12 Months of Fundraising

A dance competition here, recital costumes there—all the extras add up. Fundraisers are a great way to defray costs, but coming up with fresh ideas (not another car wash!) can be a daunting task. So we’ve done the legwork for you—whether you want to earn money for your dance team, student scholarships or a charity, these fundraisers can help you keep the cash flowing all year long.

January:

A new year means that many businesses have a renewed budget for donations. This is the time to ask for a sponsorship. Approach businesses with suggested levels of support, and reward those who sponsor with logos printed on T-shirts, a plaque or a framed picture of the dance team.

“They may be able to sponsor just one girl,” says Elizabeth Fujimoto, owner of Maricopa Dance Academy in Maricopa, Arizona, “but any help is greatly appreciated.”

Don’t forget to thank your benefactors with a letter signed by you or the dancer being sponsored, and keep businesses updated on studio and team achievements.

February:

Show the community your moves with a dance revue combined with a sit-down dinner. Negotiate discounted catering fees and charge by the plate—a steal considering your guests will be entertained while they eat.

With enough planning, you can solicit donations from local vendors and hold a silent auction that starts an hour before dinner and lasts throughout the evening. Attendees will go home entertained and satisfied, knowing they’ve supported a good cause.

March:

Senior centers are always on the lookout for performance groups to entertain retirees. Because they want to present a variety of programming, these centers may allow your studio to visit only once a year. The good news, however, is that groups that perform often receive a hefty donation in exchange for their services, says Victoria Blevins, owner of

Victoria’s School of Dance in Riverview, Florida.

April:

Throw a dance party for your students, and give your studio parents the night off. Ask your instructors to chaperone, buy a dozen pizzas and charge $5 a ticket. Then dance the night away!

May:

Get in the spirit of spring cleaning by hosting a community garage sale. Sell studio, parking lot or donated space to anyone interested in selling items. In addition to earning “rental” money, you can set up a jar for donations.

Community sales tend to draw more traffic than individual sales, and therefore benefit everyone involved. When Blevins organized one, she noted that “some people were so happy to get rid of stuff, they just gave us a big donation.”

June:

“Over the years we’ve found that fundraising works best if you sell something your customers want and need anyway,” says Kathy Blake, director of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. This is why her school focuses all of its fundraising efforts on its four dance recital days by selling flowers, snack packs, water and baked goods.

Blake sells one rose for $5 and three for $10, bringing in up to $5,000 in just a few days. “We sell thousands of roses,” she says. Nut-free snack packs are pre-ordered and pre-made for less than $1, then sold for $5. Blake draws extra funding with bake-sale items and bottled water.

July:

Some mainstream retailers offer community groups the opportunity to run a hamburger or hot dog stand outside their stores. You can solicit food donations from local grocery stores, then ask friends, family and anyone who walks by to support your school.

“It’s a great hands-on experience because our dancers actually get to see that they’re earning money,” says Desiree Harper, owner of Desiree’s Dance Studio in North Branch, Minnesota. “It also gives girls on the same team an opportunity to get to know each other outside of class.”

August:

Count on your studio dads—and any avid golfers—to help out with a golf scramble. Negotiate discounted greens fees with a local club, and charge your participants 25 to 50 percent more. Offer donated prizes or gift cards to the top golfers of the day, and sell donated or discounted snacks and drinks to round out this profitable day on the course.

September:

With the holidays on the horizon, September is a good time for door-to-door sales. From candles and candy to wrapping paper and wreaths, these fundraisers require a little extra legwork on the part of your dancers, but individual pay-offs can be great. Some door-to-door companies have also added an internet component to their catalog sales, allowing dancers to reach even more people.

“We’ve had a lot of kids say they have out-of-state grandparents who wanted to buy something from them,” Fujimoto says. “These fundraisers allow people to help out by ordering online.” Make sure all ordered items will arrive and be delivered prior to December.

October:

For people looking for that special handcrafted item for the holiday season, consider holding a craft sale with local artisans. Like the community garage sale, rent out space for those interested in selling anything with a handmade touch—jewelry, pottery, quilted items and even food. Use free advertising space in local publications to invite the entire community to the event. Again, set out a jar for those interested in donating to your cause.

November:

Raise money with a raffle for something everyone needs at Thanksgiving—a turkey. Ask a local grocery store to donate a bird, and sell tickets for $1. With a huge margin of profit and a great gift for the winner, this holiday fundraiser can also be reworked with a ham at Easter or a barbecue package for Memorial or Labor Day.

December:

Again, take advantage of the holiday season by providing a service to frazzled shoppers. Get permission from a local mall or department store to set up a booth and wrap presents. Ask your dancers to donate wrapping paper, tape and their time. You can either set a flat fee for your services and leave a jar out for tips, or simply ask for donations. DT

JoAnna Haugen is a Las Vegas–based freelance writer who danced her way through childhood with classes in modern, tap and jazz.

Illustration by Emily Giacalone

Dancer Diary
Claire, McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."


In 2019, NYCB came calling: Resident choreographer Justin Peck visited Houston Ballet to set a new work titled Reflections. Peck immediately took to Chan and passed his praises on to NYCB artistic director Jonathan Stafford. Chan was invited to take class with NYCB for three days in January 2020, and shortly thereafter was offered a soloist contract.

The plan was to announce his hiring in the spring for the fall season that typically begins in September, but, of course, coronavirus postponed the opportunity to next year. Chan is currently riding out the pandemic in Huizhou, Guangdong, China, where he was born and trained at the Guangzhou Art School.

We talked to Chan about his training journey—and the teachers, corrections and experiences that got him to NYCB.

On the most helpful correction he's ever gotten:

"Work smart, then work hard to keep your body healthy. Most of us get injuries when we're tired. When I first joined Houston Ballet, I was pushing myself 100 percent every day, at every show, rehearsal and class. That's when I got injured [a torn thumb ligament, tendinitis and a sprained ankle.] At that time, my director taught me that we all have to work hard, memorize the steps and take corrections, but it's better to think first because your energy is limited."

How it's benefited his career since:

"It's the secret to me getting promoted to principal very quickly. When other dancers were injured or couldn't perform, I was healthy and could step up to fill a higher role than my position. I still get small injuries, but I know how to take care of them now, and when it's OK to gamble a little."

Chan, wearing grey pants and a grey one-sleeved top, partners Jessica Collado, as she arches her back and leans to the side. Other dancers behind them are dressed as an army of some sort

Chun Wai Chan with Jessica Collado. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet

On his most influential teacher:

"Claudio Muñoz, from Houston Ballet Academy. The first summer intensive there I couldn't even lift the lightest girls. A month later, my pas de deux skills improved so much. I never imagined I could lift a girl so many times. A year later I could do all the tricky pas tricks. That's all because of Claudio. He also taught me how to dance in contemporary, and act all kinds of characters."

How he gained strength for partnering:

"I did a lot of push-ups. Claudio recommended dancers go to the gym. We don't have those kinds of traditions in China, but after Houston Ballet, going to the gym has become a habit."

On his YouTube channel:

"I started a YouTube channel, where I could give ballet tutorials. Many male students only have female teachers, and they are missing out on the guy's perspective on jumps and partnering. I give those tips online because they are what I would have wanted. My goal is to help students have strong technique so they are able to enjoy the stage as much as they can."

Music
Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.


"I like to give dancers a phrase of music and choreography and have them reinterpret it," she says, "to be thinkers and creators and not just replicators."

Osato learned this approach—avoiding the natural temptation of the music always being the leader—while earning her MFA in choreography at California Institute of the Arts. "When I was collaborating with a composer for my thesis, he mentioned, 'You always count in eights. Why?'"

This forced Osato out of her creative comfort zone. "The choices I made, my use of music, and its correlation to the movement were put under a microscope," she says. "I learned to not always make the music the driving motive of my work," a habit she attributes to her competition studio training as a young dancer.

While an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, Osato first encountered modern dance. That discovery, along with her experience dancing in Boogiezone Inc.'s off-campus hip-hop company, BREED, co-founded by Elm Pizarro, inspired her own, blended style, combining modern and hip hop with jazz. While still in college, she began working with fellow UCI student Will Johnston, and co-founded the Boogiezone Contemporary Class with Pizarro, an affordable series of classes that brought top choreographers from Los Angeles to Orange County.

"We were trying to bring the hip-hop and contemporary communities together and keep creating work for our friends," says Osato, who has taught for West Coast Dance Explosion and choreographed for studios across the country.

In 2009, Osato, Johnston and Pizarro launched Entity Contemporary Dance, which she and Johnston direct. The company, now based in Los Angeles, won the 2017 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and, in 2019, Osato was chosen for two choreographic residencies (Joffrey Ballet's Winning Works and the USC Kaufman New Movement Residency), and became a full-time associate professor of dance at Santa Monica College.

At SMC, Osato challenges her students—and herself—by incorporating a live percussionist, a luxury that's been on pause during the pandemic. She finds that live music brings a heightened sense of awareness to the room. "I didn't realize what I didn't have until I had it," Osato says. "Live music helps dancers embody weight and heaviness, being grounded into the floor." Instead of the music dictating the movement, they're a part of it.

Osato uses the musician as a collaborator who helps stir her creativity, in real time. "I'll say 'Give me something that's airy and ambient,' and the sounds inspire me," says Osato. She loves playing with tension and release dynamics, fall and recovery, and how those can enhance and digress from the sound.

"I can't wait to get back to the studio and have that again," she says.

Osato made Dance Teacher a Spotify playlist with some of her favorite songs for class—and told us about why she loves some of them.

"Get It Together," by India.Arie

"Her voice and lyrics hit my soul and ground me every time. Dream artist. My go-to recorded music in class is soul R&B. There's simplicity about it that I really connect with."

"Turn Your Lights Down Low," by Bob Marley + The Wailers, Lauryn Hill

"A classic. This song embodies that all-encompassing love and gets the whole room groovin'."

"Diamonds," by Johnnyswim

"This song's uplifting energy and drive is infectious! So much vulnerability, honesty and joy in their voices and instrumentation."

"There Will Be Time," by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal

"Mumford & Sons' music has always struck a deep chord within me. Their songs are simultaneously stripped-down and complex and feel transcendent."

"With The Love In My Heart," by Jacob Collier, Metropole Orkest, Jules Buckley

"Other than it being insanely energizing and cinematic, I love how challenging the irregular meter is!"

For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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