#WWYDD? (What Would You Do Differently?)

If you could start your studio all over again...

  • Living an artist's life doesn't mean living a poor life.

"Up until four years ago, I thought that if I became too business-minded, I would sacrifice the creative part. But you can run a top-notch studio and be very profitable. For people to see value, you have to charge for your expertise." —Jennifer Jarnot, studio owner for 17 years

  • Have a financial base to begin with.

"When we started, we used our credit card. I don't think we've ever really gotten back from that and the sacrifice it took. I would've liked to have a starting base of capital. Make sure you keep a rolling line of credit that you haven't used very much, to build off of and borrow against." —Waverly Lucas, 27 years

  • Don't worry so much about parents' opinions.

"When I opened my studio, I was in my late 20s, and the parents of my teens were in their 40s. They were my elders, and I felt I had to trust them and not my instincts. But I knew what I was doing. I'm a people pleaser—I wanted everyone to get along and hug. But that's not a way to run a business. Parents will take too much power and control." —Karen Daggett Austin, 28 years

  • Remember that it's OK to start small.

"When you start a business, the needs are very different from when it grows. You don't need the huge staff or enrollment right away. When the business was small, I sent people handwritten schedules and circled which classes were best for each child. Since then, it's always been one of our goals to keep things personal." —Olga Berest, 41 years

Teachers Trending
Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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Getty Images

Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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