Running your own studio often comes with a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. After all, you're the one who teaches class, creates choreography, collects tuition, plans a recital, calls parents, answers e-mails, orders costumes—plus a host of other tasks, some of which you probably don't even think about. But what if you had someone to help you, someone who could take certain routine or clerical tasks off your hands, freeing you up to focus on what you love?


That's where an office manager comes in. Your initial reaction might be that you can't afford a studio manager, or that you don't know how to go about hiring one. Or maybe that you don't have enough tasks to justify hiring one. Whatever your concern, you aren't alone. But consider the way these common excuses may be holding you back from greater success.

I don't need an office manager.

Are you sure? Suzanne Blake Gerety, co-owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire, thinks of her office manager as "the frontline of handling complaints. She receives parent concerns first—she's a buffer to help you not get emotionally drained," says Gerety. "She listens to parents and digests what they tell her and then can present the situation to you, as necessary: 'We have a concern here.'" Her office manager is also in charge of collecting payment, a task Gerety highly recommends you delegate. "You need a buffer between you and taking money," she says. "You'll still oversee everything, of course, but she's the one who processes late payments."

Abby Odom, owner of Gracefully Yours Dance Academy in Collinsville, Illinois, likes having an additional person who knows everything about how her studio runs. "When it's just you as the owner," she says, "you're the only one who knows that every month Sally's mom pays on the 11th when it's due on the 10th, and every month you remind her, and every month she complains about the late fee." Odom says the support she receives from her office manager is invaluable. "When you find the right person," she says, "they cheer you on." Even more importantly, the right person can make your business run more smoothly. "Your manager might say, 'I think this system isn't working so well—can we do it like this next year?'" says Odom. For example, she didn't have a good way to track payment for solo choreography. Her office manager found a way to organize this and remind parents to pay for the extra cost within their studio management software system.

I can't afford one.

First, figure out how much your time is worth, says Gerety. What's your hourly rate? Once you've defined that for yourself, she says, you should be outsourcing or delegating any of your tasks that you could train someone else to do, freeing yourself up to do what you're best at—and focus on bringing in more revenue. "Even if a studio owner thinks, 'I can't afford this now,'" says Gerety, "they should ask themselves, 'What would I assign an office manager to do, if I had unlimited resources?'"

Once you have a clear idea of how much your own time is worth, you might be more inclined to rejigger your finances to make an office manager a reality. "Maybe it's: 'I'm not going to take as much home in my paycheck, and I'll allocate that amount to an office manager,'" says Gerety. "What does the freedom of not having to do that task you hate let you do instead?" Or consider how you might generate new revenue: "When was the last time you raised your prices?" she asks. "Do you have a proper registration fee? Create a budget to pay for it."

You don't need to start your office manager at an outrageously high hourly rate, either. "I don't pay someone a million dollars an hour," says Odom. She suggests starting with a college student and offering minimum wage for a 30- or 60-day trial. "After that time period, we'll talk about if they're happy and discuss a small raise," she says.

I don't have enough for someone to do.

You might be surprised. Gerety recommends making a list of every task you're currently doing on your own: not just the obvious ones, like sending and answering e-mails, creating e-mail marketing campaigns and collecting delinquent tuition payments, but stuff like cleaning up the lobby, vacuuming the floors and printing attendance sheets. Once you've made your list, review which of these tasks actually bring in revenue. "Which of these can you train someone else to do?" asks Gerety. Once you delegate those tasks, you'll have more time to focus on activities that generate revenue.

She understands many studio owners' concern over losing control. "The 'I'll just do it myself' feeling is strong," she says. "But there's going to be a place where you max out. So why not put some teamwork behind it instead?"

I don't know how to hire someone for this position.

Start by identifying what your strongest skills are as a studio owner—and which are your weakest or least favorite. You want to hire someone who will excel at those tasks. "Find somebody who is whatever you're not," says Odom. "I hate talking on the phone to dance parents, and I am not an organized person. So I got someone who checked our voicemail every day, called parents about absences—she did all parent communication, unless it was something severe or big. And I could ask her, 'Can you walk into that closet and make it look nice?'"

Your dream office manager might be right under your nose—start by searching within your own team. "Look at people you trust. Within your staff, who has a gift and talent for this? Start training them," says Gerety. "If you already have teachers on your team who want to pick up extra hours, someone might have an aptitude for organization, or be interested in doing a few extra tasks. Train them into it."

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Kyle Froman

Darla Hoover was at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet's studios running a rehearsal in 2014 with director Marcia Dale Weary. Hoover had just returned the day before from staging a ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Jet-lagged, she mixed up her words when giving a correction.

Weary took Hoover's hand and gently said, "Honey, you work too hard."

Hoover, and the students, had a good laugh.

"Are you kidding me?" Hoover replied. "You're the one who made this monster. There is no off switch!"

Weary founded CPYB in 1955, and it quickly became an internationally known school that has produced countless principal dancers. Famous for her high standards and tough work ethic, Weary instilled those qualities in Hoover, who served as associate artistic director at CPYB under Weary, as artistic director at Ballet Academy East's pre-professional division in New York City and as a répétiteur for the Balanchine Trust.

Hoover took over as artistic director at CPYB in the spring this year after Weary died suddenly, and while she's committed to continuing Weary's legacy, students have begun to see some of Hoover's vision as well.

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Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix, has been called the Queen of Fundraising by colleagues. A studio owner and high school dance coach with over four decades of experience, Clough is known for her smart and successful fundraising ideas.

Now, Just For Kix has created a new online tool to help everyone tackle their fundraising goals, whether you're raising money for uniforms, extra classes, or to cover the cost of travel for your dance team's next convention.

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Jessica Kubat (center) with her studio staff. Photo by Vincent Alongi, courtesy of Kubat

Jessica Kubat's path to becoming a studio owner wasn't typical or glamorous or the product of a family business, handed down. When she opened MJ's House of Dance in Lindenhurst, New York, this past summer, she had just turned 40, was a mom of three, and had worked at two different studios long-term. Over the last two and a half years, she'd painstakingly saved up $25,000 and had gone to the Small Business Development Center at a local college on Long Island for help creating her business plan. Her area was moderately saturated with studios, so she spent considerable time planning what would set her school apart—live musical accompaniment, for one—and hired a marketing director nine months before the business even opened. It was a methodical, careful approach—Kubat calls it "the old-fashioned way"—to opening a studio, and it's paid off: She started summer classes with 75 students and is well on her way to reaching her first-year enrollment goal of 250 dancers. "When I turned 40, I decided that it was time to do something bigger," says Kubat. "I always wanted to own a studio—it was just never financially available to me."

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Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

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From left: Daniel Novikov, Alla Novikova and Mishella Vishnevskiy at Blackpool 2018. Photo by NYC Digital Media, courtesy of Alla Novikova

Alla Novikova began her dance training at a ballroom studio called Edelweiss in Saratov, Russia, when she was 9 years old. She was immediately recognized for her natural talent and work ethic, placing third at the Russian Open just three months after beginning ballroom lessons. The lessons she learned at Edelweiss shaped her career and provided the foundation she needed to open her own ballroom studio: Work hard to prove that you're good enough to be here, and give honor to the experiences that brought you to where you are today.

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Getty Images

Professions across the globe hold yearly conferences, and the dance industry is certainly no exception. Annual conferences exist for dance teachers, dance medicine professionals, dance educators and more. Taking the time out to attend them can be well worth your while for a number of different reasons. Let's take a closer look at four of them.

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Father-daughter dance. Photo by Lisa Lee, courtesy of Dance Academy USA

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

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Q: How do you approach gender when teaching in 2019? When I was training, male dancers were encouraged to make their movement masculine, while female dancers were encouraged to keep their movement feminine. Today, gender has become much more fluid, and the line between masculine and feminine performance has blurred. How does that impact the way we should be teaching?

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Photo courtesy of Z Artists Group

New York City–based pre-professional training troupe Z Artists Group, along with dancers from eight professional companies in the city, are joining together to combat gun violence with, "DANCERS DEMAND ACTION," a performance aligning art with activism at The Joyce Theater, this Monday, November 11, at 7:30 pm.

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Photo courtesy of Infinite Flow

Last week, 2019 DT Awardee Marisa Hamamoto and her partner Piotr Iwanicki brought their boundary-breaking work to the "Good Morning America" stage in a segment highlighting her inclusive dance company Infinite Flow.

Infinite Flow is a Los Angeles–based wheelchair ballroom dance company (the first of its kind in the U.S.) that incorporates an equal number of disabled and nondisabled dancers, as well as a range of styles like hip hop, contemporary and other partner dances.

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Since she was hired in 2006 to create a dance program at Washington & Lee University in Virginia, Jenefer Davies has operated as, essentially, a one-woman show. She's the only full-time faculty member (with regular adjunct support). Over the last 13 years, she has created a thriving program along with a performance company—at a school with fewer than 2,500 students—by drawing on her admittedly rare strength: aerial dance.

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Savion Glover is one of the biggest names in the dance world, and perhaps the biggest in the tap world. The trailblazing hoofer's hard-hitting, rhythmically intricate style has fundamentally altered the tap landscape.

Glover is also a master teacher. But during his many years on the scene, he's never appeared regularly at a major dance convention. That is, until this season: Glover is now teaching at JUMP Dance Convention, scheduled to appear at approximately 15 more cities on its 2019–2020 tour.

We talked with JUMP director Mike Minery, himself a gifted hoofer, about working with a living legend—and how Glover is already changing the convention class game.

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