Ask the Experts: Studio Business, Competitions and Technology in the Classroom

Q: How do you handle students who have financial hardship? Do you offer reduced tuition or scholarships?

A: When we have a student with great passion and talent whose family cannot afford to pay for dance education, we try to find that dancer some financial help. Because most parents don't want anyone else to know their financial business, we award scholarships discreetly, asking that the arrangement only be between the family and ourselves. Some studios hold auditions for financial-based scholarships, but I'm hesitant—I feel it should be handled on an individual basis and not public knowledge.

I give the option to some families to subsidize their dance fees by helping out around the studio, running the snack bar, editing music, painting and cleaning in the summer. But don't forget that you're running a business. There have been times when I've been taken advantage of. I once gave a family in need a break on their fees only to find out that they all went away on a fabulous summer vacation for two weeks! When things like that happen, it's easy to feel used. My father used to say, “People who get something for nothing feel it's worth nothing." So I keep that in the back of my mind and always protect myself.

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Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

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Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

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