In the "new normal" of dance training shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing has become clear: Having a solid plan for virtual dance instruction is crucial to helping studios stay afloat. Luckily, CLI Studios has been leading the online dance education scene since 2014. And with its Studio Partnership Program, CLI has helped studios nationwide fill in the gaps in their student learning experience, often becoming a lifeline for them during the pandemic.
CLI's Studio Partnership Program, a membership-based online platform, works directly with local studio owners to keep students engaged, teachers inspired, and studios profitable, no matter what pandemic-related restrictions they may be facing. With over 800 recorded dance classes in a range of styles, continuing-education resources for teachers, and live-streaming events for students, the program includes everything dance teachers and studio owners need to create a thriving online curriculum, which opens up time and resources for those same teachers to focus on in-person training.
"Training at a dance studio in person is hands down still the best option for young dancers," says CLI co-founder Jon Arpino. "But we think studios should be prepared for both in-person and digital learning this year, and into the future."
Students at Encore Performance Company have kept up a structured training regimen at home during the pandemic thanks to CLI's Studio Partnership Program.
Courtesy Kim Niblett
The Studio Partnership Program's flexibility allows teachers to provide quality structured training to their dancers, who may otherwise be overwhelmed with the flood of virtual options that have sprung up during the pandemic. A teacher can determine what level and style of classes they want their students to have access to, and with classes in just about every dance style and level and new ones being added each week, the options are abundant.
When COVID-19 came to Vestavia Hills, AL, earlier this year, Kim Niblett of Encore Performance Company knew that her students were in good hands. "We had been partnering with CLI since 2016, so we knew that there would be age-appropriate content," she says. "There's a lot of media out there. With CLI, parents don't have to worry about what their kids will accidentally stumble onto." While students sheltered in place, Niblett gave them "homework assignments"—combinations to learn from a CLI video. Then, she'd connect with students on Zoom to review what they'd learned.
"When the pandemic hit, we didn't miss a beat," says Beth Bryson, owner of The Dancer's E.D.G.E. in Brentwood, TN. "We went straight online. Because we had CLI set up, switching to Zoom was a very easy transition. I didn't lose classes, students, or tuition." Bryson says that even before the pandemic, she was eager to capitalize on the program's live offerings. With new CLI-exclusive events added to the library each month, there's always something available to help you expand your students' knowledge, from audition workshops to world-premier performances.
CLI Studios teacher Kathryn McCormick leading class
Courtesy CLI Studios
CLI's roster of teachers alone is enough to inspire many studio owners. "It has exposed dancers to the best choreographers and teachers in the industry," says Bryson. Student favorites include tWitch, Allison Holker, Brian Friedman, Tiler Peck, Misha Gabriel, Kathryn McCormick, Mark Meismer, and Teddy Forance.
McCormick, who has been a CLI teacher since its inception, loves that she has been able to reach so many different types of dancers through the program, from recreational to competitive to professional. "The program can be a wonderful way to give your students a glimpse at the professional dance world while doing it all in the safety of your home studio," she says. "It's a convenient way to add a consistent source of outside inspiration into your home program."
Courtesy CLI Studios
CLI's broad online offerings have enabled many studio owners to expand their typical studio programming far beyond the virtual landscape of COVID-19. When Bryson couldn't find a hip-hop teacher who met her standards, she supplemented with CLI's prerecorded hip-hop classes so that she was able to keep the style in her program. Similarly, Niblett was able to bring ballroom dance to her students for the first time through CLI's library.
Dancers at Encore Performance Company after a virtual CLI class with Teddy Forance
Courtesy Kim Niblett
At just $99 per month for a membership and a free trial to start, the Studio Partnership Program enables studios to get a huge bang for their buck. Both Bryson and Niblett have students pay a separate CLI fee to use the program, which not only covers the cost of the studio's membership, but has been profitable for them, as well. Thanks to her solid financial footing, Bryson has been able to keep her full faculty employed throughout the pandemic.
Keeping Teachers Engaged and Inspired
Students at The Dancers E.D.G.E. finishing up a class with Jaime Donovan
Courtesy Beth Bryson
In the spirit of a true partnership, CLI's Studio Partnership Program uniquely engages studio owners and teachers through its continuing-education resources. "I think the key to our platform is that we always start with inspiring a studio's teachers first," says Arpino. "More inspired teachers means a better overall dance studio." Bryson uses CLI to keep up with changes in the industry, and she's particularly enjoyed incorporating what she's learned about injury prevention into her program. Niblett agrees. "As dance teachers, I know that there's been a lot of fear that if you give your students access to do everything virtual at home then there's no need for a studio. That is not true," she says. "CLI promotes in-studio training and local teachers. They have always supported them, especially through the Studio Partnership Program."