As summer temperatures rise, dance teachers from all over the country may find themselves reaching for a sweater in over-air-conditioned hotel and convention center ballrooms, where an alphabet soup of teacher-training workshops—from DMA to DEA, NDEO to ABT—take place. The workshops are a popular source of inspiration, tools and technique for the coming year.

 

Five years ago, Adrienne Clancy decided to create a more intimate version. Her Dance Educators Training Institute (DETI) attracts a collegial group of 45 to 50 participants, from students interested in teaching to newly minted teachers who just earned their BS degrees to those with decades of classroom experience.

 

What sets DETI apart, says Clancy, who is artistic director of Maryland-based ClancyWorks Dance Company, is the credo: “We all learn from each other.” This think tank–like environment, where all the facilitators participate in the entire week, makes for a tightly knit learning community.

 

Baltimore County Public Schools dance resource teacher Suzanne Henneman sends a group of dance and general education teachers to attend every year “to rejuvenate, to learn new information, to help stimulate their brains and bodies again,” she says. “Physically they learn new techniques and methodologies, and they network with each other and become part of the community.” Henneman says that with all their other obligations (fulfilling No Child Left Behind requirements, state testing, etc.), it’s rare that teachers get to interact with the dance world and with one another. And DETI is known for creating and teaching useful methodologies, like K–5 arts integration, in which dance and academic lesson plans come together in public school classrooms.

 

This year the weeklong institute, co-sponsored by Baltimore County Public Schools (which has worked with DETI since its inception), takes place August 1–5 on the campus of Towson University, outside of Baltimore. While many teachers are local, others come from around the country and the world. The workshops focus on four main tracks: composition/improvisation; curriculum designs and considerations; dance science/somatics; and techniques in modern, jazz, African and hip hop. Every attendee studies across all of these tracks.

 

Each day begins with a technique class, before moving into a working session on composition and improvisation, which culminates at week’s end in an informal showing of choreography. The somatic track explores different methods to build and maintain healthy dancer, and teacher, bodies, while this year the afternoon is given over to hot topics, including lesson planning and assessment tools; arts integration in the public school classroom; and a participant-led dialogue, one of Clancy’s trademarks. “I want to help educators think more about how to see themselves as facilitators who help students challenge themselves on a creative level,” she says.

 

Karen Kuebler, a dance and French teacher at École Primaire de Towson à l’Ouest, has attended DETI workshops to reinvigorate her teaching: “Whether it is a new idea on how to approach choreography, which I think DETI is very strong in, or a new way to approach your students, whenever you attend a workshop, you come out saying, 'I never thought of doing it that way.'"

 

For more: info@clancyworks.org. DT

 

Lisa Traiger writes on dance from the Washington, DC, area.

 

Photo of Adrienne Clancy teaching at DETI, by Rima Faber, courtesy of Adrienne Clancy

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Unlike the majority of my students and colleagues, my journey in dance has been unorthodox. At age 14, I enrolled in modern dance at my high school, and something about the large open studio with room to move thrilled me (and still does). I immediately set out to impress my dance teacher with my complete repertoire, a solo interpretation of "Bohemian Rhapsody" created in my living room, infused with several badly self-taught ice-skating moves. In that moment, an awareness of the power of movement, music, space and performance aligned, and I instinctively knew I was someplace special.

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Valentina Bagala and Rafael Savino held their studio's very first registration at a Subway. "We didn't even have an office," says Bagala, who heads the artistic side of Ascendance Studio in Doral, Florida. "This lady called us over the phone, and we said, 'OK, we can take your registration. Would you mind meeting us at the Subway that's downstairs from our studio?'"

Now, five years later, Ascendance is thriving, with a growing competitive team, a 5,000-square-foot space and 300 students—one of whom is the same dancer who was registered in that Subway. Today, registration mostly happens online, as do many of Ascendance's processes—attendance, billing, e-mail marketing campaigns—thanks to Savino, who heads the studio's marketing, finances and administration. To what do Bagala and Savino credit their impressive growth? Digital advertising. Despite working in an industry where many still rely on old-school methods of operation—manual registration, tuition paid in person by cash or check, fliers handed out in parking lots—they took the plunge to modernize their advertising strategy and found it a game changer for their studio.

Slow, but consistent

Bagala and Savino admit Ascendance got off to a rocky start. They rented space from a fitness studio for three months. "We didn't get the best schedule," says Bagala, who could only rent the space by the hour when it wasn't being used. Still, she managed to amass 25 students. Eventually, she found a small, 550-square-foot space of her own in a shopping center. "I remember for our first classes, we would have people who were supposed to show up but didn't," says Savino. "If we had one student in class, we had to teach to that student. That happened multiple times."

When two more spaces became available in the same shopping center, the couple grabbed them, despite the inconvenience of the units not being connected. "You had to step outside," says Bagala. "It wasn't very comfortable."

"The fliers weren't working."

With more space came more responsibility—to increase enrollment. They had been passing out fliers at nearby schools, but that approach, Savino says, "became unscalable. That's when I started looking at digital advertising." He didn't have much money to spend on it—his budget was $5/day—but he began looking into advertising on Google. He also enrolled in a local digital marketing course at nearby Miami-Dade College. "That gave me strategy," he says.

His most successful venture has been with Google's AdWords. With this advertising strategy, business owners create a search ad. (Search ads appear above Google search results when people look for local services the business offers.) The Ascendance search ad, for example, includes the studio website and phone number, plus: "Dance classes for kids. All ages and styles. Try a free class today." Then, you choose keywords—the words or phrases potential customers might type into their browser—and set a daily budget for how much you'd like to "bid" on each keyword. You're charged only if users click your link. During his first AdWords campaign, Savino often bid less than $1 on keywords like "ballet classes," "hip-hop classes," "jazz" and "dance studio."

How much you bid affects in what order your search ad appears among other businesses. But a business with more money to spend on keywords won't automatically see their ad pop up first. Multiple factors—keyword bidding price, how long a user stays on your website, your click-through rate—determine what's called your quality score. And it's your quality score, ultimately, that decides in what order your ad appears on Google.

"For example, let's say there's a huge competitor who's bidding $10 a keyword, while I'm only bidding $1," says Savino. "Google is tracking everything. If users stay on my website for a while and don't click the back button to get back to the search page, Google knows my website is relevant and a good experience." That increases his quality score and gives his search ad odds a boost.

Experimenting, wisely

Savino ran his initial AdWords campaign for about a month in 2013, starting in mid-September—prime back-to-school time. Each week, he wound up getting 10-plus interested customers. He offered each a free trial class. Of that weekly number, more than 80 percent enrolled in classes. By the time the campaign was over, Ascendance had 45 new students. And it all cost him less than $150. Though he risked spending more than his daily allotted $5, he knew it would pay off in increased enrollment.

As they became more comfortable with AdWords, the couple experimented. Bagala asked her mom what words she would use to search if, for example, she were looking for ballet classes for a 5-year-old. Her responses became part of their strategy: "ballet classes in Doral," "dance classes in Doral," "dance studio in Doral." They also interviewed parents of new students, asking 'How did you hear about us?' "If they said, 'Google,'" says Savino, "we'd ask if they remembered what they typed."

Now his daily budget is $20, though he's careful to time campaigns with high-enrollment periods. "During back-to-school season, August and September, I know a lot of people are going to be looking for classes," he says. "But I also know that January is another high-enrollment period—that's when we see an uptick in our baby program. Those moms are operating on a calendar year, not a studio year."

When Google came to town

Last spring, Google itself took an interest in Ascendance, and it featured Savino and Bagala in a national video campaign as a small-business case study. Of particular interest was the studio's dual advertising campaigns: one in English and one in Spanish. Savino and Bagala are bilingual, and their community is largely Spanish-speaking—so they capitalized on that. "Since we were advertising in Spanish," says Savino, "those people were sure that they were going to come through our door and someone would be here who would speak their language."

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