Deal of the Day

Bring new dancers into your studio with a digital coupon offer.

Debbie Westphal enjoys shopping online and keeps an eye out for interesting daily deal offers from sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial. Last summer, the owner and director of Betty Hill Dance Studios in Greater Des Moines, Iowa, decided it was time to offer a promotion of her own. Through LivingSocial, she offered a 50 percent discount on a four-week session of classes for students in preschool through 12th grade. Fifty-three people bought the deal, 43 actually came in and redeemed their vouchers and 22 children continued to take classes as regular students. “It had a really strong impact on my business,” says Westphal, “and I’m glad that I did it.”

Daily deal companies partner with business owners to offer discounts of as much as 50 to 90 percent off goods or services. Consumers purchase the vouchers online and redeem them at the business. “The folks that are coming through your front door have already paid up front, and as a business owner, you haven’t put any money down,” says Maire Griffin, LivingSocial spokesperson. However, revenue is typically evenly split between the merchant and the daily deal company—which means Westphal made about 25 percent of what she normally charges. But she also gained long-term students she might not have had otherwise. A recent study shows that 31 percent of those who buy daily deals are new customers—many of whom were not aware of the company before the deal.

Dance studios are ideal candidates to offer a deal. “There’s not much incremental cost to adding extra students to a class, so it makes a lot of sense,” says Patrick Albus, CEO of daily deal company kgbdeals.

Before running a deal, make sure you have existing classes with room for new students. You should also think about when you want your deal to become active. Westphal, for example, ran hers during the second week of August in hopes of encouraging new customers to stay into the new school year.

Anna Luckey opened dancemuse STUDIO in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, in 2010. The studio mostly caters to adult students, and to get the word out, Luckey has offered multiple daily deals through several different companies. Because she’s adding students to existing classes and not adding extra classes, she has nothing to lose.

She’s found that it’s most beneficial to partner with a well-known company, which will have a larger number of people registered with its listserv. For example, where a smaller company might sell 200 vouchers, she would expect 1,500 from a large company. Either way, she is pleased enough with the results that she plans on running a deal every three to four months. “Even if we just get one returning student each time,” she says, “it’s worth it.” DT

Keep Them Coming

Perhaps the biggest challenge for studio owners who offer a daily deal is retaining new customers as regular students. Here are some tips.

  • - Limit your daily deal to new customers only, and consider waiving your annual registration fee if they sign up for additional classes.
  • - Collect contact information—e-mails, phone num- bers, addresses—from your new customers. Then include them on any e-mail blasts or mass mailings from your studio.
  • - Make your new customers feel special. Westphal created a web page just for Betty Hill Dance Studios’ LivingSocial customers, to welcome them and

    answer common questions.

  • - But don’t make them feel too special. Do what you can to smoothly integrate them into your classes and studio environment so they feel like a part of the family.

Know Your Options

There are literally hundreds of daily deal businesses, and every single one has slightly different terms and policies. Be prepared to ask about the following—and possibly do some negotiating so you can get a more favorable contract.

  •  - Larger companies tend to have a standard 50/50 split, but smaller companies may be more flexible.
  • - Ask about credit card processing fees and whether you have to sign an exclusivity clause.
  • - Determine how much of a discount you’d like to offer, and when you can expect your payment.

Here is a closer look at three well-known daily deal sites:

Groupon (groupon.com): A certain number of people must purchase the deal before it tips and becomes active for everyone. The tipping point ensures the deal will be worthwhile for you, the merchant. Vouchers are generally available the day after purchase. Groupon works with you to find an arrangement that works best for you, the consumers and Groupon—usually the result is a 50/50 split of proceeds, and there may be credit card processing fees. Expect checks in three installments: the day after the deal finishes, and then at 30 days and 60 days. Consumers can print their vouchers out or redeem them from a mobile app. Groupon is available in 45 countries and 175 U.S. markets.

LivingSocial (livingsocial.com): Vouchers are available the day after purchase, and a unique link is given for buyers to share. If three people buy the deal with that link, the deal is free for the link’s owner. There are no credit card processing fees. LivingSocial mails one check three or four weeks after the offer runs online. Consumers can print out their vouchers or redeem them from a mobile app. LivingSocial is available in over 600 markets.

kgbdeals (kgbdeals.com): Vouchers are available immediately after purchase, and there are no credit card processing fees. Kgbdeals mails the first check (70 percent) within 10 days after the deal runs and the balance within 90 days. Consumers can print out vouchers or redeem them from a mobile app in most cases. Kgbdeals, a Google Offers partner, is currently in 24 major U.S. cities.

 

Hannah Maria Hayes is a freelance writer with an MA in dance education, American Ballet Theatre pedagogy emphasis, from New York University.

Photo copyright istockphoto.com

Technique
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.


The state of Alexis' health changes from day to day, and in true dance-teacher fashion, she works through both the good and the terrible. "I tend to be strong because dance made me that way," she says. "It creates incredibly resilient people." This summer, as New York City began to ease restrictions, she pushed through her exhaustion and took her company to the docks in Long Island City, where they could take class outdoors. "We used natural barres under the beauty of the sky," Alexis says. "Without walls there were no limits, and the dancers were filled with emotion in their sneakers."

These classes led to an outdoor show for the Ballet des Amériques company—equipped with masks and a socially distanced audience. Since Phase 4 reopening in July, her students are back in the studio in Westchester, New York, under strict COVID-19 guidelines. "We're very safe and protective of our students," she says. "We were, long before I got sick. I'm responsible for someone's child."

Alexis says this commitment to follow the rules has stemmed, in part, from the lessons she's learned from ballet. "Dance has given me the spirit of discipline," she says. "Breaking the rules is not being creative, it's being insubordinate. We can all find creativity elsewhere."

Here, Alexis shares how she's helping her students through the pandemic—physically and emotionally—and getting through it herself.

How she counteracts mask fatigue:

"Our dancers can take short breaks during class. They can go outside on the sidewalk to breathe for a moment without their mask before coming back in. I'm very proud of them for adapting."

Her go-to warm-up for teaching:

"I first use a jump rope (also mandatory for my students), and follow with a full-body workout from the 7 Minute Workout app, preceding a barre au sol [floor barre] with injury-prevention exercises and dynamic stretching."

How she helps dancers manage their emotions during this time:

"Dancers come into my office to let go of stress. We talk about their frustration with not hugging their friends, we talk about the election, whatever is on their minds. Sometimes in class we will stop and take 15 minutes to let them talk about how their families are doing and make jokes, then we go back to pliés. The young people are very worried. You can see it in their eyes. We have to give them hope, laughter and work."

Her favorite teaching attire:

"I change my training clothes in accordance with the mood of my body. That said, I love teaching in the Gaynor Minden Women's Microtech warm-up dance pants in all available colors, with long-sleeve leotards. For shoes, I wear the Adult "Boost" dance sneaker in pink or black. Because I have long days of work, I often wear the Repetto Boots d'échauffement for a few exercises to relax my feet."

How she coped during the initial difficult months of her illness:

"I live across from the Empire State Building. It was lit red with the heartbeat of New York, and it put me in the consciousness of others suffering. I saw ambulances, one after another, on their way to the hospital. I broke thinking of all the people losing someone while I looked through my window. I thought about essential workers, all those incredible people. I thought about why dance isn't essential and the work we needed to do to make it such. Then I got a puppy, to focus on another life rather than staying wrapped in my own depression. It lifted my spirit. Thinking about your own problems never gets you through them."

The foods she can't live without:

"I must have seafood and vegetables. It is in my DNA to love such things—my ancestors were always by the ocean."

Recommended viewing:

"I recommend dancers watch as many full-length ballets as possible, and avoid snippets of dance out of context. My ultimate recommendation is the film of La Bayadère by Rudolf Nureyev. The cast includes the most incredible étoiles: Isabelle Guérin, Élisabeth Platel, Laurent Hilaire, Jean-Marie Didière, who were once the students of the revolutionary Claude Bessy."

Her ideal day off:

"I have three: one is to explore a new destination, town, forest or hiking trail; another is a lazy day at home; and the third, an important one that I miss due to the pandemic, is to go to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, where my soul feels renewed by the sermons and the music."

Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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