Partnering Up

Relationships with local businesses can benefit your studio.

West Chester University students get extra performance opportunities with The Dance Center’s Brandywine Ballet.

Your studio touches the daily lives of many families—families who also frequent other local businesses. By joining forces with other organizations in your community, you can increase word-of-mouth advertising and heighten the visibility of your business. Often, a strong collaboration only takes a little creativity and a lot of persistence. Here, four studio owners discuss the benefits of partnering with another business.

Anna Ehmen

Art of Motion Dance Studio (215 students)

Aiken, SC

Anna Ehmen’s partnership with the Aiken Community Playhouse started two years ago when a student’s parent gave Ehmen’s name to the theater’s director. “He just randomly came into the studio and asked if I’d choreograph Cinderella,” she says. The performance was benefiting a local charity, so Ehmen agreed to do it for free.

After that performance, the director asked Ehmen if she’d become their long-term choreographer, and in exchange, he offered to list Art of Motion’s information in all of the theater’s newspaper ads and give the studio a free ad in every playbill.

Although Ehmen spends about six unpaid hours a week at the theater during rehearsals, she says the process is fun, and beneficial to her business. She offers a class discount to theater members, which has increased enrollment for her adult dance classes. In all, she estimates she’s gained 40 to 50 new students from the arrangement.

Be proactive in looking for a partnership. “Research what’s in the community,” Ehmen says. “You might find theaters or other groups who need help.”

Donna Muzio

The Dance Center (480 students)

West Chester, PA

About 10 years ago, Donna Muzio realized that if she wanted to elevate her company, Brandywine Ballet, from pre-professional to professional, she had to find a way to keep her best dancers once they graduated from high school.

She created a partnership with nearby West Chester University that lets college students earn a certificate of dance by dancing with Brandywine. Participating students don’t get college credit, but they do get the opportunity to dance in  three yearly performances and they can take additional classes at the studio for free.

West Chester University allows Brandywine to rent theater space at a discount, and the university’s music and theater departments often provide musicians and sets for company productions.

Muzio says the partnership took determination. She first broached the idea in a letter to West Chester’s president, and it took a year to iron out the details.

Suzanne Mall

Performing Arts Dance Academy (420 students)

Hamburg, NY

Suzanne Mall learned that a great partnership might literally be right next door. Shortly after she opened her studio in 1994, the space next to hers was leased to photographer Robert Caldwell. Mall asked him to take recital photos, and she loved the professional quality of the shots.

Caldwell has since taken group photos for all 70 classes at the Dance Academy, as well as solo shots of the dancers. Mall receives a discount on group shots for the studio, and she earns 10 percent of what Caldwell makes selling photos to parents.

The photographer benefits, too. “A lot of the clients here spill over into his business,” says Mall, noting that her dance parents now seek out Caldwell to take senior yearbook photos.

Julia Wilkinson Manley

Ballet Nouveau Colorado (300 students)

Broomfield, CO

Many studios partner with a local dance retailer, which is what Ballet Nouveau Colorado has done with Boulder Body Wear.

School director Julia Wilkinson Manley accompanies her newest pointe students to a fitting at Boulder Body Wear each August. And throughout the year, storeowner Amy Kenney visits the studio to evaluate pre-pointe students and give seminars on starting pointe to dancers and parents.

The benefits are mutual. Boulder Body Wear gives Manley’s students 20 percent off, so most studio families shop there exclusively. Manley is glad to send clients somewhere she trusts. “They care about every dancer,” she says. “It makes our business better.” DT

Lauren Heist is a freelance writer based in Evanston, IL.

Photo courtesy of The Dance Center

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