Any savvy studio owner knows that bringing in guest artists is a good idea, whether for a two-hour master class or a weekend spent choreographing recital or competition routines. Your students learn new styles, get exposed to different teaching approaches and have the chance to network with professionals. But it can be a challenge to bring in the guest you want—paying for airfare, lodging, meals, hourly teaching rates, choreography fees—while keeping your bottom line in the black. And you want to keep master class fees reasonable for your dancers. But there are ways to economize, if you're willing to think outside the box.


1. Go local. Can't afford to bring in Justin Bieber's biggest backup dancer? Ask a college professor or graduate student from your local university dance program. Or if you live within driving distance of a bigger city, take advantage of resources there to save on airfare and accommodations. "We're in Connecticut, so there are many cities close to us—New York City, Boston," says Gabby Sparks, owner of Sparkle & Shine Dance in Bantam, CT. "I can find people you wouldn't imagine within a 30-minute drive."

2. Play the long game. If you offer guest artists the chance to stay for a full week or to return once a month for three months, they might be inclined to lower their hourly rate. It's a win-win: They get paid for more classes, and you can open up the opportunity to more dancers.

Longer residencies will help you build lasting relationships. "We create more of a bond with these teachers, who want to come back next year," says Sparks about her studio's weeklong summer camp. In fact, a recent guest artist enjoyed her time there so much that she ended up joining Sparks' permanent faculty after moving to the area.

3. Take advantage of downtime. Scheduling master classes during off-peak times—when an artist might be home for the holidays, for example, or during the summer, when the convention circuit cools down—could cut you a break in their fee.

4. Shop around. Use a flight aggregator website, like kayak.com or skyscanner.com, to find and compare the cheapest airline tickets. If you know your studio schedule far enough in advance, try booking flights 54 days out from the trip. Studies show this is the optimal advance time to purchase a U.S. domestic flight.

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5. Take it outside. Hold your master classes off-site to encourage students from other studios to drop in. By opening the class up to the general public and taking away the possible stigma of having to visit your studio's stomping grounds, you'll up your master class enrollment. "Other kids just don't want to walk through your doors," says Christy Curtis of CC & Co Dance Complex in Raleigh, North Carolina.

6. Collect up front. Carole Royal of Royal Dance Works in Phoenix, Arizona, recommends charging competition dancers a fee at the beginning of the year to cover a number of comp-related expenses—including guest artist costs. Suggested range: $250–$400.

7. Mi casa, su casa. If you know the teacher you're bringing in personally, don't splurge on a hotel room. Instead, offer your guest room as a cozy (and free) accommodation. "I would say that at least half the people I bring in stay at my house," says Royal.

8. Let them side-hustle. If you need choreography for seven different competition solos, and your creative juices just aren't flowing, offer your master teacher the chance to choreograph. You'll get a much-needed break from dancemaking, and they'll get the opportunity to earn a nice chunk of change. You can charge dancers a choreography fee that you pass on to the guest artist directly. Suggested range: $200–$250.

Orlando Ballet dancer Isabella Mendez teaches a master class for Sparkle & Shine Dance in Connecticut. Photo courtesy of Sparkle & Shine Dance.

9. Pump up the value. Feel hesitant to charge $70 a head for a one-hour master class but know that's what you need in order to break even? Ask your guest artist to do a short Q&A session with students after class. Their advice, professional experiences and personal anecdotes are an added value your students will appreciate.

10. Cover your bases. Ask your insurance agent if visiting teachers are covered by your liability policy. If they aren't, make sure the guest artist has liability insurance and lists you as an additional insured.

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."

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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.

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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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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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