Seen & Heard At the Dance Teacher Summit  

Carole Royal

Royal Dance Works

Phoenix, AZ

500 students

A studio owner for 33 years, Carole Royal has learned the hard way how to separate her passion for dance from her livelihood as a business owner. The four-time ambassador shares her experience and advice at the annual Dance Teacher Summit.

Dance Teacher: During the 2012 DT Summit, you gave a seminar called “Dance Is a Business.” Why do studio owners need to be reminded of that?

Carole Royal: If you’re working in a typical business, you expect to make a profit, but I think when it’s something you love, you feel guilty making money. When I first started teaching, I couldn’t stand to charge people. It made me feel terrible. I can’t tell you how much I gave away for free. I’d teach all my performance classes for free, choreograph for soloists and do extra routines for students without charging. I could only bring myself to charge for regular classes and wouldn’t add on for anything. As a result, I spent many years not doing well.

DT: What made you change how you approach your business?

CR: I started listening to books on tape about success, and I think that’s when it sunk in. I started realizing I work hard, and I deserve to make a good living. Some of the most helpful were Dare to Change: How to Program Yourself for Success, by Joel Alexander; The Success System That Never Fails, by William Clement Stone; and All You Can Do Is All You Can Do But All You Can Do Is Enough! by A.L. Williams.

DT: What should studio owners consider as they take their first steps toward becoming more business-minded?

CR: Anything you change, just make sure you do it gradually. If your performance kids have never paid a fee on top of their classes, you can’t jump in demand $350 extra. You can start with maybe $50 and then build from there.

At the Summit a couple years ago, someone talked about charging for recital costumes in the fall and I thought it was a great idea. I used to have parents pay a costume deposit up front with the rest of the money in May, but it was always this big hassle trying to collect. But when I made the change, a lot of people complained. And we didn’t say, “Too bad, too sad.” We explained that it was something a lot of other studios around the country had suggested and asked them to bear with us while we tried it out. Well, everybody was ecstatic when they didn’t have to pay a balance in May. Nobody says a word about the policy now. But you almost always have to go through a rough patch the first year. Just remember to be careful with your customers. Treat them the way you’d like to be treated. —Andrea Marks

Photos by Dustin Curtis

Seen & Heard At the Dance Teacher Summit

Royal Dance Works

Phoenix, AZ

Number of students: 500

Years open: 32

Dance Teacher: What is the biggest piece of advice you have for other business owners?

Carole Royal: For the first years of my business, I really just bobbed along, hoping for good circumstances without a real plan. I had a vast dance background, but trying to learn the business aspects of running my studio was hard. Setting concrete goals turned everything around for my business and my dancers. I gave a seminar on goal setting at the Summit, just like I give to my teachers every year. I even have my students write out their goals at the beginning of each year.

Royal Dance Works' seniors performing Unravel in 2010

DT: What kind of things do the students write down?

CR: Some will say that they want to get their left split or a solid triple turn. Some will say that they want to receive a scholarship at a particular convention. If students really focus on what they want to accomplish, it brings them closer to it. It’s fun to go back and look at the goals that dancers have written, and what they’re doing now. One of our dancers mentioned that she wanted to dance with a star. She just toured with Lady Gaga!

Rosemary Beyer teaching a children's class at RDW

—Rachel Zar

“The Dance Teacher Summit has completely changed my business. I’ve utilized many suggestions from teachers across the country, like creating a new program for preschoolers and updating the way I charge for costumes. Next year for the first time, I’m going to be taking some of my teachers with me. I’m in Phoenix, so traveling to New York is a little bit hard for me. But after last year, I came back to my studio and said, ‘You guys just have to go!’” —Carole Royal, owner of Royal Dance Works in Phoenix, AZ

Photos by Dustin Curtis, courtesy of Carole Royal

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.