Q: Many families attend my studio’s open house events before the new school year, and they all leave with a copy of the schedule. It seems they’re excited about our programs, but then don’t commit. Any suggestions for getting people to register?
A: Promote your open house as both an opportunity to gather information and register. Make it easy for everyone to secure a spot in the class of their choice with a registration fee taken in person.
Keep in mind that parents often have to coordinate multiple activity schedules for their children, which delays commitment. Encourage these families to take a trial class and provide specific dates and times that they can mark in calendars. Letting potential students experience your studio before registering shows that you understand the investment that tuition can be.
Setting hard deadlines for registration will encourage commitment and help attract dedicated students. We set an enrollment deadline of January 31, no exceptions. If a family wishes to begin dance classes after that date, they have to wait until the summer session or the following year. This way, students who do register understand the commitment they’re undertaking and often are more serious about dance than those who can join whenever.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.
Q: I own a studio that has both recreational and competitive programs. My comp students are required to train about 10–12 hours per week, and for some, that requisite is just too high. I’d like to grow my program, but if I decrease the amount of required technique classes, I fear that our team’s performance level will also decrease. What can I do?
A: Many national competitions are now offering a division called “Part Time,” “Pre-Comp” or “National Level.” In this division, students compete against others in their own level and can be successful, even though their technique may not be as strong as dancers who train full-time.
I divide my studio into recreational, competitive and part-time competitive programs. Not only does this third division allow students who can’t make a hefty time or financial commitment to compete, it’s also a place for dancers who started training as older students and don’t have as much experience.
Part-time comp dancers train from two to five hours each week, depending on the disciplines they wish to compete in. I keep their costume fees lower than the full-time comp prices, and because these students only attend two local competitions, travel expenses are also decreased.
Because of this program, the gap between my recreational and competitive dancers has closed. Young dancers can experience competition, gain performance experience and see what the next level of competition is, giving them something to work toward. And, even if dancers decide that they don’t want to commit full-time, my studio retains students who are happy and successful at all levels.
Joanne Chapman is the owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Ontario, Canada.
Q: I’m putting together my curriculum for the year, and I’m tired of carrying heavy binders full of loose-leaf papers, sticky notes and index cards. There must be a better way. How can I use technology to my advantage?
A: To keep track of your curricula in one place, try creating a free Google Site or using database-management software. Because of its video-embedding capabilities, I use FileMaker Pro. I keep lesson plans—containing notes and videos—organized by venue, level, general focus and date. I assign each plan an ID number, so I can easily locate an entire unit or narrow a search to find a specific exercise.
FileMaker has ready-to-use templates to organize your information. I used the one called “Document Library” and modified the layout to fit my needs. My layouts have specific fields that outline lesson plans (such as “Warm-ups,” “Across the Floor,” “Final Combination” or “Improvisation”), depending on the class. These fields include notes for each exercise, and next to the text I embed a video of myself performing the steps. There are free web seminars and video tutorials on FileMaker’s website to help you navigate the program.
For a free option, create a Google Site. Upload videos to YouTube (you can make them private). Then, post lesson plans to the web pages of your site, and add videos. You can view the material from any portable device connected to the internet, and if you’re working with other teachers, you can give them access to certain pages. It’s easy to set up; Google will walk you through it: sites.google.com.
Barry Blumenfeld teaches at The Friends Seminary School in NYC. He is an adjunct professor at New York University and on the faculty of the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.
Photo by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety