I would like to focus more on the business side of my studio. Will parents and students be upset that I'm no longer teaching?

Q: I have been the sole ballet teacher at my studio since we opened five years ago, and I have built a good reputation in my community for my qualifications and teaching style. But we are growing, and I am finding myself being pulled in too many directions. I would like to focus more on the business side of things, but I am worried that parents and students will be upset that I won’t be teaching the open ballet classes anymore. Is this a wise decision? Do you have any suggestions for how I can positively present this change to my students and their families?

 

A: Because you have built your studio reputation on your expertise, it could be a mistake to abruptly replace yourself in that role. Reducing your teaching and focusing more time on business is best done gradually. Focus on slowly building a team of great teachers who share your standards of excellence and who will inspire your students as you do.

 

Determine your core strengths and interests, and assess where your time and talent best serve your business. If your passion and talent ultimately lie in artistic direction, you may want to find the right office staff to help you manage the day-to-day business. Then you can still be the manager without having to do each task yourself.

 

However, as your studio and faculty continue to expand, the demands of overall studio ownership will inevitably take more of your time and focus. As with any new change, introduce the transition as an exciting improvement that will benefit students and parents. For example, share the positive advantages of learning from a diverse faculty. They will trust your judgment and commitment to providing quality dance education. Your leadership will be appreciated and become the essence of your reputation.

 

Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.

 

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Music
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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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