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.


Recognize students of the month

Becca Moore and Dani Rosenberg ask each teacher at their Marietta, Georgia–based studio to nominate a dancer of the month. They select one preschool/kinder student, one elementary, one teen and one company dancer. Rhythm Dance Center honors the winners in a big way, via an e-mail blast to the entire studio and the school's newsletter, with a photo of each student and their teacher. Dancers get a $50 tuition credit and a "Dancer of the Month" T-shirt. "We receive so many nice e-mails from moms after we post the winners each month," says Rosenberg. "It really is special recognition for the dancers."

Go the extra mile

Have yard signs made that read "Dancer of the Month" and include your studio logo. Offer students the chance to keep the yard sign all month long.

Reward achievement

Bonnie Schuetz of Boni's Dance and Performing Arts Studio in The Woodlands, Texas, rewards her kids for their efforts in class. For example, students who get their left, right and center splits become members of the Banana Split Club, which comes with a Dairy Queen gift certificate. She suggests handing out a piece of paper with a word of the week, like "maxi ford" or "port de bras," with its spelling, pronunciation and meaning included. After six or eight weeks' worth of words, give your students a vocabulary test—and reward those who score well with fun prizes.

Go the extra mile

Devote each month to a different era—the rock-'n'-roll '50s, the groovy '70s —and make it a studio-wide throwback. Decorate your hallways and lobby around the theme, and incorporate music and dance styles from that decade into your warm-ups or combinations.

Schedule shrewdly

"Keep requirements to a minimum," says Rosenberg. "Some kids have no desire to take ballet or tap." If students want only to take a hip-hop or contemporary class, she and Moore encourage it.

Go the extra mile

Schuetz suggests offering a mixed-age basics class each year for students who want to take ballet and tap for the first time. Dancers who first found your studio via a specialty style class will appreciate the opportunity to later dip their toes into foundational dance classes.

Create nonrecital traditions

Southern Strutt Dance Studio owner Nancy Giles hosts Daddy-Daughter Dance-Offs (with prizes for the winners), names certain weeks of the year "theme" weeks and even holds movie nights in her studio parking lot, with a projector and a grill for marshmallows—all for the purpose of creating bonds between students.

Go the extra mile

Start a big sister–little sister program at your studio, assigning older students a younger one to mentor for the year. Pair a shy young student with an outgoing older dancer to maximize their connection.

Employ excited teachers

Schuetz recommends having high-energy, warm-and-fuzzy teachers who know how to engage and inspire students. "Fun and positive energy inside and outside the classroom is important," says Rosenberg. "You want their entire experience at your studio to be fun and memorable, from the minute they walk in the front door until the time they get onstage at your year-end show."

Go the extra mile

Moore and Rosenberg make sure their teachers stay current with what kids are interested in: music, television shows, apps. "It helps!" says Rosenberg.

Launch a part-time competition team

Rosenberg and Moore beef up performance opportunities beyond the year-end recital. Spotlight is an invitation-only team for students who aren't ready to commit to the full-time competition experience. "Toward the end of each season," says Rosenberg, "we ask our teachers to recommend dancers for the program who show potential or have a bit more focus." The selected dancers are required to take two classes a week (jazz and ballet)—"and we schedule those back-to-back to make it convenient," says Rosenberg. They attend one local competition toward the end of the season (usually in April) and compete with their recital jazz dance. The only additional cost, aside from tuition, is a $45 entry fee for that competition (compared to at least $700 for participation in one of their other comp teams).

"The competition experience really gives them a boost of confidence and a small taste of what the company dancers do, should they choose to audition for the company in the future," says Rosenberg. "This program has been incredibly successful for us—we started with just one Spotlight class, and now we have five full ones."

Go the extra mile

Keep your summer active by requiring your part-time competition dancers to attend a summer camp at your studio. "We offer several date options throughout the summer, so there are no excuses as to why they can't make it to a camp," says Rosenberg. Each weeklong camp costs approximately $250, and they're only required to attend one.

Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Dance teachers are just as apt to fall into the trap of perfectionism and self-criticism as the students they teach. The high-pressure environment that is the dance world today makes it difficult to endure while keeping a healthy perspective on who we truly are.

To help you quiet your inner critic, and by extension set an example of self-love for your students, we caught up with sports psychologist Caroline Silby. Here she shares strategies for managing what she calls "neurotic perfectionism." "Self-attacking puts teachers and athletes in a constant state of stress, often making them rigid, inflexible and ultimately fueling high anxiety rather than high levels of performance," Silby says. "Perfectionistic teachers, dancers and athletes can learn to set emotional boundaries. They can use doubt, frustration and worry about missing expectations as cues to take actions that align with what they do when teaching/performing well and feeling in-control. Being relentless about applying a solution-oriented approach can help the perfectionist move through intense emotional states more efficiently."

Check out those strategies below!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Since the dawn of time, performers have had to deal with annoying, constant blisters. As every dance teacher knows (and every student is sure to find out), blisters are a fact of life, and we all need to figure out a plan of action for how to deal with them.

Instead of bleeding through pointe shoes and begging you to let them sit out, your students should know these tricks for how to prevent/deal with their skin when it starts to sting.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Brian Guilliaux, courtesy of Coudron

Eric Coudron understands firsthand the hurdles competition dancers face when falling in love with ballet. Now the director of ballet at Prodigy Dance and Performing Arts Centre in Frisco, Texas, Coudron trained as a competition dancer when he was growing up. "It's such a structured form of dance that when they come back to it after all of the other styles they are training in, they don't feel at home at the barre," he says.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Kendra Portier. Photo by Scott Shaw, courtesy of Gibney Dance

As an artist in residence at the University of Maryland in College Park, Kendra Portier is in a unique position. After almost a decade of performing with David Dorfman Dance and three years earning her MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she's using her two-year gig at UMD (through spring 2020) to "see how teaching in academia really feels," she says. It's also given her the rare opportunity to feel grounded. "I'm going to be here for two years," she says, which offers her the chance to figure out the answers to some hard questions. "What does it mean to not dance for somebody else?" she asks. "What does it mean to take my work more seriously? To realize I really like making work, and figuring out how that can happen in an academic place."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Deanna Paolantonio leads a workshop. Photo courtesy of Paolantonio

Deanna Paolantonio had been interested in body positivity long before diabetes ever crossed her mind. As a Zumba and Pilates instructor who had just earned her master's degree in dance studies, she focused her research on the relationship between fitness and body image for women and young girls. Then, at age 25, just as she was accepted into the PhD program at York University in Toronto, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Robin Nasatir (center) with Peter Brown and Vicki Gunter. Photo by Christian Peacock

On a sunny Thursday morning in Berkeley, California, Robin Nasatir leads her modern class through a classic seated floor warm-up full of luscious curves and tilts to the soothing grooves of Bobby McFerrin. Though her modern style is rooted in traditional José Limón and Erick Hawkins techniques, the makeup of her class is far from conventional. Her students range in age from 30 all the way to early 80s.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox