Dance studios, as a destination for both children and adults, are in a prime position to reach out to various segments of their local population by holding innovative events. Not only do these functions raise local visibility, they often raise much-needed funds for studio scholarships and competition costs. See what these five studio owners are doing to boost their businesses via community happenings.
Cherry Creek Dance
Riding on the “flash mob” phenomenon, Cherry Creek Dance studio gathered more than 300 people this past Halloween to learn Michael Jackson’s Thriller choreography and perform it spontaneously in public locations. This project sparked what co-owner Lee Prosenjak is calling his master plan to host free monthly happenings that generate lasting buzz and loyalty toward the 1,900-student studio. “Our philosophy is to get people together and let the good times roll!” he says. “Our belief is that in the long run, holding such events will do a lot more for our business than we could accomplish through advertising alone.”
Other recent events at Cherry Creek included: an open house in which visitors sampled free 20-minute classes, a restaurant partnership that dedicated 10 percent of all dinner proceeds on specific nights to CCD’s nonprofit organization, 7dancers, and a holiday-cookie-decorating gathering. At each event, flyers are handed out and Prosenjak acts as an ambassador, informing visitors about the studio’s offerings. “It’s all about sparking interest in a variety of ways,” he says.
Misty’s Dance Unlimited
In August 2008, Misty Lown and her 700-student studio established Drop the Beat, a non-alcoholic teen dance, in partnership with the local school district, police department and Boys & Girls Club. “The school district provided the sound system and staging, the police provided the security and the Boys & Girls Club provided free advertising to their members—all simply in exchange for having their name attached to the event,” says Lown. “It was very easy for organizations to buy into what we were producing because it didn’t cost them anything.”
The event attracted 297 attendees as well as numerous dance teams and crews for a performance “battle.” All were admitted via canned-good donations. “The heartbeat of any community comes from schools and small businesses, and we try to maximize the influence we have in a positive way,” says Lown.
Dance-Fit owner Greg Kasprzak frequently performs dance demonstrations at charity balls and school fundraisers, along with donating private lessons for silent auctions. Since 2008, he has been a featured guest in Dancing with the Stars, Stamford, a benefit for a local nonprofit theater organization. “Sometimes people don’t think of ballroom dancing as an artform, and being associated with established events builds awareness and opens minds,” he says. “It has also helped build my business; the day after a function, my phone always starts ringing!”
Buoyed by his success participating in outside events, Kasprzak has several projects planned for 2010 at his own space, including a summer dance camp and several social-dance mixers/all-day workshops for holidays like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. The events will double as scholarship fundraisers for Dance-Fit students, with 30 percent of the proceeds providing pro bono group and private lessons.
Holly Grubb Smith
Triple Threat DanCenter
Triple Threat DanCenter’s yearly fundraiser, the Triple Threat Performance Benefit and Dessert Café, began in 2005 in response to a studio family’s major medical crisis. The studio planned the inaugural event, at which $4,000 was raised and a number of high-ticket items were gifted. (For instance, one person donated a mattress.) Due to the function’s success, co-owners Holly Grubb Smith and Kim Moser Hobson decided to make it annual, giving the proceeds to a different children’s charity each year. (Beneficiaries have ranged from Arts for Life to the Ronald McDonald House.) Attendees pay $20 for admission and are treated to coffee and an array of desserts, as well as dance, music and theater performances by Triple Threat students. “Not only does it teach the kids to give back, but it also gives them an extra opportunity to perform during the year,” says Grubb Smith.
Southwest School of Dance
Charlotte Wendel, owner of Southwest School of Dance, has been orchestrating a popular dinner theater gala since 1998. “It’s completely run by the kids: They serve the meal, sell tickets, clean up and perform their best competition dances,” says Wendel, who solicits local businesses to help put on the show. “The seniors are the hosts and welcome everyone, and the parents do the organizing. It’s grown into a huge event.”
Although the 120-student studio primarily hosts events to raise competition money, Wendel stresses that it is more important to focus on what these gatherings can do for the public. “Approach it from an angle of how it will benefit the community and give kids new opportunities,” she says. “Nobody should ever attend an event simply because they love the person in it. Give them an event that stands on its own.” DT
Jen Jones is a Los Angeles–based freelance writer.
Photo of Cherry Creek Dance Studio’s “Thriller” flash mob, courtesy of Cherry Creek Dance.