learned to fight against his “reactive” personality, to stop and take a deep breath before speaking. On the other hand, his term as DMA’s president taught him to stand firm for what he believes is right and to handle disagreements with diplomacy.
Even when projects flopped, they yielded valuable lessons. “DanceLife TV—I wanted that so bad. I thought it would be the coolest thing. But it was three very hard years, and I had to give it up,” Rhee says. “But now I know a lot about video production, and I can make better presentations because of what I learned.”
A willingness to learn is part of the reason for Rhee’s successful business ventures, but so is “a constant going for what you want,” he says. “Each one of these things led me to where I am now.”
6 who innovate, influence, inform, and inspire
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.
Over the years, the magazine has made a mission of shining a spotlight on people and organizations that do important, innovative work in dance education and provide much-needed services to the dance community. So how to choose the first candidates? How would we narrow down the potential choices from the vast array of those who deserve recognition? We scanned 10 years’ worth of magazines and made a long list of candidates; then we asked ourselves what they had in common.
The answer? They are risk takers and generous hearts. They are community-minded and relentless in their pursuit of what they believe in. They are sources of inspiration to the dance world, and to the staff here at Dance Studio Life. In the next 12 pages, you’ll see how and why they deserve to be honored. You’ll see that they take action that exemplifies how dance, when used to its full potential, exerts a vital and transformative force on students, families, the dance community as a whole, and the world.
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.
Gina Gibney, founder of New York City–based Gibney Dance, assumes many roles while heading up the organization’s three distinct but interconnected branches: the Center, the Company, and Community Action. Some roles require deft administrative skills, others fearlessness in implementing large-scale programs, still others a longstanding and profound commitment to bringing dance to what Gibney calls “corners of the city where people are often overlooked and isolated.”
Gibney Dance’s Community Action program brings 500 free workshops every year to domestic violence shelters throughout the city. As the program’s founder and one of its facilitators, Gibney often encounters skepticism and resistance from women who find themselves in an unfamiliar, alienating environment. “When we say we’re coming to do a movement workshop,” she says, “the reaction can be, ‘You must be kidding. I have all this going on in my life and you want me to dance?’ ”
Gibney and her company dancers are trained to work through those barriers. “Always, at the end, is this overwhelming sigh of relief,” Gibney says. “You hear, ‘When are you coming back? I feel like I’m whole again. I feel like I can breathe.’ It’s because they’ve taken that time and they’ve focused inward; they’ve remembered things about themselves that they like, or people who have inspired them.”
Functioning alongside Community Action and serving the same end—“to create contemporary choreography that expresses the humanity of the moving body, and to reach communities in need”—are Gibney Dance Company and Gibney Dance Center, housed at 890 Broadway.
From one studio Gibney rented for her company in 1991, the center has expanded to eight studios and 15,000 square feet. (See “Doing Well by Doing Good,” August 2012.) The facility provides teaching and rehearsal spaces, plus numerous programs for choreographers, teachers, and other dance artists.
Dance in Process (DiP), gives mid-career choreographers 24/7 access to a studio space for three weeks. They’re also allotted a production office, accessible only to them. “They can put up a projector, hang up costumes in a corner,” Gibney says. “You see how at home they feel, how productive they seem, how easy it is. That’s never the way it is, but that’s the way it should be.”
Gibney’s hopes and ambitions for the dance community don’t stop there. Having been named the successor tenant, in January, to the lower Manhattan space vacated by storied but struggling Dance New Amsterdam, Gibney has big ideas. “We’re building on what was there,” Gibney says, “but also creating a focused, eclectic, and diverse training program” in partnership with organizations like Movement Research and the Martha Graham Dance Company. “These partners will give our programming variety, but we are going to impose a clear conceptual framework on all the programming, so that it feels cohesive, organized, and systematic. It’s a framework meant to provide balance and create context, both for students and for teachers.”
None of this would have happened if Gibney weren’t first and foremost an artist. “It’s the process of creating work and working with my company that feeds everything else,” she says. The three intertwined branches of the Gibney Dance tree are indeed fed by the singularity of Gibney’s commitment to creating and supporting art and artists, both through the center’s educational and choreographer-support programs, and through Community Action.
“Part of what gives [Community Action] its power,” Gibney says, “is that it’s a real living, breathing artist—one who is working in a company, rehearsing, performing, taking class, growing—[who is] bringing work to another setting. There’s a vitality, a forward motion to that. The artists walk into that shelter and they are a breath of fresh air; they are hope, they are insight. They are a different way of living. I don’t think the dancers could do that if they weren’t doing it elsewhere. It’s really about being an artist.”
Being honored with the Dance Studio Life “Generous Heart” Award, Gibney says, is “extremely meaningful to me. So much of the work that’s done in the dance world, certainly in the part that intersects with social justice, is a little unsung. It’s wonderful to be recognized.”
What drives the woman who has done so much to improve the lives of both dance artists and those in need? “I seem to have this need to create,” Gibney says, “whether it’s in the studio or in creating opportunities.”
And how does she do it? “Sometimes you feel like you’re sailing into the wind and not moving, but you persist in the belief that someday the wind will be at your back. I’ve learned that persistence is how you achieve your dream.” And, Gibney adds, “If you love what you do, you can’t lose.”
Mark Wong, Aaron Troisi, Steve Lunger
Hip Hop Fundamentals
See a need; take action. That’s what people with generous hearts do, and that’s what Steve “Believe” Lunger, Mark “Metal” Wong, and Aaron “Professor Peabody” Troisi did. And that’s why their names popped up immediately as shoo-ins for the Dance Studio Life “Generous Heart” Awards.
In 2013, appalled by the financially floundering Philadelphia public school system’s cuts in arts education, these men, the brains and dancing bodies behind Hip Hop Fundamentals, made a proposal: they would present assemblies that use hip-hop to help teach kids standards-based curriculum, expand their understanding of physics, and raise their awareness of civil rights and social justice. (See “Fundamentally Hip-Hop,” December 2013.)
To get started, in October 2013 the trio ran a successful Kickstarter campaign that allowed them to offer schools an irresistible proposal: in-school assemblies at no cost to them. Attention in the form of an invitation to a TEDx conference in Bermuda helped—the positive feedback and press, says Wong, made it “easier to convince schools this is a worthwhile thing.”
Today HHF presents hundreds of assemblies along the Eastern seaboard, runs afterschool workshops in the Philadelphia area, and partners with local nonprofits. Their shows include “Principles of Hip Hop,” “Breaking the Law of Physics,” and “Civil Rights Movements: The Power of Youth Engagement Through the Eyes of Dr. King.” Race is an unacknowledged constant in classrooms, Troisi believes; consequently, this workshop teaches kids facts about the Civil Rights Movement but also reveals how arbitrary and irrational prejudice can be.
Wong and Lunger met as members of a hip-hop crew at Haverford College; their first arts-education job was teaching dance in an afterschool youth program. Troisi, a K–8 teacher with an MA in education, says he “was sold immediately on the idea that young people connect with what Mark and Steve do in an incredibly transformative way.” For these students, hip-hop “is a culture they can identify with and continue to help create—it is an incredibly powerful way to engage them in academic learning,” Troisi says. “That really is what’s happening.” State-required core skills—what Troisi refers to as “generalizable skills, transferable skills”—are taught in the HHF assemblies but also, he says, in Wong and Lunger’s dance classes. “With dance, there’s an attention to detail and an ability to process and apply what you have learned in new ways and to new problems.”
The three men don’t do it alone. HHF employs roughly 10 young male breakdancers, training them in “public speaking, basic performance, educational theory,” Wong says. “That’s an ongoing mission of ours. It’s amazing to see the impact they have on young people.”
The goal is to make independent teachers of these young men, leaving them to carry the current workshop and assembly load and freeing Lunger, Wong, and Troisi to expand HHF nationwide. “We’re working toward creating new programs,” Lunger says, “and it really depends on everyone in the company, which I think is quite beautiful. These young guys come up with some brilliant ideas”—anti-bullying, conflict resolution, a field-day dance/theater program—“which they wouldn’t have the space to do if they didn’t have a platform.”
Mark “Metal” Wong, Aaron “Professor Peabody” Troisi, and Steve “Believe” Lunger (right to left in above photo; repped Hip Hop Fundamentals philosophy and practices at a TEDx conference in Bermuda.
What that means is that HHF isn’t only seeking ways to benefit schoolchildren; it’s “empowering the people in our company to learn new skills,” Lunger says, “and how their voices can be used to affect society at large.”
Not to be ignored is the fact that Lunger, Wong, and Troisi are learning too—about their goals for their students, what’s important to them, and what is possible in a society that de-emphasizes the arts in education.
Lunger says HHF has revealed “how I feel about race, about sexuality, about the criminal justice system in America.” Most important, he says, is “to be honest. You will be a happier person if you’re truthful with yourself and with others. It will open doors of understanding.”
As a teacher, Troisi discovered that working with HHF has “helped me connect with my students,” he says. “It empowers me as an educator to make the content I’m teaching relevant to them as individuals. I think that’s where a lot of the power of what we do as a company comes from—we are connecting with learners in a very personal, meaningful way.”
For Wong, what’s most important is recognizing self-potential. “If the students are going to learn anything, I want them to learn, ‘You can do this,’ whether it’s physics, whatever. We’ve learned that we can do this. As a company, as a community—we can accomplish these things. We might not be changing the entire educational spectrum of Philadelphia, but every single person can start pushing toward more effective education.”
In “Fundamentally Hip-Hop,” Troisi said HHF “isn’t going to revolutionize education in the field.” Here at Dance Studio Life, we think he might be wrong.
—Cheryl A. Ossola
New York City Dance Alliance Foundation
If someone gave you $8.5 million, what would you do with it? Joe Lanteri couldn’t wait to give it away.
“You talk about people trying to find a trophy. Well, here you go—here’s a $120,000 full ride to Point Park University,” says Lanteri, the founder of New York City Dance Alliance competition and convention. “Now, that’s a trophy. That’s truly an award.”
For 20 years, NYCDA has crisscrossed the country, bringing a taste of the NYC dance world to thousands of hardworking dancers. Many of them became Lanteri’s friends, sharing their stories and dreams with him. And for some, he discovered, pursuing dance in college was just that—a dream.
So in 2010 Lanteri quietly established the NYCDA Foundation. (See “Investing in Dancers,” May/June 2011.) “The scholarship program was a natural evolution for me, and it was personal. When I filed the paperwork, I didn’t tell anyone—not my staff, not my managing director,” he says. “It had been in my mind for several years, and I wasn’t going to drag my feet anymore.”
With the nonprofit’s approval in hand, Lanteri turned his attention to his toughest customers—the colleges. As a member of the Juilliard dance faculty, Lanteri knew it wouldn’t be easy to convince dance departments to climb on board a “dance competition” bandwagon; even Lawrence Rhodes, the department director at Juilliard, had once asked him, “Joe, what is it you do on weekends?”
But Lanteri persisted. He created audition events and invited department heads and ballet masters—with no obligation!—to check out the NYCDA dancers in class. He convinced them to attend the foundation’s annual fundraising gala to see the dancers onstage. Intrigued college teachers began to look anew at their own student bodies, and suddenly the number of NYCDA title-winner jackets worn by those students made sense.
Top colleges and universities climbed aboard, scholarships in hand—University of the Arts, Marymount Manhattan, Mercyhurst, Dean, Chapman, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Pace, and Point Park.
But what about the NYCDA dancers who wanted to pursue dance at other schools? Lanteri began funneling fees generated by his company—such as the convention “observation fee” charged to parents—into a scholarship fund. He started fundraising raffles and contests that member studios could participate in. And he printed “You Are Inspiring” on hundreds of red plastic bracelets and sold them for $2 each, encouraging his dancers to make new friends by sharing them with strangers. These grassroots efforts allowed the Foundation to write “no school attached” scholarship checks.
In only four years, NYCDA has awarded $8.5 million to more than 150 dancers. “That’s the most humbling statement I will ever make,” Lanteri says.
And, he stresses, the scholarships aren’t automatically given to top scorers. “Those are not always for the title winners, not always the stars of the convention,” he says. “The colleges are recruiting kids because they recognize their potential. They are excited about molding their futures. That’s the part that excites me the most.”
Lanteri’s passion for helping dancers he has come to know, whom he has watched grow up and stays in touch with long after they leave high school, is something he shares with many of the teachers who bring students to NYCDA. “For any teacher, you do it with the goal that you are going to make a difference—you can touch the life of one child. You get back incredible satisfaction from that,” he says. “I’m in the position where I can change the lives of hundreds of dancers.
“There is not a day I doubt, for one second, that I am doing what I am supposed to do. I never question why I get on a plane or give up another weekend. I will continue to do what I love to do, and it doesn’t wear me down. My entire team works for that—that feeling of satisfaction that uplifts us.”
The Dance Studio Life “Generous Heart” Award recognizes Lanteri for his teaching soul, and for his ability to elevate the image of an often-misunderstood element of the dance studio industry. “The dance convention and competition world is in its own insulated bubble,” he says. “When I speak to people, I try to make them realize you can’t generalize dance competitions. I quickly, and as politely as possible, correct them that I don’t run a ‘dance competition.’ I say, ‘Let me explain what it is I do.’ ”
Patricia Reedy and Nancy Ng
Luna Dance Institute
For 22 years, Patricia Reedy and Nancy Ng of Luna Dance Institute have pursued the goal of broadening access to dance to all children. Through multiple programs, Luna serves 20,000 children and 300 dance artists, teachers, and social service providers yearly.
Ng and Reedy have invested years in developing Luna’s Professional Learning Component, whose courses, workshops, and coaching provide high-level teacher training to dance educators from studio instructors to college professors to social workers. For Ng, coaching and mentoring teaching artists is one of the most rewarding aspects of the work Luna does. This feels, Ng says, “like it has the most magnitude for changing the way dance and dance education are viewed in our society.”
Ng and Reedy believe that providing a viable living for dance artists is an important step in ensuring that dance and dance teaching gain respect over the long haul. Each of Luna’s salaried, year-round staff members is a working dance artist, teaches in one or more of Luna’s programs, and plays an administrative role in the organization. “I’m not going to retire,” says Reedy, “until the day I see that a dance teacher can make a living without having a spouse with a quote ‘real job.’ ”
Luna’s work in three Oakland, California, public schools—all of which serve the lowest-income families in the city—is also designed for the long haul. The goal, says Reedy, is to have dance “become embedded in the school’s culture.” A full year in a school allows Luna to build the program; the hope is that the school will then hire a dance teacher whom Luna coaches for a year. And it’s working: at New Highland Academy, “every K–5 student gets standards-based dance. Students perform for their fifth-grade graduation, the kids create original works, and there’s a parent/family dance component,” Reedy says.
Luna’s Moving Parents and Children Together (MPACT) program brings family dance classes to rehab facilities, homeless shelters, and other locations to help repair and strengthen bonds between parents and children who have been separated because of substance abuse, domestic violence, or other issues. (See “MPACT on Families,” August 2013.)
“MPACT is near and dear to me,” says Ng, who helped launch the program 14 years ago. “During the last class of every session, we reflect to those families the growth we’ve seen. To see the expression on those mother’s faces, when we tell them the progress we’ve seen in their relationship with their child—it’s priceless.”
In Luna’s Embodied Parent Education, an offshoot of MPACT, Ng and Reedy used Bartenieff movement principles to help participants in a court-mandated parent education program understand child development. One mother told Reedy that her initial goal involved getting her child to walk. After the second week, the mother said, “No, I want her to crawl first. No, no, she needs to slither.” And then the mother said, “You guys had us do these upper-body lifts, and I realized how hard my little baby’s working, and how important it is. And now I just want her to be right where she is.”
“That quote, for me, was significant,” Reedy says. “All of us, we’re always pushing these kids. For me, the universality of that learning was so powerful—because yes, there’s a social justice component to what we do, but at the end of the day, we’re all human beings, trying to figure this out.”
Luna’s Studio Lab—an afterschool program for kids 4 to 17—embodies the philosophy that expression and creativity are fundamental human needs, and that these should be nurtured in a developmentally sound way. The composition-based curriculum allows children to discover, invent, and express themselves at their own pace.
Luna’s founders understand the long-term and interconnected nature of child development, of developing a professional learning program, of creating a life as a dance artist, of nurturing programs in the schools and the community. Asked what receiving the DSL “Generous Heart” Award means to them, Reedy says, “I feel honored to be one of the first recipients of an award that’s all about heart.”
And, she says, she’s moved to receive the award from a magazine that focuses on private studios. Reedy recalls a National Dance Education Organization event speaker who discussed the “sustained impact” of the private dance studio. “We’re the only group here that often sees families all the way from a very young age through high school,” the speaker said.
“That stuck with me,” Reedy says. “I feel a responsibility, a stewardship. We’re transporting those children through many arcs of their lives.”
Susan McCutcheon Coutts
As one of this year’s DSL Generous Hearts, Susan McCutcheon Coutts will get a commemorative plaque. What she needs, though, is a bumper sticker that says “Let Me Tell You About My (Dance) Kids.”
Call her for an interview about herself and her studio, Dance Innovations, in Chatham, New Jersey, and you’ll hear about the benefit show some of her 1,000-plus students will be presenting, and the 30 orphans coming as guests. Ask for her thoughts as an award winner, and she’ll tell you about underprivileged kids, kids with autism, and young survivors of abuse who can take dance, poetry, or art classes because of her school’s scholarship foundation.
Ask about the 10 percent of her students who have special needs—all of whom are mainstreamed into regular classes, with a few on performance teams—and she’ll rave about hugs from her three “special friends” with Down syndrome enrolled in her “favorite” class.
Trying to get a word in edgewise, you say, “What keeps you going with this nonstop schedule of shows, of raising money and giving it away, of collecting Christmas presents for families at the YMCA, of handling 85 students in performance companies, of serving on the Dance New Jersey board, plus running a studio for 27 years?”
“I love what we do,” says Coutts, gracefully deflecting full credit.
Coutts double majored in dance and dance movement therapy at the University of Maryland. (See “Smooth Sailing in the Mainstream,” August 2011.) When she opened her studio in 1986, special-needs students were present from day one. Today, no one thinks twice when they see these kids in class, recitals, or performances.
“Other studio owners say, ‘I want to start a special-needs class,’ and I say, ‘Why?’ ” Coutts says. “Just mainstream them. The students who don’t have a special situation can benefit as much as the kids who do.”
The Dance Innovations Performance Foundation has distributed almost $77,000 in scholarships, donations, or free performance tickets since 2000. Benefit shows raise money for child-centric organizations such as the Healing Heart Foundation (services for children with cancer and chronic pain), Children’s Specialized Hospital, or the Imus Ranch (a working cattle ranch for children with cancer).
Every year, more children benefit. Five individual arts-based scholarships (totaling $1,732) were awarded in 2005. In 2013, almost $7,000 was distributed to 14 individuals at a public gala. Five children from abusive households chosen through the local YMCA also received scholarships anonymously.
A foundation sponsorship program allows residents of two orphanages and other children with special circumstances to attend studio shows free of charge. And three special-needs dancers have received half-tuition scholarships for 13 years.
Coutts’ studio year, particularly from December to June, is hectic. Many of the performances are philanthropically based, like the seven or eight large shows that benefit specific organizations—this May’s show for the Valerie Fund (which supports children with cancer and blood disorders), for example—and the 10 to 15 smaller shows at retirement homes, veteran hospitals, or facilities for disabled children and adults such as the Matheny Medical and Educational Center.
Even when her performance team goes to Florida to perform at Disney, Universal, and Sea World, they squeeze in a visit to Give Kids the World Village, a nonprofit “storybook” resort for children with life-threatening illnesses, and their families.
This belief in dance as a force for good comes from Coutts, but is universally shared at her studio. “The philosophy of our teachers and our foundation is to give the gift of dance or the arts to anyone who is interested,” she says. “It’s really important, and it doesn’t matter who the population is.”
All that outreach is in addition to five June recitals, one or two competitions, a Nutcracker, and top-notch performing opportunities for her advanced dancers, such as January’s World Voices in Motion concert at Carnegie Hall, where her dancers shared the stage with another dance studio, an adult vocal ensemble, and a university choir in a finale choreographed by Coutts. “It was such an amazing experience,” she says.
For Coutts, dance is about sharing, healing, helping others. She talks about dancers who help special-needs students in class, about former students who work for charities or as physical therapists, or the many college essays written about the joy of being onstage and seeing a sick child in the audience smile.
“It’s contagious, the belief that you can make a difference,” she says. “Seeing my students with a direction and feeling good about themselves—that’s what makes me happy.”
Figures in Flight
“Every moment there are opportunities to heal the world in some way,” Susan Slotnick says. (See “Dancing Inside,” November 2013). As a teacher and choreographer, informed by the Jewish principle of tikkun olam—to repair the world—Slotnick is motivated by the belief that dance is life-altering and transformative. For 18 years, she has volunteered to teach modern dance (primarily Horton technique) in prisons.
“Get a group of people who are unhappy, feel trapped, and don’t feel free, and have them lift their arms to beautiful music,” Slotnick says, “and you’ve made a difference—a difference in that moment.”
Slotnick started working with this population 15 years ago, teaching dance to adolescent boys in the Highland [NY] Residential Center. Later, under the auspices of Rehabilitation Through the Arts, she began teaching at Woodbourne, a medium-security correctional facility in upstate New York; there, every Sunday for the last eight years, she has taught classes for 10 to 20 men.
She also works with some of the four Figures in Flight (FIF) companies for young dancers in New Paltz, New York. She directs 11-year-old FIF4, a group of dancers she’s trained since most were 5 years old; and 10-year-old FIF5, a group of incarcerated dancers currently serving long-term sentences. She also serves as a creative consultant for Figures in Flight Released, directed by former inmate and FIF5 member Andre Noel. Founded by Noel four years ago, the company comprises six former inmates.
Slotnick says it took decades for her “to realize that you don’t save anybody, that you don’t provide rehabilitation or reconciliation or redemption to anybody. When you go in to help a population of people who are incarcerated, ill, or wounded in any way, you need to understand that they are the ones with the power to use what you’ve given them for their own benefit.” She adds, “When you deal with a population of people in need, they will very willingly put you in the position of the person who gave them something. They are full of gratitude and thank-yous, and it’s a little bit of a minefield if you listen to that over and over again—you think you’re the one doing it.” She’s learned how important it is, she says, to be humble and “to constantly give the successes to the people who’ve earned them.”
Being recognized for her work has had an effect on the dancers she works with, Slotnick says. When the men at Woodbourne read “Dancing Inside,” she says, “it reinforced their inspiration to do something positive.” As David Montalvo, a member of Figures in Flight Released, says in The Game Changer, a documentary by Indrani Kopal about Slotnick and her work, “being involved in [FIF5 and FIF Released] for so long, it’s [become] a statement from the soul. We are allowing you to see us for who we really are.”
And the work continues. At the end of the next school year, Slotnick will retire her “outside” dance company, FIF4, since the majority of the dancers will graduate from high school. Although this thought causes her some trepidation, she looks forward to experiencing the personal growth that comes with change. In the meantime, along with writing a memoir about her prison work, Slotnick is reviving Welcome to the World, a 20-minute dance for FIF4 and FIF Released. Created in 2001 in response to the war in Afghanistan, the choreography, in which students and former inmates work together, is in Slotnick’s opinion “the best . . . I’ve done,” she says. “It’s about the constantly changing world, about people waking up to the reality of what life is about: to loving each other, to helping each other, supporting each other.”
Receiving the Dance Studio Life “Generous Heart” Award is an unexpected gift, says Slotnick, who has spent her life doing work she believes is important without concern for recognition. After years of witnessing the personal tragedies experienced by all of her dancers, she says she believes that “a generous heart is a broken heart; when it breaks, the contents spill out. The contents of a heart are generous and loving.”
Lou Conte, founder and choreographer of Hubbard Street Dance Studio, will be honored at the city’s first-ever Fifth Star Awards on September 17 at 7pm at the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park.
DNA Info Chicago said the free event will include video tributes and live performances saluting Conte and his fellow award winners: sculptor Richard Hunt; Ramsey Lewis, Grammy-winning jazz composer, pianist, and radio personality; and Lois Weisberg, former Chicago cultural affairs commissioner.
After performing on Broadway and across the country, Conte established the Lou Conte Dance Studio in Chicago in 1974. In 1977, he founded what is now Hubbard Street Dance Chicago with four dancers.
The Fifth Star Awards reference Chicago’s four-star flag, with a symbolic “fifth star” as representative of the city’s leading artists and cultural institutions, event organizers said.
The event will also highlight the 125th anniversary of the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, a historic landmark that served as the first home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
To see the original story, visit http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140908/near-west-side/city-honor-hubbard-street-dance-founder-lou-conte.
Dance Complex and Green Street Studios, two renowned Cambridge, Massachusetts, dance centers that have survived myriad challenges over two decades, are joining forces for “Holding Hands While Dancing,” a collaborative benefit performance on November 2 that reflects the vision of new leadership at both organizations.
The venture marks the first time the two Cambridge centers have teamed up in this way, and their leaders hope it will lead to a more symbiotic relationship going forward. “We’re so on the same page,” said Lorraine Chapman, executive director of Green Street Studios, in a recent joint interview with Dance Complex executive director Peter DiMuro.
Dancer/choreographers as well as part-time administrators, DiMuro and Chapman are excited for the opportunity to bolster both organizations while dispelling some prevailing notions of competition. “There’s been this mythical rivalry, so it’s nice to debunk it by actually doing something together,” said DiMuro.
The November benefit will feature performances by DiMuro and Chapman, Anna Myer and Dancers, and David Parker and the Bang Group at Green Street Studios. Then a “tour guide” will lead the audience down Green Street and through the Dance Complex garden for the evening’s second half.
The 55-year-old DiMuro, officially became executive director of the Dance Complex in July 2013. A longtime denizen at Green Street Studios, Chapman, 46, stepped into the leadership position in mid-May. Both leaders aim not only to attract broader audiences for dance, but to educate audiences to appreciate the intricacies of the art form.
The concert will start at Green Street Studios, 185 Green Street, in Cambridge, and continue at the Dance Complex, 536, Massachusetts Avenue. Tickets are $25 to $100 and can be purchased by calling 617.547.9363 or online at http://www.dancecomplex.org.
Pineapple Dance Studios, a dance reality series centered around Pineapple Studios, a dance studio complex and performing arts school in London, England, that serves as a rehearsal space for some of the biggest and best West End shows, pop acts, and dance performances, will have its U.S. television premiere September 28 at 7pm (ET) on Ovation.
Broadway World said the series gives exclusive access to the world-famous dance space, capturing studio drama from auditions to dance-offs, spray-tans to pop meltdowns.
Pineapple Dance Studios follows a comical cast of real-life “characters,” including Louie Spence, the outrageous and outspoken artistic director; Andrew Stone, dance teacher and wannabe pop-star; Mark Battershall, dance teacher to the stars; YouTube divorcée sensation Tricia Walsh-Smith; and Debbie Moore, intrepid owner and founder of the studio.
The 12 episodes follow Moore, her teachers, and aspiring young dancers through auditions, video shoots, choreography sessions, and music recordings, all culminating in a special performance at London’s O2 arena celebrating the studio’s 30th anniversary.
Beginning September 28, Pineapple Dance Studios will air on consecutive Sundays on Ovation. To see the original story, visit http://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwtv/article/Ovation-to-Air-US-Premiere-of-PINEAPPLE-DANCE-STUDIOS-928-20140903.
Hip-hop performer JuWan Bizzell wanted to create a “different” class for Washington DC’s Momentum Dance & Fitness studio, so he decided to leverage the skills he’d learned while backing up drag queens in nightclub shows.
His high heels class, held every Friday, is more than just a chance to boogie down to kick off the weekend, Momentum owner Roberta Rothstein told the Washington Post—it’s also an education in how to wear high heels without injuring yourself.
Although Bizzell looks like a natural in his size 14 pumps, he promises that he wasn’t at first: “I felt like the weirdest thing in heels. I was a mess.” So if he can manage to stay upright during complicated routines, Bizzell says, his students can too.
It starts with a warm-up strut, so students get accustomed to standing tall and taking powerful strides across the studio. Then Bizzell drills a series of exercises. There’s the “flamingo stance,” which requires balancing on one leg. To make it harder, he has students perform standing side crunches (bring that upraised knee to your elbow).
Squats and calf raises come next, thankfully with some stretches in between to keep the leg muscles happy. Then there’s really good news: It’s time to kick off your shoes. Bizzell prefers that everyone learn the choreography for his dance routines in flats or bare feet as a safety measure.
Miraculously, when both the music and the shoes came on, no one fell over. “Somehow, by the end, I’ve always got it and I’m asking for more,” marveled Dinah Reese, 43.
To read the original story, visit http://www.washingtonpost.com/express/wp/2014/09/02/at-this-capitol-hill-dance-class-a-dude-teaches-you-to-how-to-move-in-high-heels/.
Dancing Grounds’ first Dance for Social Change Festival seeks to bring artists, activists, and community members together to inspire dialogue and action about key issues confronting New Orleans, according to the Times-Picayune.
The festival, under the theme “Overcoming Violence,” will be held September 21 from 2 to 5pm with activities and performances on the 1300-1700 blocks of Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard and in the Ashé Cultural Arts Center. Several site-specific contemporary dance performances are planned, and New Orleans youth will serve as tour guides, taking audience members from site to site and creating their own movement as they travel.
Collaborating partners include Ashé Cultural Arts Center, Junebug Productions, Youth Empowerment Project, KM Dance, The Movement Studio, and Cease Fire.
Community events include free master classes with the choreographers Thursdays in September from 7:30 to 8:45 at Dancing Grounds; free youth workshops (ages 12 and up) September 12 and 19 from 5:30 to 6:30pm at YEP Youth Center, and free performance excerpts on September 13 from 8:30 to 9:30 at Dancing Grounds.
For a full schedule, visit http://dancingrounds.org/dance-for-social-change/.
To see the original story, visit http://blog.nola.com/new_orleans/2014/08/dance_for_social_change_festiv.html.
Colorado Ballet has completed the move into its new home, a 30,000-square foot building at the north end of Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe Drive, reported Broadway World.
The new $6.5 million facility features seven state-of-the-art dance studios for the company and the Colorado Ballet Academy. The Armstrong Theater, a multi-use black box theater equipped with theatrical lighting, sound, and telescoping seats, will function as both a dance studio and performance space. Improved amenities for the company include locker rooms, showers, and a physical therapy room. The new academy location also includes a safe student drop-off area and increased parking in the neighborhood for academy families.
Colorado Ballet artistic director Gil Boggs said the new facility will allow the ballet to grow its outreach efforts and bring dance to thousands of school kids and people with disabilities. “We will also host small performances and events in our new theater, exposing more people to the magic of dance in this thriving arts neighborhood,” he said.
“This is the first time in our nearly 54-year history that we will own our building, and that is very exciting for everyone involved with Colorado Ballet,” said Boggs. “We have so much to celebrate in our organization, not just the new building, but also last season’s record-breaking attendance and performance revenue and our upcoming season of performances.”
To see the original story, visit http://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwdance/article/Colorado-Ballet-Moves-into-Denvers-Art-District-20140828#.VACLxM90yUk.
The National Dance Week Foundation is urging dance studios, dance teams, and dance troupe to join its anti-bullying Kick for Kindness Campaign, which will be celebrated this October and November.
Suggested activities include:
• Choreograph and film or perform a special dance, or learn one of three dances (beginner, intermediate, or advanced) that will be posted on the NDWF website in September.
• Sell NDWF Kick for Kindness red bracelets as fundraisers in support of anti-bullying.
• Create Kick for Kindness anti-bullying posters.
• Dedicate a half-time show or pep rally to Kick for Kindness.
Videos or photos of performances sent to NDWF will be posted on the NDWF website. Online voting for “favorite video” will be held the first two weeks in December.
NDWF will also award Special Service Awards to one individual and one group for their community efforts to eliminate bullying based on a submitted essay and photos. Awards will be given out during American Dance/Drill Team Nationals in March.
For more information, visit http://www.nationaldanceweek.org/kickline/2014/files/NDWF-KickforKindness.pdf.
Hanging near the front door of Miss Lori’s Dance Express in Temperance, Michigan, is a message in pink crayon, written in a young girl’s cursive handwriting: “When cancer is cured, we will dance for joy. For now, we dance for life.”
With her family, friends, and dancers by her side, that’s exactly what Lori Fain is doing.
The Monroe News reported that “Miss Lori” is battling breast cancer for the second time in six years, and this time, it’s moved into her lungs.
But Fain isn’t letting cancer stop her. She has life to live, life to plan, people to see, and much more dancing to do, she said. More important, she’s hoping to lead by example and show the young women who look up to her that cancer doesn’t have to take everything away. It doesn’t get to win.
“I know cancer all too well,” Fain said. “But I want the kids to know that just because you have this disease, it doesn’t have to control your life—you can take charge of it.”
Fain’s battles with cancer began when her oldest son, Jacob, was diagnosed when he was just 2. After treatment, Jacob was cancer-free for 10 years before the disease returned. He died, at age 14, in 2005. Not long after, when she lost a second son only 14 hours after he was born, her husband suggested she follow her dream and open a dance studio.
Fain’s dance studio is well known around Bedford Township as a place where girls are taught to love themselves and be respectful of others. “The trophies are all beautiful, but I want the girls to know that what’s more important is the person they are becoming,” she said. “They need to be kind to one another and be there for each other, support each other, because to me that’s what it’s all about.”
To see the full story, visit http://www.monroenews.com/news/2014/aug/26/bedford-dance-teacher-perserveres-she-battles-canc/.
Toddlers tend not to be the most dedicated dance students, but Travis Wall, who started taking classes at his mom Denise Wall’s Virginia Beach dance studio as soon as he could walk, was an exception. “I would behave in class. Sometimes you put a 2-year-old in a class, and they’re screaming and kicking. I was so focused and ready to go. I wanted to learn so much,” Wall tells Co.Create.
Wall studied everything in his mom’s studio, from contemporary to lyrical to jazz, and secured a role in The Music Man on Broadway when he was just 12. By 15, Wall was choreographing for dance competitions. At 18, he was runner-up on So You Think You Can Dance, and since then, has used the exposure he gained on the show to launch a career as a choreographer, dancer, company director, and celebrity.
Wall told Co.Create he confidently auditioned for SYTYCD in Los Angeles, and was surprised to be cut by a producer charged with selecting the dancers who would audition in front of the judging panel. Determined, Wall flew to Charleston, South Carolina, for another round of auditions. This time, audition supervisor Bonnie Lythgoe sent him to audition in front of her husband, Nigel Lythgoe, and the other judges.
According to Wall, both Lythgoes were perplexed that the dancer didn’t make it through the cattle call in LA, and Nigel asked who had cut him. Wall pointed to the producer, Jeff Thacker, who acknowledged his error, wrote the word “Words” on a piece of paper, and ate it. “He pretty much ate his words,” says Wall, adding that Thacker is like a father figure to him now.
To read the full interview, visit http://www.fastcocreate.com/3034678/then-and-now/getting-up-stepping-up-how-travis-wall-went-from-dancer-to-choreographer.
A dance organization that opened a center in Tribeca, New York City, earlier this year is set to launch even more programs and classes there this fall, after completing two floors of new high-tech arts spaces.
DNAInfo New York said Gibney Dance is in the midst of renovating its 32,000-square-foot home at 280 Broadway near Chambers Street—which formerly housed Dance New Amsterdam—in the hopes of building a modern, affordable creative hub for Lower Manhattan’s dancers, said Gina Gibney, the studio’s owner.
Gibney’s dance organization, which also has a studio at 890 Broadway in Flatiron, expanded to Tribeca in February and has already been offering dance and yoga classes from a handful of rooms on the two-level space’s second floor.
Renovations that are now underway will add a ground-floor performance and rehearsal studio equipped with projector screens and high-tech cameras, which dancers can use to record their work. They will also be able to edit what they record in a new digital working room. Both those spaces are set to open on October 30, Gibney said.
The performance studio will have windows facing Chambers Street so that passersby can watch dancers as they rehearse and perform, she added. Also under construction is a large studio and performance space on the second floor, which is expected to open on September 3.
The renovations are partially funded by $600,000 from the city, including $96,000 from Councilwoman Margaret Chin. Gibney hopes to raise a total of $10 million and has secured $3 million in private donations so far.
The new spaces will allow Gibney Dance to offer more programs starting in October, including workshops on money management and brand building for dancers. To read the full story, visit
The second annual Detroit Dance City Festival, set for August 22 to 24, brings together local and out-of-state dancers, both professionals and students, in a celebration of all things dance, with more than 20 all-day workshops, classes, and afternoon and evening performances in downtown Detroit.
“I love Detroit,” says Joori Jung, festival founder and artistic director of ArtLab J, told the Detroit News. “But there is still a bad perception about it. Detroit has so much potential and opportunity, but people don’t know it. So my goal is to bring more people to Detroit through dance and change their mindset.”
Jung, a native of Seoul, South Korea, moved to Detroit from New York two years ago to open a dance studio. She initially wanted to create a space for herself and local artists to workshop and showcase their completed or works in progress. What started as a bi-monthly showcase at her Eastern Market ArtLab J studio expanded into the first Detroit Dance City Festival. More than 1,000 participants attended last year, coming from as far away as New York.
DDCF’s 23 faculty members, who are all donating their time, include Jung and such local professionals as former Radio City Rockette Denise Caston and Tracy Pearson, a 2014 Kresge Fellow and dance instructor at Marygrove College in Detroit.
Professionals coming from out of state include Carolyn Dorfman of Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company from New York, and ballet dancer Sheena Annalise, founder of the all-female Arch Contemporary Ballet, also from New York.
The festival will run Friday through Sunday with workshops from 9:30am to 5pm at the Detroit Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts and The Carr Center, with performances at the YMCA Boll Theater and 1515 Broadway. Free dance classes and performances will also be held outdoors at Paradise Valley/Harmonie Park, all three days, from 11am to 5:30pm, followed by community after-parties from 9 to 11pm.
For more information, call 313.683.2192 or visit www.detroitdancecityfestival.com.
To see the original story, visit http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140821/ENT01/308210010/Detroit-Dance-City-Festival-brings-students-pros-together.
The Nashville Ballet is embarking on an unprecedented public fundraising campaign to finance an expansion project to grow studio space, renovate its Sylvan Heights headquarters, and dramatically increase the number of students, reported the Tennessean.
The nonprofit organization has already raised $3.7 million out of its goal of $5.5 million.
Plans call for the Martin Center for Nashville Ballet to grow from 3.5 studios to seven, and from 31,000 square feet to 44,000 square feet. Lobby space will be renovated, and bathrooms and locker rooms will also be upgraded.
“A big part of Nashville Ballet’s reputation, business, and role is to provide ballet education and dance education to the community,” said Nashville Ballet CEO and artistic director Paul Vasterling said, who added that the expansion will allow the ballet to offer more classes to students.
Student enrollment (from toddlers to adults) has increased from about 600 students in 2011 to 1,200 in 2013. Gerry Hayden, who serves as treasurer for the board of directors, anticipates that, following the expansion and renovation, the number of dance class students will increase by 1,200, about double its current capacity.
A music teacher was caught on surveillance video in June damaging equipment left by a dance studio that had rented the auditorium of Lake Shore High School, according to Evans [NY] police.
WIVB News reported this week that 4Dance Connection of Derby, New York, rented the auditorium between June 18 and 20. The dance studio owner set up her equipment on June 18, held a dress rehearsal, and then left the building. When she returned on Friday for the recital, she found three racks of costumes thrown around, six broken props, and a vinyl banner that had been ripped down.
The owner of the dance studio reported the incident and police investigated. Footage from the school cameras led police to arrest Glenn Molik, the music teacher at Lake Shore High School.
The 46-year-old Derby man is charged with third degree criminal tampering and criminal mischief.
To see the original story, visit http://wivb.com/2014/08/05/teacher-accused-of-damaging-dance-studios-property/.
Advice for dance teachers
After 16 years in business I am purchasing a building to make a new home for my studio. The new space is close to downtown, where there are a couple of schools that are very competitive. I have always done my best to stay on the good side of both owners.
About two weeks ago, I put up a sign at the new location to let everyone know the school will be opening there in the fall. Immediately I received an email from one of the other school owners, who threatened “war” if I followed through with my intent “to move into her territory.” She used words that are extremely hateful about me, my students, and the way I teach. She questioned whether my new building was zoned for a business, which it is, and then she wrote that she would immediately head to the town hall to put in a complaint.
During this past season, my school’s enrollment was more than 300 students, which is the perfect number to allow me to afford the new space. It is not my intention to take students from other studios. My school is non-competitive and has a family atmosphere, while both of these other studios do many competitions each year. I thought, and still do believe, that my student base is different than theirs and that my school is not a threat to anyone.
Since the day I opened my school it has been my intention to work hard to save the money to purchase a building, and I am finally there. But now my dream looks like it is going to be a nightmare, and that is a hard thing for me to accept. What should I do? How should I respond? I feel shattered right now. —Shattered
This situation will be a nightmare only if you allow it to turn out that way. Take a deep breath and realize that you are dealing with an insecure person who feels threatened by your presence. It takes two sides to engage in a war. Choose not to participate. If she persists, the only battle wounds will be hers—and her business will suffer.
Think about it this way. It would take her a lot of time and effort to go after you. If she chooses to spend her energy on you instead of on growing her school, building a loyal clientele, and being the best school owner she can be, then she will realize her biggest fear: losing students.
On the other hand, you are excited to own a building and confident that you can make this work. You’re putting all your energy into making your business thrive: providing excellent customer service and quality dance education in order to ensure a happy clientele. This will make you the victor in this woman’s so-called war. And that will happen without you firing a single shot.
As for a response, I don’t think one is necessary. Do save the email, in case you need it down the road, but my guess is that this woman is hoping for a negative reaction from you—such behavior would justify her first attack. Forget about her. Now is the time to pat yourself on the back for making your dream come true and get to work. Good luck! —Rhee
For most of my career I have taught in a college classroom while others have created the performance choreography. Essentially it was my belief that teaching and choreography are two different specialties.
During the last couple of terms I was required to choreograph on our students, but the experience was uncomfortable for me and I was disappointed in my work. It seems blah compared to the choreography done by my colleagues or guest choreographers. I think it is because I am obsessed with having everything be technically correct, which it is—but the audience always seems less than thrilled.
I am now preoccupied with rising to the challenge. This experience has made me realize that I have missed out on the artistic side of educating my students and myself. Where do I go to learn choreography? Do you know of programs or workshops that focus on choreography? Any input is appreciated. —Carolyn
Good for you for not running from the challenge—I like your style! This question is interesting to me because I think of teaching and choreography as being one and the same; however, I can understand how someone could teach and not choreograph if that was the only responsibility required of them.
There are many choreography workshops, especially at the university or college level. Check out the trade publications and do an internet search for choreography intensives or workshops.
For most choreographers, art is the number-one priority. The inspiration comes from your soul, from the dancers you’re working with, and from the emotions you want your audience to experience. The music is a huge part of the inspiration; if you listen closely, it will guide you in choosing what your dancers should do. At first, allow yourself the freedom to create without regard to the technical aspects. The dancers will apply what they’ve learned in the classroom as they become proficient with the movement; you can work on the technique as the piece progresses.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with the bodies you have in front of you; think about using levels, and what happens to the mood of the piece when the dancers are upstage or downstage. Also, be open to the movement concepts that arise when you collaborate with your dancers.
As “homework,” see every performance you can, and look for diversity in the kinds of shows you go to—modern dance and Broadway, tap and ballet, hip-hop and jazz and contemporary. Ignore the dancers’ technical proficiency (or lack thereof) and concentrate on the design of the movement and why you like or don’t like what you see. What emotions do you feel, and why? What would you like your audience to experience?
Always remember that the audience must be entertained or engaged; even if they have no idea what good technique is (I know that’s hard to hear), they will know if they were moved in some way.
I’ve got a feeling you’ll be just fine. Immerse yourself, and enjoy the experience. And let me know how it turns out. —Rhee
My husband and I have been performing professionally for many years. In the fall we are expecting our first child, a fact that has made us think about the future. My mother has had a school in the Midwest for years and has always wanted my husband and me to take it over. Now we are thinking about it.
I am apprehensive because I’m not sure my mother is really willing to pass the torch, both artistically and financially. She is a good teacher who is set in her ways. I think we would bring something fresh to the studio, but I know we would be frustrated if we couldn’t make some changes and be sure that we could make a good living to raise our family. Got any tips? —Nervous Dancer
It sounds like you need to have a talk with your mom to let her know that you are considering her offer—but then you need to clarify what taking over the school means to her. My guess is that she is probably not expecting the question, so be prepared to give her time to think about her answer. But let her talk to see if you get an inkling of what her thoughts might be.
If it seems like what she’s thinking is also what you have in mind, then find a neutral party (an accountant or lawyer) who will help you draw up a legal agreement that works for both your mother and your family. Don’t go with oral agreements or anything that’s unclear. It’s better for you and your mom to be in agreement about this transition than to create tensions that will hurt your family. Good luck! —Rhee
A plan to renovate a public library by adding dance studios has created a rift in the community—with some claiming it’s a sign the neighborhood is turning too “tony.”
DNAInfo NewYork said the Brooklyn [NY] Public Library is negotiating a $1.8 million renovation to its 7,500-square-foot Red Hook branch that would convert roughly half the main library room into dance and rehearsal studios for artists.
BPL is hoping to partner with Spaceworks, a nonprofit group and initiative of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, which would run the studios. The group is “dedicated to expanding the supply of long-term, affordable rehearsal and studio space for artists” and currently operates two artist workspaces in Long Island City and Gowanus.
Spaceworks would fund $650,000 of the total $1.8 million renovation, and the City Council would provide the remainder.
But the studios would invade a free and public space where adults and children come to read and learn, said locals at last week’s Community Board 6’s landmarks and land use public hearing.
“Isn’t that taking away from what we come to library for in the first place?” said Yasmin Rahman, who lives in Red Hook.
The proposal allows for Cora Dance, a Red Hook dance school and studio, to provide 100 hours of free programming in the new studios during the first year. Shannon Hummel, Cora’s founder and artistic director, highlighted the school’s affordable pay-what-you-can classes, a model she hoped to expand into the new space.
To read the full story, visit http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140725/red-hook/red-hook-locals-divided-over-plan-add-dance-studios-public-library.
A Devon, England–based supplier of dance equipment has boosted its profile in the U.S. after attending a reception held at the British Consulate in New York, according to Insider Media.
IDS (International Dance Supplies), which sells dancewear, shoes, costumes, accessories, fabrics, and other dance-related items such as barres and CDs, arranged the trip through UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and has since received orders from dance teachers across 48 states.
IDS was formed 35 years ago by Anne Walker, who had opened her own dance school at the age of 17. Initially she supplied her students with leotard and shoes from a local shop where she had negotiated discounted prices, but as the school developed, Walker decided to try and make leotards for her students herself. She borrowed some sewing equipment, enlisted the help of one mother and her older students (who cut out the garments), and began selling the garments they produced to other dance teachers.
Eventually, the dancewear manufacturing and sales needed to become a separate business from her dancing school. Today IDS is the UK’s largest wholesale dancewear supplier with a customer base of more than 14,000 dance teachers and retailers worldwide.
To see the original story, visit http://www.insidermedia.com/insider/south-west/119834-. For more information on IDS, visit http://www.ids.co.uk/Content.aspx/Info/History.
Five years ago Lania Berger, owner of the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Palm Harbor, Florida, heard about the nervousness visually impaired students were experiencing prior to a Valentine’s Day dance and wanted to lend a hand.
“Lots of people get nervous about a dance party, especially for Valentine’s Day, but now make it pre-teens who can’t see,” Berger told the Suncoast News. “The kids were terrified.”
Berger offered free lessons to the children from Lighthouse of Pinellas, an organization that assists blind and visually impaired person. That 2009 collaboration went so well that the studio continued working with Lighthouse students ever since. Thursday marked the studio’s annual Lighthouse for the Blind Dance Workshop, which the studio holds in celebration of National Dance Day.
“The idea behind National Dance Day is to get everybody up and moving and having fun,” Berger said. “We take this as a nice opportunity to bring a little more attention to an organization I so strongly believe in and have a great relationship with.”
To see the original story, visit http://suncoastnews.com/su/list/news-suncoast-pinellas/palm-harbor-dance-studio-helping-visually-impared-learn-some-steps-20140724/.
Millennium Dance Complex, a high-profile studio in North Hollywood, California, known for its connection to major stars such as Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, has opened its first franchise on the East Coast.
Tawni Darby, 23, is the owner and general manager of the new Millennium Pittsburgh on East Carson Street, South Side, Pittsburgh, which opened its doors in February and is planning a formal grand opening for this fall, reported the Post-Gazette.
The original Millennium was started at the Moro Landis Studios in January 1992 by co-CEOs AnnMarie Hudson and Robert Baker, and holds classes in ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and other genres while also providing audition and rehearsal space for recording artists like Britney Spears, Usher, and Justin Timberlake.
Darby, a former dancer, was about to begin law studies at the University of Pittsburgh when she saw that the California studio was expanding and submitted a franchise proposal, which was approved in spring of 2013. “To get into this business was always a dream,” says Darby, whose goal is to train and support local students who are pursuing professional careers.
Millennium Pittsburg will offer classes in genres such as ballet, contemporary, jazz fusion, and hip-hop on a drop-in basis, Monday through Saturday. Advance registration is required for master classes and intensive programs.
Other Millennium franchises are in Tokyo, Japan, and Salt Lake City, and plans to open locations in Texas have been announced. To read the full story, visit http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/theater-dance/2014/07/20/Millennium-Dance-opens-first-East-Coast-location-in-Pittsburgh/stories/201407100281.
For 40 years, a sales tax was never collected at Miss Dianna’s School of Dance in Kansas City because it was considered a place of education, said owner Dianna Pfaff. But the Missouri Department of Revenue is stepping up enforcement of sales tax on places of amusement, entertainment, or recreation, and dance practice might now fall under that category, reports FoxKC.com.
A year ago, the Missouri Department of Revenue audited her small business and slapped her with more than $73,000 worth of back taxes.
Missouri senator Ryan Silvey, stating that “You can’t raise somebody’s taxes by changing a definition,” helped propose a bill earlier this year that would have better defined places of education to include dance. But Missouri Governor Jay Nixon vetoed it in June.
“I think that [Nixon] is finding all ways to find revenue and forcing people to pay taxes by reinterpreting tax code. I think that’s a way he could get extra money,” Silvey said.
There are hopes to override the veto in September. “I don’t believe in what’s going on here and I have to fight for my families, and all the families who have children that take dance in the state of Missouri,” said Pfaff. “The struggle of paying for dance lessons is a little harder now.”
To see the original story, visit http://fox4kc.com/2014/07/14/sales-tax-changes-result-in-dance-studio-owner-being-hit-with-thousands-in-back-taxes/.
Jamie Osteen, co-owner and instructor at Relevé Performing Arts Center of Hendersonville, North Carolina, and her troupe of 75 dancers returned home from Kids Artistic Revue’s national competition in high spirits June 29.
But spirits crashed last week when a trailer holding most of the props used in their winning numbers was stolen from the studio parking lot, reported Blue Ridge Now. “They were coming back on such a high,” Osteen said. “To come home and have this happen, I just can’t believe this.”
Stolen was scenery from the troupe’s national championship number, The Auction, a spooky routine choreographed by Osteen in which dancers creep out of the walls and props on stage; and oversized props such as a large blue Lego and gigantic blades of grass used in a production number, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
When the theft happened, two trailers were parked outside the studio: a 10-foot-long trailer emblazoned with the company’s name, address, and phone number, and a plain 12-foot-long trailer the company had borrowed from the father of Osteen’s business partner. The borrowed trailer was missing.
“They couldn’t have hit us in a worse way,” Osteen said. “As much as I hate losing the trailer, it can be replaced. The props can’t be replaced.” She estimated the props to have been worth at least $1,000 to the company.
The troupe is still hoping its props may be returned, and some of them—such as a wooden mountain range large enough for 10-year-olds to scale—could be easy to spot.
To see the full story, visit http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20140708/ARTICLES/140709911
In a small storage room with no air conditioning at the Zimmerman Boys & Girls Club in central Fresno, California, a dozen youngsters in the Just Dance program must keep from banging into hockey equipment, boxes, and each other, but are having a blast learning how to dance.
The Modesto Bee said Just Dance was created last summer by San Joaquin Memorial High School and Fresno Dance Studio students Kaitlyn Xavier, 16, and Ashlee Schuh, 17. Every week, Xavier and Schuh take time between school and a rigorous rehearsal and performance schedule to teach children ages 6 to 12 basic dance moves.
“We wanted to share our passion for dance with little girls and boys that may not be able to afford to come to a dance studio,” Schuh said during the recent annual Fresno Dance Studio recital, where Just Dance children were guest performers.
The instructors sacrifice more than just time and energy to support Just Dance. Over the last year, they have sent out a barrage of emails asking for donations from friends, family, and teachers to help pay for costumes for performances. Schuh and Xavier spend their own money each week to provide the group with snacks.
Ralph Villarreal, grandfather of a Just Dance dancer, praised the program. “This is a great open door for these kids,” he said. “It’s an awesome experience for them.”
To see the full story, visit http://www.modbee.com/2014/07/08/3430330/fresno-teens-share-love-of-dance.html.
Rhode Island attorney general Peter Kilmartin has filed a lawsuit against a Warwick dance studio, claiming the studio owner’s fraudulent actions violate the state’s deceptive trade practices act, WPRI reported.
The studio, Triple Threat Performing Arts Center, was “rescued” in the first episode of a new reality show broadcast on Lifetime on June 24, in which the studio received more than $30,000 in donated flooring and other physical improvements.
In the weeks leading up to the lawsuit, the attorney general’s office received 20 written complaints against Triple Threat. The complaints allege that the owner, Marlaina Rapoza, took money from customers for certain dance competitions but “never informed her customers that their children would not be allowed to participate.”
Barbara Moses, whose child dances at the studio, said Rapoza claimed a competition that they paid for was canceled. “There was another competition that we didn’t get in, she said it was canceled actually,” said Moses. “I called them myself and they said ‘No, it wasn’t canceled, your studio just didn’t pay.’ ”
Other complaints allege that Rapoza’s checks to the consumers for reimbursement for canceled dance competitions and other services were returned due to insufficient funds.
The owner of Elite Dance Challenge, Sandra Walsh, claims that Triple Threat Performing Arts Center performed at one of her competitions in March, but the $6,000 check that Rapoza gave her was returned by the bank. She has filed a complaint with Rhode Island State Police.
WPRI’s Call 12 for Action made several attempts to reach Rapoza, who has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit. The phone at Triple Threat Performing Arts Center has been disconnected, emails went unanswered, and Rapoza’s cell phone no longer accepts messages.
To see the original story, visit http://wpri.com/2014/07/02/ag-files-lawsuit-against-warwick-dance-studio/.
The young women at Linda Dobbins Dance Studio in Mountain Brook, Alabama, are showing their appreciation for the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces with some sweets, choreographed moves, and well-wishes.
“With it being so close to the Fourth of July,” artistic director and studio owner Dobbins told AL.com, “I thought the girls needed to learn about our nation’s birthday and more about our troops.”
So, she said, she planned a patriotic week of classes at the studio. The girls learned military-style drills as part of their everyday conditioning routines, said Dobbins, all while wearing red, white, and blue dance attire and moving along to patriotic tunes.
The dancers also learned a patriotic dance routine choreographed by Anna Marie Dobbins and Lori Maddox and made 342 bags of cookies. A video recording of the routine, titled “For Everything You Do,” plus the nearly 2,000 cookies and a giant, handmade card were sent to U.S. Marines stationed in Spain.
Why Spain? Dobbins’ own nephew is stationed there. “It’s our own special way of saying ‘thank you,’” she said.
To see the original story and see the video, visit http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2014/07/mountain_brook_
Advice for dance teachers
I attended the DanceLife Teacher Conference in Phoenix last summer. I have made the exciting move of opening a studio, and I thank you for giving me knowledge about this process. Now I am creating a philosophy, goals, and a business plan, and I wondered if you could provide me with a few key elements that I should or shouldn’t include. Thank you! —Sophia
I would defer to professionals when it comes to your business plan. But I’ll give you some tips on strategy. As you launch, go for the preschool and once-a-week students market. Focus on their needs—learn everything you can about what they want and develop the best curriculums to make the parents feel that their children are receiving a solid dance education from teachers who care.
Some people open a school in hopes of attracting advanced dancers from other schools; I do not recommend that you go that route. Advanced dancers usually pay discounted tuition, require more of your time, and can be a financial burden on a new school. As you and your school grow, you will build strong dancers—which means when you’re ready to invest the time and effort (and finances) into working with the advanced dancers, they’ll be equally as prepared and committed.
Here are some specific questions to ask yourself, to help you analyze what’s working well right from the beginning. One, which age groups does your school attract? Two, which classes are the most successful? Three, which class days and times do your clients want?
Remember, the goal is to be different. Don’t put yourself into the same mold as the other schools in your area. Experiment with adult programs, and design some fun six- and eight-week programs as samplers or summer sessions. Make sure your preschool programs are top-quality and creative. And don’t forget to appreciate your staff, clients, and your own hard work. Have confidence in yourself and what you want to accomplish. Good luck! —Rhee
I have no idea how to handle this situation. I bought my studio in 2012; one of the former owners moved away, and the other one remained in the area. She and I were on good terms, and I continued to support her work after she left. I haven’t heard from her since I took over the school.
She has begun her own business as a master teacher and choreographer for local studios. She is sending resumes to these studios; however, she hasn’t approached me. The students at my studio who remember her do respect her, and I don’t want to change that. Many of them follow her new business on Facebook and Twitter. They would love to have her teach a class with us.
Her buyout agreement has a four-year non-compete, non-solicitation clause. I contacted the attorney who wrote the agreement, and he agrees that she has broken it. I am not threatened by her current business; in fact, I wouldn’t mind having her teach a class at my studio. But I have read comments on social media that indicate she is planning to offer regular classes. That does concern me.
Also, she has used video footage from my studio (her choreography, but done in my studio and at shows while she was still a co-owner). The agreement included her surrendering all files. I am not comfortable with her posting images of my studio’s clients and facility on her website.
The easiest thing to do is have the attorney send a letter to her asking her to stop, but I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do. I could call her (or write) to see if we can discuss the situation. I do want to approach the situation delicately. There is room in the city for both of us, and I want her to know that. But at the same time I want to protect my business. What do I do? —Nora
I too am not sure what to do in this situation. My first instinct is to call her, but you would have to be calm and professional. Don’t say anything about talking to a lawyer or anything else that might make her feel threatened. Let her know that you are aware that she is doing a lot of teaching and wants to expand to more classes. Listen to her and go with your instinct. If it seems as though her goal is to open a school or something like that, don’t say too much more. But if she wants to teach, perhaps you could ask her to come to your school.
If your instinct tells you that this might become a mess, let the lawyer take over.
One thing to think about: no matter what this teacher does, it will only be for a few more years that your current students will remember her. As time goes by, you will be the face of the school, and the students’ loyalty will be to you. Be sure that you go above and beyond for your clientele so that no one would think of leaving.
This is a kick in the butt for you, which could be a good thing in the long run. I wish you the best. —Rhee
Recently, one of my teachers quit because of how I handled a situation in which a parent took issue with her teaching style; her daughter wanted to quit dance because of it. This is not the first instance of this.
Last year we had a child in the studio who has ADHD and is on medication. This teacher would nag her for not paying attention and not remembering what was taught. She should have addressed it differently and approached me or the parent about what was going on. When the parent told me her child didn’t want to dance anymore because of how she felt in class, I met with her and the child.
After the meeting, I told the teacher about the parent’s concerns: her tone with the kids, lack of enthusiasm, and the fact that she greets nobody and never smiles. At first, the teacher tried to make those improvements. But the changes were short-lived.
Then I got a call from a different parent, whose child wants to quit because of the same issues with the same teacher. I contacted the teacher and she explained the difficulties and frustrations she had with the kids. When she complained that the kids weren’t getting the choreography, I suggested that she change it so the kids would shine and not struggle. She was adamantly against this and quite defensive at this point. She said nothing that addressed the well-being of any child or what she could do to remedy the issues. This concerned me.
I suggested that I take over her next class to see if I could formulate a plan to remedy any of the problems or frustrations she was experiencing. She didn’t want me in the class without her present, and told me she felt that excluding her from any discussions regarding her class was disrespecting her.
After she quit, I had a discussion with the class. The impression I got was that several children were seriously intimidated by this teacher. She’d threatened to “rip out” choreography and give them “baby steps” if they didn’t get it right or make them stand onstage with nothing to do if they didn’t practice. All of the kids were afraid, anxious, and fearful in her class. They were relieved when I told them their teacher was gone.
I’ve always prided myself on building confidence. This teacher came to me from another studio in a terribly timid state of mind, ready to give up dance. She had zero confidence and I changed that for her. But when she quit, she said that I was disrespecting her as a teacher.
Do I reach out to her and try to talk about how she was perceived, so she has the opportunity to reflect and work on bettering herself? Or do I let her go, knowing she might make the same mistakes somewhere else? Thanks! —Emily
I think you should do yourself a favor and not contact this teacher. You have explained to her several times over what you wanted her to improve, and she chose not to follow your suggestions. Let her move on; you’ve done as much as you can.
I suggest focusing on doing everything you can to make the rest of the year as positive, fun, and rewarding an experience as possible for this teacher’s former students. Good luck. —Rhee
By Misty Lown
Your biggest competition isn’t the studio down the street; it’s the other activities that vie for our students’ attention. With a vast array of afterschool activities available to most kids, it’s more important than ever to create a sense of urgency and excitement about your dance studio’s registration season. Delivering unique messages to different target audiences can move potential clients from inaction to action when it comes to registration and commitment.
The point of marketing isn’t merely to get your brand noticed or your story “out there.” What you want to do is get your message into the hands and hearts of specific audiences. I divide my audience into four sub-groups and cater my marketing to speak to the interests of each one.
The point of marketing isn’t merely to get your brand noticed. What you want to do is get your message into the hands and hearts of specific audiences.
The first category is “prospects.” There are plenty of 2- to 6-year-olds who have never taken dance lessons. My goal is to get my message to their parents. These parents are “newbies”—new to dance and children’s activities in general. They are looking for entry-level programs that have great reputations. My task is to shape our marketing messages to show the value of dance as an activity. My themes often include joy, grace, fun, and positive classrooms.
The second category is “nibblers.” You might not recognize the label, but you know them well. They try a summer sampler and seem to enjoy it, but don’t register for regular classes. My goal in marketing to this group is to remind parents of the fun their kids had, the joy of learning a new style of dance, and the excitement that awaits them in the full school-year program. Parents of nibblers value the same things prospects do, but they need a better reason than fun to commit to a full season of classes.
The biggest reason that nibblers don’t dive in is that they liked dance, but they didn’t love it. This is a great reminder that our job as teachers is not only to teach kids steps but to help them to fall in love with dance. If they do, the weekly lessons and skill mastery will follow.
The third category is “dabblers.” The child is enrolled in dance but is also signed up for soccer, basketball, hula, and underwater basketweaving—all on Monday nights. This is perhaps the most challenging group to reach. Dabblers tend to tune out traditional marketing messages because they think, “That doesn’t apply to me because I’m already registered for classes.” Enrolled, sure, but I wouldn’t call them engaged or committed. This is the group for whom I shift my message from painting a picture of the fun and excitement of dance to the value of teamwork and being in a community of learners. My objective is to get dabblers to think of the studio as their home team and to want to spend more time honing their craft.
The last category is the “marathoners.” We don’t have any trouble getting these dedicated dancers to re-enroll each fall. Our challenge, however, is keeping them growing and passionate about their classes and team. You’ve heard the phrase, “familiarity breeds contempt”? So can 15 hours of class per week with the same people. We’ve all seen students who have put in 10-plus years of training walk away from classes in favor of school teams and social time. The challenge with this group is to balance the discipline of daily classes with the camaraderie and excitement of opportunities such as master classes, auditions, and study outside the studio.
I have one studio with four different audiences and four different messages. Your audiences might not be the same as mine, but I guarantee that you do have more than one group to market to at any given time. Before you sit down to write your next promotional piece, ask yourself, “Who am I talking to?”
Tap meets ballet at Thomas Armour Youth Ballet, and the results are anything but mixed
By Ryan P. Casey
You wouldn’t expect to find tap among the offerings at Thomas Armour Youth Ballet, a Miami studio rooted in ballet since 1951. But today this classical ballet school, formerly called The Miami Conservatory, encourages students ages 7 and up to study tap and ballet; for the members of its Tap Team, both forms of dance are required. The result? A win-win scenario.
Tap takes root
According to Miami native and TAYB teacher (and alum) Natasha Williams, 27, the birth of the tap team marked the beginning of a stronger tap presence in her home city. “There were lots of opportunities for dancers who studied modern or ballet,” she says, “but no groups or companies doing tap performances. I wanted my students to have something to work for besides the annual recital. And, as they get older, maybe someday I’ll have my own company.”
Ballet helps [students] learn to use their upper body and arms, which is essential for tap. They develop proper alignment and balance, they’re able to turn, and they know more terminology. —Natasha Williams
TAYB’s expansion into tap happened in 2007, when Williams stopped in to take a ballet class at her former studio. Unbeknownst to her, she was walking into a new job opportunity. The studio’s director, Ruth Wiesen, wanted to diversify the curriculum, and she asked Williams, who had studied tap, jazz, and ballet since childhood, to teach tap.
Williams chose to focus on tap after graduating from New World School of the Arts and studying business at Florida International University; she subsequently attended the inaugural tap program at The School at Jacob’s Pillow in 2010.
Now TAYB’s sole tap instructor, Williams says ballet is a boon to her students. “Ballet helps them learn to use their upper body and arms, which is essential for tap. They develop proper alignment and balance, they’re able to turn, and they know more terminology.” That allows her to “incorporate traditional dance moves and basic jazz steps into choreography, not just tap footwork,” she says. And there are more benefits: the students’ “attention to detail improves,” Williams says. And, she adds, “tap helps them musically in ballet. They can figure out the timing of the steps, or identify whether they’re dancing in waltz or 4/4 time.”
Ballet teacher Rosalyn Deshauters agrees. For ballet students, the benefits of tap include “understanding of rhythms,” she says. “My students really get excited by challenging rhythms and quick movement, so I remind them of the steps they’ve learned in tap.” Plus, Deshauters points out, “Many tap steps can be related to ballet steps—like the shuffle, for instance. The in-and-out movement of the leg bending at the knee is like a frappé, as one of my third-grade students pointed out one day.”
“A lot of young ballet students sit back in their heels; tap forces them to be more forward on their feet,” Wiesen adds. “Tap also gives them instant gratification because they can make sounds, and they move across the floor sooner. And it’s a safer choice for male students who are struggling with sexual identity, or who might have fathers or uncles who don’t approve of dance. If I can hook them with tap, maybe I can get them into ballet.”
Tap Team advances
Since 2010, TAYB has offered tap in three levels. Due to space and time constraints at the main studio, all tap classes are held at the school’s satellite locations.
By 2011, some tappers had progressed to an advanced level—but there were no youth companies or performance opportunities for them in the city. So Williams pitched the idea of the Tap Team, which would give the studio’s most skilled hoofers more training and additional shows, including those for which they could earn community-service hours for their academic schools. With Wiesen’s blessing, an eight-member team was formed and quickly flourished; it now boasts 23 members, most of whom are scholarship students. In 2012, Williams and the ensemble performed at a TEDx event; at the countywide Young Talent Big Dreams competition they nabbed a win in the group dance category. Several professional tappers, including Chloe Arnold, Sarah Reich, and Jason Holley, have taught master classes at TAYB.
Through history’s lens
The studio’s curriculum is designed around a framework that incorporates the history of music, art, and dance. Each year all classes explore influences from a certain time period. Last season’s focus was the 1900s through the 1950s: in ballet class, students read about dancers like Margot Fonteyn and choreographer Michel Fokine and watched films of ballets such as Les Sylphides and The Prodigal Son. Tappers studied jazz of the period, from the ragtime of Scott Joplin to the swing of Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, and other legends.
“Studying dance history and music history always resonated more with me than studying dates and wars and emperors,” Wiesen says. “I decided to take that holistic approach with our students, to show them how art has reflected what has happened in the world, and how world events have affected art.”
Students recently finished their study of the period from the 1950s to the present. Deshauters enlightened her dancers on Alvin Ailey and his most famous piece, Revelations, while Williams challenged students to watch footage of famous tap dancers and try to re-create some of their steps. Other classes listened to Motown music and read books on Martin Luther King Jr. and segregation.
Students have also completed art projects: collages inspired by the study of Matisse, flowered headpieces influenced by Frida Kahlo, and murals in the style of iconic 1980s artist Keith Haring, to name a few.
“They learn about history and the world through dance,” Williams says. “And since all the teachers follow the same curriculum for technique and history, a student who switches classes won’t be confused or study something radically different from what they are used to. It makes the studio more cohesive.”
Ballet and tap work together onstage as well as in the curriculum. For the past two years, TAYB has collaborated in performances with the Greater Miami Youth Symphony, a community-based orchestra program that provides students ages 5 to 18 with professional training and performance experience. In 2012, two ballet dancers and two tap dancers presented a piece to “Summer” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
“Seeing the ballet dancers perform their steps and then the tappers perform their steps to the same music shows the diversity of movement and music interpretation,” Deshauters says. “It’s good for the kids to see that there is more than one way to interpret music, and anyone can do it. You don’t have to label yourself as a tap dancer or ballet dancer. Even though a piece of music sounds a certain way, you can dance to it however you want.”
Last year, a rendition of the Benny Goodman classic “Sing, Sing, Sing” combined ballet, tap, jazz, and modern (offered only to older, advanced students). All of the performers were Tap Team members, whose versatility Williams attributes to their strong cross-training.
“People think tappers can only dance fast and staccato, and ballet can only be allegro or adagio,” Wiesen says. “They’re surprised to learn otherwise. The dancers and the musicians have a real connection. They all work as a team.”
It’s a team effort that keeps TAYB’s award-winning programs running year after year for more than 1,100 students in five locations.
“We do our very best to help kids all around,” Williams says. “Whatever it takes to get kids to class, we’ll do it.”
“I’ve always felt that tap would be a good partner with ballet,” Wiesen says. “They enhance each other. And my students benefit from a more well-rounded dance education.”
Scholarships + Outreach = Success
TAYB’s Tap Team could not exist without the aid of the studio’s scholarship program, which owner Ruth Wiesen, then a relatively new instructor, founded in 1988 as a way to help more students access Miami’s magnet programs in the arts. Funded largely by The Children’s Trust, a property tax–driven funding source that serves the children of Miami-Dade County, the scholarships ensure high-quality dance training for nearly 600 students from low-income families, who are charged only an annual fee of $10. The dancers also receive leotards, tights, and dance shoes.
“Quality classical dance training is not within reach for a majority of children in our community,” Wiesen says. “Classes are expensive, and the schools are located in the most advantaged areas of the community.”
Along with their dance education, TAYB scholarship students receive assistance through The Children’s Trust with issues that affect them and their families and their success beyond the classroom, including tutoring, medical and dental care, lunch money, legal fees, bus fare, and audition coaching for middle and high school arts programs. TAYB also serves as a conduit to agencies that can intervene in situations such as immigration, domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, and sexual identity crises. The program once helped seek housing for a family whose home was condemned and demolished following extensive damage from Hurricane Irene.
Initially the scholarships helped only kids who lived close to the studio; with working parents or no family vehicle, many students could not attend until they were old enough to take public transportation. If the kids couldn’t come to the studio, Wiesen reasoned, the studio had to go to them. In 2000, she approached the principal of Morningside Elementary School in the neighborhood of Little Haiti, whom she knew to be an arts enthusiast, and learned that there was an unused classroom. It became the program’s first outreach site, the fourth and most recent of which opened at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreation Complex in Miami Gardens in 2011. TAYB pays no rent for these sites and provides the same teachers and curriculums as at the main studio.
“The long-term goal of the program is to ensure a college education for all students by laying a foundation of a strong work ethic, social skills, discipline, consistency, focus, and the ability to delay gratification,” says Wiesen.
All scholarship students graduate from high school: 98 percent of them attend college, while 2 percent pursue professional dance careers, according to Wiesen. In 2013, one graduating high school senior was admitted to The Juilliard School. Alumni of the scholarship program include Robert Battle, artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and several current and former members of Martha Graham Dance Company.
How school owners can manage their time to yield the most value
By Karen White
To keep a studio running, an owner must constantly make decisions based on the perceived value of services. Is that master teacher worth her pricey salary? Will a costly renovation be worth the time and effort? How much of a return will a professional marketing campaign yield? But many owners neglect to consider the value of one critical ingredient of business success—their own time.
“Think of time as having value, and manage your time to maximize that value,” says Rhee Gold, publisher of Dance Studio Life. He cites a quote by M. Scott Peck, a psychiatrist and author of The Road Less Traveled: “Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.”
Often owners feel they cannot afford to hire experienced, professional help. Others fear that hiring personnel for tasks they commonly handle themselves will lead to a loss of control.
“You want to grow your business, but many owners have no time to work on growth because they’re going day to day, dealing with mainstream things,” Gold says. “Then they stay in the same place and are frustrated because they’re not growing as fast as they could.”
It’s an easy trap to fall into: faced with the expenses of running a studio, owners often make financial decisions based purely on dollars and cents. They’ll get a mom to man the front desk in exchange for lessons, Gold says, or shave $80 off a $1,200 printing bill by folding the recital programs themselves.
Upfront, such deals appear to save money. But often the owners end up spending hours of their own time making sure things get done, and done right—picking up the slack for the inexperienced mom who is fumbling her way through her front-desk tasks, for example. Of course the owners can man the desk and fold programs—but should they? What is the value of their time?
In seminars with school owners, Gold often illustrates his point with a simple scenario. Imagine you are a business consultant charging $100 an hour. If you spend four hours on business-growth–oriented tasks, such as creating a marketing campaign or designing a new curriculum, you’ve created $400 in value. So why would you spend that time doing basic office tasks that you could pay someone else $12 an hour to handle?
“I always say that if you figured out what you’re worth and what you can produce, you would discover that it would be worth investing the money to hire the right person in the first place,” Gold says.
It’s helpful to consider value when hiring as well. For example, an owner might hesitate to replace her ineffective but inexpensive front-desk person with an experienced manager who’s gung ho about selling classes, Gold says. But if the better salesperson signs up three or four new students each month, those sales would more than pay for the additional salary.
Often owners feel they cannot afford to hire experienced, professional help. Others fear that hiring personnel for tasks they commonly handle themselves will lead to a loss of control. Still others, Gold says, suffer from a lack of self-confidence that’s perpetuated by family members or clientele who consider the studio business no more than a “nice hobby.”
Owners who hesitate to spend more on staff or professional services should look around their own school first for hidden value, Gold says. Seek out and put to work parents or teachers’ spouses who are creative, enthusiastic, and have experience in business-related industries such as marketing.
Once the gains made by utilizing these in-house resources become apparent, owners should feel more comfortable about using professional services. “Say you want a really good printed brochure. You pay a graphic artist to lay it out, then you build a relationship with him so that eventually everything you present is branded similarly,” Gold says. “Surrounding yourself with professionals will make your business look better every time.”
One resource often left untapped is a studio’s faculty. Dance teachers are very creative, Gold says, and can take all sorts of projects off your plate, such as creating a fun preschool camp. Talk to your faculty, he says. Discuss projects or goals you would like to pursue, and ask them how they might be able to contribute. Always offer something in exchange, he says, because each teacher’s time has value. Establish an administrative wage for projects and tasks, or agree in advance on a set fee per project.
Making valuable contributions “will make teachers feel like they have a bigger stake in the business,” Gold says. “I tie this into time management because when you lose teachers, a loss of time and income is inevitable. It also causes you to be stressed out, and then you can’t get important things done.”
Once school owners think about their time as having value, managing that time well and wisely becomes a top priority. Perusing Facebook? Worrying about the studio down the street? Giant time-wasters. But thinking of creative ways to use social media or jotting down growth ideas is time well spent.
“Part of good time management is finding something non-dance-related to do every once in a while. Go out with an old friend; have a conversation,” Gold says. Time spent away from the studio can make you feel fresh and rejuvenated.
Teachers, Gold says, should also manage their time for maximum value. Spending time figuring out lesson plans in advance and setting long-term goals for each class will pay dividends. “To really enjoy what you do, you have to put time and effort into those classes,” he says. “If you wing it, you’re not going to feel good, the students won’t feel good, and it’s not going to be fun.”
Remember that good time management is a choice. “I could get up today and say, ‘I am going to get three major things done,’ and bang, bang, bang, they’re done,” Gold says. “Or I could say, ‘What’s on TV?’ ” He points out a well-known quote by Benjamin Franklin: “Time is money.”
A change for the better can start with only one hour of effort a day, Gold says. Put it on your calendar and use it to do something that is directly related to growing your business. “You reap what you sow. You can’t help but grow your business if you’re dedicated to it, just like you can’t not become a better teacher if you take a class from a master teacher three or four times a year.”
To avoid time-sucking distractions, turn off all machines and work in your studio during off hours—an empty studio can be very inspiring, Gold says. Think about customer service or come up with creative new programming. If you find it difficult to focus, set business-growth work hours and give yourself a paycheck. Then give yourself a raise. Have confidence in yourself and in your business, and do what you know needs to be done.
“I believe people can do anything they want to. You want to grow your business—are you willing to give up this to have that? If not, don’t go for it. But if you do go for it, plunge in full force,” Gold says. “It will cost you $100 a week to have your studio cleaned, so you pay someone to do it while you spend those hours making your business better. In the end, what has more value?”
How to make staff meetings pay off
By Megan Donahue
A dance studio isn’t like an office. Without a conference room and water cooler, your teaching staff may not even meet one another until recital time. Working alone, they may miss out on the expertise of their peers and feel disconnected from the studio. That’s why it’s important to hold regular staff meetings. Done right, these meetings can be a highlight of working for your studio.
Along with an opportunity to connect on a regular basis and exchange valuable information, meetings can create a unified focus, eliminate confusion, and solve minor problems before they turn into big issues. Staff members get to know one another and exchange ideas, music, and teaching tips.
Getting them there
As useful as meetings are, getting your staff together may be a challenge. They may teach at multiple studios or have day jobs and family commitments. “You need to schedule the meeting at a time that’s good for them,” says Lynda Zugec of The Workforce Consultants, a New York- and Toronto-based human resources consulting firm. She recommends using technology to streamline the scheduling process.
Applications like WhenIsGood or Google’s Doodle allow you to see which dates and times work best for the largest number of people and do so with minimal discussion. The details vary, but each site allows your staff to choose the dates that work for them; at a glance, you can choose the optimal meeting date without having to send and receive dozens of emails.
Staff meetings can create a unified focus, eliminate confusion, and solve minor problems before they turn into big issues.
If a lower-tech solution is more your style, try what works well for studio owner Lauri Gregoire of Bellevue Dance Center in Nashville, Tennessee: she sets all of the meetings for the year before the dance season starts. She pays her staff a flat rate for meeting attendance, and her meetings are mandatory as a condition of employment. The best date for her is the first Friday of the month, when most of her staff teaches classes at the studio. By letting them know about the dates well ahead of time, Gregoire hasn’t had any difficulty with attendance. “No one has missed any meetings, and they have brought us closer as a staff,” she says.
Technology—conference calls and video chatting options like Skype and Google’s Hangouts—also allows staffers who can’t attend a meeting in person to be included. “Using technology does save time and promotes efficiency, especially when you’re not paying people” to attend, says Zugec.
If staff members routinely miss meetings, it may be time for a conversation. Ask about the barriers to their attendance—is the meeting at a bad time? Is the meeting too short and too far away to justify a commute? Do they need additional reminders of the date and time? Work together to find a way for them to participate. Sometimes explaining why you’re calling a meeting and want everyone to attend is enough to make your staff prioritize being there.
Keeping them there
Meetings go smoothly when everyone is prepared. Emailing an agenda beforehand allows everyone “to put their thoughts together and express them more clearly,” Zugec says. Asking for additions to the agenda ahead of time gives people a chance to bring up issues you might not be aware of and prevents the meeting from going off on tangents.
Once you’ve gotten everyone together, use this opportunity to engage with your staff and create an environment of positivity and teamwork. “Everybody wants to have their voice heard,” Zugec says. “If the environment is not collaborative, people are not likely to want to attend.”
She recommends soliciting feedback and solutions from attendees, rather than simply giving them information. “In a collaborative meeting, all are engaged; all are working together,” says Zugec. People pay attention when they learn that their participation makes a difference, so use your staff’s suggestions whenever you can.
It’s even more important to bring staff members who aren’t physically present into the conversation. “If you can do video, that’s helpful,” Zugec says; phone calls make it easy for listeners to zone out, especially in a discussion that involves several people. People tend to feel more accountable to people who see them in a video chat. Ask specifically for telecommuting staff members’ thoughts. A quick, “Sara, do you have a thought on this?” can make a video chatter feel more included.
Lindsay Roberts of Southern Dance Connection in Greer, South Carolina, has found that collaborative meetings benefit her as a studio owner by giving her a direct line of communication. “We ask, ‘How can we improve as a studio?’ ” she says. Holding regular meetings has made her staffers “more comfortable and more likely to tell me if there’s a problem.” Soliciting her staff’s feedback and taking it into account creates a greater connection among the staff and the studio. “I want them to feel ownership of the studio,” Roberts says. “I try to make it so it’s not a hierarchy—everyone’s view is valued.”
Gregoire too has found the increased communication to be an asset. Her teachers “feel confident that they can come to me with new ideas; it gives them more of a voice,” she says. “They feel I value them rather than dictate to them.” When she sent out mid-year evaluations asking her staff how the year was going, she says, “Every person said they appreciated the monthly staff meetings.”
A meeting your staff looks forward to
Some school owners pay their staff to attend meetings, while others do not. Roberts includes quarterly meetings as a standard part of a teaching contract, without pay. Gregoire pays a flat fee of $15 per person per meeting.
“If you don’t have the money, there are other ways to reward them,” says Zugec. Small things like holding a meeting outside on a nice day or at a coffee shop can go a long way toward making your staff feel happy—and that their time is valued. “Anything you can do to make it interesting for them is going to help,” Zugec says.
“I like to have some element of fun,” Roberts says. “I try, if at all possible, not to have the meeting at the studio.” She held one meeting at an indoor trampoline facility. Everyone spent the first hour bouncing and the second hour discussing studio issues.
Roberts pays all costs associated with the meetings. Even though Gregoire pays her staff to attend, she occasionally surprises them with lunch. She recommends “making a little extra effort to make it enjoyable.”
Gregoire and her staff are discovering the real reward of better communication—a more relaxed work environment. They’re not as stressed, she says, and “we’re better at time management.”
Before she implemented regular staff meetings, Gregoire gave her staffers information haphazardly, when she saw them; often, she would miss people, who then felt out of the loop or less important. Now everyone gets all of the information at the same time, and deadlines don’t sneak up on anyone. The entire staff starts each month together. “I don’t know how I did it before!” she says.
The benefits of staff meetings can stretch beyond communication—a happy, well-organized staff brings real value to a studio. Your employees “can go a long way in promoting your business,” says Zugec.
How to take over a school without the trauma of transition
By Lea Marshall
Transitions are often difficult. In the case of schools changing ownership, there are worries, often realistic, about staff turnover, student attrition, and resistance from parents about new policies. But when Kari Fisher, a dance teacher with no experience running a school, suddenly became a studio owner, the results were positive. Rather than losing students, within one year, Fisher says, enrollment at the newly christened Synergy Dance Academy in Madison, Wisconsin, had grown by 60 students; another 35 have enrolled since then. She retained her teaching staff and implemented successful new programs and classes.
What’s Fisher’s secret? “I know a large part of it is my personality,” she says, “because I’ve been told that. I’m very welcoming, and I genuinely love kids.”
It was devastating for the kids when the retirement was announced; they thought the teachers were going to scatter. . . . It’s a brand-new studio, but in the same space, with the same teachers. —Kari Fisher
There’s more to it than that, however. Fisher studied dance into her early 20s, then pursued an associate’s degree in commercial art, followed by a BA in elementary education. As a stay-at-home mom, she devoted considerable energy to volunteer work with the Junior League and her own mural-painting business, all the while building skills, experience, and relationships that would serve her well as a studio owner.
Fisher began teaching at the school her daughters, now 11 and 15, had been dancing at since age 3. “I got to know the owner well,” she says. “I said, ‘I have a background in education and I’d love to work with kids, since my kids are getting older.’ ”
She says she and the other teachers had said that if the school owner ever retired, it would be great if they could stay together. “We all got along well; we had a successful team,” she says. The organizational structure, level of technique, and sense of family at the studio were all in place.
After teaching 5- to 7-year-olds for a few years, Fisher told her husband “Someday I’d like to own a dance studio.” His response, after a long sigh, was, “OK, sure.”
Then the school’s owner announced her plan to retire. It would be a shame if the business folded, Fisher thought, so she took on the task.
Shifting into high gear
Since the owner’s retirement announcement came out of the blue, Fisher had to act fast. “The owner bowed out, and my husband and I were able to renegotiate the lease,” she says. “I had a quick meeting with all the teachers. On July 1, 2012, we took over the school and opened our doors on August 15. We basically had six weeks.” During those weeks they repainted, and installed new barres, lobby furniture, desk furniture, cubbies in the dressing room, and four new sound systems. Fisher built a new website, and began using Jackrabbit’s web-based studio management software. “I did a lot of fast learning,” she says.
But she felt secure in the studio’s existing community. “It was devastating for the kids when the retirement was announced; they thought the teachers were going to scatter,” Fisher says. “Then I said, ‘We’re going to keep it going, though we’re going to change it.’ It’s a brand-new studio, but in the same space, with the same teachers. I knew the parents were going to stay and the kids wanted to stay with their teachers.”
New classes were a must, says Fisher. “The previous studio didn’t offer contemporary and wasn’t into hip-hop,” so she added three contemporary classes and five hip-hop classes initially, and is now up to six and eight, respectively. “That has boosted everything,” she says. “I can’t tell you how many hip-hop and contemporary classes are just on fire.”
More classes also meant more teachers. Fisher started with nine and now employs 16. “I’ve surrounded myself with wonderful people,” she says. “I have a fantastic office manager, a workaholic, who gets things done before I realize they need to get done.”
Though she inherited the studio’s client base, Fisher didn’t rest there. Beyond expanding the class schedule, she streamlined and improved the nuts-and-bolts of studio management and marketing.
The new website made a difference: Fisher says parents who searched online for dance studios would tell her, “Your website was the one I liked the most.” Using Jackrabbit simplified registration. “You register online, and it’s super easy,” she says. “I wanted it to be very easy to do business with me. I wanted parents to be able, if they wake up at three in the morning thinking, ‘I need to sign my kid up,’ to do it right then. People have said repeatedly how much they like the convenience.”
In addition to the website, the studio has a Facebook page where Fisher posts as often as she can. “I try to post two to three times a week—congratulations to our team, miscellaneous pictures, announcements about upcoming master classes, exercise classes, other community events that we’re participating in,” she says. “My teachers also have access to the page. My older teen teachers are good about posting studio happenings on Instagram.”
Connections and visibility
Synergy gains visibility in two ways: by getting the performing company out into the community and by bringing other groups into the studio. Fisher’s troupe recently performed at a Harlem Globetrotters game and in two parades. Adult exercise classes are held at the studio, and a karate group rents space there.
Fisher tries to have as much going on under the Synergy roof as possible. “I have a lot of connections in the community, so that helps,” she says. “My involvement in the Junior League and my connections through painting helped spread the word of the studio opening, as well as what other options were available—renting space, birthday parties, etc.,” she says. “A large number of my friends send their kids here because they know me and they know what kind of studio I run. I’ve lived in Madison my whole life, so I know a lot of people.”
Community clearly means a lot to Fisher, and that shapes both the way she works and the way she structures the studio spaces. She set up what she calls The Chill Zone at the studio for young teens. “There’s a disco ball in there, and bean bag chairs,” she says. “They hang out in there, doing their homework, chilling out. It’s a fun place for them to be.”
On a deeper level, Fisher offers the Chance to Dance program “for kids who have disabilities, taught by a teacher whose son has autism,” she says. “We started Chance to Dance right away when we opened. We have had wonderful donations from various families and from our Booster Club, so for the last year we have not charged any of the participants.” The class runs on a drop-in basis, with anywhere from three to nine students. “This year they are going to perform in our Summer Showcase,” says Fisher. “We are super excited about it!”
With such immediate success, Fisher has a right to be proud. But she has a level head and maintains a healthy perspective on the endeavor, realizing how luck and timing and community have contributed to her own efforts. “My philosophy is that I’m steering the ship; [the teachers] are doing the paddling, but I need to steer it in the right direction. I don’t take anything personally,” she says. “My mom almost died a couple years ago and it was a very traumatic situation. Since then I look at things like, ‘Really? I’m not going to get too upset if someone doesn’t have the right rhinestones.’ ”
“People say to me, ‘I wouldn’t want your job with all that stress,’ and I don’t look at it like that at all. I look forward to giving back.”
How two dance lovers tapped into their retirement time and money and bought a school
By Lois Burch O’Brian
At Off Broadway Dance Company, owners Pat Balderas and Geri Messer, both 66, are having as much fun as their students. That’s not unheard of. But what’s unusual at this Toledo-based studio, now in its third year, is the fact that these two women, neither of whom had thought about owning a dance school, came out of retirement to do just that.
Balderas, who retired from her job as a court administrator in May 2010, had planned to spend her retirement years traveling, spending time with her granddaughter, and helping her husband, Joe Balderas, at the nonprofit cultural center he directs. Messer, a nurse, found retirement unfulfilling, too lacking in activities and organizational challenges. She was the catalyst Balderas needed to make the transition into a second career.
Not everyone would be comfortable using retirement funds to start a new business, but Messer and Balderas had reason to think they would recoup their investment in a reasonable time.
To launch the school, the two women tapped into their retirement funds. That might sound crazy, but after two and a half years, they are making a profit and have already expanded by renting extra space.
How it began
Balderas started studying tap 20 years ago, at the studio she now co-owns. Ten years ago she started teaching beginner classes and working closely with the owner on the business end. She had observed that the owner could have been more proactive about growing the business and securing its finances. She thought about buying the studio in order to implement those changes, but she wasn’t ready.
Messer arrived in Toledo in 2004, a New Jersey transplant, and signed up for tap classes three years later; Balderas was her teacher. Forty-one years had elapsed since Messer had last danced (semi-professionally, in her teens). Being relatively new to the area, she had a fresh outlook that wasn’t enmeshed in how things had been done previously.
Quickly, the teacher/student relationship became a friendship. One Saturday night, after hearing a rumor that the school’s owner might be interested in selling (she had recently taken on a full-time job), Messer said to Balderas, “Want to buy a studio?” in the same spirit in which Mickey Rooney proposed putting on a show in Babes in Arms. And the answer was yes.
In February 2011, Balderas and Messer offered to buy the school; they signed the contract on October 1. Balderas’ husband said she should have done this a long time ago. He knew how she loved the studio and thought she was putting too much time and energy into someone else’s business.
Messer’s husband, Alan Messer, was equally supportive. He knew that since their move to Toledo, his wife needed more to do. She had worked in her husband’s software business doing bookkeeping, sales, staff management, advertising, and marketing for nine years. As a nurse, she had managed a holistic center for integrative medicine, and later managed the Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine at what was then Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. So when Alan Messer heard the studio might be for sale, he said, “Go for it!”
The two women did, setting out immediately to make good on their goal for their students: tap dancing through middle age and beyond, including performing, regardless of previous experience. Ranging in age from early 20s to mid-80s, most of the students are in their 50s and 60s.
The months before the contract was signed were spent planning. Messer’s husband, a SCORE volunteer, suggested that she and Balderas contact the organization, which provides resources that include volunteer mentors who help people start small businesses.
SCORE is a nonprofit with 348 chapters throughout the United States, which also provides services through email, live workshops, online workshops/webinars, and online templates and tools. The Toledo chapter assigned a retired accountant to work with Balderas and Messer. With input from the current owner, they looked at the state of the business; as Balderas expected, there were problems. After assisting with the evaluation, the SCORE mentor advised them what to pay for the business.
The two owners-to-be then hired a lawyer, who suggested they change the studio’s name and logo. To create a website, they hired a young designer whom they met through their membership in the chamber of commerce. Not everyone would be comfortable using retirement funds to start a new business, but Messer and Balderas had reason to think they would recoup their investment in a reasonable time. First, they had committed clients who considered the studio a large part of their lives and identity. Second, they knew how much income the school generated. And third, they felt confident they could provide the kind of experience the students wanted. In addition, “the rent for the space was reasonable,” Messer says. “We were very realistic about who the market is and how to reach them, and we are fiscally conservative.”
Once Off Broadway Dance Company opened, a SCORE volunteer and former businessman told the new owners they were doing everything right in terms of advertising. They supplemented the simplest marketing device—a sign in the front yard—with budget-conscious yet focused marketing tools. With the help of their students, Messer and Balderas put flyers anywhere they were allowed, focusing on senior centers, churches, coffee shops, and libraries. Because of their work with a national veterans’ organization, Honor Flight, they were allowed to post flyers in businesses like Starbucks that normally give permission only to nonprofits. They placed ads in neighborhood papers, and students asked local businesses to buy advertising space in the program for the school’s annual showcase.
Messer and Balderas’ marketing goals matched their growth goal: to grow the studio by 10 percent each year. It sounded realistic to them. “If we had 40 students, we could get four new ones without overreaching,” says Messer.
As the former owner had done, Balderas and Messer targeted the niche market of adult tappers, specifically women. They had good reasons to: they knew and enjoyed the clientele and felt confident in their ability to manage an adult-centered studio. (A population of young students would have been unfamiliar to them.) They focused on empty nesters, women in their 40s and 50s and beyond, marketing tap as a fun way to exercise the mind as well as the body (an alternative to working out at a gym), while offering the chance to perform. They also brought back a very popular teacher, Brenda Michalak, who teaches Broadway Tappers, a class designed, as the website describes it, “for the more mature dancer.”
Balderas and Messer say the studio’s students, most of whom are retired, are committed; they love to perform and are proud of being dancers. The sense of accomplishment and camaraderie they feel as a result of performing—strengthened by socializing after performances—serves as a draw for potential new clients.
Balderas now teaches the basic and intermediate classes, while three other teachers (ages 60, 65, and 70) handle the intermediate/advanced to advanced classes. Three assistant teachers (ages 65, 66, and the “baby” of the bunch, a 30-something) work on a barter system, receiving classes in exchange for their work. Messer, who kept the books for her husband’s business, does the bookkeeping herself.
The studio has open enrollment, so no student is ever turned away. Class placement is determined in a mandatory beginning tap class taught by Balderas. Students are given a list of basic steps that must be mastered before they can move to a more advanced class. Some students remain in this class for a full year; others, who have dance experience, for one lesson.
Starting at the advanced beginner level, students learn simple routines that give them the confidence that they can do a dance, and, hence, perform. The chance to perform is the carrot that brings the students back. All students may perform at the annual showcase in October, and nearly all of them do.
Beyond the classroom
The school’s large community outreach program, the Traveling Taps, has turned into a successful marketing tool. The dancers perform regularly at 15 nursing homes each year, doing springtime shows in May and June and holiday programs in November and December that include simple steps and sentimental music. The shows are put together by assistant teacher Sue Morgenroth and student Karen Knoblauch, and 8 to 10 dancers participate.
Studio dancers also welcome veterans home from Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio trips to Washington, DC, where—sponsored by the national organization, Honor Flight Network—veterans visit monuments built to honor their service. The dances for Honor Flights are performed by dancers wearing sparkling vests, to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and a medley of military anthems. Any dancer who has mastered the steps may participate; those who are not yet ready to perform (usually a handful) come along to greet the veterans.
This project, which began two years before Balderas and Messer bought the studio, was Knoblauch’s brainchild. She read a newspaper article about Honor Flight and realized that these veterans—part of her father’s generation—deserved recognition.
The studio raises funds for Honor Flight at the annual showcase, which draws 500 to 700 spectators. The dancers perform to the medley of military anthems while flags from all branches of the military are marched in. Veterans who were on the Honor Flights are given free admission, and their relatives pay half price, $5 per ticket. Fifty percent of funds raised at a 50/50 raffle and 10 percent of the admissions fees are donated to Honor Flight; during the show, a check is presented to an Honor Flight representative.
The school also performs at organizations such as the Red Hat Society and Ladies’ Oriental Shrine by request, presenting what Messer calls “showcase pieces.” There is no charge for the performances, but Balderas and Messer suggest an honorarium to be used toward the studio’s needs, such as the new floor they recently put in, the sound system, or the Traveling Taps. No one receives a salary for these performances.
Upcoming events include a mother/daughter church banquet, a performance for the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball team, and, pending approval of the studio’s application, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
For the love of dance
Each August the studio’s students and teachers attend Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s tap festival, Rhythm World, which offers classes suitable for adult novice tappers. In addition, Balderas and Messer bring in master teachers each year, such as dancers in the touring companies of Jersey Boys and Mary Poppins and CHRP’s Lane Alexander.
Unlike studios that include children, Alexander says, at Off Broadway “everyone who is there wants to be there. That changes the energy of the whole enterprise. Pat and Geri exemplify that ethos: we want to dance because we love to dance.”
In December 2012, 18 Off Broadway dancers traveled to Washington, DC, to attend “JUBA! Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance,” a program honoring tap dance as an American art form. The trip included a tour of the city, including the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War memorials—important to them because of the school’s involvement with Honor Flight. A bonus was seeing the White House decorated for Christmas.
What do these formerly retired school owners think about their new careers? Balderas says, “Just because you are getting older doesn’t mean you have to stop learning or improving.”
What they’re doing, Messer says, is “a labor of love and resilience.”
Central Pennsylvania Dance Workshop’s “Save the Graves” performance this Sunday at the Boal Mansion Museum benefitted the Boalsburg [PA] Cemetery, the scene of a vandalism spree in May that left more than 50 gravestones toppled over, with some snapped in half.
StateCollege.com reported on the dance studio’s performance of excerpts from Amelie Hunter’s Civil War ballet, The Vacant Chair. In one vignette, dancers in pale-colored period dresses thrashed in fits of fluid motion as their plantation “burned” to the ground behind them.
In another, dance instructor Karen Stoner’s movements illustrated a letter from Civil War soldier to his wife that described the deep and longing ache created by war’s brutal separations. The breath of wind she may feel on her cheek, he wrote, will be his breath, should he die in battle.
The dance company arranged the performance after learning of May’s vandalism, which caused extensive damage to gravestones dating back to the Civil War. “Save the Graves” was the latest of a series of successful community fundraisers.
“A lot of people were horrified, shocked, and saddened by the vandalism,” Harris Township manager Amy Farkas says. “”What’s great is that people took that anger and turned it into action, bringing the community together.”
To see the full story, visit http://www.statecollege.com/news/local-news/dance-company-performs-civil-war-ballet-to-benefit-cemetery,1459588/.
Floodwaters destroyed Baltimore’s Morton Street Dance Center on April 30, but the big spring concert still went on this weekend—thanks to the determination of founder Donna Jacobs.
Jacobs, a dancer and choreographer, founded Morton Street Dance Center in 1992. In the past two decades, the academy, which enrolls primarily African American youths, has become one of Baltimore’s most respected private arts education institutions.
The damage to the dance studio—floodwaters reached five feet deep in some places—had the potential to break the hearts of 150 children. “I eat, sleep, and breathe dance,” Leilani Hines, 12, told the Baltimore Sun. “Dancing is all I want to do. When Miss Donna showed us the pictures of the studios after the flood, my heart just sank. I felt as though my home had been taken away from me, and I started crying.”
Jacobs said: “These kids are so triumphant, we had to find a way to have the show.”
She immediately sent thousands of costume pieces to a cleaner who specializes in repairing flood-damaged clothing. She began to wade through insurance forms and deal with contractors to get the studio back in usable shape, and posted a plea on Facebook to borrow temporary rehearsal space. Within a day, she had a schedule lined up at Park School, Coppin State University, and Yorkwood Elementary School.
On Saturday—right on schedule—the school presented Neverland: The Story of Peter Pan, at Towson University. To see the original story, visit http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/arts/bs-ae-dance-floods-20140530,0,1582122.story
The Next Step, a reality-style teen drama from Canada that follows the lives of a group of dancers at The Next Step Dance Studio as they attempt to win the regional dance championships, has premiered on Hulu/Hulu Plus.
Broadway World said all 30 episodes are now on Hulu Plus, and will be rolled out weekly (starting this week) on Hulu.com.
Created by Frank van Keeken (Wingin’ It, Kids in the Hall), the scripted reality series follows a tightly-knit team of dancers who train, rehearse, and hang out together within a well-established social order led by star dancer Emily and the E-Girls, a band of dancers who are used to running the studio. When a new girl joins the team, alliances are challenged and the social balance of the studio is set askew as the regional championships quickly approach.
All The Next Step cast members are real dancers, including So You Think You Can Dance Canada contestants Jordan Clark, Bree Wasylenko, and Tamina Pollack-Paris. Others have attended national competitions in the United States, and Brennan Clost has been accepted by The Juilliard School in New York.
All original cast members (with the exception of Alexandra Beaton and Shamier Anderson) were also novice actors, and worked off of written scenarios rather than scripts—thus the show is sometimes referred to as “scripted reality.”
To watch the series, visit http://www.hulu.com/the-next-step. To see the full article, visit http://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwtv/article/VIDEO-Reality-Teen-Dance-Drama-THE-NEXT-STEP-Launches-on-Hulu-20140529#.U4dOXs9OWUl.
Stagestep Flooring Solutions has an exclusive offer for Dance Studio Life readers and DanceLife Retreat Center attendees.
Studio owners can use the promo code GOLD2014 to receive a free Floorcare System mop with the purchase of the Proclean System Replacement Pack: six cleaning cartridges preloaded with Proclean concentrate, plus two reusable and washable microfiber mop heads. Price is $50.
Also, DanceLife supporters who sign up for the Stagestep E-Club—which provides Stagestep news, promotions, and special offers—will receive a free flooring installation and maintenance guide. Join at http://www.stagestep.com/webform/signup.php.
DanceLife founder Rhee Gold said: “We are proud to have Stagestep as the official provider of flooring to the DanceLife Retreat Center, as well as the DanceLife Teacher Conference. Our friends at Stagestep have always been there when we need a flooring solution, and our attendees truly appreciate the quality of their products.”
Offer is valid through July 31. For more information, call 800.523.0960 or visit www.Stagestep.com.
Dance photographer Richard Calmes, whose dynamic shots have graced several Dance Studio Life covers, has released his third book.
Lines and LEAPS is filled with images that Calmes made of dancers from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and other top companies over the last four years since the publication of Dance Magic, his first book. “In this case,” he says, “my dancers visually embrace two words, communicating with their bodies what would take paragraphs to explain scientifically, intellectually, and spiritually.”
The book’s title refers to the beautiful angles and shapes dancers make, both while rooted to the ground and when they throw themselves boldly into the air. “Capturing a magnificent leap at the height of its trajectory is one of the greatest thrills in dance photography,” Calmes says.
The book is organized in two-page spreads, with one page featuring a “line” shot and the other a “leap” shot. For a preview of the book and purchase information, visit http://www.blurb.com/books/5253167-lines-and-leaps.