Studio Owners

Ask the Experts: How Do I Keep My Competition Team Motivated Right Now?

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The first e-mail that we sent out talked about how the studio would be closed for two weeks and everyone should be practicing social distancing and staying healthy and well. We recorded some YouTube classes for all the recreational levels as well as some "boot camp" and warm-up classes for our full-time and part-time comp teams to stay in shape.


As April approached and it looked like we would be staying closed longer, we started sending out the competition rehearsal videos for the numbers we'd been working on before closure. We also signed up and paid for CLI online classes. Once we registered as a studio, our dancers were able to take advantage of all the CLI online classes at no charge, and we encouraged them to dance and take class every day. We made the decision that no monthly fees or any other type of payment would be charged until we were back in the studio running classes again.

We also put out daily challenges for each week: Move It Mondays, TikTok Tuesdays, etc. We have had Zoom chats to check in with each level of our competitive teams. Talking to all our dancers made all of us feel better, and hopefully the dancers felt better, as well. We continue to post new classes and challenges on social media and YouTube, and we send an e-mail weekly. There is a famous quote that we're keeping in mind: "Life is 10 percent what happens and 90 percent how we handle it."

Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

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@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

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Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

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