Who's Feeling the Recession?

I went with Courtney to UDMA the other weekend and had a great time catching up with everyone—costume and shoe vendors, event organizers, studio owners attending the show, you name it.

Aside from the regular chitchat, though, I had a very specific agenda: I wanted to find out how everyone was doing in this recession we’re facing. Most people spoke to me in confidence, but I will say that the overall attitude was very much “let's wait and see.”

Some manufacturers reported sales slowing down, but not by very much—yet. Others said that the decline in domestic business was being offset by international sales. Still others were seeing different stock moving differently—for example, an uptick in cheaper, more generic items rather than the more elaborate costumes. Vendors on the whole seemed to be cautious, but accepting and prepared.

The studio owners I talked to seemed to be doing just fine, but I wonder how much of that recession-proof success has to do with where they’re located (affluent suburbs). What if you’re in a rural area? Or inner city? I imagine everyone, even those fortunate enough to be riding things out so far, are busy thinking of ways to save, save, save.

This is something I’d really love to hear about from all of you out there. Have your parents been coming to you with tuition concerns? Have you had students drop out? How are you attempting to cost-cut around the studio? Send me an e-mail at jtu@dancemedia.com.

Teachers Trending
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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Dancer Diary
Claire, McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

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