Your Studio

How to Make Your Business Grow Without Breaking Your Bank Account

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How's business? Are you slowing down, holding your own, or growing? The first step in facing tight economic times is not to panic. Many bankers, real estate experts and business forecasters are saying that our greatest problem is fear. The more fearful you are, the worse the future looks. Instead, ask the question: How will I manage and grow my studio during the next 12–24 months?


A good place to begin is with your marketing. With other businesses going into "hunker-down" mode, your efforts will get more exposure. You won't be spending lots of money; you will be spending time and energy. Here are five ways to get started.

Make a date.

Pull out a calendar to use as the basis for your two-year marketing plan. Mark notable dates from dance history; note birthdays of dance legends you love and admire, like Nureyev, Balanchine, Graham, Joffrey. Write down the anniversary of your studio or group. Create at least one date every quarter that will be a student, parent, family or school appreciation day. You can use these celebrations to create promotions and gain publicity.

Show 'em some love!

Retention is key in difficult times, so over-serve your current students. Do a better job of encouraging students and parents and say "thank you" more often. Are there low-cost incentives you could offer current students to raise the value of their experience? Extra classes, information about other learning opportunities, and giving them the chance to teach/demonstrate are all ways you can add value. This may especially help parents—who may be asking the "Is dance an expense or investment?" question—decide in your favor.

Also, give your students an incentive to reach out to their friends. Offer a discount to families in specific neighborhoods, or to families with more than one child taking class at your studio. The discount does not have to be monetary. It could be, again, additional classes, or other opportunities to be engaged.

Expand your reach.

Identify individuals and groups who have a need for your service. You don't have to convince them of the need; simply persuade them that you are one to fill it. A percentage of the people you contact will enroll. Remember, sales is all about the numbers.

Once you have identified potential students, find low-cost ways to expose them to your message. Post flyers on a bulletin board in an office building. Make a short presentation to a parents' group about the fact that dance can improve students' grades. Or, demonstrate to a business how they can use dance as an energy pick-me-up. The key is to hit as many individuals and groups as possible.

If you offer ballroom classes, think about promoting an evening as an opportunity for singles—different promotions for different ages—to meet. Or, market a "Cheap Date" night for couples.

Go where the money is.

Look for potential groups and individuals who do not seem to be affected by the economic downturn. For instance, health care is not taking as big a financial hit as banks. Creating a special promotion for doctors and nurses and their families is a creative way to target a new market.

Offer dance as a solution.

When people have a problem, they are in psychological pain. Can you offer adult dance classes as a creative solution? What about dance as an escape, a way to feel better about oneself, an economic way to get out and have some fun?

Look back at your marketing from the last few years. What message were you trying to send to current and potential students? Devising a new message—dance as a way to ease pain and have fun—not only makes you new in the minds of your current students, it creates awareness in the minds of potential students.

Dance Buzz
PC Break the Floor

Two competition routines are equal in technical proficiency, artistry and choreography. One consists of all girls, the other includes a boy. Guess which takes home first prize?

If you guessed the one with the boy, you may be privy to an unspoken and much-debated phenomenon in the competition dance world: The Boy Factor. According to The Boy Factor, a competitive piece is more likely to win if there's a boy in it.

"If it's all technically equal and one group is all girls and the other group has a boy, the one with the boy will win," says Rysa Childress, owner of All Star Studios in Forest Hills, New York. "Boy soloists are sometimes scored higher than more technically proficient girls because if a boy has good stage presence, we let him slide," says an anonymous competition judge. "And most of the feedback will be for the boy."



The Boy Factor doesn't just have to do with competition scores: It's how we treat boys throughout their dance education. "We idolize the boys," says Ashley Harnish, a teacher at a competition studio. "We build entire dances around one boy, and we teach them that we need them more than we need the girls."

On the surface, The Boy Factor is flagrant sexism. But what's really behind the phenomenon? "So often, young male dancers are bullied because our culture says that dance is for girls," says a second national competition adjudicator. "This stigma pushes some judges to reward boys by scoring them higher than their female competitors." The Boy Factor also stems from a simple fact: There are far more girls than boys in the dance world.

"Judges see boys as valuable commodities," says Marissa Jean, a staff member at Broadway Dance Center's new building for children and teens and a teacher at several competition studios. "To encourage their career in dance, judges will throw a little extra their way. It could be placing them in the top ten or giving them a special award. They nurture them a bit more than the girls."



But by trying to retain more male talent, are we suggesting to girls that they are less valuable to the dance world than boys? "There's so much about this getting into these kids' psyches," says Childress. "Like, 'Oh the boy will beat me no matter what.' How do we teach self-worth knowing that you're going up against a boy, so what's the point?"

The Boy Factor is a product of and a contributor to the culture that sends the few men in dance up the glass escalator: "Many boys growing up in the dance world are not told the word 'no' often, so they tend to climb the professional ranks more quickly than the women," says Jean. We often bemoan the absence of female leadership in dance, but the damage is already done if we've taught young women that their gender determines their value to our community.

So what can be done about The Boy Factor? First, we could change how we encourage boys to continue dancing. Instead of empowering young men by devaluing young women, we could work as a community to dispel the culture of toxic masculinity that discourages boys from pursuing dance in the first place.

But it also falls in the hands of judges and teachers. "We need to increase awareness," says the second adjudicator. "A lot of us judges don't realize what we are promoting and the messages we send through our scoring and awards. If enough of us band together, I think we can make a difference so that this part of our field is less toxic."

How-To
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Q: Do you have any advice for how to clean competition pieces?

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Kenedy Kallas (via Instagram)

Every true dancer knows just how valuable a perfectly arched foot that curves effortlessly from the ankle to the end of the toes is to a performance. In fact, it's so important, it seems we've all taken an unofficial pact to spend inordinate amounts of time stretching our feet with ominous looking contraptions that cause us severe pain. We are completely crazy! With good reason, but crazy, nonetheless.

In order to keep us all inspired to stretch our toes until they are drool-worthy, DT compiled a list of five dancers whose feet we have a very real crush on. Honestly, these guys should get their toes insured! Truly, they are perfect.

Check 'em out!

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Q: After running my studio six days a week for 20 years, it's time for me to delegate. How can I transition into a shared-workload system with my teachers?

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Students need strong feet for pointe work, but few concentrate on their toes specifically. "Fatigue sets in and they start knuckling," says Atlanta Ballet podiatrist Dr. Frank Sinkoe. This puts excess pressure on the nails, causing bruising. The exercises below strengthen the arch and intrinsic muscles, which flex the toes and support the feet.

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Your Studio
What are your non-negotiables? Share on Dance Teacher's Facebook page.

It could be argued that half the battle of owning a dance studio is getting people to follow the rules. To ensure your business will run like a well-oiled machine, it helps to have clear expectations in place for students and their families—and, most important, to make sure everyone knows them from day one. Of course, every school is unique, and behavior that may be acceptable to you might be out of the question for someone else. "There are so many studios out there," says Dana McGuire, a studio co-owner in North Kansas City, Missouri. "Know and stand by what you're about." Here, four seasoned studio directors discuss the issues they consider non-negotiable.

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I have a student who's going through a growth spurt, and I'm wondering what advice I should give her. Is there anything you recommend?

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