The start of a new calendar year—smack dab in the middle of the studio year—often brings its own challenges, issues and focuses. We checked in with seven prominent studio-business leaders to see what's on their minds for the new year. Their responses run the gamut, from worries about how to avoid gender stereotypes in classroom language to a need to update studio policies.

Are we giving our students what they really need? Last year, after taking a few of her senior dancers to college dance auditions, Dale Lam noticed how they struggled with the modern portion of the audition. “They did fine in the ballet," she says, “but then when it came to the modern part, they felt like they were fish out of water."

Her approach Last fall, Lam hired a modern teacher for Horton and Graham techniques at her South Carolina–based studio, Columbia City Jazz Dance School & Company. Attendance was required for her pre-professional teen and senior students.

During a recent master class with Parsons Dance company members, she could see the difference in her dancers after only a few months. “We got a lot of feedback that I was doing the right thing," says Lam, who will continue the modern classes this spring. “I feel like I'm actually getting them more of what they're going to need—providing them the education they'll need after competitions."

What's the future of our studio? “We're quickly approaching our 30th anniversary, and that leaves the question of, 'What do the next 30 years bring?'" says Joseph Naftal, marketing director at his mother Mary's studio, Dance Connection, on Long Island, New York. “What direction does our company go in, and how do we want to grow the company in the best way possible?"

Their approach Naftal understands that looking forward begins with looking back. He plans to celebrate the 30th anniversary by honoring the studio's history and engaging its community. Festivities include reprising past dances; putting the opening number (also a reprise) to an audience vote; projecting clips from previous recitals and classes; and creating a montage of throwback photos submitted by current students and alumni to play during intermission. He hopes an alumni reception at the studio with food and wine will encourage past dancers to attend the recital.

How can I engage my customers further? “I want to establish a relationship beyond the transaction, or just dropping your kid off for dance," says Phyllis Balagna, owner of Steppin' Out—The Studio in Lee's Summit, Missouri.

Her approach Though she currently sends parents weekly updates, publishes a monthly newsletter and invites customers to holiday-themed events, Balagna plans to step up her studio's social-media exposure, hold more studio events that include both parents and kids and introduce incentives to spread the word about classes.

We want to stop the objectification of girls in dance. “It's hard to avoid, because our bodies are our tools and our canvas," says Cynthia King, who runs her eponymous studio in Brooklyn, New York, “but I'm still really horrified by the focus on prettiness and tricks and allure—things that keep girls stuck in very old stereotypes."

Her approach King and her staff have pledged to be careful about what language they use. Rather than calling their female students “adorable" or “cute," they say “beautiful job" or “good work." “We don't ever say, 'You look so pretty,'" says King. “We're going to talk about how they move."

Does our competition policy still make sense? Jill Athridge of Stage Door Studios in Sarasota, Florida, has had a competition team for nine years, so it's time to update her policies and sort out some issues she's been too busy to fix.

Her approach Throughout the 2017 competition season, Athridge will keep a notebook handy for a running list of things that go wrong—for example, if students were late for call times, missed important rehearsals or didn't make up classes in time for competitions. Then she'll update her team and employee handbooks accordingly, implementing appropriate changes—incentives and consequences—to ensure the team operates like a well-oiled machine in the future.

What to do about the demand for instant gratification? Suzanne Blake Gerety and her mother Kathy Blake have noticed a disturbing trend with parents new to dance at their Amherst, New Hampshire, studio—what Gerety calls the push-button mentality. “They think, 'If I can get Amazon to ship my package overnight, why can't I get my kid to take class just once a week and get them on pointe?'" she says.

Their approach It all comes to down to educating parents and sharing your studio policies. “It's communicating how it works at our studio, how you progress here and what the benefits of dance are," she says. Gerety likes to offer informational sessions on intensive- and competitive-track options, and info sessions at parent nights. She positions alumni well, too, to demonstrate what graduates of their studio look like. Gerety invites current dance majors/minors to help run recitals and assist and choreograph for summer intensives.

How can I make my studio more inclusive? When a number of parents approached her about teaching kids with special needs, owner Jennifer Turey took notice. “They'd ask, 'So-and-so's sister has autism—could she join a class?'" she says. “But I had no idea how to answer them—how to integrate those kids."

Her approach Turey heard about Tricia Gomez's Rhythm Works Integrative Dance, an adaptive dance certification program. She and one of her dance moms, a physical therapist, enrolled in similar programs last summer. Now, they co-teach a Saturday class at her Newtown, Connecticut, studio for two young boys with autism.

Turey invited one student's occupational therapists to observe the class, so they would know what he's working on with her. “They couldn't believe this little boy was dancing," she says. “It was nice to confirm what I was doing was working." Now that she's established the program, she hopes to expand it and attract more students. “It's great that I've started out slow, so I can get my feet wet," she says. “You just don't think you can do this, and then you see it happen, and it's really rewarding." DT

Thinkstock

Don't miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Dance teachers have a lot of strengths (communicating corrections, choreographing gorgeous movement, planning excellent recitals, cleaning technique—just to name a few) but when it comes to interior design—talent isn't exactly a given. So when studio owners remodel or build, worrying about the decor can feel a little overwhelming (you've got just a few too many other things to worry about, don't you?).

No need to fear! In 2019 we have Pinterest, which shows us all the latest trends we should know about. To help you make the best design decisions for your studio, we've compiled a list of public Pinterest pins we think you'll love.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Vanessa Zahorian. Photo by Erik Larson, courtesy of Pennsylvania Ballet Academy

At the LINES Ballet Dance Center in San Francisco, faculty member Erik Wagner leads his class through an adagio combination in center. He encourages dancers to root their standing legs, using imagery of a seed germinating, so that they feel more grounded. "Our studios are on the fifth floor, so I'll often tell them to push down to Market Street," says Wagner. "They know that they should push their energy down to the street level." By using this oppositional force, he says, dancers can lengthen their bodies to create any desired shape.

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

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

After years of throwing summer parties at your studio, you're likely fatigued by coming up with themes and event details. You want your students to have a good time, but you're also up to your eyeballs in choreography and costume decisions.

Never fear! We've come up with party themes and activities to do during the event. Delegate tasks to your teachers and office managers, and voilà! You have a stress-free party ready to go.

Have a blast, people!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

Q: I recently returned to a modern dance class after a long absence. While I didn't feel any acute pain at the end of class, the next morning I could barely walk from the soreness in both my Achilles. What can I do to fix this?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Q: I'm trying to think of ways to maximize studio space and revenue during the summer. What has worked for you?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

In 2019, dance parents are more eager than ever to observe their child's progress, and stay up-to-date with the ins and outs of what's happening in the classroom. That means yearly recitals aren't always enough to keep them satisfied—especially if you have rules against visitors observing class from week to week. The solution? Visitor observation weeks. Trust us, the guardians and loved ones of your students will love you for it!

We caught up with Suzanne Blake Gerety, vice president of Kathy Blake Dance Studios and regular contributor to Dance Teacher's "Ask The Experts" column, to hear her tips on how to have a successful visitor observation week.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Adequate dorsiflexion mobility is needed to find a supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely. Getty Images

Dancers are trained to think often about the range of motion, stability and power of their extended lines: the point of the foot, the reach of the penché, the explosion of the sauté in the air. But finding that same mix of flexibility and strength in the flexed foot is just as integral to technique and injury prevention. Without adequate dorsiflexion mobility, it is nearly impossible to find the kind of supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox