Size Matters

When a studio owner envisions her business, she often imagines a specific enrollment size. Reaching this number can take time, so be practical when calculating your goal. Ideally, it should generate enough revenue to cover all costs, without cutting corners, but not so large as to compromise your studio’s values and unique image. To help determine the right number for your business, DT asked four studio owners to share their experience.

 

HEIDI HALT

Neglia Conservatory of Ballet

 

Buffalo, NY

With a current enrollment of 100, Heidi Halt of Neglia Conservatory of Ballet would like to expand to 200. For Halt, a bigger student body translates into a more stable organization and more support for her company, Neglia Ballet Artists. She feels that doubling her enrollment wouldn’t affect the reputable training she and her husband Sergio have been offering since 1994. “Sergio and I teach almost all the classes, so this number seems like a manageable goal without us having to hire too many teachers,” she says. Her hiring policy is very strict. However, she is prepared to increase her staff if the expansion feels overwhelming. Halt relies on constant visibility to grow her business. This year, her studio collaborated with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra to present its first-ever  Nutcracker—the weekend of shows nearly sold out. The school also runs an inner-city program in which it introduces local school children to ballet. “It doesn’t generate income or even revenue, but it does raise our profile in the city, and everything counts,” Halt says.

 

BETH FOWLER

 

Beth Fowler School of Dance

 

Genoa and St. Charles, IL

Beth Fowler has found that an enrollment size of 300 works for her Genoa-based studio, so she hopes to build the same number for her newly opened second location in St. Charles. “My perfect number is the amount of students I can know by name, and by their strengths and weaknesses,” she says. “I teach at every level in my studio, from the little ones to the pre-professionals, so I know what’s happening across the board.” To maintain this approach, Fowler plans to alternate between her two businesses on a daily basis, since they are located an hour apart. And like Halt, Fowler believes that establishing a good reputation is the best way to expand—and keep—your student body. (She boasts a 95 percent customer return rate.) She uses every opportunity to showcase the qualities that sell her close-knit business. “We did two free open houses where our dancers performed, so potential students can see the caliber of dancer we train,” she says. Fowler also found success hosting free workshops and “bring a friend for free” month.

 

DEBBY DILLEHAY

 

Debby Dillehay Dance Studio

 

Kenner, LA

Debby Dillehay has had to build her enrollment twice in her studio’s 30-year history. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Dillehay started from scratch to regain her previous number of 350 students—and she’s almost there with 313. To get to this number, she added up her estimated expenses and divided by the tuition. “I also want enough students so that I can place them into classes by age and level, without sacrificing any student’s quest for learning.” Dillehay has found that holding 40 classes per week, with about 15 students each, works well. Her method for gaining students: old-fashioned customer service. “When you call, I answer the phone if I am not teaching,” she says. “We live in a fast-paced world, so if no one answers, that potential student will move on to the next studio.”

 

LAURI A. MACLEAN

 

Jazzworx Dance Center

 

Norwalk, CT

When Lauri MacLean relocated Jazzworx to share space with a ballet academy and reduce overhead, she recalibrated her “magic” number from 400 down to 200. At current enrollment of 125, however, she has room for growth. Having a strong network is essential, she says. To help spread the word, she sends e-mails with exciting photos and studio news to current students and influential local people and asks them to forward the e-mails to friends. MacLean is also focused on making her studio visible to the ballet students already in the building who might want to try a jazz, modern or hip-hop class. To that end, she hosts scholarship fundraisers and other events, where her company Jazzart performs. DT

 

Nancy Wozny writes about the arts and health from Houston, TX.

 

Photo copyright iStockphoto.com/Mitch Aunger

Teacher Voices
Getty Images

In 2001, young Chanel, a determined, ambitious, fiery, headstrong teenager, was about to begin her sophomore year at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, also known as the highly acclaimed "Fame" school. I was a great student, a promising young dancer and well-liked by my teachers and my peers. On paper, everything seemed in order. In reality, this picture-perfect image was fractured. There was a crack that I've attempted to hide, cover up and bury for nearly 20 years.

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Getty Images

Though the #MeToo movement has spurred many dancers to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and abuse, the dance world has yet to have a full reckoning on the subject. Few institutions have made true cultural changes, and many alleged predators continue to work in the industry.

As Chanel DaSilva's story shows, young dancers are particularly vulnerable to abuse because of the power differential between teacher and student. We spoke with eight experts in dance, education and psychology about steps that dance schools could take to protect their students from sexual abuse.

Keep reading... Show less
Technique
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.