Q: This past year, many of our dancers ages 2–6 did not return because they chose to participate in a different sport or activity. What is considered a normal dropout rate for a dance studio?
A: While it can be unsettling to lose students in this age range year after year, it is common that some students will not return, regardless of their satisfaction level. We find this to be particularly true in the age group you referenced, as parents often want to expose children to a variety of activities to discover what their child finds fulfilling. We asked Frank Sahlein, a regular presenter at the Dance Teacher Summit and owner of 3rd Level Consulting, to shed some light on this topic.
Frank assured us, based on his 15 years of experience in the gymnastics, cheerleading, dance and martial arts industries, that there is no such thing as a “normal” dropout rate for this or any age group. There is, however, a minimum turnover of approximately 20 percent that almost every facility experiences in its recreational programs. According to Frank, overall retention is almost completely dependent upon the effort and energy that the owners and instructors put into the program.
In other words, above the 20 percent natural turnover, businesses can determine their own retention rates by evaluating key factors such as curriculum and lesson quality, instructor education and customer service.
We suggest you make a regular practice of sending written or online surveys to your current students and families to gauge what they enjoy most about your programs and what areas they want improved. Doing so can help you find ways to improve retention and highlight what is great about your programs. Direct your energy and resources to making participation at your dance studio a positive experience, regardless of how long a student stays. When you provide a welcoming attitude for students, their happy parents may refer your program to their friends and relatives.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.
Photo by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety