Taking Care of Business

I look forward every year to working on the studio business issue. Although we discuss business every month, June is when we dive in head first. We’re pleased to bring you the story of how Joffrey Ballet School in New York has completely transformed its organization to better meet the demands of 21st-century dance training. After operating quietly in Greenwich Village since the 1950s, the school has raised its visibility and broadened its curriculum. In “The Fall and Rise of Joffrey Ballet School,” business editor Rachel Rizzuto tells how—and why—they did it.

There are few topics that rankle studio directors more than competition from a former staff member. How can you protect your business? Turns out that becoming a better manager can go a lot farther than using the typical noncompete or nondisclosure agreement. See “Why Noncompetes Rarely Work."

It’s Father’s Day. While you’re honoring the men in your life, don’t forget the men of your studio family. In “Beyond the Daddy Daughter Dance,” Nancy Wozny chats with three studio directors about the best ways to tap into this valuable source of volunteers. “Dads like having something to do other than waiting around for the kids,” says Amanda Plesa of In Motion Dance Project in Orlando.

And yet, we’re not strictly business this month. As in every issue of Dance Teacher, our pages are filled with advice and information for educators working in a variety of settings. For instance, check out Aaron Tolson’s elegant instruction, in “How I Teach Rhythm Tap." And if you find yourself with a class filled with dancers of different levels, you’ll want to take note of “One Class Fits All."

Attention studio owners: We consistently hear that one of the best things about our Dance Teacher Summit (August 1–3, New York City) is the exclusive studio owners’ forum that kicks off the conference. Don’t miss this chance to share your successes, your challenges and your questions with other dance studio owners. You must be an owner to attend, and the session is moderated by a team of industry veterans—the Ambassadors—whom you’ve met in our monthly interviews, “Seen and Heard at the Dance Teacher Summit.” Danceteachersummit.com

Photo by Matthew Murphy
Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

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Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

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Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

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