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/.
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.
A Colorado dance teacher and a dance dad are partners in the new Levitate Dance Academy, the pair’s attempt at a high-quality, low-cost competitive studio.
“All these kids want to dance and compete because of shows like So You Think You Can Dance,” Katrina Lairsmith, a 43-year-old Denver native who has taught at more than a half-dozen area academies, told the Denver Post. “But it’s become so outrageous and so unfair to people who don’t have a lot of money. It’s catered to the upper class. People are now starting to realize it’s almost a scam.”
Her partner, Anthony Recce, a 42-year-old self-described “dance father” and owner of Arvada’s Halo Protection Group security company, has invested $80,000 in Levitate. He converted his company warehouse in Arvada into a fully equipped dance studio and opened its doors on May 4 for auditions, attracting 40 students on the first day. Levitate’s second studio, a 4,500-square-foot space in the Larkridge Town Center retail complex in Thornton, is slated to open June 2.
Lairsmith and Recce are angling to give Levitate a national brand identity. “We want to be the first franchised competitive dance studio in the country,” Recce said. “It’s a void that needs to be filled.”
So how can he afford to be in the competitive dance world without “nickel and diming” his students, as he puts it? By taking lower mark-ups, he said, on items such as costumes and shoes. However, owners of area dance companies defended their rates and models, saying Recce and Lairsmith will soon realize the hidden costs of trying to run a national-quality competitive studio.
To read the full story, visit http://www.denverpost.com/entertainment/ci_25771672/popularity-competitive-dancing-spurs-new-studio-offer-lower.
Ronnie Evans, a 13-year-old from La Crosse, Wisconsin, who taught herself how to hip-hop by watching YouTube videos, dreamed of taking classes at a dance studio but never thought she’d have the opportunity—until she learned she was one of 10 local youth ages 6 to 13 selected for a year-long scholarship to attend Misty’s Dance Unlimited in Onalaska this fall.
“I was just ecstatic when we found out,” said her mother, Rhonda Baskerville, told the La Crosse Tribune. “Ronnie’s so talented . . . and she never would have had this opportunity otherwise.”
The scholarships are possible thanks to a donation from Tighe King, owner of Curtain Call Costumes, who met MDU owner Misty Lown at a conference in San Diego last year and was inspired to contribute to her Chance to Dance Foundation to provide opportunities for economically challenged youth. “Our mission at MDU is to provide access to all kids,” Lown said. “We want to remove all barriers.”
All 10 scholarship recipients are members of the Amie L. Mathy and Hamilton Boys & Girls Clubs and were selected based on their character, behavior at the club, and interest in dance, said Tina Wehrs, Boys & Girls Club development and marketing director. MDU will provide the scholarship recipients with dancewear, and the Boys & Girls Clubs will provide transportation to and from the dance studio.
Breast cancer survivors are invited to audition from noon to 3pm this Saturday (May 17) at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for an October 2 benefit for The Pink Fund, a nonprofit that financially helps women undergoing treatment for the disease.
Prior dance experience is not necessary. The Detroit Free Press said those who are chosen will get complimentary dance lessons, plus the opportunity to tell their stories in the show.
Studies have shown that dance is a powerful medium for helping survivors feel good about themselves and their bodies, says Molly MacDonald, founder of the Bloomfield Hills–based Pink Fund and a breast cancer survivor. “The simple act of learning a dance move can help one feel attractive and graceful, and it allows survivors to forget about cancer and instead focus on other aspects of their lives,” she said. “Plus, the social nature of dance lessons has the added benefit of providing a much-needed web of support for survivors.”
MacDonald started The Pink Fund in 2006 after she saw firsthand how difficult it is financially to undergo cancer treatment. The fund helps women in need pay living expenses for up to 90 days while they also deal with the loss of income that often accompanies treatment. For more information, visit www.thepinkfund.org and www.fredastaireofbloomfieldhills.com.
To read the original story, visit http://www.freep.com/article/20140514/FEATURES08/305140120/Pink-fund-breast-cancer-survivors.
DanceAbilities Academy, a North Carolina, nonprofit dance studio that will offer free programs in dance to individuals of all ages with special needs, will launch in early July.
Executive director Tess Walters of Gastonia told Autism Daily Newscast that she is a mother of four children, two of whom are on the autism spectrum. Her goals for the 100 percent donation-funded studio include a sensory quiet room, student transportation, and an in-class student-to-volunteer ratio of 2 to 1.
According to GoFundMe, Walters has been teaching dance and movement to students from kindergarten through high school at Webb Street School in Gastonia, has taught special-needs dance classes and camps at Dance Productions, and is a community advocate for special needs. “I have decided to take my talents as a dance teacher and my knowledge as a parent of two special-needs children and fuse them all together,” she said.
DanceAbilities will accept students with challenges including (but not limited to) cerebral palsy, spina bifida, Angelman syndrome, Down syndrome, developmental delays, and all individuals on the autism spectrum.
The studio’s start date will be announced at a fundraising carnival event planned for June 7, 10am to 4pm at Piedmont Community Charter School’s elementary campus, along with details for a summer camp. The studio will be located at 1385 E. Garrison Boulevard, Gastonia. For more information, visit DanceAbilities http://www.danceabilitiesacademy.org/.
To see the original story, visit http://www.autismdailynewscast.com/tess-walters-founder-of-danceabilities-academy-part-2/11073/joworgan/.
Dance Studio Life magazine has always given attention to individuals and organizations doing important, innovative work in dance education and providing service to the dance community. This July, as DSL celebrates its 10th anniversary, publisher Rhee Gold and the editorial staff will acknowledge the efforts of six of these risk takers and generous hearts through the first annual “Generous Heart” awards.
DSL will run profiles of the six “Generous Heart” recipients in the July 2014 issue. They are:
• Joe Lanteri and the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation: for recognizing the importance of dance education at the college or university level and creating a program that has facilitated more than $8 million in scholarships for more than 150 students since 2010.
• Patricia Reedy and Nancy Ng of Luna Dance Institute in Berkeley, California: for their nationally acclaimed family-based children’s dance programs and for their advocacy of professional learning for dance educators.
• Susan Slotnick of New Paltz, New York: for her dance work with adult male prisoners, using art to address issues of social justice.
• Gina Gibney: for providing low-cost rehearsal space and programs for students and emerging choreographers at Gibney Dance Center in New York City, and for taking a stand against domestic violence.
• Mark “Metal” Wong, Steve “Believe” Lunger, and Aaron Troisi of Hip Hop Fundamentals: for their service to schoolchildren in the Philadelphia public school system in promoting critical awareness and collective action in the context of an academic curriculum.
• Susan McCutcheon Coutts of Dance Innovations in Chatham, New Jersey: for her inclusive attitude toward dance education, demonstrated by her studio’s welcoming attitude toward students with special needs and extensive outreach efforts.
Amy Murphy was up, feeding her baby, shortly after 3:30am on April 25 when she heard the explosion that destroyed her Point Dance Center in North Bend, Washington, reported the SnoValley Star.
“The space is gone, but dance is not,” she said. “Thankfully this happened in the middle of the night, and no dancers or teachers were in the studio at the time of the explosion.”
The force of the explosion pushed the building housing the dance studio and other businesses to a 45-degree angle. The building is considered unsafe and Murphy and the other business owners haven’t been allowed in. For Murphy, that means boxes of paperwork, her stereo system, music, costumes, and accessories are gone.
Her dance school had just moved there five months ago, and the mirrors and special dance floor she had installed—valued at about $10,000—are lost. (She had liability insurance, but not renter’s insurance.)
Classes are continuing at several local venues, including a YMCA, grange hall, and senior center, and dancers from her school won several first, second, and third place finishes at the I Love Dance competition in Portland, Oregon, May 3 and 4.
The cause of the explosion is still under investigation. To read the full story, visit http://snovalleystar.com/2014/05/07/dance-studio-on-the-move-after-explosion.
Advice for dance teachers
When I opened my school more than 12 years ago, a school owner a couple of towns away from my location decided that my little school was now her big competitor. As soon as I signed my lease, trouble started. Friends in my community told me that they had heard things like I wasn’t a qualified teacher or that I was a scam artist. Each time people told me something negative they’d heard, it got traced back to the other studio owner. The hard part was that I had no idea who this person was.
In the beginning, it freaked me out. Then I let it go until midyear of my first season, when I got a letter from her that ranted about how awful I was and that I should be ashamed for stealing her business. At that point, only two students had come to me from this school. I had no idea what she was so upset about.
I decided to ignore her antics. She wrote me letters, tried to call me, and said negative stuff about me to anyone who would listen. I just continued working on growing my business.
During my third year in business, a studio mom told me the other school had closed because of IRS and other financial issues. I was shocked because her school was five times the size of mine. Within a month of her closing we enrolled more than 25 of her students, and more trickled in. They came to me because there was nowhere else to go, not because I solicited them.
Immediately this woman started telling everyone in town that I put her out of business. She wrote nasty letters to the Chamber of Commerce about me, called my home and then hung up on me, and sent me hateful letters. She continues to stalk me today. On Facebook, she makes up false names and posts nasty comments on my studio page. She “friends” my students and sends them mean comments about me. She continually posts on her own page that she is reopening her school, but it never happens. She has even sent messages to my teachers offering them jobs at her new school.
Everyone around me knows this is crazy, but this has been a 12-year battle. I am so tired. I am at my wits’ end because she never stops. Should I go to the police, get a lawyer, begin to fight back, or what? Any thoughts? —Stalked
I believe “or what” is your best option. Think about this—the reality is that she has gone out of business because she didn’t know how to manage the finances. And maybe she spent too much time concentrated on hurting you when she should have been watching what was going on in her own studio.
As a result of her actions (not yours), she is obviously one frustrated person who has spent too many years blaming others for her own incompetence. You did nothing wrong. Twelve years of stalking does indicate that this person is obsessed, and my guess is that she wants you to be at your “wits’ end.” Don’t give her that satisfaction.
Ignore all of this, but do use it as motivation to continue to make your school better and to always be the opposite of what she perceives you to be, or what she tells everyone you are. My guess is that after 12 years, most of the people she spews her negativity to know she is full of you-know-what. This is her problem, not yours!
On a personal note: though the details are different, I have been harassed for 40 years by the same type of frustrated stalker you have described. She started on my mom and then moved on to my brother and me after my mom died. My mother made the decision to never respond and told us that we should do the same. It has worked marvelously, and I hope it will work for you too. All the best. —Rhee
I am so happy to have had the chance to teach thousands of kids how to dance. The memories are priceless, and the dance family friends will always be a part of my life. But I’m thinking it’s time to turn my school over to the next generation. I have two teachers who would like to become partners and purchase my business. How do I figure out the value of my business? Any pointers? —Carol
My first pointer is to go to an accountant, who can give you the best advice. With that said, I’ll offer you a basic starting point in determining the value of your business: two times the annual gross or five times the annual profit. For example, if I gross $400,000 annually, the starting point is $800,000. Or I could clear $100,000 profit annually, which gives me a starting point of $500,000. With this formula, the business is worth somewhere between $500,000 and $800,000. Good luck and enjoy the journey! —Rhee
I love teaching. I have been teaching all ages of kids at the same studio for two years, and I just lost my job because of pictures I posted on my personal Facebook page. I went to a bar with some friends and my boyfriend took pictures of us having a good time. My boss thinks they are inappropriate because she says I look wasted and because I swore in a couple of the posts. She said she is mad because I am friends with my students and parents, but they go to bars too. I don’t get it. I could see why she’d be upset if the posts were on the studio page, but what right does she have to fire me for what I do on my own time with my friends? —Frustrated
I am not a legal expert. For appropriate legal advice pertaining to the owner’s right to let you go, I suggest you contact an attorney. Putting the legalities aside, let me answer this question from a school owner/boss’ perspective.
You state that you teach all ages of kids. If you taught for me, I would expect that you would always be aware that you are a mentor, leader, and teacher. That image and responsibility would be expected wherever you come in contact with our clientele. You represent not only yourself but my standards as a school owner.
I’m assuming that you did look wasted in the pictures because you didn’t say otherwise. And you admit that your comments included swearing or profanity. You made the choice to welcome your students or their parents to your Facebook page. Consequently, I believe that everything on your page should be appropriate to the image of a teacher who is making impressions on the young minds in her care.
You need to think about how shocked some of your students and their parents might be at your posts, then think about what being a role model means. My guess is that you will discover that this was a hard lesson to learn and that it is something that you will never allow to happen again. Good luck. —Rhee
Downtown Waynesboro, Virginia, was transformed into a dance studio on Tuesday as people celebrated spring and local businesses by dancing down the street in the first-ever Waynesboro Dance Walk, reported the News Virginian.
The Waynesboro Dance Walk started as a birthday wish and turned into a fun way to bring people downtown. Kim Cash wanted to do something special for her friend, Kathy Johnson, a volunteer for the Chamber of Commerce, and they decided to put together Waynesboro’s first Dance Walk.
“Our goal is to encourage people to eat downtown, to see what’s down there . . . and to get some exercise,” Cash said. “We both really appreciate locally-owned restaurants and businesses.”
Dance Walking became known a couple of years ago when a man in New York City was seen dancing instead of walking to his destinations in a popular YouTube video. This fun and energetic way of traveling has now spread all over the world, with videos posted from Stockholm, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Australia.
Dance Walking has been used to raise awareness about everything from diabetes and child abuse to brain cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To see the original story, visit
By Holly Derville-Teer
I owned Chehalem Valley Dance Academy for 11 years. Studio ownership was fulfilling, and I loved my role. Eventually, though, I began to feel like it was time to move on.
What had been rewarding had begun to feel like a merry-go-round of constant work, not like the exciting adventure I had embarked on. I no longer felt challenged or excited, and I didn’t feel like I was continuing to grow as a person. Horrified, I kept my change in attitude to myself, hoping it would pass.
I couldn’t imagine my life without my school, but I also couldn’t deny the discontent that was growing daily. What was wrong with me?
Feeling this way surprised me. Who would I be if I didn’t own a studio? In my mind, the studio and I were inextricably linked. When people asked me what I did for a living, I was proud to say I owned a dance studio. I couldn’t imagine my life without it, but I also couldn’t deny the discontent that was growing daily. What was wrong with me?
That January, one of my employees, Kristen Coats, told me she wanted to buy the school. Her offer came out of the blue; no one except my husband knew how I felt. Tears sprang to my eyes as I realized stepping off the merry-go-round could become a scary reality. I knew it was the right thing to do, but I was grieving.
Before giving Kristen an answer, I asked myself several questions. First, what I would miss about being a studio owner? I realized that the part of my career I still loved was teaching. I could do that without being an owner.
Next, I thought about what I would do if I didn’t own a school. I had just turned 40, and I realized that I had other career goals that I’d be free to pursue.
Last, I asked myself if I could handle separating my identity from the studio. A friend advised me not to hold onto something I’d outgrown. “The studio might feel like you, but it’s not you,” she said. I knew she was right, but accepting that truth was hard. I felt like I was changing shape inside—what would I look like when I popped out of the proverbial cocoon? Leaving the circle of studio owners I had gotten to know over the years would be difficult. And I worried about letting down my staff.
After a month of deliberation, I gave Kristen my answer: yes. I was about to say goodbye to one of the biggest parts of my life.
A business valuator priced the studio. My attorney drew up a contract of sale and an employment contract ensuring my classes, hours, and rate of pay. Having those specifics in place made me feel better about selling.
Once the deal was done, I told each employee about the sale individually. Next, I called a meeting of the performing company families to tell them the news, and I notified the entire student body by email.
At first, being an employee was rocky for me. I found it difficult to be outside of the decision-making process and work under someone else’s rules. At times I felt like my soul was being torn into pieces. However, I didn’t want to give up the classes I’d taught for more than a decade in the studio I loved, so I forced myself to adjust. I knew if I could make it through the first few years, let go of the past, and embrace my role as a teacher, it would get easier.
I decided to pursue a new project immediately, and I chose freelance writing. Replacing my complete dedication to the studio with a commitment to something new made a huge difference in coming to terms with the loss of that aspect of my life.
It took two years to build a strong working relationship with Kristen in our new roles. She found her footing as the new owner, and our relationship grew from there.
It’s been four years since I sold my school. I continue to love teaching, writing, and having more time to devote to my family. For me, selling my studio was the right thing to do.
In the world of studio ownership, being an artist isn’t enough. Here’s how to get the left-brain skills you need.
By Bonner Odell
Dance studios are seldom born in the minds of venture capitalists. Most are the brainchildren of people who want to combine their love for dance with a way to make a living (and, one hopes, a love of teaching). While the shift from dance artist to studio owner may seem natural enough, the leap from the right-brain realm of dance and choreography to the left-brain world of budgets and balance sheets can involve a painful landing. Running a business successfully takes training. Often, the choice to invest in that training means the difference between a studio that thrives and one that merely survives.
People in the arts tend to view business as a necessary evil. But we have to be profitable to make a positive impact in our communities. —Misty Lown
It is impossible to imagine somebody auditioning for a professional dance company with no dance training. Why then should you expect yourself to operate a business with no business training? Fortunately, you don’t need to rely on trial and error to learn the best way to manage your dance studio. Affordable, convenient training resources can help you take your studio to the next level.
People, profit, and positive programs
At the helm of a small-town studio with large-scale appeal as a business model is Misty Lown, the founder of Misty’s Dance Unlimited in Onalaska, Wisconsin. Lown says the school has given away more than $175,000 in charitable cash and scholarships; it has also spawned ventures including A Chance to Dance Foundation and a consulting company, More Than Just Great Dancing™, which offers mentorship and networking for studio owners. Lown attributes her school’s success to a business mind-set built on what she calls “the triple bottom line”: people, profit, and positive programs.
“People in the arts tend to view business as a necessary evil,” Lown says. “But we have to be profitable to make a positive impact in our communities.” She views marketing and community service as interdependent. “An attitude of service creates positive associations in people’s minds,” she says. “By offering to perform at local schools or nursing homes, or to help raise funds for a local cause, you simultaneously teach students the value of civic participation and boost visibility for your business.”
Lown believes building a positive brand begins with excellent programming and a solid dance curriculum, but it extends far beyond those core elements. She steers clients to a range of marketing strategies used by successful businesses across industries. One of the first items on the agenda at her Studio Owner University™ conferences is a survey listing 101 marketing tactics on which participants are asked to grade themselves. It lists ideas as diverse as “we miss you” postcards for lapsed clients to QR codes, text opt-ins, and “one-day-only” sales on retail items like branded dance gear.
“What most people consider marketing are really random acts of advertising,” says Lown. “It takes much more than an ad here and an event there. Marketing is something you need to do all year long, and in many ways.”
One marketing outlet Lown says studio owners tend to grossly underutilize is the internet. “We need to better understand the way people live online now,” she says. “It’s not enough to have a website and a Facebook page anymore.” Her “101 tactics” marketing survey includes RSS feeds, YouTube channels, and social-media sites like Pinterest and Instagram.
An MBA delivers
Jessica Canino took a different approach to gaining business knowledge: she enrolled in an MBA program. Canino is director of Creative Dance Studio in Plantation, Florida, which operates out of St. Gregory the Great Catholic School. When enrollment started to grow, she began making plans to launch the dance school as an independent business with its own location. Seeking expertise to realize the venture’s full potential, she chose an MBA program with a special focus in entrepreneurship at nearby Nova Southeastern University, where the night, weekend, and online course offerings accommodate her dance-teaching schedule.
Now that she has satisfied core requirements like Economic Thinking and Accounting for Decision Makers, Canino is moving on to courses like Entrepreneurship/Venture Creation and Entrepreneurship Law, which she says are helping her apply wider business principles to small-business operation.
One course, Internet Marketing and Social Networking, was particularly relevant to Canino’s task of creating a website. She says one of the most useful tools covered was search-engine optimization, the art of using keywords to maximize a site’s visibility.
Canino took several business workshops when she attended the DanceLife Teacher Conference in 2013, and, she says, “I came away with a notebook full of notes. But I was excited to find I already knew a lot of what was covered, especially about search-engine optimization, and at a deeper level. I realized how much my MBA program has taught me about running a business.”
Legal peace of mind
For Julie Holt Lucia, attending Rhee Gold’s Project Motivate conference in 2005 changed her outlook on managing her studio. Gold advised attendees to seek the advice of a lawyer or accountant to protect their businesses. Lucia did both. Her new accountant helped her navigate the process of establishing her business, Studio Dance Centre in Frisco, Texas, as an S corporation. The IRS grants S corporations limited liability, meaning the owner’s personal assets are protected from any debt or loss incurred by the business. The corporation does not pay any income tax, but its profits or losses “pass through” to the owners, who must report them on their personal tax returns as shareholders.
The process of establishing her school as its own legal entity impressed upon Lucia the value of creating a degree of separation between herself and her business. “I realized it didn’t have to be me doing everything,” she says. “I hired an office manager and established systems that are clear and user-friendly for anyone in the office. It’s a load off my shoulders knowing the information isn’t just in my head, and that if something were to happen to me, or when I’m ready to retire, I can hand the studio over to somebody else to run.”
Lucia also learned that with the benefits of incorporation come legal obligations like electing officers, holding annual board meetings, and keeping careful records for tax purposes. She consulted a lawyer to make sure she fulfilled these responsibilities to IRS standards. “Good legal counsel is so important for studio owners,” she says. “There are serious issues around incorporation, liability, and insurance that, if overlooked, can be detrimental to your business.”
One such easily neglected issue is the importance of understanding your state’s labor laws. Learning the rules governing overtime, leave rights, and what legally constitutes discrimination (to name a few) will protect your staff and your business from a potentially devastating lawsuit.
Learning basic principles of accounting and budget management can open doors for your business you might not have thought possible. If dreams like expanding to an additional location or traveling internationally with performance teams feel perpetually out of financial reach, the problem may be one of cash-flow management. Says Lown, “You know you are in a cash-flow trap when you continually have to take money from one revenue source, like costume fees, to cover an unrelated expense like payroll. You are going to stay in that cycle unless you educate yourself about finance and budgeting. You need to network, find mentorship, and attend conferences where you can learn from knowledgeable people.”
Canino has received guidance in developing a business plan for Creative Dance Studio through her Entrepreneurship/Venture Creation course. Lucia worked with a consultant at a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to create and improve her original plan. She also took an online course in Quickbooks accounting software through a community college, which partners with ed2go.com. The skills she learned help her work seamlessly alongside her accountant, who handles all accounts receivable while Lucia oversees accounts payable. Lucia creates the quarterly sales tax reports, and though her accountant prepares her annual taxes, she says her business training has “made it clearer what he is talking about.”
It’s a dilemma often lamented: passion for the arts doesn’t necessarily translate to people-management ability. Dancing, teaching, and overseeing staff are entirely different skill sets. Human resource management, or HR, includes responsibilities like interviewing potential staff, writing contracts, providing ongoing professional development, conducting performance reviews, managing employee benefits like vacation and sick time, and processing payroll. It’s when studio owners assume that the usually small staff size of a dance studio doesn’t necessitate professional training in these areas that problems can arise. Apprising yourself of best practices in management can make the difference between having a productive, team-oriented staff and one undermined by grumbling, gossip, and high turnover.
Lucia worked as an HR intern at a museum prior to opening her school and draws frequently on her experience there. One of the most valuable things she learned was to ask open-ended questions during interviews. “I always ask prospective employees where they had a conflict or difficult situation with a customer and how they resolved it. The answer is usually very telling.”
Owning your inner businessperson
Next to hitting the library’s business section, conferences and seminars may be the most cost-effective ways to gain business savvy. For more in-depth, ongoing access to resources and expertise, you might want to consider joining a membership network or organization. DanceStudioOwner.com provides articles and downloadable forms, plus teleseminars, marketing tips, and a member forum for a monthly fee. Lown’s More Than Just Great Dancing grants access to similar resources, plus fully developed administrative systems and curriculums, with the option to meet with other studio owners face-to-face, or, at the top membership level, consult regularly with Lown.
While dance-specific resources cut to the chase, it is well worth branching out to participate in the business community. The contacts you make outside of the dance world can help you diversify your board, cross-market with other business owners, and scout quality services for your studio. Lucia attended an SBDC mixer and met a banker who ended up approving the loan she needed to start her studio. “I approached a few banks before getting approved,” she says. “It was the personal connection that made the difference.”
As your business skills grow, your business network can too. Lown attended a forum for CEOs hosted by Success Magazine in which leaders in industries from trucking to high tech shared the best innovations across sectors. As the only attendee from the dance field, she says she appreciated the opportunity to represent dance education as a thriving U.S. industry. Your presence in business networks does more than benefit your studio; it gives dance education a place at the table.
Making time for business training may feel like one more thing to add to your to-do list, but it can make your list shorter and more manageable in the long run. All three women interviewed said they ventured into the business world with trepidation (the phrase “I’m not a math person” came up more than once) but were surprised by how much they enjoyed the challenge, how empowered they feel, and how their increased efficiency has freed up time to devote to artistic direction and their families.
As Lown tells her clients, “Investing in business education is a lot like exercise. We procrastinate even though we know it’s good for us. But when we finally start, it’s so rewarding we can’t believe we didn’t do it sooner.”
National Dance Week Foundation gives a weeklong celebration a year-round presence
By Claudia Bauer
If you’re looking for a creative way to connect with your community, attract new families to your studio, and maybe even get national exposure (and who isn’t?), take a leap into National Dance Week. Established as a nonprofit in 2011, the National Dance Week Foundation has become a valuable year-round resource that promotes dance and professional development. National Dance Week, a fun event for the entire community, increases the foundation’s visibility.
You feel like you are doing something for a greater good. It is so much fun to get out there and give back, promote dance, and get more people involved. —Cathy Graziano
This year’s celebration takes place April 25 through May 4. From kicklines to studio demonstrations to a coast-to-coast flash mob, NDW offers dozens of ways to celebrate dance and raise your school’s profile—and almost all of them are free. “The goal is to get everybody out there, dancing and feeling good,” says NDW executive director Cathy Graziano. “Our saying is ‘A week to celebrate dance and to promote fun fitness.’ ”
Celebrating dance together
NDW was launched in 1981 as a grassroots effort to bring greater recognition to dance in America, and over the years gained the support of dance-industry leaders such as Alfred Terlizzi of Capezio/Ballet Makers Inc. and Tighe King of Tighe Industries/Curtain Call Costumes. United Dance Merchants of America came on as a supporting partner 10 years later.
Graziano remembers those early days. During her 25 years of teaching ballet, tap, jazz, and lyrical dance in New Jersey, she and her students were among those who enjoyed National Dance Week events. “You feel like you are doing something for a greater good,” she says about participating. “It is so much fun to get out there and give back, promote dance, and get more people involved.”
Nonetheless, for its first 30 years NDW had a low profile nationwide. Outside of major dance hubs like Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, the question “What are you doing for National Dance Week?” garnered mostly quizzical looks.
NDW knew it had great things to offer the dance community, if it could deliver its message more widely. So in 2011, the New York–based organization reestablished itself as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, re-launching with energetic new marketing and the goal of becoming a go-to resource for dancers, studios, schools, and teachers. Graziano came on board too, and her experience and enthusiasm are shared by NDW’s all-volunteer team of board members and three planning committees. “They all are either studio owners or running large companies related to dance,” Graziano says. “It is important to them that they are giving back.”
This dedicated group dreams up fun activities that will make the following year’s National Dance Week appealing to dancers and non-dancers alike, from ballerinas to beginners, competition stars to the local grocer. “We wanted to be more than just what was happening in the dance studio,” Graziano says of the foundation’s long-term vision. Indeed, since 2011, NDW has sent out new roots from coast to coast and now flourishes from Delaware to Texas to Oregon. “It has been very encouraging and tremendous,” she says with justified pride.
The organization is now active year-round. In fact, one of NDW’s most popular events is the annual Kick It! Challenge, a kickline competition held in October and November. All entrants are invited to submit a video to the NDW site. Divisions include high-school dance teams, preschools, cheerleading squads, age 55-plus, all-male groups, and more. The Rockettes judged 2012’s inaugural event and chose the Downey Dance Line, of Thomas Downey High School in Modesto, California, as their favorite; this year’s Kick It! partners are the Kilgore College Rangerettes, the pride of Kilgore, Texas, in celebration of their 75th anniversary.
Free and easy
Not into kicklines? Don’t worry; NDW has other plans for you. “When I was first talking to people about getting involved in National Dance Week, the biggest question I got was, ‘What should we do?’ ” Graziano says. “They needed something simple.”
One of Graziano’s first initiatives was the NDW flash mob. An instant favorite for its upbeat music and user-friendly choreography, this crowd-pleasing event is fun for all ages and skill levels. It’s even gone international, with people from as far away as England and Korea dancing along. And it’s a great way to get your studio involved for the first time.
NDW provides the choreography via online video, free to all. Emmy-nominated choreographer Gregg Russell (and a Dance Studio Life contributor), who has worked with the likes of Bette Midler and Michael Jackson, created this year’s dance. He follows in the footsteps of hip-hop wizard Geo Hubela (another DSL contributor), who choreographed the 2012 launch, and last year’s Sarah Jo Fazio, whose credits range from major musicals to NBA halftime shows.
Once you have the steps down, the sky’s the limit. Studios have led flash mobs in public parks, high-school gyms, restaurants, and even during a minor-league baseball game. Invite your students to brainstorm possible locations and how to recruit the largest number of friends, family, and neighbors. Make your flash mob look “official” with NDW’s annual T-shirts, which are sold on the website at a low cost that includes customization with your studio name.
You could even orchestrate a week’s worth of dance-related events that raise awareness and strengthen local ties: partner with a physical-therapy office on a wellness talk, host an open rehearsal or a free introductory class, or put on a lunchtime performance at City Hall. For more inspiration, visit nationaldanceweek.org to see what dance lovers nationwide have planned.
The foundation also holds an essay contest, with dance-convention scholarships awarded in age categories 12 and under and 13 to 18. Flash mobs and kickline teams are invited to submit videos of their performances for posting on the website.
A deep sense of purpose underlies all the fun. “We would like to be the nucleus that brings everyone together,” Graziano says. “We want to get everybody moving and dancing, and talking about dance.” To that end, NDW provides helpful resources year-round on its website.
With many school arts programs in dire straits, the foundation’s K–12 curriculum guides are especially valuable. Organized by grade level, the age-appropriate content is written for teachers who lack dance experience—and the time to do research. Anyone can download the simple, step-by-step instructions in PDF format, and introduce students to ballet, jazz, modern, swing, and foxtrot. There’s even a unit on anatomy.
The foundation has launched a small but growing presence on Facebook and Pinterest and sends out monthly online newsletters and event updates. “We want to encourage people to unite via all our social media, to keep the community in touch with one another,” Graziano says.
As more dancers, teachers, choreographers, and communities take part in National Dance Week and rely on the foundation’s resources, Graziano’s endeavors will gain more and more momentum—which the foundation intends to give right back.
“Our long-term goals are to do more activities, have the essay contest, send kids to summer dance conventions, support other nonprofit programs,” she says. “The more we can do to accomplish that, the better it becomes for the dance industry. I call it the synergy, the whole circle, that keeps dance going.”
Dance Studio Life columnist and DanceLife Teacher Conference faculty member Bill Evans has been made an honorary member of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science.
Evans, who joins IADMS honorary members Darcey Bussell and Christopher Wheeldon, was a pioneer in the integration of somatic education and dance technique, and was invited to present his work at the most recent annual IADMS conference, in Seattle.
Since 1977, thousands of dance educators have attended Evans’ summer workshops, conducted internationally, to investigate his method of teaching dance technique through the concepts of Laban/Bartenieff Movement Studies.
“My long life as a healthy dancer is no coincidence,” Evans said 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.”
“You are a role model for vast numbers of dancers, choreographers, and teachers,” said IADMS chief executive officer Virginia Wilmerding. “Your honorary status is evidence to all of your commitment to dance and dancers.” For more information, visit www.iadms.org.
Dance instructor Bridget Rowsey possesses the entrepreneurial spirit Huntington leaders want, but her experience in opening her own dance studio four years ago in this West Virginia city also carried procedural headaches city officials hope to erase with a small-business initiative unveiled this week.
The Herald-Dispatch said the initiative, branded “Huntington: Be Small. Live Large,” attempts to pull together many existing resources within the city to support existing business, promote new efforts, and inspire entrepreneurship.
Many of those resources existed when Rowsey opened at her first location in 2010, but like many she received a to-do list of requirements from City Hall with little to no guidance. Such was not the case as Rowsey, now 27, moved Bridget’s Dance Academy to 8th Avenue and 10th Street near downtown last year. She worked with the city’s business services advocate, a central cog in the new initiative, to navigate red tape and get plugged into other resources. She calls it a promising change for herself and other entrepreneurs.
“It will make the process easier,” she said. “It’s overwhelming and it’s a risk when you’re first starting out, so to be able to gain knowledge and resources is tremendous.”
The initiative will link City Hall with the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce and other groups, such as Unlimited Futures Inc., the Small Business Development Center, Create Huntington, Downtown Huntington Partners, and the Huntington Area Development Council, as it shows prospective business owners how each group can assist in their success.
To see the original story, visit http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/x571851438/Officials-announce-small-business-initiative.
“Dance mom” Alaine Kowal has written and released a children’s book, The Little Dance Teacher, as a charitable project to support her local dance studio, Dance Tech Inc., of High River, Alberta, Canada. And the story behind it is very close to the author’s heart.
“Little Miss Jenny-Ray is a dance teacher in a small town at the base of the mountains,” Kowal told the High River Times. “When her little town floods, Miss Jenny-Ray wants to help but doesn’t know what to do. So she does the only thing she can think of—she dances and helps bring back the spirit of her dancers and the town.”
This is Kowal’s first book, and since her two daughters are dancers with Dance Tech, she wanted all proceeds from book sales to go back into the dance studio. “The main reason for putting together a children’s book was to raise funds for the dancers who were affected by the flood,” she said. “There are still many dancers at our studio who are dealing with the flood.”
She noted that Dance Tech owner Amanda Messner was a huge inspiration for the book because of all of the hard work she put into rebuilding the dance studio after devastating floods swept through Alberta in the spring of 2013. Messner had a hard time putting into words her feelings about the support her studio is receiving.
“It’s really overwhelming and I didn’t expect any less from the community but since the flood, our team has gone from a team to a family, so our motivation is different because we have bonded together with a different heart,” she said.
The book is available online at www.routesmedia.com/store. To see the original story, visit http://www.highrivertimes.com/2014/04/21/childrens-book-comes-to-life-to-support-dancers.
Louie Perez, owner of VP Dance Academy in Fishkill, New York, is fulfilling the spirit of National Dance Week (April 25 to May 4) in a big way by teaching a jazz class at 14 different studios from New Jersey to California over the course of 13 days.
Perez’s endeavor, the “Coast 2 Coast: Dance Across America” tour, was christened with a kickoff event at his studio March 28, but begins in earnest tonight (April 23) at 6:45pm at American Repertory Ballet in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His tour will then take him through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Nevada, before ending May 5 at Perez’ home studio, the Debbie Reynolds Studio in North Hollywood.
Once he came up with the idea for the tour—which celebrates NDW, along with the 10th anniversary of his studio—Perez began calling studios he found online and offering to teach a jazz master class at no cost to students or the studio. Many were too busy with competition season, but others were very enthusiastic, he said.
He’ll be making the trip with two friends, radio host Jimmy “DJ Sizzle” Lyles handling the technical aspects of the trip, and Ryan Dutcher, who will be filming and creating a remembrance video. Their schedule is tight—basically teaching and driving—and run on a bare-bones budget. But it’s better than Perez’ original idea for NDW: he was going to start in Times Square and literally “dance” across America. “Brother, you will die,” was Lyles’ response. “Let’s make it a little easier. Let’s stop at dance studios.”
To follow the Coast 2 Coast, visit https://www.facebook.com/DJJSIZZLENY.
Anyone who’s ever crossed paths with arts entrepreneur Jane Weiner is instantly captivated by her ability to get things done, to find a way to fix things. It’s because of Weiner’s determination that her decision to close down Hope Stone Studio will come both as a surprise and as a warning to art consumers and supporters, reported Culture Map Houston.
“We have made the hard decision to take a year to right-size our business by reducing overhead and closing Hope Stone Studio, refocusing on the programs that make the greatest impact, and deploying our resources in the most cost-effective way,” Weiner explains in an email to the company’s subscribers. “This has been a difficult decision, but I believe the right one for the organization.”
The space, located in the Art Deco Tribeca Lofts on West Clay Street, has hosted dance and movement classes for children and adults for 10 years. An artist-in-residence program offered emerging choreographers a rehearsal and performance venue in which they could embark on their creative journeys. (See “Art for Art’s Sake, Dance Studio Life, November 2013, http://www.dancestudiolife.com/2014/01/art-for-arts-sake/.)
Weiner explains that all commitments have been met for the 2013–14 season. Classes will continue through May 16. It’s important to note that it’s only the physical space that’s ceasing operations. Founded in 1997, Hope Stone Dance Company will continue its performance series.
To read the full story, visit http://houston.culturemap.com/news/arts/04-19-14-cutting-edge-houston-dance-company-plans-to-close-studio-end-classes/.
The UDMA Dance Resource and Costume Show, an annual opportunity for dance teachers and studio owners to meet face-to-face with the industry experts in services, products, and education, will hold three events this October.
Shows have been set for October 4 to 5 at the Gwinnett Center, Duluth, Georgia; October 11 to 12 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center, Secaucus, New Jersey; and October 18 to 19 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center, Chicago, Illinois.
Attendees will have a chance to talk with vendors about the latest products and services, see the latest styles of costumes modeled by dancers, and attend Art of Teaching workshops led by master teachers Peff Modelski (Georgia), Patricia Dickenson (New Jersey), and Roni Mahler (Illinois).
Guests will have the opportunity to take part in a sweepstakes to win $4,000 in UDMA Gift Bucks; as well as drawings to win prizes like an Apple iPad, workshops passes, or a free hotel stay. To register, visit www.udma.org/attend/register. For additional information, visit www.udma.org or call 800.304.UDMA (8362).
The website for the Knoxville Dance Project captures its mission: Dance at Any Cost. Classes are offered by this studio four nights a week at Cumberland Estates Recreation Center in West Knoxville, Tennessee, under a “pay what you can” tuition setup, reports WBIR-Knoxville.
Jesie Browning started the non-profit Knoxville Dance Project about three and a half years ago.
“I saw that there was a need for children from all financial backgrounds to be able to take dance lessons,” said Browning, who grew up involved in art and dancing.
At first, Browning—as the only teacher—handled the three classes and 35 students. Now the studio has two additional teachers and offers three times as many classes for twice as many dancers.
There’s a suggested monthly tuition of $35, but families decide what they can afford. Fundraisers help the nonprofit continue its mission to not only teach dance, but also inspire creativity and confidence.
“The things on the inside come out, and you watch them meet friends and accomplish a goal and learn a step, and so it is just so amazing to watch them grow . . . really, that’s where the satisfaction comes from,” Browning said.
To see the full story, visit http://www.wbir.com/story/news/local/five-at-four/2014/04/16/knoxville-dance-project/7770513/.
A longtime Manhattan dance studio will have to move out of its West 19th Street space by the end of summer, after a looming rent increase priced them out of the neighborhood, owners told DNAinfo New York.
Dance Manhattan is leaving its 14,000-square-foot location at 39 West 19th Street after nearly 20 years because its landlord is doubling the rent at the end of August, according to one of the dance studio founders.
“It’s crazy. But, you know, I guess I hear that Chelsea in particular seems to be the Silicon Valley of the east,” co-founder Elena Iannucci said. “The fallout of that is that you have the Googles and the Yelps and the Yahoos . . . who are looking for space and they become the people that buildings like this one want to rent to and not necessarily to those of us in the arts who are providing dance to the public.”
Iannucci, who grew up in Long Island and left her corporate job to pursue dance full time after her father passed away, co-founded the studio in 1992 to teach dance to people of all skill levels who want to learn styles like swing, tango, salsa, and ballroom.
Iannucci said the space not only tries to make dance accessible to the general public, but also to foster an environment in which professional dancers and teachers can perfect their craft. “During the day we provide them with free space so they can pursue their own dreams, so they can rehearse their own troupes, create their own choreography that they then go and take to other communities around the world, around the country,” she said.
Swing dancer Dan Bates said the loss of Dance Manhattan would be a huge blow. “It is one of the biggest and best studios in New York and is known throughout the world,” he said. “Dancers coming through New York on their way elsewhere always make a point of stopping off there to check it out. It’s a community as well as great space, and to lose it would be terrible.”
To see the full story, visit http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140414/flatiron/popular-dance-studio-has-move-because-of-rent-increase-owners-say.
More than 250 people from dance studios in the Boston area participated in a flash mob at Boylston Plaza Sunday to introduce a new song commemorating the strength of a city torn by the bombings at the marathon last year, reported the Boston Globe.
“The idea is, instead of dwelling in the pain and the misfortune of the bombings, we wanted to do something fun and uplifting,” said Eytan Nicholson, one of three partners from the FAM, the jingle-writing group formed out of Berklee College of Music that became popular for “So Good”—known as “The Boston Song.”
“ ‘The Boston Song’ was sort of like a city anthem that everyone sort of chants together,” Nicholson said. “This one is called ‘Beat as One’ and it’s all about when something really difficult happens, as a community, that’s where we find our strength and essentially everyone’s hearts beat as one and that’s where we come together.”
Lena Andrade, who runs the South End dance studio The Z Spot, said she held four practices last week and people turned out “in the masses.” “The excitement has been fantastic,” she said. “It’s a very heartwarming experience because the message behind the song, bringing community together, has been really empowering.”
“We’re really proud to be a part of this and we’re proud of where we’re from,” said Ariana Incorvati, 16-year-old co-captain of Next Step Dance Company in Waltham. “I feel a connection with all these people I don’t even know—we’re all helping each other—and it’s all through dance and it’s special.”
To see the original story, visit http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/04/13/flash-mob-sings-celebration-boston-strength/jjao727hGLCpDFcHnf39pL/story.html.
Willow Street Dance Theatre of Mokena, Illinois, will be hold a “Dance for a Cure” benefit performance for The Andréa Rizzo Foundation’s nationwide fundraising effort, “Dance Across America,” on April 30 at 7pm at the Lincoln Way East High School Auditorium, 201 Colorado Avenue, Frankfort.
“Dance Across America” is one of many fundraising efforts created by The Andréa Rizzo Foundation, a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization dedicated to bringing dance therapy to children with cancer and special needs in pediatric hospitals, public schools, and Ronald McDonald houses across the country.
Willow Street Dance Theatre owner and director Donna Ziegler will oversee 61 dancers ranging in age from 5 to 18 as they perform jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, contemporary, and tap dance numbers. The public is invited to the event, which will include raffles and a silent auction. Tickets at the door are $12, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting Dance Across America.