Associate editor Rachel Rizzuto is originally from Chalmette, Louisiana. She dances for MMDC and heads her own project-based company, touche pas. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with degrees in dance and English, she edits the Face to Face, Higher Ed, Technique, Theory & Practice and Business columns. Contact her at email@example.com.
Photo by The Fleet, courtesy of Lion's Jaw Festival
Growing up in New Jersey, Lisa Race trained with a memorable dance teacher: Fred Kelly, the younger brother of famous tapper Gene. "Fred would introduce our recitals," she says. "He would always cartwheel down the stairs." It wasn't until years later, when Race was pursuing her master's degree and chose to write a research paper on Kelly, that she realized there was a clear connection between her own movement style—improvisational and floor-based—and his. "In this television clip I watched, Fred jumps up to the piano, then jumps off it—he's going up and down and around," she says. "I thought, 'Oh, wow, all this time, I've thought of my dancing as my own, but that's where it started!' Moving upside-down and into the floor. There's a thread there. I rerouted it in different ways, but there's a connection."
Now, as a professor at Connecticut College, she concentrates on how to introduce her students to that love and freedom of upside-down work—and how to best prepare them for life after graduation, no matter what dance path they take.
If you're a studio owner, the thought of raising your rates most likely makes you cringe. Despite ever-increasing overhead expenses you can't avoid—rent, salaries, insurance—you're probably wary of alienating your customers, losing students or inviting confrontation if you increase the price of your tuition or registration and recital fees. DT spoke with three veteran studio owners who suggestit's time to get past that. Here's how to give your business the revenue boost it needs and the value justification it (and you) deserve.
Paying for college, no matter what degree you graduate with, is a challenge for many students and their families. But majoring in dance has its own set of complications, because many are reluctant to go into serious debt without the security of knowing they'll be able to pay that debt off quickly post-college. That doesn't mean a dance degree is out of the question, of course—as the three dancers featured here demonstrate.
Students in Pulinkala's Cocoon. Photo by Robert Pack, courtesy of Kennesaw State
When Ivan Pulinkala was preparing for his interview at Kennesaw State University to create the school's first dance program, he figured the whole thing would be a lark, at best. After all, the New Delhi–born choreographer had just gotten his green card, which meant he could teach anywhere, and Kennesaw, Georgia (a half-hour outside of Atlanta), wasn't his first choice as a location. But after doing a scan of collegiate dance in Georgia, he began to change his mind. "I thought, 'Wow, if someone starts a big dance program at a public institution, the market's wide open,'" says Pulinkala. "There were some good programs, like Emory University, but they were niche—private and expensive."
Accountant Jessica Scheitler has a helpful phrase for the clients of her Las Vegas–based tax preparation business, Financial Groove—one she thinks they'll understand: Expense full-out. "It's the same as when you're at a convention, and you're supposed to dance full-out, as big and crazy as possible," she explains. In the world of tax preparation, it means handing over all your studio business receipts, rather than cherry-picking what seems appropriate or "right."
There are a few other things she'd like from her clients as well—so we made a list. Use it to impress your accountant this year (and make their job a little easier).
Students at UNCSA in Twyla Tharp's Sweet Fields. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy of UNCSA
Where do you want to live?
Though this question might seem unrelated to the issue, Katie Glasner, chair of Barnard College's dance department, believes it's actually a crucial one. "A liberal arts institution in an urban area is going to offer more possibilities outside of the university setting, potentially, than a rural setting," she says. "And then there are the students who are really not comfortable in a metropolitan area and want a smaller area." If high schoolers are waffling over the type of dance program but have firm feelings about urban versus rural, geographical setting could be a definitive way to settle the matter.
The Dance Studio of Fresno dancers. Courtesy of DSF
So you think you want to start a competition team, eh? It's a lot of work to take your studio into this arena, but, as many will attest, it can be well worth your while—both as a way to increase performance opportunities and exposure for your students and to grow your studio. Is there a way to avoid pitfalls and take the fast track to success? We talked with the directors of some of the most well-run teams we know about their strategies, from logistics like fees and schedules to navigating the emotions that are sure to come with this new territory.
Trai Allgeier, whose studio received a Torch Award. Photo by Wes Hamilton, courtesy of Point Performing Arts
Competition trophies, well-respected faculty and an end-of-year recital with Vegas-level production elements are all powerful attractions for potential students and their families. But what about recognition outside the studio sphere, in your community? Is there value in that?