Kathy Blake, Suzanne Blake Gerety, Joanne Chapman and Barry Blumenfeld answer your questions
Q: My studio has windows looking in on each classroom. Lately, I’m finding parents glued to them, even trying to peek through cracks when the drapes are drawn. My teachers feel intimidated by overbearing moms, and the parents are distracting—sometimes waving or disciplining through the glass. I understand it’s important for parents to watch, and windows allow youngsters to see advanced dancers, but the parents are driving me nuts. What can I do?
A: We’ve found closed-circuit cameras to be the best solution. By showing the video feed on waiting-room monitors, parents can watch their kids without being a distraction. While your teachers still may feel a sense of “big brother,” they usually find the lack of interference well worth it.
Our studio purchased two 32-inch flat-screen televisions and called a local security company to install one closed-circuit camera (non-recording) into the upper corner of each studio. (This provided the widest view of the floor space.) They also mounted the TVs onto the walls of our waiting rooms and threaded the wires through the walls. In total, for the two TVs, cameras and professional installation, we paid $800. If we were the hammer-and-nail type, we could have saved on installation costs, but years of experience have taught us to hire the right contractors for any job.
While this solution can seem expensive, approach it as another opportunity to boost enrollment by making customers—the parents—happy. When moms can observe what happens week to week, they see their child’s delight and will often refer your studio to others. It’s still important to schedule regular visiting days when parents can see a portion or all of the class—it gives dancers the chance to perform for an audience in a relaxed setting before the year-end recital.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.
Q: I’m starting to book my studio’s travel arrangements for the upcoming competition season, and I’m worried about the expense for my students’ families. How can I keep everyone happy?
A: Let your dance families know of competition plans before the year begins. We hold a meeting with all of the parents at the end of October and give them a list of the events that we plan to attend. We include the competition fees so that they can budget accordingly. The cost can be daunting, so make sure to emphasize the benefits that competitions and workshops provide for their children.
We also give parents a list of hotels and rates for every competition location. This way, parents can book rooms in advance and then change or cancel the reservations (if necessary) once the exact schedule is posted later on.
My studio is fortunate that there are many events available within driving distance. We don’t travel by bus because it limits the families’ ability to get around freely during downtime. Plus, buses require all parties to leave and return at the same time, and some families prefer to drive back and forth in the same day, while others like to make a weekend out of the event.
When traveling to Nationals with the full competitive team, we choose an event that can also serve as a great vacation spot. Myrtle Beach is a popular destination: Families can drive there, and because there is so much to do outside of the competition, it can double as a family vacation—especially when students aren’t dancing.
But remember, travel, food and lodging are big expenses not only for your students’ families, but also for your faculty. To offset the cost for your staff, I suggest attaching a small fee—about $5—to each dancer’s entry fee.
Joanne Chapman is the owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Ontario, Canada.
Q: I’m in the process of choosing music for my classes’ recital pieces this year. I do have a few songs in mind, but they’ll need some fixing. What are the best ways to edit a song for length and content?
A: There are many free, downloadable music-editing programs, including Wavosaur, WavePad and Music Editor Free. But in my opinion, Audacity—while similar to the other programs—is the best because of its functionality and ease of use. Compatible with both PCs and Macs, Audacity gives you the ability to cut and paste sections, fade in and out or cross-fade, and adjust a song’s speed without affecting pitch, among many other effects. While its interface is fairly intuitive, there are two hurdles within the program. First, importing the music can be tricky because it does not read all music file formats. The program is meant for WAV, AIFF or MP3 files, so if you have music in another format, you’ll have to convert it or download extra tools (from Audacity) that let you work with other file types. Second, if you’ve purchased music that is protected, Audacity doesn’t allow you to edit it. But simply burn the music onto a CD, re-import it and start editing.
If you’re looking for something more advanced and are willing to pay for software, there are an overwhelming number of programs that range in function and cost. My personal tech guru and co-worker recommends Ableton Live, a program that actual producers and DJs use. It’s complicated, but there are tutorials online to help you get started and achieve professional sound quality.
If you are wondering about an editing app for your tablet or phone, as we say here in Brooklyn, “Fuhgeddaboutit.” Currently, there are no apps that have the functionality of these programs. This is a task that is best done on a computer.
Barry Blumenfeld teaches at The Friends Seminary School in NYC. He is an adjunct professor at NYU and on the faculty of the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.