The summer season can mean a decline in business for dance studios. Here’s how four studio directors maintain momentum with intensives, camps and promotional activities to build fall enrollment.
Steppin’ Up Dance Academy
“After owning the studio for one year, I definitely recognized the need to boost enrollment in the summer,” says Amanda Strnad of Steppin’ Up Dance Academy (formerly the Carol Walker Dance Academy). Her solution? Weekly summer camps and drop-in classes during June and July. “Through advertising the camps and classes by word of mouth, our website and signage, we saw a student increase of 25 percent from 2008 to 2009.” Summer campers receive a discounted fall registration fee.
The camps are for children ages 3 to 7 and alternate in theme. For instance, one week could be “Princess” or “Fairy Camp,” where kids learn to tiptoe like Tinkerbell and are taught ballet steps, and the next week might be the acrobatics and jazz-themed “Dr. Seussical Camp” or even “Hip Hop.” Camp class times and prices vary by age group. Ages 3 to 4 attend class for one hour a day and pay $55 per week. Students ages 5 to 7 take class for three hours a day and pay $125 per week. As for summer drop-in classes, the studio offers one-hour evening beginner through advanced ballet, jazz and tap sessions. The price is $20 per class, with a discount for more than one class per week. Strnad’s performance team members must take at least 12 drop-in classes. These dancers are offered a discount of $10.
Pender-Keady Academy of Irish Dancing
The Pender-Keady Academy of Irish Dancing offers current students weekly three-hour intensives during the summer. The camps coincide with the studio’s six performance levels, two beginner and four advanced. The beginner-level camps last for one week, while the four advanced levels are two weeks long. Each camp costs $195 a week. Workshops are held in the morning, afternoon or evening from Monday to Friday, based on the student’s program. Summer attendance is mandatory for the top two advanced levels, yet owner Kathleen Keady reports that 75 percent of all her students attend. As a treat, classes are sometimes taught by a cast member of Riverdance. Advanced dancers can take additional hour-and-a-half drop-in classes twice a week for $15 each. All new students must take a $125 one-week, one-and-a-half-hour “Introduction to Irish Dance” workshop. “We promote this with online and newspaper advertising,” says Keady. “Of the 20 to 25 beginning students, I’d say 75 percent enroll in the fall.” Keady also rents out her space for $40 an hour after summer hours.
Noticing that her 400-student enrollment typically drops by 65 to 70 percent during the summer, Gail Vartanian, owner of ContempraDance Center, decided to augment her yearly schedule of three 13-week sessions with a summer program. The studio now holds six summer day camps, including creative motion, hip-hop funk, a ballet intensive and “Miss Lindsay’s Fantastic Fun Little Mermaid Camp.” Each weeklong program lasts two to five hours a day, depending on the students’ age and skill level. The popular ballet workshop and youth dance camp are offered twice. Prices range from $225 to $350 a week, with a discount available for early booking. In addition, one-hour classes for ages 3 and up are held every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday over seven weeks. Each class costs $98. Drop-ins are $17 each. “While summer enrollment is not nearly that of our annual sessions, it is a great feeder for new students. We see about 90 percent of the new faces continue,” says Vartanian.
SAS Dance Studio
Because of one local year-round school system, SAS Dance Studio offers an ongoing schedule of classes. “We are fortunate that the local school schedule helps us avoid a dip in summer enrollment,” says owner Andrea Mosier-Salas. “July is the only true ‘summer’ month. We do schedule breaks to coincide with the local schools.” The studio’s enrollment of 400 students is a mix of recreational, performance team and company dancers. “If there is a decrease, it is in recreational dancers and only about 10 percent,” she adds.
Salas requires performance team members and SAS Company dancers to commit to an annual schedule. Beginning team members must take four hours of class each week, while the intermediate-level dancers take six hours. Depending on their age, company dancers take 7 to 13 hours per week. Additional class time is available at $10 an hour. Recreational students pay monthly (even in July), which allows the studio to cover costs. “If a student does take a week vacation, makeup classes are available for up to 90 days,” says Salas. To further offset any potential dip, Salas enforces a yearly registration fee of $25 to be paid in June. This helps cover bookkeeping, recital packets and other related expenses.
Former dancer Glori Gayster is a New Jersey–based freelance writer and marketing professional.
Photo courtesy of Amanda Strnad