Miyoko Ohtake is a freelance journalist and Newsweek bureau assistant in San Francisco, CA.


With the abundance of technology available today, incorporating the latest upgrades into your studio can seem overwhelming. However, dance teachers across the country are welcoming this challenge and finding it to be more of a boon than a burden. Just a few tweaks could attract more students (especially the younger set), end monthly track-downs of parents who haven’t paid their bills and boost your bottom line—not to mention, save time and give you a leg up on the competition! If you’re ready for an update but aren’t sure where to begin, read on to find out how some studio owners are building their businesses with just a few simple changes.

Launch a Website


A studio website is a must, says Stacey Marolf, owner and site designer of Studio of Dance.com, a service that specializes in dance studio web designs. “Parents are turning more to the internet than to the Yellow Pages these days,” explains Marolf. “You want to make sure clients get as much information as they can from your site.” It can provide details about the dance styles you offer and whether classes are oriented toward young children or students of all ages. Other important information to include: class schedules, studio history, teaching philosophies and payment structure. Keep in mind that the design of the website alone can communicate an overall sense of your studio’s professionalism, says Marolf. These factors will ultimately help clients decide if your business is the right fit for them. 


When Cynthia King opened her namesake Brooklyn-based school in 2002, creating a website was just as important as installing barres and mirrors. “Websites are really necessary for advertising and to spread the word,” says King. While sites can be designed by any HTML expert, finding one who specializes in dance, such as Belsource Dancesport, DanceWebDesign or Studio of Dance.com, is an added bonus. King chose to work with Marolf because of their shared appreciation for the artform. “She has a great understanding for the needs of a dance studio, and that’s been really helpful to me,” King says. 

Go Paperless 


For Shannon Mayer, owner and director of Off Broadway Dance Center in Alpharetta, Georgia, having a website has been great for increasing clientele—but she quickly realized that having more students means sending more bills and chasing down a larger number of late payments. To solve the problem, Mayer equipped her studio with Jackrabbit Dance software. “I was tired of hunting down tuition every month,” she admits. “Now I can charge clients’ credit cards or auto-debit their bank accounts.”


Studio management software allows owners to spend more time doing what they love—teaching—as opposed to managing the books. Going paperless can also help you streamline student files, teacher information, class schedules, expense records and even bills. Programs such as CompuDance, Dance Finance or Dance Studio Manager—which require installation on one computer—are favored options. But web-based software programs like Jackrabbit Dance or The Studio Director are gaining in popularity. The latter may be especially appealing to larger companies like Tiffany’s Dance Academy, which has four locations in the San Francisco Bay Area and one in Orange County. “There is no way we could have multiple locations without an internet-based software system,” says General Manager Paul Henderson. Using The Studio Director software, Henderson can manage the enrollment and tuition of the school’s 2,000-plus students from any location. 


Another advantage of web-based software is website integration. At TiffanyDance.com, parents are able to view class schedules, register and pay tuition from the comfort of their own homes. For Henderson, it saves having to answer countless e-mails and phone calls—especially to tell a parent that a class is full—and he doesn’t have to track down cash or thousands of checks, as customers are required to pay online with a credit card when they register their children. (The studio charges 25 percent extra for over-the-counter payments.) According to Henderson, it boils down to this: You will save time, and time is money. “And not only will you save time and increase your profit, but your customers will stay more informed,” he adds.


Digitize Your Tunes


While websites and software should be at the top of your studio’s upgrade list, technology shouldn’t stop at the front desk. When Melissa Hathway moved her dance school to a larger location last December, she wanted to incorporate the latest gear into each of her new spaces. At her 5,200-square-foot Arts ’n Motion studio in Odenton, Maryland, Hathway got rid of shelves lined with CDs, installed iPod docks and equipped each teacher with a remote control.  


“Now there are no ups and downs, no moving away from the students or losing children because you have to go change a CD,” she says. Using electronic music also comes in handy for performances. “When I leave the studio for a show, I just unplug the iPod, take it with me and [the music] is already in order,” says Hathway.


Keep in mind that tech-ing out your studio comes at a price: Website design and upload packages can range from $500 to $1,500. The software alone costs approximately $300 to $500 for programs requiring installation and $40 to $50 per month for web-based programs. Studio-quality iPod docks can cost several hundred dollars (plus the price of each iPod or other MP3 player device). “It’s pricey,” admits Hathway. “But it’s definitely worth it. It lets me plan better recitals and classes and train my teachers better, because I’m in the studio more and at the computer less.”

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 Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips

Since the dawn of time, performers have had to deal with annoying, constant blisters. As every dance teacher knows (and every student is sure to find out), blisters are a fact of life, and we all need to figure out a plan of action for how to deal with them.

Instead of bleeding through pointe shoes and begging you to let them sit out, your students should know these tricks for how to prevent/deal with their skin when it starts to sting.

You're welcome!

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


Get DanceTeacher in your inbox