#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

Music
Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

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For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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