It's summertime and the living is easy—or is it? Studio owners and dance teachers have long lamented the summer months as a traditionally slow season. With many students leaving town on vacation or for outside training, studios are often faced with less than sunny prospects for revenue and clientele. However, the forecast for your studio need not be bleak: With strategic attention to planning, programming and pricing, summer can offer a great opportunity to grow your business and diversify your offerings.


20/20 Foresight
Even if you're anticipating a sluggish season, smart planning during the school year can alleviate enrollment and financial woes. Robin Dawn Ryan, owner of the Robin Dawn Academy of Performing Arts with locations in Cape Coral and Naples, Florida, says she gears her spring recital to generate enough income to help offset any projected summer losses.

“If you hold your recital at the end of the year and do it the right way, you can make good money on costumes and tickets," says Ryan, who has been teaching and choreographing for more than 30 years. “My program book alone made $16,000, which covers a good chunk of the summer rent." In addition to selling ads for the recital program, Ryan also generates extra revenue during recital time by selling “Stargrams," personalized bouquets sent to each dancer by friends and family.

Decide before the school year ends how you will handle the summer months. Some studios make the choice to cut down on class offerings (in Ryan's case, from 80 to 30 classes per week) or to shut down altogether. Lindsay Evered, director of business operations for Centerstage Starz in Littleton, Colorado, has found it ideal to shut down the studio during June and reopen in July. This approach benefits the studio a number of ways—in addition to not having to pay teachers for too-small classes, the June break gives students, families and instructors a chance to recharge and reinvigorate.

“Once the initial luster of a lazy summer vacation wears off, kids are ready to come back fresh in July," says Evered, a former Denver Nuggets dancer who has been teaching jazz, lyrical and pom for the last eight years. “Our enrollment jumps and we don't need to entice customers for the remainder of the summer, because they want to get back to classes." Though shutting down the studio for a portion of the summer could be a smart financial option, keep in mind that whether you own or lease, most studios are required to continue making payments even if business is not in session. To offset potential losses, you might want to rent out your studio so that the space doesn't go unused.

If your plan is to keep the studio open all summer, sit down for a scheduling session during the spring to figure out how long the class sessions will be, which teachers will stay on board and who will take vacation when. Evaluating projected student-to-teacher ratios will help you determine how much you may need to pare down the schedule.

Programming with Purpose
Day camps, intensives and master classes are summer staples on many studio schedules. Because advanced students often travel elsewhere for training during the break, you may want to cater your offerings to recreational or younger dancers.

At the Dance Corner in West Windsor, New Jersey, day camps are held for both preschool dancers and students ages 5 to 14, while a more challenging dance intensive is held for advanced students. Co-owner and director Roni Wilityer says the studio's camp offerings have been a big hit and created positive word-of-mouth in the community. “Camp is a chance for the children to dip their feet in all types of dance," says Wilityer. “Children are more apt to try classes [during the summer] than during the school year, because there is less pressure and a more nurturing environment." By attracting recreational dancers to summer camps, you may build up your clientele for the fall.

Ryan agrees. Much of her summer student base comprises young children who are dancing for fun or kids who are looking for a new studio. “Summer is a great time to get babies; moms want to try it out and see how they do," she says. “Kids who are switching studios also prefer to take summer classes because they can get to know people and not feel first-day-of-school [intimidation]."

This summer, Ryan plans to give advanced students plenty of incentive to stick around rather than traveling for outside training. Along with her annual ballet intensive, she has recruited outside instructors to teach jazz and lyrical master classes and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago dancers to lead a modern workshop. “We try to keep as much activity as possible," she says. “So many students were spending money to go away to intensives, so these classes inspire them to invest their money at my school."

If you're hoping to ramp up your studio's summer programming, make an effort to meet other teachers and choreographers at conventions, competitions or workshops. Bringing in outside instructors will reward your own teachers with a well-deserved summer vacation and offer more value to students. Ryan also recommends introducing classes in genres not normally on your schedule, such as tumbling or Irish step dancing—if these new classes are successful during the summer, you may want to add them to your fall schedule.

Dollars and Sense
When setting prices for the summer curriculum, keep in mind that you'll be competing with area day camps and recreational activities. Make sure that price levels are on par with other community recreation activities and dance studios' summer programs, and be aware that what you are able to charge may depend upon both your geographical area and the type of student you are hoping to attract.

"My best advice is to keep the price affordable for all levels of the community and to get to know the demographics of your area," says Wilityer, who after careful research has settled on rates that work for her locale. For Dance Corner's two-week day camp catering to 5- to 14-year-olds, rates range from $225 for a half-day package to $400 for a full-day package, while the fee for the three-day preschool camp is $75. The studio's dance intensive is comprised of four one-week sessions at $300 each, or $1,100 for all four weeks.

If you're looking for savvy marketing techniques to rev up interest, consider making strategic alliances with other companies. Evered, for instance, forged a relationship with the Denver Nuggets and invited their Junior Dancers to attend Centerstage Starz summer classes and intensives. The partnership keeps the Junior Dancers occupied during their break and gives Centerstage Starz some big-name clientele. Also try advertising in local newspapers and parenting magazines to reach your target demographic.

Finally, remember to be realistic about the time commitment that students and their families can make during the summer. Offering a range of pricing and scheduling options may attract clients hesitant about buying classes they may not be able to use. To accommodate vacationing families, Ryan lets parents purchase four classes for $40 that can be split between the two summer sessions, rather than requiring families to buy a full continuous session.

The Bottom Line
When the warm weather rolls around, it's far from inevitable that your studio's prosperity will cool off. Just keep in mind that climate, location, competition and community involvement will all play a role in your summer income. Take stock of seasonal successes and failures from past years to find the right approach for your own studio. You just may find there is indeed a cure for the proverbial summertime blues.

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're not prepared, studio picture day can be a real headache. But, if done right, it can provide you with gorgeous photos that will make your students and parents happy, while simultaneously providing you with marketing content you will be able to use for years to come.

Here are five tips that will help you pull off the day without a hitch.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via YouTube

In its 14 years of existence, YouTube has been home to a world of competition dance videos that we have all consumed with heedless pleasure. Every battement, pirouette and trendy move has been archived somewhere, and we are all very thankful.

We decided it was time DT did a deep dive through those years of footage to show you the evolution of competition dance since the early days of YouTube.

From 2005 to 2019, styles have shifted a whole lot. Check them out, and let us know over on our Facebook page what you think the biggest differences are!

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Koelliker

Sick of doing the same old stuff in technique class? Needing some across-the-floor combo inspiration? We caught up with three teachers from different areas of the country to bring you some of their favorite material for their day-to-day classes.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

Q: I have a very flexible spine and torso. My teachers tell me to use this flexibility during cambrés and port de bras, but when I do, I feel pain—mostly in my lower back. What should I change so I don't end up with back problems?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're a studio owner, the thought of raising your rates most likely makes you cringe. Despite ever-increasing overhead expenses you can't avoid—rent, salaries, insurance—you're probably wary of alienating your customers, losing students or inviting confrontation if you increase the price of your tuition or registration and recital fees. DT spoke with three veteran studio owners who suggest it's time to get past that. Here's how to give your business the revenue boost it needs and the value justification it (and you) deserve.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Margie Gillis (left); photo by Kyle Froman

Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox