Studio Owners
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Small businesses across the U.S. are keeping careful tabs on their states' reopening schedules and making changes to their business models accordingly. As pandemic-related guidelines and timelines evolve, it's important that you have a multilayered plan for the gradual reopening of your studio—one that prioritizes your dancers' and staff's health, reassures families that it's safe to return and allows you to operate your business to the fullest extent. Keep in mind that flexibility will be key: It's possible your state may experience a spike in new cases of COVID-19, requiring your studio's plan to take a step or two backward before it moves forward again.

Here are four crucial steps to preparing your studio for a flexible, responsive and well-considered reopening.

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Studio Owners
Sacramento Ballet began offering online classes to its SB School students on April 1. Photo by Scott Beckner, courtesy of Sacramento Ballet

On Wednesday, March 11—two weeks ahead of a statewide stay-at-home mandate—Colorado Conservatory of Dance executive director Richard Cowden and artistic director Julia Wilkinson Manley made the difficult decision to take all of CCD's classes online. As you'd expect, it wasn't easy. "This chapter in our future book will be called 'The 96 Hours From Hell,'" says Cowden, laughing, who joined the Broomfield-based nonprofit and its conservatory program of 200 students in 2018. "Over four days, we got together with our staff and faculty, all hands on deck, and launched our entire conservatory of classes online." You've probably done something similar at your own studio, scrambling to orient yourself and your staff with a video-conferencing platform (like Zoom, a popular choice among owners) for classes, as sweeping stay-at-home orders preclude in-person instruction.

COVID-19 continues to disrupt daily life as we know it, which means the state of your studio has been evolving often and rapidly. But regardless of what lies ahead, the skills you're learning as you pivot your business from in-person to online will come in handy again, no matter the crisis you're facing. We've compiled COVID-19-specific advice from the leadership of four studios and schools, in an effort to help you communicate and operate as effectively—and thriftily, and smoothly, and normally—as possible.

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Studio Owners
Pam Simpson of Forte Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Forte Arts Center

As COVID-19 forced state after state into some form of lockdown this spring, most studio owners realized right away that they needed to evolve quickly—or else watch their enrollment plummet. Online classes became the key to business continuity, but with so little time to adapt material to remote learning and train faculty members on new technology, there was little room for finesse. But that's what Pam Simpson focused on first with her 600-student studio, Forte Arts Center, in Morris and Channahon, IL. She knew she needed to predict pedagogical issues that might crop up with Zoom dance education before they happened and offer solutions to keep students happy—and enrolled. And she knew the key to that was to invest in training her staff.

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Studio Owners
Shanna Kirkpatrick. Photo by Meghan McCluskey, courtesy of Chara Christian Dance Academy

For Shanna Kirkpatrick, owner of Chara Christian Dance Academy, the key to retaining 96.5 percent of her 1,000-student enrollment through COVID-19 has been communication: regular e-mail updates, mass studio text messages, personal phone calls and—perhaps most significantly—following up with Zoom no-shows.

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Studio Owners
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Making your dance studio an anti-racist space begins with education.

One concrete place to start: Be sure the resources and materials you provide for your students fall in line with your anti-racist values—and educate yourself and your staff.

We rounded up eight age-appropriate books for your students, and four must-reads for you and your teachers.

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Studio Owners
Photo courtesy of Shanna Kirkpatrick

Planning a recital pre-COVID-19 was enough to make even the most well-organized dance studio owner feel stressed. Add a global pandemic into the mix, and you've got a recipe for a nervous breakdown—not to mention a serious revenue shortfall. Good thing studio owners have resilience and creativity to spare: These three owners reimagined and restructured their recitals in only weeks. While their recital revenue will still take a hit this year, they've found inspiring ways to keep the families involved in and excited about end-of-year recitals—and, most important, eager to return as loyal customers, come fall.

Though each state offers its own plan and protocols for incremental reopening—with varying numbers of COVID-19 cases and trajectories—the one certainty across the board is that nothing is certain. Reopening may require some serious backtracking if it results in a surge of new outbreaks, so flexibility will remain a key part of any studio's success.

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Studio Owners
Rachel Arnold (top center) and her students. Photo courtesy of Dance Prodigy Studio

Rachel Arnold is a studio owner who knows how to transform lemons into lemonade. Rather than viewing stay-at-home orders as something to just power through at her Greenville, TX–based school, Dance Prodigy Studio, she's turned online education into a chance to offer students and staff alike enrichment activities and community-building content. "I wanted great ideas that would help bring the parents and kids back each week—an add-on, versus 'OK, I have to Zoom again,'" says Arnold, whose 10-year-old studio enrolls 100 students in 49 classes a week.

Her investment has paid off. Arnold reports a 97 percent enrollment retention rate since COVID-19 came into the picture, with 101.5 percent revenue retention, since a few students have even added classes. She doesn't have any plans to slow down, either, because she knows the offerings she sets up today will have a big effect on her business' health, particularly if online classes are a mainstay for studios for the next few months. "This next year, people will be looking for extracurricular activities that will step up and create interactions that are worthwhile for their children," she says.

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Teaching Tips
Anastasia Johnson with her Dance Place students. Photo by Jonathan Hsu, courtesy of Dance Place

If you've responded this week to the recent murders of Black people by taking part in Blackout Tuesday and/or including a Black Lives Matter statement of solidarity, you may think that your role as a dance teacher or studio owner in this traumatic time is complete. But your Black students need your vocal, committed support, now, more than ever.

They may be feeling a host of emotions right now—traumatized, scared, drained—and as their dance teacher, you can offer them a special source of strength and support.

Here's a short list of ways you can support your Black students right now.

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