No doubt about it: Dance studio owners know better than almost anyone what having a proverbial “full plate” is like. As studios grow and expand, it often becomes crucial to delegate duties and find full-time help in order to lighten the load. For many owners, it makes sense to utilize existing dance teachers and have them assume additional responsibilities. Yet when teachers take on a varied workload, it can be challenging to settle on appropriate compensation. So how can you find the right algorithm for your studio? DT consulted three experienced studio owners for insider advice on structuring payment for full-time teachers.

 

Robin Dawn Ryan

Robin Dawn Academy of Performing Arts

(325 students)

Cape Coral, FL

 

Robin Dawn Ryan, owner of Robin Dawn Academy of Performing Arts, employs one person who pulls double-duty, teaching tap, jazz and gymnastics classes along with office work. This strategy has been a “godsend” for Ryan: “She does a lot of returning phone calls and checking in with parents; she understands why children would need to be in Level 2 versus Level 3. She knows my business so well, and that’s something you won’t find hiring someone off the street.”

 

The full-time employee balances her time between the office (four days per week from 11 am to 4 pm) and teaching at night (17 class hours each week); she also helps the company’s competition team on weekends. Like all faculty, Ryan’s full-time employee makes a set hourly rate and is paid via a payroll company that offers benefits. She earns a separate, lower hourly rate for her administrative work that equals about $12/hour less than teaching class. Across the board, Robin Dawn faculty can make anywhere from $20 to $45 hourly.

 

To determine individual rates, Ryan evaluates a number of criteria from education to experience. And since she sometimes has difficulty finding good ballet and hip-hop teachers, she will often pay an additional $5 to $20 hourly to attract those teachers. As perks, she offers half-price tuition to staff members’ children, annual raises and end-of-the-year bonuses.

 

 

Shannon Wilson

Westwoods Center of Performing Arts

(500 students)

Arvada, CO, and Broomfield, CO

 

Of the six dance teachers at Westwoods Center of Performing Arts, only two are currently full-time employees: the assistant director and a ballet instructor. Compensation and raises are determined on a case-by-case basis. For instance, though both full-time employees are paid $30,000 yearly, only one receives healthcare benefits. “Our assistant director gets benefits because she does more of the administrative duties, as well as teaching 22 classes per week and directing our competition team,” says studio director Shannon Wilson. The full-time ballet instructor teaches 15 classes a week and also runs the studio’s youth ballet company.

 

Since both employees were originally independent contractors, Wilson used their initial hourly rates as a basis for setting their salaries. “We compensated for their normal teaching schedules and evened that out with the slower summer season,” she says. She also takes class enrollment numbers into account: “Our ballet teacher’s classes were almost always full, so that helped when deciding whether to put her on salary or not.”

 

Wilson advises to consider the bigger picture before committing to providing salaries. “Make sure the employee is a good fit with the mission of your school and someone whom you absolutely trust,” she says. “I don’t hire teachers full-time unless they’ve taught here at least five years and I know they’re in for the long run.”

 

 

Kendra Slatt

Perfect Pointe Dance Studio

(600 students)

Arlington, VA

 

Perfect Pointe Dance Studio employs one full-time teacher. This employee works about 42 hours each week, teaching 29 classes and private lessons, plus general secretarial work, light cleaning and registration duties. She receives a similar hourly rate as the entire staff (a full-time office manager and five part-time instructors), but she also gets health insurance.

 

Owner Kendra Slatt says she settled on the current hourly-rate pay structure after some trial and error. “We tried salary but found that the number of hours worked varied considerably depending on the season; it was hard to estimate and decide on an appropriate number,” she says. When setting rates, Slatt takes each teacher’s educational level, professional experience and organizational memberships into account. The end result? A range of $21 to $31 an hour.

 

Slatt also provides a yearly three-percent raise for all staff and grants merit-based raises to teachers who pursue additional certifications. Other perks include paid trainings, flexible schedules and free adult dance classes at the studio. Slatt’s philosophy: “It’s important to be prepared to pay your teachers well, as teachers are really your product. When you treat them right, they’re fully invested and give their all to the studio, which makes such a difference in overall quality and atmosphere.” DT

 

 

Freelance writer Jen Jones is a former hip-hop and dance fitness instructor.

 

Photo: istockphoto.com/Helder Almeida

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Jacqueline Chang, courtesy of Ailey Extension

Marshall Davis Jr.'s introduction to tap dance began at 10 years old at African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, where his father is director, in Miami, Florida. Training began in sneakers and dress shoes that Davis Jr. did his best to get sound out of. "My father was reluctant to invest in tap shoes, because he thought it was likely I would change my mind about dancing," he says. But it didn't take long before Davis Jr.'s passion for tap became undeniable, and his father bought him his first pair of tap shoes. Just one year later, Davis Jr. became the 1989 Florida winner for the Tri-Star Pictures Tap Day contest, a promotion for the movie Tap, starring Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. Through that experience, a new tap-dancing future was opened.

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Q: Are there good sources to find replacement dance teachers? When I go through standard employment services, I get people who are not properly trained or lack experience.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Courtesy of Susan Jaffe

Throughout Susan Jaffe's performance career at American Ballet Theatre, there was something special, even magical, about her dancing. Lauded as "America's quintessential American ballerina" by The New York Times, Jaffe has continued to shine in her postperformance career, most recently as the dean of dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She credits the "magic" to her meditation practice, which she began in the 1990s at the height of her career. We sat down with Jaffe to learn more about her practice and how it has helped her both on and off the stage.

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

Reviewing a simple recording of your voice when you're teaching can help you hear how you sound to your students. Taking the time to play back your instructions, corrections and compliments throughout class will help you find any weak spots as well as recognize some of your strengths. It's a great technique to help you evaluate your instructional ability and make improvements, and pat yourself on the back for things you are doing well. Plus, it's super-easy to do!

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Including ballet competition standout Alina Taratorin (photo by Oliver Endahl, courtesy Taratorin)

Congratulations to the 39 talented dancers just named 2020 YoungArts award winners! This year's group of awardees includes several familiar faces from the competition scene.

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Photo by Brian Babineau, courtesy Burghardt

When Alicia Burghardt entered Dean College in Massachusetts as a freshman dance major, it hadn't occurred to her that the Boston Celtics had a dance team. A competition kid with aspirations for Broadway, Burghardt never imagined herself as an NBA dancer. But by the time she was finishing her senior year, she'd not only joined the Celtics Dancers, she was choreographing a number for a major playoff game. And after finishing her rookie year, surrounded on that TD Garden parquet floor by uproarious fans, she couldn't help but stay for another. "It's unbelievable performing for Boston fans," she says. "They're so loyal to their team. It could be third quarter, down 20 points, and they're still cheering."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
"The Greatest Show on Earth." Photo by Brenda Rueb, courtesy of Vona Dance

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending

"No formal training. No dance studio. No mentor," says Erik Saradpon about his beginnings in hip hop.

"I think that's why I'm especially tough on these guys, because I don't take the relationship for granted," he says, referring to his students. "I'm like a dad to them. I had a shortage of role models in my life. I wanted that so badly. I project that onto my kids."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
From Coppélia. Photo by Toshi Oga, courtesy of MOGA

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Nanette Grebe/Getty Images

Have you heard the story about the dancer who needed a double hip replacement…at age 16?

It's not an urban legend—just ask iconic choreographer Mia Michaels. In a video series about dance injuries, produced by Apolla Performance Footwear, Michaels tells the tale of a teenage comp kid who pushed so hard she ended up in surgery.

That dancer's harrowing story was one of the inspirations for the Bridge Dance Project. The new initiative—brainchild of Jan Dunn, co-director of Denver Dance Medicine Associates, and Kaycee Cope Jones, COO of Apolla—aims to connect members of the competition and commercial dance communities with dance science experts. While many academic and professional concert dancers have benefited from recent advances in dance medicine, that information hasn't made its way to most of the young students in convention ballrooms. And as the technical demands on those students increase, so does the number of injuries.

We talked to Dunn and Jones about how the Bridge Dance Project was born, the initiative's long-term goals, and why young competition and commercial dancers should make injury prevention a priority.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Jessica Kubat (center) with her studio staff. Photo by Vincent Alongi, courtesy of Kubat

Jessica Kubat's path to becoming a studio owner wasn't typical or glamorous or the product of a family business, handed down. When she opened MJ's House of Dance in Lindenhurst, New York, this past summer, she had just turned 40, was a mom of three, and had worked at two different studios long-term. Over the last two and a half years, she'd painstakingly saved up $25,000 and had gone to the Small Business Development Center at a local college on Long Island for help creating her business plan. Her area was moderately saturated with studios, so she spent considerable time planning what would set her school apart—live musical accompaniment, for one—and hired a marketing director nine months before the business even opened. It was a methodical, careful approach—Kubat calls it "the old-fashioned way"—to opening a studio, and it's paid off: She started summer classes with 75 students and is well on her way to reaching her first-year enrollment goal of 250 dancers. "When I turned 40, I decided that it was time to do something bigger," says Kubat. "I always wanted to own a studio—it was just never financially available to me."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
From "Boston—Our City." Photo by Rachel Hassinger, courtesy of BalletRox

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox