When it comes to running a thriving dance studio, Cindy Clough knows what she's talking about. As executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner for more than four decades, she's all too aware of the unique challenges the job presents, from teaching to scheduling to managing employees and clients.

Here, Clough shares her best advice for new studio owners, and the answers to some common questions that come up when you're getting started.


As a studio owner, how do you manage to juggle everything?

Don't forget to take care of your own mental and physical health. Photo via Unsplash

Get help—your time is valuable. Have junior-high kids help out at shows or with younger dancers. Ask relatives and friends, or barter if you can't afford it yet.

Get organized! Declutter and get rid of stuff, because less clutter means less cleanup. Have a place for everything, and create great systems. Make playlists for your music according to what you need, so you aren't wasting time searching for stretching or across-the-floor music. Keep a control list for every project or event—registration, holiday shows, pictures, costumes, spring recitals, competitions—and arrange them by date to help create a year at-a-glance. Move up deadlines so you can coast into each event.

Make sure to consider your own health, too. You are not good to anyone if you don't take care of yourself. If you don't do some maintenance on your car, it will eventually quit running—we all need a tune up to rejuvenate. You need to be a billboard for health; you are in a healthy profession.

How do you create a schedule for the year?

Plan ahead as much as possible. Photo via Unsplash

Plan out the entire year at once. Try to use the same dates each year; It's easy for the venues to know that you will be back at the same time year after year. Create a yearly calendar for your studio so parents can plan ahead, and be a fanatic about updating your website. Make it a place where parents and dancers know they can get the most current schedules so you get asked fewer questions.

After an event is finished, recap is my favorite word! Go over what worked and what didn't, while it's fresh in your mind. Take great notes and make changes now so you don't run into the same problem at your next event. File and stage reusable items needed for the next event or show, and put away what is not needed so it's ready for next year.

How do you deal with tricky parents?

Address issues on the phone or in person as soon as they arise. Photo via Unsplash

So many people don't get it, and see their clients almost as the enemy. Be approachable—no one will come to you if they feel like you won't listen to them. Hold a parent meeting to talk about your expectations and invite them to share theirs. Knowing where everyone stands is key.

But also, stand up for yourself! Deal with any issues you hear right away, and do not let them fester. Eliminate "but" from your responses, and avoid being defensive.

How do I become a better teacher?

Try filming your classes to help improve your teaching style. Photo via Unsplash

Continually learn; be a sponge. Attend conventions, read books, watch videos and talk with fellow coaches or studio owners. Get out there and observe other instructors; you can learn so much from watching them teach. You may pick up a new idea, or even learn what kind of teacher you don't want to be. Film your classes so you can view yourself through the eyes of your students. When teaching, catch your students doing something right instead of focusing on what they are doing wrong. Spread the love—kids may forget what you said to them but they will never forget how you made them feel. Building morale is the single most important ingredient to the success of your studio.

Any advice for managing employees?

Give employees regular feedback. Photo via Unsplash

Ask yourself, have you prepared them for success? They are the ones talking with your customers—do they have the correct information to communicate? Hold meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page, and give evaluations. Employees need to know how they are doing, both good and bad.

How do I develop a vision for my studio?

Having a uniform can create a powerful brand for your studio. Photo via Unsplash

Think about your core values and your mission statement. If you don't have one, make one! Watch other successful people and businesses and list the things they are doing that set them apart. (It doesn't just have to be a dance studio that you model after!) Your studio is a brand—create standards for that brand. Hold your dancers to these standards to create the look you want for your studio.

How do I set my studio apart from the competition?

Having a good reputation in your community is essential. Photo via Unsplash

Consider your image around town. Are your actions such that you would be proud to see them in your students? Are you teaching them to be responsible, respectful and kind? Your reputation is so important, because you are the product you are trying to sell. Pick your battles and don't burn bridges in the process. Your fellow studio owners do not have to be enemies, but if they are choosing that path, do not follow. Have an open-door policy for those that choose to leave your studio. Tell them they are welcome back if they decide leaving was not what they wanted.

Any final words of advice?

Remember why you're a studio owner: To nurture the next generation. Photo via Unsplash

One of the greatest treasures of our business is that, unlike other companies, we get to start over every year. Work hard to do it bigger, better and more fun than the year before. Let that be the fuel that fires you.

The other treasure is that we are working with our country's greatest natural resource: our children. It's an opportunity to give kids a chance to belong to something, and a chance to impact their lives. It lets us put our finger on the scales of justice to tip them, just a bit, in favor of those who have been unfavored. Most importantly, it allows us to nurture hopes and dreams.

The Conversation
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It's February! The month of love (and by extension, the month of pink) is upon us. We are major fans of a good class theme, and dressing lovey-dovey is one of our very favorites! So this month, to keep you on brand, we have a list of our favorite pink leos on the market right now. They're all kinds of wonderful.

Check them out and let us know your favorite in the comments!

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It's the day after Valentine's Day, and every single one of us is in a chocolate coma scrolling through endless love posts on social media. It's both the best and the worst day of the year 😂. Obnoxiously mushy Instagram captions aside, whether you have a significant other or not, we all know that your studio co-workers are the actual loves of your life.

Check out our five reasons why, and let us know over in our comments if we got 'em right!

XOXO

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In Antoine Hunter's jazz class, students inevitably pick up sign language just by virtue of being his student. Though he doesn't typically incorporate ASL into his class combos, this dynamic phrase, which is one of his favorites, includes four signs: "heart," " re," "gone" and "deaf."

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Debbi Dee took her first tap class at age 5 from vaudevillian hoofer and rhythm tapper Curly Fisher, in Rochester, New York. She studied tirelessly with him in the garage he had turned into a small, makeshift dance studio until she was 13 years old, when he claimed he had taken her as far as he could, and she needed to find herself a new teacher. Instead, she jumped feet first into her professional career, tapping with the Lawrence Welk and Count Basie orchestras on the traveling state fair circuit, on the Bob Hope USO shows, and in nightclubs in Vegas and the Catskills.

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We've all had times when we've failed miserably while trying our best to communicate important concepts and ideas to our students. We are all well-meaning with hopes that our dancers will achieve their dreams and become kind humans along the way. Unfortunately, our delivery may need some honing in order to help them without causing some damage,

Here are four common phrases dance teachers often say, and four ways we can adjust them to make them constructive and productive.

Let us know over on our Facebook page what phrases you try to avoid as a dance teacher!

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Just like your car, your studio needs periodic tune-ups to keep it humming along smoothly. If you take the time to address a few small fixes, your business will stand out. And you don't have to break the bank, either—you might be surprised how low-cost, DIY improvements can make a surprising difference.

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Running a studio can be a major juggling act. It's no surprise, then, that a few things slip through the cracks—costing you money or students. Watch out for two common but often unnoticed mistakes, and you'll find yourself with more time, clients and revenue on your hands.

1. Using online registration as a crutch

If you offer registration via your studio website, make sure you aren't losing clients by neglecting in-person registration. One day Kathy Morrow, director of Dance Du Coeur in Sugar Land,Texas, overheard a front desk staffer directing a new client to the studio's website to register, rather than offering to do it over the phone. "I thought, You had a fish on the hook—why didn't you walk them through it?" she says. "When you register, there are a lot of boxes to check off. Some people want to pay with a check, some to link to a credit card. We can make it easier by answering any questions directly."

2. Not delegating

Have you heard yourself say, once too often, "If I want it done right, I have to do it myself"? Overextending yourself because of perfectionism or a misguided need to control can be counterproductive. By creating choreography, teaching, bookkeeping, cleaning, making phone calls, typesetting, doing payroll, mailings and ordering, you could be leaving no time for the very things that will create your best business. Misty Lown decided to delegate all the teaching at her Onalaska, Wisconsin-based studio, Misty's Dance Unlimited. "Giving up teaching was super-hard," she says, "but it's the best decision I ever made. Whenever I was teaching, it meant I never saw the other five classrooms that were operating during that time. Now I can rotate my time checking on classrooms and interacting with students."

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Working with a 9-year-old student, Alexandra Koltun asks the young girl to face the barre. She reviews fifth position, demi-pointe with the front foot and coupé devant. "I separate all the positions, so the student understands each one," says Koltun, founder and artistic director of Koltun Ballet Boston. She reaches down to shape the girl's foot into sur le cou-de-pied, leaving the heel in front and gently squeezing the toes around the ankle. "This position will equip the foot with more strength," she says.

Depending on a ballet teacher's preference and style of training, sur le cou-de-pied (meaning "on the neck of the foot") may be incorporated into class at different times and in various ways. From steps like pas de cheval to frappé and développé, the wrapped position can be fundamental to a student's technical development. Or it can be used less often and as a supplement to cou-de-pied front and back. Either way, the value of the position remains constant as a tool to mold and strengthen dancers' feet.

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Show your significant other how much you love them through dance! Send them one of your favorite romantic dance videos that best describes your feelings, and they're sure to swoon!

Here are four of our favorites that depict a range of emotions along the spectrum of true love. Let us know over on our Facebook page which one best represents your relationship!

You're welcome in advance!

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The best way to celebrate a holiday in the dance teacher world is to create a class combo that fits the theme! It's a sure-fire way to get you and your kiddos into the spirit of the day! So, Valentine's Day, we recommend some mushy, cheesy, oh-so-wonderful love songs!

Check out these six songs for potential class combo ideas. They're sure to be a hit.

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To say Lisa Morgan wears more than one hat would be a gross understatement. For starters, she teaches a pedagogy course for dance majors at Colorado State University and heads the dance component of an arts-integration program (BRAINY) for local elementary students. She also runs a professional-development seminar for K–12 teachers who want to incorporate movement into their classrooms. And she teaches movement to music therapy students at CSU. Oh, and she was part of a weeklong summer institute last year to expose high-needs high schoolers to college via integrative dance activities.

It's tempting to say that Morgan, who has been an adjunct professor throughout her 20-year tenure at CSU, is just someone who goes above and beyond her job description. But she avows that it's more about feeling compelled to make her mark in dance education. If that sounds idealistic, it is. "When you're in arts education, you always see the bigger picture—a bigger list of things you want to do and get to," she says. Her bigger picture of late? Working on broadening CSU's dance-degree offerings (currently a BA) to include a BFA, eventually with a concentration in dance education—and teacher licensure. "It's what I'm most passionate about," she says. "It's what I can make the biggest difference in."

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