Associate editor Rachel Rizzuto is originally from Chalmette, Louisiana. She dances for MMDC and heads her own project-based company, touche pas. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with degrees in dance and English, she edits the Face to Face, Higher Ed, Technique, Theory & Practice and Business columns. Contact her at email@example.com.
Make your studio the go-to choice for every kid who wants to dance
Studio owners agree that it can be tricky to maintain a thriving student base of dancers who take only a class or two a week. Kids are busy trying any number of extracurricular activities—soccer, cheerleading, piano lessons—and parents are anxious to see what sticks. How do you compete? We talked with four savvy owners who've built a loyal following of once-a-week dancers with conscious programming and well-tailored scheduling.
When Sierra McCauley was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma cancer five years ago at age 6, that didn't stop her from continuing to compete with her studio, Sonya's Dance Zone, in Columbus, Indiana. Despite six months of chemotherapy, McCauley even competed in a Nationals. "I remember going onstage without any hair and a bow taped to my head," she says.
During her stay at Riley Hospital for Children, McCauley made several friends, a few of whom sadly passed away during their struggles with cancer. Last year, she performed a special tribute dance to honor those friends. Now, she's created a social-media challenge to help raise funds for the Riley Children's Foundation: #dancerbeatingcancer. The challenge's premise is simple, just like the #IceBucketChallenge from 2014—you post a short video of yourself dancing to Meghan Trainor's "Better When I'm Dancin'" and challenge others to do the same, tagging your post with #dancerbeatingcancer. Then, you head to the Riley Children's Foundation donation page to donate funding for pediatric research.
Did you see our story on three former owners who found the right successors for their studios? Here's another owner with a successful transition story.
After nearly two decades of ownership, Beverly Spell decided to sell her Lafayette, Louisiana–based school, because the licensing of her curriculum for creative movement and beginning ballet was demanding more of her time and travel. "You can be an absent owner," says Spell, "but I didn't want to be." Last August, she sold The Ballet Studio to faculty member Brie Castro. "We offered her a down payment with four-year owner financing," says Spell. She says it's been surprisingly easy to let go of the responsibility. Well, except for one small thing: "We always have fresh flowers at the studio," she says, "and I still tend to pull out the dead ones when I go in."
This sequence takes dancers through several foundational poses of the Giordano jazz technique. These positions aren't stagnant—they flow together with continuous energy. Nan Giordano stresses that the dancer's powerful gaze is quintessential to authentic technique. "That's my dad's look—the Giordano eyes," she says. "All the intensity comes through the eyes, focusing and imagining, but not seeing anything."
What studio owner wants to spend time thinking about the worst that can happen? Yet as the dance studio business continues to expand, the number of dance studio–related scandals seems to grow in proportion: Sexual abuse allegations make headlines, copycat studios pop up around the corner and "borrowed" choreography winds up onstage at the next competition. Thinking through a crisis management plan ahead of time and adopting wise risk-reduction strategies will help protect the hard-earned success you've achieved. Read on for three studio scenarios and the steps to appropriately deal with them and prevent them from happening at all.
In Pamela Pietro's contemporary class, "everything has to have lineage," she says. Each early exercise or phrase is a foundation for something that happens later. The floor spirals she begins class with (based on her mentor Irene Dowd's spirals) return in the form of the spiral turns her students do while standing.
As a child—with no formal dance training—Roy Assaf knew the transformative power of an audience. Starting from the age of 5, he would prepare dances for family gatherings. "I remember that all the guests would form a circle around me," he says, "and I would execute what I had prepared for that event." Now, as one of the most exciting and wholly original choreographic voices today, Assaf has harnessed that ability to transfix onlookers by creating straight-from-the-gut, highly physical dances that intimate complex inner narratives. The bodies in his Israel-based company weave, rebound, change direction, pant heavily and always move with purpose.
His newest work premiered December 6–10 in New York City. This time, instead of choreographing on his core company of a handful of dancers, he created a work on all 24 of the Juilliard third-year dancers.