Studio Owners

Your Studio Space: USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance Opens the Ultimate Dream Dance Facility

Renderings by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, courtesy of USC Kaufman

Located at the gateway to the University of Southern California's arts neighborhood, the USC Kaufman building facade and exterior have been designed in traditional Collegiate Gothic style. USC Kaufman partners with arts organizations and dance companies, such as The Music Center and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, to present dance performances and workshops.


“I like to think of this building as state-of-the-art," says Jodie Gates, the inaugural director and vice dean of the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. “There is a feeling of spaciousness and expansiveness that dancers need—to create, to think, to move, to reimagine."

At nearly 55,000 square feet, the Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center, scheduled for completion this month, is a formidable space, one that might be better described as “future-of-the-art." Designed by a team of architects led by William Murray, a principal at Los Angeles' Pfeiffer Partners Architects, the three-story structure, the school's new home, houses six studios with soaring cathedral ceilings. Los Angeles philanthropist Glorya Kaufman donated the funds for the project and got Gates' input—as well as the advice of choreographers like William Forsythe, who is on faculty at the school, and Ohad Naharin—on the layout, function and design of the building.

Renderings by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, courtesy of USC Kaufman

It all serves what Gates calls "the New Movement," the philosophy of a dance program that rethinks the principles of higher dance education. "The students in this program will be given a box of tools to take with them whether they become performers, choreographers, filmmakers or CEOs," says Gates. "The beauty in all of this is that we have the ability to design a curriculum speaking to the needs of today's dance artists. We're developing the hybrid dance artist."

BFA undergraduates may study heady subjects such as “Colloquium: History of Performance and Cultural Context" and “Dance Leadership: Dance Management and Entrepreneurship." (This year's inaugural freshman class has 33 dancers, but future classes will be more intimate—around 16 to 20 for each undergraduate year.) The program's emphasis on multimedia and interdisciplinary collaboration lets students choose concentrations like choreography for stage and cinematic arts or dance and music. It also requires dancers to study hip hop. “For our dancers, learning the leadership skills to become highly trained hybrid artists and scholars in the field now means working fluidly across mediums and between dance styles," says Gates.

Architectural renderings of building and studios.

Floors Create a Cushion of Quiet

A hybrid approach extends to the construction of the school's Harlequin dance floors. Four studios have marley surfaces to accommodate ballet and contemporary classes, and another two are equipped with wood surfaces for other dance styles. All of the floors are sprung with a basket-weave substrate for cushioning and sound insulation. “We wanted to make sure you can have tap in one room, hip hop in another, ballet in a third, contemporary or jazz in a fourth, and not disturb one another," says Jeff de Caen, associate dean for operations at USC Kaufman and Thornton School of Music.

The secret to the soundproofing lies in the construction of the floors, which are floated, rather than attached to the foundation. They sit on neoprene pads and insulation that transmit the lateral load. “They can move in reaction to dancers or audio without shaking or disturbing the rest of the structure," says de Caen.

Moving Beyond Mirrors

The largest studio, called the Performance Studio, measures 3,591 square feet and can serve as a multipurpose rehearsal space, a black-box theater or a full proscenium stage with 140 retractable seats, withdrawable wings and a motorized cyclorama. It has state-of-the-art projection, video, audio and lighting technology. It is also mirrorless, to allow artists to process movement internally rather than externally. Students will also perform on stages in other buildings and do site-specific work. The school's first floor also has four mirrored studios, ranging from 2,300 to 2,500 square feet. Arched windows flood the studios with light.

Renderings by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, courtesy of USC Kaufman

A 21st-Century Environment

Very few details have been overlooked in the design. The first-floor hallways have curved corners, to avoid 90-degree angularity and offer a more pleasing aesthetic. The hallways provide ledges at barre height so dancers can stretch between classes or rehearsals. The water fountains supply filtered-water refilling stations. All the studios have sophisticated audio-visual centers that connect to the building's main network, so that, for example, a live-streamed cinema-cast from the Bolshoi Ballet can be viewed simultaneously in all the studios. The wall-mounted flat screens in the studios can be individually or centrally controlled, and all the studios are equipped with a sound system. The internet connections feature the fastest and broadest bandwidth available.

Renderings by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, courtesy of USC Kaufman

The center's mezzanine level includes men's and women's dressing rooms. There is also a theater control room with video-editing capabilities above the performance studio. And for visitors, a viewing balcony above two of the first-floor studios allows for eagle-eye perspective. Also on the mezzanine level: a small fitness and training zone with somatic equipment, although students can use the well-equipped fitness center at the new USC Village across the street, which will house up to 3,000 square feet of shops and retail space.

On the second floor, students can work in the “small" studio (more than 2,000 square feet); four academic classrooms with capacities for 30 to 60 students each; a conference room and kitchenette; and a collaborative space that dance majors can use 24 hours a day, along with their fellow student musicians, video artists and students from across the university. Additionally, the second floor houses the faculty offices, dressing rooms and meeting rooms. All of these amenities further Gates' belief that “dance creation and innovation need time, support and space."

Groundbreaking in April 2014, with (from left) dean Robert Cutietta, Glorya Kaufman, USC president C.L. Max Nikias and Jodie Gates. Photo by Gus Ruelas, courtesy of USC Kaufman

“Theoretically and philosophically, the center is a nexus point for Los Angeles and dance on the West Coast," says de Caen. “Now you've got this brick-and-mortar flag in the sand that says 'This is how committed we are.'"

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Mitchell Button, courtesy of the artist

Dusty Button prefers music with a range. "There needs to be a beginning, a climax and a strong ending. Like a movie," she says. The award-winning dancer, who joined American Ballet Theatre's second company, ABT II, at 18, has always been drawn to lyric-free tracks filled with dynamic phrasing, rhythms and composition. "Whether it's the violin, piano or cello, instrumental music gives me more inspiration. I want the dancers and the audience to feel something new," she adds.

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

As a teacher or studio owner, customer service is a major part of the job. It's easy to dread the difficult sides of it, like being questioned or criticized by an unhappy parent. "In the early years, parent issues could have been the one thing that got me to give up teaching," says Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a teacher and studio owner with over 43 years of experience. "Hang in there—it does get easier."

We asked Clough her top tips for dealing with difficult parents:

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network

When the news broke that Prince George, currently third in line for the British throne, would be continuing ballet classes as part of his school curriculum this year, we were as excited as anyone. (OK, maybe more excited.)

This was not, it seems, a sentiment shared by "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Photo via Claudia Dean World on YouTube

Most parents start off pretty clueless when it comes to doing their dancer's hair. If you don't want your students coming in with elastic-wrapped bird's nests on their heads, you may want to give them some guidance. But who has time to teach each individual parent how to do their child's hair? Not you! So, we have a solution: YouTube hair tutorials.

These three classical hairdo vids are exactly what your dancers need to look fabulous and ready to work every time they step in your studio.

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Via @madisongoodman_ on Instagram

Nationals season is behind us, but we just aren't quite over it yet. We've been thinking a lot about the freakishly talented winners of these competitions, and want to know a bit more about the people who got them to where they are. So, we asked three current national title holders to tell us the most powerful piece of advice their dance teacher ever gave them. What they have to say will melt your heart.

Way to go, dance teachers! Your'e doing amazing things for the rising generation!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Enrollment is an issue that plagues brand-new and veteran studio owners alike. Without a steady stream of revenue from new students coming through your doors, your studio won't survive—no matter how crisp your dancers' technique is or how well-produced your recitals are.

Enrollment—in biz speak, customer acquisition and retention—depends on your business' investment in marketing. How effectively you get the word out about your studio will directly influence the number of people who register. Successful businesses typically use certain tried-and-true marketing strategies to recruit and retain clients or customers. These four studio owners' tricks for kicking enrollment into high gear are modeled after classic marketing techniques.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox