No doubt about it: Dance studio owners know better than almost anyone what having a proverbial “full plate” is like. As studios grow and expand, it often becomes crucial to delegate duties and find full-time help in order to lighten the load. For many owners, it makes sense to utilize existing dance teachers and have them assume additional responsibilities. Yet when teachers take on a varied workload, it can be challenging to settle on appropriate compensation. So how can you find the right algorithm for your studio? DT consulted three experienced studio owners for insider advice on structuring payment for full-time teachers.
Robin Dawn Academy of Performing Arts
Cape Coral, FL
Robin Dawn Ryan, owner of Robin Dawn Academy of Performing Arts, employs one person who pulls double-duty, teaching tap, jazz and gymnastics classes along with office work. This strategy has been a “godsend” for Ryan: “She does a lot of returning phone calls and checking in with parents; she understands why children would need to be in Level 2 versus Level 3. She knows my business so well, and that’s something you won’t find hiring someone off the street.”
The full-time employee balances her time between the office (four days per week from 11 am to 4 pm) and teaching at night (17 class hours each week); she also helps the company’s competition team on weekends. Like all faculty, Ryan’s full-time employee makes a set hourly rate and is paid via a payroll company that offers benefits. She earns a separate, lower hourly rate for her administrative work that equals about $12/hour less than teaching class. Across the board, Robin Dawn faculty can make anywhere from $20 to $45 hourly.
To determine individual rates, Ryan evaluates a number of criteria from education to experience. And since she sometimes has difficulty finding good ballet and hip-hop teachers, she will often pay an additional $5 to $20 hourly to attract those teachers. As perks, she offers half-price tuition to staff members’ children, annual raises and end-of-the-year bonuses.
Westwoods Center of Performing Arts
Arvada, CO, and Broomfield, CO
Of the six dance teachers at Westwoods Center of Performing Arts, only two are currently full-time employees: the assistant director and a ballet instructor. Compensation and raises are determined on a case-by-case basis. For instance, though both full-time employees are paid $30,000 yearly, only one receives healthcare benefits. “Our assistant director gets benefits because she does more of the administrative duties, as well as teaching 22 classes per week and directing our competition team,” says studio director Shannon Wilson. The full-time ballet instructor teaches 15 classes a week and also runs the studio’s youth ballet company.
Since both employees were originally independent contractors, Wilson used their initial hourly rates as a basis for setting their salaries. “We compensated for their normal teaching schedules and evened that out with the slower summer season,” she says. She also takes class enrollment numbers into account: “Our ballet teacher’s classes were almost always full, so that helped when deciding whether to put her on salary or not.”
Wilson advises to consider the bigger picture before committing to providing salaries. “Make sure the employee is a good fit with the mission of your school and someone whom you absolutely trust,” she says. “I don’t hire teachers full-time unless they’ve taught here at least five years and I know they’re in for the long run.”
Perfect Pointe Dance Studio
Perfect Pointe Dance Studio employs one full-time teacher. This employee works about 42 hours each week, teaching 29 classes and private lessons, plus general secretarial work, light cleaning and registration duties. She receives a similar hourly rate as the entire staff (a full-time office manager and five part-time instructors), but she also gets health insurance.
Owner Kendra Slatt says she settled on the current hourly-rate pay structure after some trial and error. “We tried salary but found that the number of hours worked varied considerably depending on the season; it was hard to estimate and decide on an appropriate number,” she says. When setting rates, Slatt takes each teacher’s educational level, professional experience and organizational memberships into account. The end result? A range of $21 to $31 an hour.
Slatt also provides a yearly three-percent raise for all staff and grants merit-based raises to teachers who pursue additional certifications. Other perks include paid trainings, flexible schedules and free adult dance classes at the studio. Slatt’s philosophy: “It’s important to be prepared to pay your teachers well, as teachers are really your product. When you treat them right, they’re fully invested and give their all to the studio, which makes such a difference in overall quality and atmosphere.” DT
Freelance writer Jen Jones is a former hip-hop and dance fitness instructor.
Photo: istockphoto.com/Helder Almeida