How’s business? Are you slowing down, holding your own, or growing? The first step in facing tight economic times is not to panic. Many bankers, real estate experts and business forecasters are saying that our greatest problem is fear. The more fearful you are, the worse the future looks. Instead, ask the question: How will I manage and grow my studio during the next 12–24 months?

Economists predict a recovery beginning in mid-2009, or by year’s end at the latest. Start now to position your business for growth. With creativity and a positive outlook, you can make the next two years your best. When the economy recovers you will be stronger.

A good place to begin is with your marketing. With other businesses going into “hunker-down” mode, your efforts will get more exposure. You won’t be spending lots of money; you will be spending time and energy.  Here are five ways to get started.

1. Make a date.
Pull out a calendar to use as the basis for your two-year marketing plan. Mark notable dates from dance history; note birthdays of dance legends you love and admire, like Nureyev, Balanchine, Graham, Joffrey. Write down the anniversary of your studio or group. Create at least one date every quarter that will be a student, parent, family or school appreciation day. You can use these celebrations to create promotions and gain publicity.

2. Show ’em some love!
Retention is key in difficult times, so over-serve your current students. Do a better job of encouraging students and parents and say “thank you” more often. Are there low-cost incentives you could offer current students to raise the value of their experience? Extra classes, information about other learning opportunities, and giving them the chance to teach/demonstrate are all ways you can add value. This may especially help parents—who may be asking the “Is dance an expense or investment?” question—decide in your favor.



Also, give your students an incentive to reach out to their friends. Offer a discount to families in specific neighborhoods, or to families with more than one child taking class at your studio. The discount does not have to be monetary. It could be, again, additional classes, or other opportunities to be engaged.

3. Expand your reach.
Identify individuals and groups who have a need for your service. You don’t have to convince them of the need; simply persuade them that you are one to fill it. A percentage of the people you contact will enroll. Remember, sales is all about the numbers.


Once you have identified potential students, find low-cost ways to expose them to your message. Post flyers on a bulletin board in an office building. Make a short presentation to a parents’ group about the fact that dance can improve students’ grades. Or, demonstrate to a business how they can use dance as an energy pick-me-up. The key is to hit as many individuals and groups as possible.

If you offer ballroom classes, think about promoting an evening as an opportunity for singles—different promotions for different ages—to meet. Or, market a “Cheap Date” night for couples.

4. Go where the money is.
Look for potential groups and individuals who do not seem to be affected by the economic downturn. For instance, health care is not taking as big a financial hit as banks. Creating a special promotion for doctors and nurses and their families is a creative way to target a new market.

5. Offer dance as a solution.
When people have a problem, they are in psychological pain. Can you offer adult dance classes as a creative solution? What about dance as an escape, a way to feel better about oneself, an economic way to get out and have some fun?





Look back at your marketing from the last few years. What message were you trying to send to current and potential students? Devising a new message—dance as a way to ease pain and have fun—not only makes you new in the minds of your current students, it creates awareness in the minds of potential students.

Small-business expert Mike Collins is a Certified Guerilla Marketing Coach and has written four books.

Photo by Tim Trumble, courtesy of Arizona State University

Many parents discourage their teenagers from majoring in dance because of fear that their child will become a struggling artist in an unforgiving city, only to end their career in injury. But a dance degree can lead to other corners of the profession, such as marketing, physical therapy and arts administration. "Parents always say their children need something to fall back on," says Daniel Lewis, former dean of the dance division at New World School of the Arts. "They only see the stage time, applause and flowers. But there's choreographing, teaching, PR—the careers are endless."

Others are more concerned with disappointment. "Your daughter doesn't have to be a major ballerina with ABT to be successful," says Lewis. "If she wants to be a dancer, she'll find the work. There's a certain amount of training you have to achieve before you even get accepted into a good college, so if you have the talent, and the drive, you can make it."

As mentors, teachers can be monumentally influential on students' college decision processes. Read on to hear from three dance majors who feel grateful they chose this path—and share their words with your students!

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To show her support for local studios, Kelly Berick requires all her students to be enrolled in an after-school program. Photo by Stephanie Csejtey, courtesy of Akron School of the Arts

When Kelly Berick began teaching high school students at Ohio's Firestone Community Learning Center within Akron Public Schools 21 years ago, she was newly engaged, newly licensed to teach K–12 dance and thrilled to land what she considered the perfect job. Her enthusiasm quickly soured, however, when after two weeks of teaching she called a local studio to introduce herself. "The owner told me her students didn't like me, didn't like what I was doing and were going to quit my program," she says. Her class of seven became a class of three.

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Photo by Matthew Murphy

Jacqulyn Buglisi has a flair for drama. To encourage the students in her intermediate and advanced Graham classes at The Ailey School to open their sternums in a high release, she tells them to stretch “like a flower came out of your heart." When attempting to convey the weight of a hand gesture, she explains that they must “pull the hem of heaven from the sky." During the extensive warm-up sequence, she reminds them that this is no time for complacency: “We don't do positions. We dance the series." Despite her penchant for the Graham dramatics, Buglisi is equally quick to curb any excess of melodrama in her students. “No Swan Lake with the arms," she admonishes one whose wrists are limply crossed.

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Teachers & Role Models
Robert Roldan and partner Taylor Sieve (courtesy of FOX)

Robert Roldan may have stolen our hearts on Season 7 of "So You Think You Can Dance"—but it seems his heart was stolen long before that by none other than Emmy Award winning choreographer, Mandy Moore.

As his first jazz teacher at Bobby's School of Performing Arts in Thousand Oaks California, Roldan says Moore taught him everything he knows about dancing. Now, as an All-Star on this season of "So You Think You Can Dance," he's applying those invaluable lessons with partner Taylor Sieve.

"What Mandy has always taught me, is that you need to feel the emotion and intention of the pieces you perform as a human before you can apply it to your dancing. Because of this, the week that Taylor and I performed Mandy's piece, I used the entire two hours of private rehearsal time we had to talk about what the piece was about and how we could connect to it as humans. I believe that doing this was ultimately more valuable than any time we could have spent cleaning details and making the piece perfect. Mandy taught me this at a young age, and I try to apply it to Taylor as much as I possibly can when I teach her. People won't connect to how high your leg is or what crazy tricks you can do. They want to feel something. And when you feel it, they feel it."

Watch Roldan on "So You Think You Can Dance" tonight on FOX.

Teachers & Role Models
Camille Rommett, left, with her mother Zena, who founded the floor-barre method. Photo courtesy of Rommett.

In 1965, Zena Rommett was asked to teach her unique Floor-Barre method at the American Ballet Center by ballet legend Robert Joffrey. Her gentle-yet-effective technique inspired countless professional dancers over the years, who became faithful followers as a supplement to their dance training. From choreographer Lar Lubovitch to Tommy Tune, Patrick Swayze and Judith Jamison, many swear by the benefits of the technique. Rommett taught it until she was 90.

The summer after Rommett's death, her daughter Camille made her debut on the faculty of our Dance Teacher Summit. She describes teaching to a packed convention room as "a very humbling experience." Despite students often telling her she sounds similar to her mother, she's learned it's not about filling her mother's shoes, but keeping her mother's legacy—and the integrity of the technique—alive.

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Dancer Health
Thinkstock

I have heard you say that tight hamstrings prevent full extension of the knees and that you prefer hamstring stretches in a standing position, rather than on the floor. Can you explain why?

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Dance Buzz
Photo by Julieta Cervantes

In February 2016, we featured the women of Ragamala Dance, the Minneapolis-based bharatanatyam company founded by mother-and-daughter team Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy. (Daughter Ashwini is a dancer in the company and the troupe's publicist.) Since they appeared on our cover, they've had a busy year and a half, full of performances and exciting news. This weekend, they're featuring their mentor, Alarmél Valli, in a special performance at The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts in Minneapolis.

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