Studio Owners

Ask the Experts: How Can I Give Dancers the Best and Most Affordable Guest-Choreographer Experience?

Photo courtesy of Chapman

Q: I want to bring in a guest choreographer, but I'm worried about the cost. How can I keep things affordable and give dancers the best possible experience, both while the choreographer is here and after they leave?


A: Guest choreography can be very expensive for both dancers and studio owners. To keep things cost-effective, we take the choreography fee, airfare (if needed), accommodations and food cost, and divide it by the number of dancers involved. From there, we add a small $10 fee per dancer to cover any shortages, like gas and administration fees.

My daughters and I are paid a salary, not an hourly wage, so we run and clean all guest choreography ourselves rather than pay another teacher an hourly rate. We allow time in our schedules to give these routines the same time and energy we give our own in-house choreography. We treat routines choreographed by guests as an opportunity for our dancers to take their training to another level. If the in-house teachers are the "meat and potatoes" of their training, a guest choreographer is the gravy. That being said, unless we give the guest routines the time and care they need, our dancers won't be getting the full benefit of the experience.

Music
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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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