Studio Owners

One Studio Owner’s "Five-Diamond Approach" to Customer Service

At Brookfield Center for the Arts, owner Mandy Winiecki gives parents what she calls a "five-diamond experience." Her Wisconsin–based studio caters to an affluent community, and she takes advantage: "Instead of trying to be the cheapest," she says, "we are the most expensive. But we deliver the best of the best." Here are her suggestions for taking customer experience to the next level.

Use high-end brands

Her lobby is stocked with Fiji water, Starbucks coffee and expensive granola bars. For her competition team's warm-ups, she uses Lululemon apparel. "It's trippy, but people think they're being treated better," she says.

Offer a pay-in-full option

Though it's expensive to be a part of her studio's comp team—$10,000 for her seniors—Winiecki found that when she offered parents the chance to pay in full up front, and save five percent, most took advantage. "A monthly payment of $375 plus warm-ups and travel on top of that means they're getting their credit card dinged every two weeks, it feels like," she says. "I expected zero people to choose to pay in full, but most did."

Attract high-level talent to your teaching staff

By offering high salaries and "an amazing work-life balance" to her staff, Winiecki doesn't have to confine her search for teachers to the greater Milwaukee area. "We have two teachers who moved here from Los Angeles. I've talked to other owners, and when they hear what I pay, they want to fall over dead," says Winiecki, whose teachers earn as much as $70,000 a year. "But we have 1,500 students, and because we're willing to pay these teachers well, in turn, we get more enrollment."

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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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Teaching Tips
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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Higher Ed
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, 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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