As the saying goes, it takes money to make money: Spending a little now to spruce up your studio may do more than energize existing students—it could help attract new ones. Here, we offer ideas for every budget.

Major Overhauls: $$$
A stellar dance floor is essential to any great studio—and one of the most expensive components to upgrade. To make the most of your investment, be sure to do your homework. Contact companies that specialize in dance flooring, and they’ll provide samples and discuss the best options for your individual needs.


No matter what, investigate installation options before making a decision. Nancy Solomon Rothenberg, owner of Studio B Dance Center in Eastchester, New York, says it’s important to check your lease. “Sometimes when you’re leasing a space, there are certain things that have to stay,” she says. “Make sure you have portable floors so you can take them with you.”

After the floors, pristine mirrors are a must. If your studio has five-foot-tall mirrors, it may be time to upgrade. When Sarah-Jane Measor, co-owner of Menlo Park Academy of Dance in Menlo Park, California, decided to renovate her studio to coincide with the opening of a second location, she made sure to install mirrors that were eight-feet-tall to modernize the space. It’s also wise to upgrade to shatterproof glass. “Kids run into mirrors on purpose,” says Solomon Rothenberg, who adds that it can get tricky when ordering online, so make sure to ask the appropriate questions. If you prefer to buy from a local company, be prepared to make a specific request for shatterproof products.

The third most important part of any studio is sturdy barres. If you have only one row, update your space by adding another row at a varying height for students of different ages: “one for the adults and teenage kids, and one for the younger kids,” says Measor. Portable barres are another good transitional purchase for accommodating more students as your studio grows.

Ask local merchants if they’re willing to donate goods or give you a price break in exchange for helping to build a stronger community. For example, a paint store donated a good portion of the paint Measor used for her recent renovation and offered the rest to her at the wholesale price.

Minor Boosts: $$
Regularly upgrading your tech equipment is a must to keep your business competitive. For a renovation that will likely appeal to parents, consider installing a closed-circuit TV system. “When there are windows in the hallway, everybody stands around staring in, tapping on glass and disrupting class,” explains Solomon Rothenberg. “I put TV cameras in each room, and we have monitors in the lobby so parents can watch their children. You can do a split-screen or have the picture switch from room to room. When the doors are closed, the kids don’t know which moms are watching and which ones left to run a quick errand.”


A local security system company installed Solomon Rothenberg’s entire circuit, and the same company put her stereo speakers into the wall, giving her studios a clean look. Additionally, she upgraded her music system by adding iPod docks, eliminating the need to plug and unplug wires when switching between CDs and iPods. Investing in a laptop with music already downloaded onto it is another option to keep your CDs from getting scratched or lost, says Solomon Rothenberg.

Cosmetic Fixes: $
After your building’s facade, the lobby is where students’—and parents’—impressions of your studio first take shape. Make yours inviting and functional with some inexpensive improvements. Solomon Rothenberg recently set up a reading nook in her waiting area, which has been a huge hit. “We bought a crate and asked people to donate books to it,” she explains. “A lot of siblings wait with parents, and I don’t want to encourage food and toys in the waiting room. Instead of running up and down the hallways, kids rush over to the reading bin. There are also a couple of magazines for adults, to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome.”


Make your studio instantly look bigger by installing stackable cubbyholes from stores like Ikea or The Container Store, so students can stash personal belongings quickly and easily. Toy boxes in your waiting area can double as seating and additional storage. “Kids put stuff in piles against walls and take up a lot of space,” says Solomon Rothenberg. “Even if you have a small studio, bins give you room to accommodate more students as business grows.”

As more people are going green, get with the movement by making your studio more environmentally sound. “We switched all our cleaning supplies and soap to all-natural products,” says Solomon Rothenberg. “We also keep hand sanitizer in the studio and started using reusable, recycled water bottles instead of buying water,” she explains, adding that she prints both the studio’s logo and each student’s name on the individual bottles. Solomon Rothenberg also has recycling bins in her lobby.

Often, it doesn’t take a lot of money or effort to make transformative improvements to your studio. Make it a habit to pop into other businesses to see what they’re doing. “I always go into other studios when I’m traveling,” says Solomon Rothenberg. “Just stop in and get their fall brochure. That’s how you get a lot of good ideas.” Sometimes the smallest changes stand out the most. “Step back and look at your studio from a parent’s point of view,” suggests Solomon Rothenberg. “Make people feel like you care about them and their children.”

Sara Jarrett is a freelance writer in New York City.

Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Brian Guilliaux, courtesy of Coudron

Eric Coudron understands firsthand the hurdles competition dancers face when falling in love with ballet. Now the director of ballet at Prodigy Dance and Performing Arts Centre in Frisco, Texas, Coudron trained as a competition dancer when he was growing up. "It's such a structured form of dance that when they come back to it after all of the other styles they are training in, they don't feel at home at the barre," he says.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Kendra Portier. Photo by Scott Shaw, courtesy of Gibney Dance

As an artist in residence at the University of Maryland in College Park, Kendra Portier is in a unique position. After almost a decade of performing with David Dorfman Dance and three years earning her MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she's using her two-year gig at UMD (through spring 2020) to "see how teaching in academia really feels," she says. It's also given her the rare opportunity to feel grounded. "I'm going to be here for two years," she says, which offers her the chance to figure out the answers to some hard questions. "What does it mean to not dance for somebody else?" she asks. "What does it mean to take my work more seriously? To realize I really like making work, and figuring out how that can happen in an academic place."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Deanna Paolantonio leads a workshop. Photo courtesy of Paolantonio

Deanna Paolantonio had been interested in body positivity long before diabetes ever crossed her mind. As a Zumba and Pilates instructor who had just earned her master's degree in dance studies, she focused her research on the relationship between fitness and body image for women and young girls. Then, at age 25, just as she was accepted into the PhD program at York University in Toronto, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Robin Nasatir (center) with Peter Brown and Vicki Gunter. Photo by Christian Peacock

On a sunny Thursday morning in Berkeley, California, Robin Nasatir leads her modern class through a classic seated floor warm-up full of luscious curves and tilts to the soothing grooves of Bobby McFerrin. Though her modern style is rooted in traditional José Limón and Erick Hawkins techniques, the makeup of her class is far from conventional. Her students range in age from 30 all the way to early 80s.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: I need advice on proper classroom management for dancers in K–12—I can't get them to focus.

A: Classroom management in a K–12 setting is no different than in a studio. No matter where you teach, I recommend using a positive-reinforcement approach first. As a general rule, what you pay attention to is what you get. When a student acts out, it's generally done in order to gain attention. Rather than giving attention to them for inappropriate behavior, call out other students who are exhibiting the positive behaviors you desire. Name the good actions, and all of your students will quickly learn what it takes to be noticed.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips

For an aspiring professional dancer, an unexpected injury can feel like a death sentence to a career that hasn't even started. The recovery process following an injury can be one of the most grueling and heartbreaking experiences a performer will ever face. In times like these, dance teachers have the power to boost or weaken a dancer's morale.

With that in mind, we've compiled a list of do's and don'ts for talking to a seriously injured dancer.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: Last season I had three dancers on my junior team who struggled all year. They've trained with me for years, yet they keep sliding farther behind their classmates. What should I do?

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox