Studio Owners

Meet 6 Rockstar Studio Owners—and Learn the Secrets to Their Success

Photo by Laurie Sermos


Photo by Jim Carmody

Nicole Lucia

Danceology Performing Arts Campus

San Diego, CA

Be your students' coach—not their friend Coaching dancers is Lucia's passion. To get results, she uses discipline tempered with inspiration. "I am not interested in being their friend," she says. "There is time to laugh, but there are boundaries. Kids listen and do as I say because they understand what is expected of them. Expectations are set and never change."

Don't let parents help you run your biz She encourages parents to enjoy classroom viewing, but has a strict policy of no parents or adults other than staff upstairs. A common mistake is having parents help run a business, she says. "We are a professional team, not volunteers," says Lucia. "We coach minds and teach bodies. We support dance competition, and we prepare young people for success on a stage and in life, the wins and losses. There's discipline and team bonding, and we help with scholarships and college. There are many opportunities, and we work as a team to find the right chemistry for a college education or other direction."


Photo by Laurie Sermos

Becca Moore and Dani Rosenberg

Rhythm Dance Center

Marietta, GA

It's not about the trophies "We have never been caught up in winning," explains Becca Moore, owner and one half of the force behind the popular studio just outside Atlanta, where fun and creativity reign, and there is a class for everyone, from recreational dancer to pre-professional. "It is more about process and growing. We set goals, of course, but not necessarily to win first place. Besides, we don't have room for trophies to collect dust here, so we donate them and talk to the kids about that."

Keep everyone in the loop Though they may joke about their trial-and-error business approach, the truth is that it takes a great deal of foresight and planning to run a studio of this size. These women clearly have that down. They hold partial staff meetings every Monday to make sure everyone is on the same page, and they have informational meetings in advance of recitals for parents of the six casts, plus auditions for the performing company to clearly lay out expectations and head off misunderstandings.

Photo by Lauren Guy Summersett

Christy Wolverton

Dance Industry

Plano, TX

Prepare your dancers for the real world Dance Industry's audition-only company is structured to mimic the stringent requirements of a professional dance job. The 90 dancers who participate must take classes across the board, including lyrical, jazz, ballet, contemporary, technique (a choreography-free class focused on concepts like center barre and balancing), hip hop and tap, and rehearsals are 100 percent mandatory. A big believer in cross-training, Wolverton also sets up group classes on an as-needed basis in everything from boxing to Pilates to strength work.

"I'm a little hardcore," says Wolverton. "You don't miss rehearsals; we've worked through Christmas and spring break. I have people ask me all the time how I get dancers to commit, and I tell them, 'That's the only thing I accept—no exceptions.' When you do that, you start attracting people who want the same things you do."

Photo by Heather Gray

Jennifer Jarnot

Artistic Fusion Dance Academy

Thornton, CO

Maintain an appropriate work/life balance Jarnot, who used to own Artistic Fusion with her sister, once had trouble with her work/life balance. Five years ago, she hired a business/life coach to help her take a step back from the exhausting seven-day weeks she'd been putting in. The coach guided her toward working fewer hours, hiring a second office person, finding others to teach recreational classes and doing trades with studio families for cleaning and maintenance.

"A big challenge we had was wanting to do everything," says Jarnot, whose two daughters are currently enrolled. "Our coach showed us how to let go of some responsibility and trust that other people can take it on. It was a hard year of decision making—I highly recommend working with a coach to studio owners who feel stuck."

News
Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

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News
Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

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