Studio Business: No One-Size-All Fit

We had a great time planning our annual studio business issue. We started by checking in with longtime directors about decisions they've made over the years. How did they get started and what would they reconsider if they were to do it again? We found there are as many great answers as there are dedicated people who pour their hearts and sweat into this business. Check out “Special Section: Your Studio Space" for advice on hot topics such as negotiating your lease, finding the right location and just how much you can expect to spend on equipment.

On the cover, former San Diego Charger Girl Nicole Lucia is making her dream come true for her studio, Danceology, with a polished contemporary space and features you might expect to find in a health club more than in a suburban dance studio—while also keeping classes affordable so that all who want to learn, can. Read her story.

While our Special Section gives scenarios for a starter studio, those with high-end aspirations will be interested in what Glorya Kaufman has been up to at the University of Southern California. Two years ago, we reported on the exciting new college dance program directed by Jodie Gates. This month the Kaufman School unveils the ultimate dream dance facility. Joseph Carman gives us a preview.

Even if you don't run a dance studio business, you'll find plenty to enjoy in this issue—from tips on teaching partnering skills to the best exercises for building upper-body strength. And writer Kat Richter will tug at your heartstrings with her piece about Ballet X's outreach program in Philadelphia, “The Moving Life of Ben Franklin."

Join us in person to continue the conversation. The Dance Teacher Summit is where the pages of this magazine come to life. This year, we're bicoastal, with events in New York City (July 29–31) and Long Beach, CA (Aug 5–7). See you there!

Photo by Matthew Murphy; cover image by Joe Toreno

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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