Summertime is notoriously slow for dance studio owners, but bills don't take a holiday. Learn from three studio owners who figured out how to keep the buzz and cash flowing without breaking a sweat. Their secret formula? Creative summer programming too good for parents to pass up—coupled with quick and easy camps as bonus business builders. Not only do these owners keep their revenue rolling in summer, they use the season to boost enrollment come fall.


Start Summer with a (Revenue) Bang

Jennifer Ness, director of Dance Elite Studio

Seattle, Washington

Summer solution A premium recital package sold at the end of the school year provides a revenue boost to compensate for the leaner summer months ahead.

How it works Recognizing parents felt nickeled and dimed by recital fees and costs by the end of the studio year, Ness decided to package items to offer a better rate, and she sweetened the deal by throwing in free performance tickets. For an all-inclusive $200 fee, families receive four tickets, a DVD of the show, a recital T-shirt and a one-line good luck message in the program. Ness makes a $30–$40 profit on each package, which covers teacher costs for the summer.

To stir up interest, she invites students to come up with the recital's theme; the winner has her or his picture taken. That photo becomes the featured image on the program and a silhouetted illustration for the T-shirt.

Unique selling point Since recital T-shirt designs change yearly, they become collectibles—and walking advertisements. And all recital package participants get red carpet treatment, like reserved seating.

Bonus business builder To pay for summer costs the recital packages don't cover, Ness offers a sampler camp. Held three times during the summer, the two-week camp teaches students a different style of dance every day (ballet, jazz, tap and so on). The camp's variety “captures the little ones' attention and loyalty," says Ness. Attendees get to try new genres in a less intimidating environment, and many add a new class to their dance schedule, come fall. To find her price point, she did a market analysis of other studios and set her fee accordingly. “I know how much parents can pay and how many kids I need in a class to make it work," she says.

It's All in the Scheduling

Tiffany Henderson, owner and director of Tiffany's Dance Academy

Livermore, California, plus eight other locations in the state

Summer solution Students can continue their regular classes through summer (with a flexible makeup policy), rather than signing up for a summer schedule with different teachers.

How it works To be profitable, Henderson knew she had to make the same money in July and August as in any other month. Yet a six-week summer schedule remained only 60 percent full. “I realized people weren't registering for summer, because they wouldn't get their regular teacher," she says. Henderson also figured out that parents were more willing to pay a monthly fee ($67) than a higher, one-time fee ($135) for a one- or two-week summer camp. Students register for summer classes in April, and the new dance season starts July 10. Attendance now reaches up to 70 percent of total studio enrollment.

Unique selling point If students must miss a class, the studio offers a flexible makeup-class system. Parents need only contact the office up to a day before the class, and students can take the makeup class in another style at no additional charge. “With camps, if families are out of town for that specific week, there is no chance of having them register at all," says Henderson.

Promotion The schedule is viewable and open for registration in February; advertising begins in February. After spring break, there's a big registration day online, and fees are discounted, with the deepest reductions the sooner you sign up.

Bonus business builder Camps are still part of the summer mix, and in the 3- to 6-year-old range, they bring in the highest percentage of new students. “Being able to try other genres is great," says Henderson. “The parents see that we keep their kids dancing all year and recognize our commitment to the excellence of their children's dance education." She also uses camps for marketing: For the Princess Tea Party camp, a current student can bring a friend who's new to the studio, and the camp is free to both. “I can have 10 prospective students with 10 regular students," she explains, “and all I have to pay for is the teacher. It's more effective than a mailing."

Parade Your Studio (No, Really)

Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix

Brainerd, Minnesota

Summer solution If your community holds seasonal parades—Fourth of July, for instance—arrange to have your studio appear as a marching group. Clough offers students the chance to participate for a one-time fee and easy level of commitment, and it's a great marketing tool for her studio.

How it works Originally a twirler and now the coach of a high school dance team, Cindy Clough knew a parade would be an easy hit. “The community really likes it," she says, “and it's reinvigorated a tradition that had dropped off." To draw lots of kids, she offers different ways to participate: Students can take a four-week-long class, attending once or twice weekly, or attend three longer sessions, to learn the parade routine. The only downside? It can be hard to get people to commit to a parade date in summer.

To set her prices, Clough uses regular year rates, prorated, as a base and then marks those down slightly. (In some locations, students who attend the four-week class pay $32 total, for instance.) Participants—from 25 to as many as 300—have to buy a T-shirt, but Clough usually provides the simple props.

Marketing value Though the parade's not a big revenue generator, its visibility makes it a great way to get new people in the studio door. “One year I did a beach theme, and each kid brought a beach ball," says Clough. “Coming down the street, it really made an impression." She makes sure to include a banner and van displaying Just For Kix's logo and studio information for easy advertising. “We almost always get a picture in the paper," she says. “One year, we got 18 new students just from them watching the parade."

Promotion Clough gets the word out in January—early enough that families can include the class in their summer plans. “You want people to schedule around you, rather than you around them," she says. Clough advertises via her website, social media, newsletters, e-mails and even flyers.

Bonus business builder In addition to parades, Just For Kix offers monthly camps for each age group (preschoolers and kindergartners) with fun themes: princess, circus, Wild West. “They come to camp wearing their own princess finery and do face painting and make a wand," says Clough. “At the end, we do a show-and-tell for parents and also suggest they bring a friend or cousin." Once summer participants have tried out the studio in this low-key environment, they typically sign up again in fall. DT

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Tade Biesinger and Kandee Allen, photo courtesy of Biesinger

It's officially the one month out of the year that's exclusively about gratitude, and there's nothing dance enthusiasts are more thankful for than our dance teachers. They're everything to us!

Case in point: we reached out to Marymount Manhattan freshman and former Billy Elliot: The Musical star, Tade Biesinger, and asked him to write a thank-you letter to his hometown studio owner/teacher Kandee Allen. The result brought tears to our eyes! How Biesinger feels about Allen is how all of us feel about our teachers.

Allen and Biesinger. Photo courtesy of Biesinger

Check out what he had to say, and then write a thank-you message to your dance teachers in the comments of our Facebook page.

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Happy National Princess Day, people! This is a day you were all BORN to celebrate (because you're all princesses obviously). Enjoy this blessed day by watching two of our favorite ballerina princesses light up the stage!

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We've compiled a list of healthy Thanksgiving foods that are sure to satisfy both your cravings and your desire to eat well. Try them out this holiday season and you'll be able to enjoy the best meal of the year guilt-free!

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Dancer Health
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The human head weighs somewhere between 8 and 12 pounds. For many of us, our youngest students included, that comparatively large weight spends on average at least a couple hours a day hunched over a screen. While you may not consider your students as average, there is no denying we spend more hours than ever looking down at handheld mobile devices. "I think of it as 'tech posture,'" says Blossom Leilani Crawford of Bridge Pilates, "when the head is forward and the shoulders are forward. People don't know where their heads are anymore, and you certainly can't turn well with the weight of your head forward."

Forward head posture seems to be the very antithesis of the open chest, lifted spine and presentational sensibility of most classical dance training. But beyond the aesthetics, this misalignment can affect balance and coordination in developing dancers and, at the extreme end, can be associated with nerve damage and pain down the arm.

According to Dr. Marshall Hagins, physical therapist for the Mark Morris Dance Group, there are really two things going on when you see forward head posture. First, the skull is projected forward in front of the body (as in when we look down at a phone). But then, because we are social creatures who want to see and interact with the world in front of us, the head rotates backward on the spine, thrusting the chin up and out. "The muscles in the front of the neck are short and relaxed," he explains, "while the muscles in the back, which are keeping the head from falling further, are lengthened and overworking." The neck muscles have a very high density of proprioceptors and the nervous system feedback is working to fight gravity all of the time, all of which can result in a levator scapulae that is overused and painful.

Hagins offers a tent analogy for balancing the head in three dimensions without simply resorting to a military posture. "All the surrounding neck muscles need to have just the right amount of tension to keep a heavy object, such as the head, balanced atop the tent pole of your spine," he says. "When it leans one way, the corresponding wire becomes loose and the other wires have to pull harder." He notes that it can still be possible for dancers to move in and out of the proper positions even if the resting posture is slouched. However, assuming such a posture for most of the day can lead to injury.

The phenomenon has caused Crawford to modify the abdominal exercises in her mat class. "I sometimes ask for the head to stay on the floor for the single-leg stretch or double-leg stretch," she says. "I call it 'angry turtle' when you work to draw the back of your head into the floor. Once that is understood, it is easier to transfer into lifting the head off the ground properly."

However, both Hagins and Crawford caution that dancers are often hypermobile and prone to overcorrecting, so it is important to focus on good postural habits and incremental changes so they don't move from one misalignment of the head and neck to another. Here are three simple exercises Crawford uses to help students find and feel where proper head alignment is in different planes of movement. They are great on their own, in any warm-up, or can be easily sprinkled into a Pilates mat routine.

Supine Head Float​

Elena Prisco, age 17, student at Lake Tahoe Dance Collective. Photos courtesy of Thompson

1. Lie on your back, knees bent and feet planted, with a yoga block, or prop of similar height, under the shoulder blades. Let your head rest back into this big, chest-opening stretch, with your fingers interlaced, hands behind your neck so that your pinky fingers are against the base of your skull.

2. Float your head up to spine level, chin tucked in, hands helping to
traction your neck long. Use exhales to activate the abdominals and keep ribs heavy and soft while your head is up. Hold for a few counts and then rest back into the stretch.

3. Repeat several times, being careful not to let the chin jut forward.

*If you are ready for more, float the pelvis up to spine level along with the head. Keep the pelvis in a neutral, untucked position.

Studio Owners
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Costumes are one of the most important parts of your annual recital and competition routines, yet the process of choosing what your dancers will wear, measuring them accurately and ordering your selections can be fraught with second-guessing. We compiled your questions and asked the experts—the costume companies, that is—for their frank advice and guidance.

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From left: Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet; Michael Curley, Courtesy Cincinnati Zoo.

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To Share With Students
Cheyenne Murillo and her partner Sasha Altukhov at Millennium Dancesport Championship. Photo courtesy of Murillo

It seems everyone is trying to break into the ballroom scene these days, and we don't blame them—it's ALL kinds of fabulous!

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You're welcome!

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"In part, I became a teacher because I felt the need to help others dance," says Slattery (center in all black). "Working on this project has been so fulfilling, and I look forward to it each week." Photo courtesy of Orlando Ballet

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The workshop was such a positive experience that the school expanded it to 10 weeks. Recently, I was given the opportunity to teach within the program. To my surprise, the students were capable of participating in ways I wouldn't have expected.

In a short time, I've been so impressed with the children's ability to modify movement, not to mention the joy and incredible spirit the students bring to class each week. It has been an extremely valuable experience for me as a teacher, and I have learned a great deal working with these inspiring kids.

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Photo by Jacqueline Connor, courtesy of Nowakowski

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Last Wednesday was National Stress Awareness Day, and all day we couldn't stop thinking about dance teachers.

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Dance Teacher caught up with a Pacific Northwest Ballet School consulting psychologist Toby Diamond to get some professional advice on how to deal with anxiety. She gave a teacher's seminar at PNB on this subject earlier this year.

Try out some of her tools, and see how they can benefit your health and the health of your students!

Good luck! We're rooting for you!

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Shelby Williams via @biscuitballerina

Fall is arguably the best season of the year, and "Falling Fridays" are arguably the best day of the week on the @biscuitballerina Instagram page. So, we thought it was only fitting that we combine the two "bests" for a fall-tastic post today!

Heaven bless @biscuitballerina for making us laugh day in and day out. SHE. IS. EVERYTHING.

Get ready to laugh 'til you cry, ladies and gentleman.

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