Q: Dear Rhee,
Advice for dance teachers
I have been dancing all my life and dreaming that I might someday have my own studio. For several years I have taught for others and I’ve had the chance to attend two teacher training programs. With the blessing of my former boss, I am now searching for a location for my new studio. What advice do you have for those of us who are taking the leap into studio ownership? Any input is appreciated. —Tara
A: Hello Tara,
Congratulations! I am thrilled that you are making your dream come true. There are many things I could tell you, but here are what I consider the most important strategies for new dance studio owners.
Focus your initial marketing on attracting as many preschool and recreational students as possible. They will be the financial foundation for your current and future success.
Treat all students with the utmost respect, regardless of which skill level they attain. Know that you can instill a passion for the art of dance in every child.
Offer exceptional customer service and well-organized activities and performances. There is no quicker way to build loyalty and create a professional impression for parents than to be on top of your business; impress by directing with confidence. The result will be positive word of mouth within your community, which will lead to new families seeking your school for their children.
Be active within your community. Say yes to performance opportunities, parades, etc., and join forces with people and organizations doing charity work in your area. Using dance to teach good citizenship will benefit your students, their families, and your business.
Finally, stay focused on your own business and success. Don’t consider yourself to be in competition with other studios; instead, remain determined to be the best studio that you can. This will pay off in the long run.
Good luck, and thank you for passing on the art of dance to the next generation. —RheeQ: Hi Rhee,
I’ve noticed a large increase in parents calling to register their kids for dance in February and March. I don’t understand why parents want to sign up their children at the end of the season, after we’ve already planned for the recital, ordered costumes, and are working on choreography. How could I bring new students into my classes then?
We do direct these parents to our summer classes, but they don’t want to wait. I think I’m losing these potential students to other studios that are somehow taking them late in the season. How do they do it? It’s too hard to teach students the technique and steps and to be ready for a recital in a matter of weeks, and to do it with integrity. What would you do in my situation? —Wendi
A: Dear Wendi,
First, most parents who are seeking dance lessons for their children don’t know the perfect time of the year to register. They do know that their child wants to dance, and they want to make that happen. It’s not a bad thing, unless that’s the way you choose to look at it.
I know that it is difficult to take new students in February or March, but I believe that you have created boundaries for yourself; it’s time to break out of them. If enrollment seems to pick up at the end of the season, you must figure out what you can do to accommodate this trend. Don’t get upset about it or judge studios that take late registration as wrong. Instead, figure out how you can take advantage of the opportunity.
Who says that all students must be in the recital? Why couldn’t new students register for a six- or eight-week session that can begin at any time of the year, especially during those times when you know that you’ll be receiving new inquiries for classes? Get them in, offer them quality lessons, invite them to watch the recital, and help make them feel like part of the studio family. Rather than sending these potential students away, find a way to welcome them with open arms. That is how you bring in new clientele at any time of the year. —RheeQ: Dear Rhee,
What are the criteria for hiring teachers? Are there certain certifications or educational requirements? Should I rely on homegrown students who want to become teachers? Should I run ads for teachers from the area? Is it important to observe a prospective teacher lead a class with my students before I make a decision? I am new at this, but I need some teaching help and I don’t know where to begin. Thanks for any ideas —Brittany
A: Hello Brittany,
I would have to answer yes to all of your questions, but I’d like to break it down some.
Certifications (including but not limited to dance education, early childhood education, and special education), teacher training, and higher education are not necessarily requirements for a new teacher, but they are certainly assets. However, they would not be the only criteria I would weigh. There are many dancers with a higher-ed background who have never taught, and some teachers with certifications who have no experience teaching at a studio. I would consider experience in the classroom as much as I would degrees or certifications.
Many school owners do build a homegrown faculty (for example, Kim Hurley of Generation Dance Studio in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada; see part two of our story “Thriving on the Outskirts”), but it takes years to make that happen. Although some students move into teaching from high school, the majority pursue college or professional performing experience and then return to their home studios. These are my favorite teachers because they have grown up with the school’s philosophy, know its history, and are proud to be a member of the studio family.
As for running ads seeking teachers, check out indeed.com, an employment site with which I have had good experience. There are free and paid options for job postings; the paid choice offers the best results. Consider contacting other studio owners or teachers for recommendations and explore teacher groups on social media. And add an employment page to your website where you can solicit resumes for potential faculty members (and office staff).
Finally, I do believe that an owner needs to see potential teachers in the classroom with her students before she hires them. If they will be teaching multiple levels, I suggest watching them teach more than one of those levels before making a decision. Pay them for these classes and get feedback from your students.
Good for you for growing your school to the point where you need additional faculty. Hire the right way and you’ll continue to grow. All the best —Rhee