National Dance Week, April 24 to May 3, is just around the corner. So what does that mean for your dance business? The annual event is intended to promote pride and appreciation for all forms of the art. But it’s also an excellent way to showcase your studio dancers, strengthen community spirit and attract new students.
Cheri Eagan is a firm believer in the value of hosting an event during NDW. For four years now the former studio owner has organized the Annual Market Street NDW Festival in an area of South Houston known as The Woodlands. “Students and teachers are planning competitions and recitals all year long, and this is something different that’s completely stress-free and really fun,” she says. Eagan invites about 15 to 20 area schools to show their work in 15- to 30-minute segments. The festival runs much like a competition—minus the prizes—giving students a chance to perform and to also watch the work of their peers.
Eagan begins planning the event months in advance, she says, recruiting performance groups and community volunteers. To market the event, she puts up posters in cooperating businesses and asks the participating studios to promote the show in their regions. “Last year, we had a guest speaker from the Houston Ballet, Lauren Anderson, a former principal dancer, so that drew more people in,” shares Eagan. And her job as a representative for Curtain Call Costumes, a division of Perform Group, LLC, works to her advantage. “I network like crazy,” she says. “The people who run Market Street are very community-oriented. So when I proposed the idea for a dance festival, they loved it,” Eagan says. Each year, she is able to use the space and sound system for free. The all-day event lasts for six hours; families, friends and other guests bring lawn chairs or blankets and lounge on the grass to watch.
While a daylong festival is a great way to unite dozens of dance studios in your region, it isn’t necessary to operate on a large scale when organizing an event. Take, for example, last year’s “Kick It Off Big for National Dance Week,” hosted by Triangle Youth Ballet of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The two-hour, kid-friendly carnival was held at a local park and included a silent auction for adults and various low-cost children’s activities, such as a rubber-duck race, maypole dance, lemonade stand and mini-dance class/contest. Proceeds helped fund school performances and other
According to Kate Vollrath, a TYB teacher, studio manager and registrar, the event was a great way to publicize the school and its company. “Our event is crafted in a way to introduce young children and their parents to our teaching style, and to develop their interest in taking a trial class, trying out a week-long camp or seeing a TYB show,” she says. “Older children are more likely to have a studio they call home; we are primarily trying to generate interest from that younger, unattached group of potential students.” To advertise at the event, the school displayed posters, course catalogs, registration forms and cards offering one free class. All attendees were also asked to sign in on a mailing list to keep them informed about TYB. “We even had dancers dress in their Sleeping Beauty costumes for an upcoming show, and charged $5 to ‘have your picture taken with Princess Aurora,’” Vollrath recalls.
While she feels that the school and company’s presence was strengthened by the event, looking back, Vollrath says there are a few things they will do differently in the future, like holding the silent auction and kids’ activities separately, so that parents can focus more on the auction, and promoting the event more in depth.
“I really encourage studios to get involved,” shares Eagan. “Do Dance Magazine and Capezio/Ballet Makers Inc.’s poster contest; do Dance Spirit magazine’s essay contest. Hold an open house with a dance demonstration, even if it’s just recital dances. The first year you have to plant the seed; year after year, it will grow.”
Ways to promote your studio during National Dance Week
- Run a promotional booth at a high-traffic community area, like a school, church, community center or movie theater.
- Offer in-store discounts and free goody bags at your studio’s dancewear boutique or give away a month’s worth of free dance classes.
- Give public ballroom lessons at little or no cost, with special performances by students.
- Hold a “Bring a Friend to Dance Day” for all classes, with plenty of games and partner work.
- Ask local businesses to display your studio’s NDW poster.
- Partner with a neighborhood bookstore to create a themed book fair with a small dance exhibition.
- Ask a professional dancer to speak or teach a master class at your studio, and invite the public.
- Offer to do a reading of a dance-related book at your local library, accompanied by an Angelina Ballerina–themed coloring contest, a short performance or a free children’s mini-class.
- Hold a dance-inspired book drive to benefit your library, or a dance-shoe drive to benefit a low-income school.
For more information, visit www.nationaldanceweek.org.
Debbie Strong is a freelance writer in New York City.