Chasta is the artistic director and owner of Stage Door Dance Productions in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is also the founder of The Dance Exec, a website and organization that provided resources and training for dance studio owners. The resources from The Dance Exec have a new home on the TutuTix blog, giving dance studio owners an even more in-depth library of free tools and information with which to grow their business. Chasta contributes to the TutuTix blog from time to time, offering her perspective as a studio owner (and TutuTix client!).
Now that you’re about to get started opening a dance studio, you have to begin planning your initial marketing strategies to let the public know that you now exist. How will you get the word out? How will people know that you are a credible institute of dance? Before mentioning any detailed strategies, the most important thing to realize is that the more time you have for planning and marketing your opening timeline, the more successful your efforts will prove.
SECTION 1: Opening Strategies
Here are some strategies that worked well for The Dance Exec’s Studio during its opening:
“Coming Soon” Sign
Placing a “Coming Soon…” banner over the doors at the soon-to-be studio site (which stresses importance of location, visibility, and neighboring businesses)
Set Up Tables Around Town
Set up tables at nearby locations to promote your coming location. When The Dance Exec’s Studio was opening, tables were set-up at a fun park (putt-putt, go-karts, arcade games, etc), nearby preschools, local swim clubs, nearby churches and local country clubs on a regular basis. The studio set up at any and every community festival and event possible. These events are frequently free, and you can create an extensive prospective client database by gathering emails and phone numbers with a raffle or give away (e.g. enter for a chance to win a free month of classes, just give us your email!).
Some places that may not work well for setting up a table (local schools), may be willing to put out flyers or business cards advertising your services. Our philosophy is that it never hurts to ask.
Free Demo Classes
Be prepared to give lots of free demo classes! You must be so confident in your service that everyone wants to buy-in. Visit as many places as possible and show them what you have to offer. Very few places will refuse an offer for a free demo class. If you do not ask to offer a sample class, it is unlikely they will ask you. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there.
SECTION 2: Logistical Preparation
Any time you are in the public, you must be prepared. Before beginning your marketing, follow-up information should be ready.
Prior to beginning your marketing / grand opening announcement efforts, make sure the following are fully functional and ready to go:
Class offerings/schedule information to give to people
Flyers & Information Sheets
Studio T-Shirts with Logo (not required, but encouraged)
It is incredibly important to remember that if people are contacting you, you need to be ready to respond. Be prepared to answer the phone and respond to emails in a prompt, efficient manner. Show your prospective clients that your level of customer service is exceptional from their initial interaction with you.
SECTION 3: Grand Opening Event
We also recommend planning a large Grand Opening event, which can be the centralized theme of your early marketing efforts.
At your Grand Opening event, this is your first time officially introducing yourself as a business entity to your community and prospective clients. The studio should be as close to completion as possible and should be clean and in neat order. Show people how organized you are from the very first day.
The Grand Opening event should include any of the following options:
Complimentary Sample Classes for a variety of ages, featuring a variety of your instructors
Facility Tours (we recommend having a tour script that highlights the studio and its best features so that everyone visiting the studio receives the same, standardized information)
Face Painting/ Balloon Animals/ Craft Stations / etc.
Separate Registration area, so interested clients can be efficiently and sufficiently addressed
Separate Shoe Fitting/Merchandise Purchasing area
At the end of The Dance Exec’s Studio’s Grand Opening, we had over 100 students registered. This number will vary significantly based on where you are opening and your marketing efforts. When the studio began, it began from scratch. There was no taking of half of a student base of a nearby studio, or any of the “ick factor” stories you often hear associated with the opening of a new studio.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If students choose The Dance Exec’s Studio, it is because we are building a reputation and are providing the best possible experience for each and every one of our clientele. As a Studio Owner, you have a huge responsibility—in the world of dance studios, there is not a quality control department or corporate headquarters where we can send dissatisfied clients; rather, dance studio owners are all-encompassing title holders.
Be ready for every scenario possible. One of The Dance Exec’s Studio’s greatest mentors and advisers gave us this initial advice,
“You are now a business owner first, and an artist second.”
Take that advice, and enjoy the ride that is opening a dance studio!
Growing up, I trained in all styles of dance and played a musical instrument, the piano. I could easily and proficiently count music, read music, and identify an upbeat or downbeat. Now, as a teacher, I notice that many students, across varying ages and skill levels, struggle with the musical components of dance instruction. Phrasing, tempo, and rhythm are concepts that require detailed explanation and practice in execution and understanding in all styles of dance. Here are a couple of exercises I have integrated into my classes to work on teaching rhythm and helping our understanding of music:
Finding the 8-Count:
There are so many times that I’ve asked a student to find an 8 count. And, they struggled. The understanding of musicality and musical phrasing is an essential part of being a successful dancer, teacher, and educator. In dance, counts are the road map to success. Musicality strengthens a performance into an experience.
Take the time to review rhythm. Explain the different possibilities for timing and counting. This will make your students more adaptable as they work with other teachers and instructors.
Exercise: Round Robin Counts
We will open a class with round robin style counting exercises. Students will take turns finding an 8-count of phrasing in the music, and they will “pass” the phrase onto another dancer who will work to continue the phrasing and counting of the particular music. To notate the phrases, we clap or march and say the counts out loud. For this exercise, we vary types and tempos of music used.
Occasionally, I will stop the lesson of regular classes to “find the 8 count!” Students learn to be ready for it- which means they are diligently counting in warm-up, across the floor progressions, and in combinations. This skills transfers to shows, dance teams, and auditions. It is a valuable part of their dance education experience!
Activity: Teaching 8-Count in other Languages
Here’s a fun Classroom Activity- teaching your students to count to 8 in different languages!
SPANISH: Uno / Dos / Tres / Cuatro / Cinco / Seis / Siete / Ocho
FRENCH: Un / Deux / Trois / Quatre / Cinq / Six / Sept / Huit
ITALIAN: Uno / De / Tre / Quattro / Cinque / Sei / Sette / Otto
This is a fun, educational (and applicable!) activity for all ages/levels.
Teaching With Counts
When I teach choreography with counts, I like to have the students repeat the counting to reiterate the importance of phrasing and timing. I tell them we are using the counts as our road map, and to stay on the same journey, we must use the same map.
Phrasing, Tempo, & Rhythm
I will teach a brief segment of choreography (8 or 16 counts), and we will practice executing it at different speeds:
It is important that students understand the process of counts and the ability to manipulate speed and tempo.
With time and repetition, these exercises strengthen the dancers’ understanding of rhythm, musicality, and phrasing, improving their overall performance and understanding of dance.
If you choose to hire a person, it is important to bring them back to your studio to review your expectations and discuss details in a staff orientation session. In the orientation, you should discuss three things:
Expectations for Professionalism
Accountability & Preparedness
Details of the Working Agreement
Expectations for Professionalism
You must never assume that people will understand your standards for professionalism. Rather, you must detail a code of behavior and work ethics that specifically addresses your expectations and consequences for non-compliance. Our society is constantly evolving, and you must ensure that your code of ethics and professionalism evolves with the trends of society.
Each year, The Dance Exec’s Studio takes time to review the values, policies, and guidelines for our entire staff. Topics addressed range from curriculum to dress to behavior to attendance and more. Your expectations should be explicit and detailed. Consequences for non-compliance of expectations should be discussed, too.
As time evolves, your expectations for professionalism may evolve. You should constantly evaluate and update your expectations to make sure your studio complies with the highest standards of the dance industry.
For example, in the middle of the 2011-2012 season, the studio saw a need to implement a new social media policy to alleviate grievances that were arising from student/staff online “friendships” and interactions (the grievances were petty, but based on conversations in the academic environment, it seemed that the issue could further spiral out of control and needed to be addressed).
The studio spent a couple of weeks determining the best course of action and took staff opinions and feelings into consideration, too.
Ultimately, an email was sent out to the staff to address our new social media policy (which states that instructors will not “friend” students on social media sites). This new, professional policy was complimented with a follow-up email to the studio parents.
Both emails were very similar and described the benefits of the evolved policy to the respective targeted audience. The studio did not receive one complaint regarding the new policy. If you are consistently on the cutting-edge of business developments and you approach your choices as bettering the business, you will never go wrong.
Set your standards for professionalism and do not feel ashamed for what you deem appropriate/inappropriate. Be clear and concise in your expectations and you will succeed.
Accountability & Preparedness / Details of Working Agreement
In addition to professionalism within the workplace, high standards of accountability and preparedness are essential to creating a staffing model that contributes to the culture of your studio. Again, your accountability and preparedness expectations should be set forth prior to hiring and consequences should be standardized in case a staff member chooses to not follow your requirements.
How can you make sure that your staff members are consistently maintaining the standards set forth by your studio? At The Dance Exec’s Studio, a detailed, written working agreement (this is not a contract) is provided to all of our employees at the beginning of each season. It is imperative that you constantly renew your written material since new issues arise, improvements are made, etc. Never become complacent in your standards.
In your dance studio employee handbook, you should include expectations of staff during their employment term, their terms of employment (at-will employee, contract employee, etc.), consequences of breaking the terms of employment, and their pay for their agreement period. The staff member and the studio owner(s) should sign off on the agreement, and the staff member should initial each clause in the agreement.
Topics in your dance studio employee handbook should include:
An Employee Handbook Acknowledgement
Terms & Conditions of Employment
Studio Curriculums & Confidentiality
Pay Agreement & Procedure
Class Structure & Preparation
Rewards Systems/ Behavioral Protocol
Zero Tolerance Items
Yearly Calendar (with pay information re: holidays, etc.)
Special Events (expectations and compensation for recitals, competitions, etc.)
Professionalism & Workplace Values
Appropriate On & Off-Site Studio Affiliated Behavior
Expectations for Evaluation & Sample Evaluation Form
Detailed Information Regarding Performance Review
Yearly Calendar/Curriculum Guide
The Dance Exec also recommends consulting an attorney to make sure your terms of employment and rules are legal within the laws of your state.
In regards to legal advice and staff, within the dance studio industry, there is a lot of conversation and debate regarding labeling dance studio instructors as independent contractors versus employees. At The Dance Exec’s Studio, the regular, in-studio staff are labeled as employees since we dictate their schedules, classes, etc. If the studio brings in a guest artist, then he/she is considered an independent contractor.
Whatever you choose to do at your studio, make sure it fits within the bounds of the law. (Incorrectly labeling employees as contractors can lead to an IRS audit and back payment of payroll taxes.)
Ultimately, you have to view yourself as a business entity and you must approach every decision from that same perspective. Be sure to consult an attorney to make sure you are handling your staff’s finances properly. Do not cut payroll corners. If you handle everything the correct way, then you are laying the foundation to protect yourself and your business for years to come.
Systemizing Staffing Conflicts
In a perfect world, staffing conflicts, mishaps, and broken rules would not occur. Unfortunately, the world is not perfect and neither is human nature. At some point in the time, an incident will occur that will concern or involve a staff member, and the way you choose to handle it will make all the difference in the world to you, your professional relationships, and your business.
Your consequential/disciplinary plan for your staff should be so detailed that there are no surprises. If a staff member is not conforming to your written expectations, they should be reprimanded in an appropriate way.
This is not to say that all reprimands should be negative. Joining a studio’s culture is a learning process, and often times, you can turn a conflict into a learning experience. Most staff members will appreciate your guidance and will learn and develop from your feedback.
For each incident that occurs, you should have levels of consequence, documentation forms, and staff file folders to track any disciplinary actions. Please note that all forms must be signed and dated by the staff member and the studio owner(s). Implementing a standardized system alleviates the emotions involved with disciplinary action, and better protects you and your business.
Ready for the next step? You can see the third part of the Dance Studio Management Guide here:
An important method of keeping your staff on track is evaluating their teaching methods in class via announced and unannounced observations. Using a systematic evaluation system, constructive critiques can be beneficial in the following ways:
Helping staff members grow as teachers
Creating consistency within the classroom, and
Providing tips for professional improvement
At The Dance Exec’s Studio, each staff member has a folder with an evaluation sheet for each pay period. Some topics addressed include:
If classes are starting/ending on time
If classes are following the curriculums and guidelines set forth by the studio
If in-class questions are being addressed in an appropriate manner
If instructors are showing equal treatment to all students in class
Any other policy issues and requested days off are documented, too.
Prior to receiving a check for the pay period, the staff member and owner sign off on the evaluations.
This tracking system is advantageous in several ways:
It holds staff members accountable for their actions.
It serves as a coaching system and notates improvement or regression in patterns of behavior.
It can be used to reward staff members that are on task.
It serves as documentation for potential cases of staff dismissal.
Every studio should maintain some regular system of documentation and evaluation. Your staff is integral to the success of your business, and employees that are committed to fulfilling your vision will be respectful, sensitive, and open to the constructive coaching. At the end of the day, it will ultimately improve your business and will eliminate staff members that are not invested in your culture and business.
In addition to evaluations, in-service opportunities are valuable to staff, too. You may choose to take staff to conventions, or you may go to conventions, offer the staff notes and have them take a brief quiz for a reward (gift card, etc.), or bring knowledgeable guest artists into your studio. With any career, continuing education is integral in maintaining current standards within a respective industry.
As a studio owner, you must ensure that you are on the cutting edge trends of the industry, and in turn, it is your responsibility to keep your staff informed while giving them opportunities to learn and grow.
Replacing a Dance Teacher
Please remember that everyone is replaceable. The idea has been reiterated numerous times, but it cannot be reiterated enough.
At The Dance Exec’s Studio, eight staff members were dismissed within the first three seasons. While that number may seem relatively high, the bottom line is that the studio has high expectations that are non-negotiable. Before opening the dance studio, it was decided that the studio would operate by the philosophy that “every single person is replaceable.” A person would only remain on staff if they bought into the culture the studio aimed to create.
Along the way, the studio has learned to spot red flags that indicate whether a person may or may not be a great candidate for the studio. The studio has also implemented standardized interviewing procedures and strategies that generally work in identifying employees that are optimal for the studio.
Based on prior experience in studios, the workplace atmosphere often becomes too friendly, too personal, and too casual. Often, this can result in hanging on to “dead weight”, or employees that are no longer interested or invested in your business. Studio owners refuse to fire the dead weight because of fear of repercussion or fear of detriment to the personal relationship, and the cycle becomes deadly to your business.
If you take nothing else away from these recommendations, please understand that keeping toxic employees as part of your staff is detrimental to your business. This vicious cycle can affect student retention, new student registration, and the overall well-being of your dance studio.
There is a lot of interest surrounding firings because it is never an ideal situation. Ultimately, every decision you make should be in the best interest of your business. Below are some case studies that detail The Dance Exec’s choice to let employees go:
Case Study #1
The Dance Exec’s Studio hired an instructor for the first summer session, and, as a result, the instructor was asked to teach at our Grand Opening celebration. The instructor arrived 30 minutes late to the Grand Opening (without any legitimate reason), and as a result, was dismissed. First impressions are a time when an employee is trying their hardest to impress you, and as demonstrated by the employee’s lack of regard to timeliness, it was evident that this employee would not be an optimal fit for the studio’s culture.
Case Study #2
The Dance Exec’s Studio had an instructor that over-shared personal details and announced inappropriate comments in the lobby. For example, she announced that our 6 and 7-year-old competitive team needed to be dressed in “sexier” costumes. This instructor also took choreography from conventions and competitions and claimed it as her own. Since this did not fit into the culture of the studio, she was not rehired for the following session.
Case Study #3
The Dance Exec’s Studio had an instructor that decided she finished teaching class ten minutes prior to the actual end of class (and, this was the last class of the night and the instructor had closing responsibilities). The instructor left the studio, leaving her students under the supervision of another instructor. Since negligence is a zero tolerance issue, the instructor was contacted for dismissal. The instructor said she was “over” teaching and quit.
Case Study #4
This case study was undoubtedly the most difficult dismissal because the employee was a personal friend. Over several months, the employee’s energy had dwindled. Her attitude was affecting the business and its clientele. Students were quitting because of this teacher. The first inclination was to fire her nine months before the actual firing occurred, but the Business Manager advocated her loyalty and kept encouraging additional chances.
As the months passed, the detriment of having her on staff was evident. The dismissal was difficult, but, ultimately, it was worth it. In the weeks following this dismissal, several parents came forward and stated their children’s love for dance had been rejuvenated; in fact, many of these parents mentioned that they were going to pull their students from the program because the students had lost their passion. Because of this experience, the importance of trusting your first instincts was learned; it is important to take action sooner rather than later.
Letting Staff Go
Of course, along the way, there have been many wonderful instructors that have chosen to venture on to other endeavors. (We also have some instructors that have been with us from the very beginning.) As a business, you have to respect and encourage people’s personal development and realize that if they do not want to be a part of your business (or cannot continue to be a part of your business), you should not force them.
You must reiterate and live by the philosophy that “everyone is replaceable.” At the end of the day, over reliance on one person or feeling inoperable without a person can lead to situations that will harm your business. This is your business, and you are the only person it needs to operate successfully. You must take every measure possible to protect yourself and your investment.
When a staff member is no longer an asset to your business, you must remove them from your staff roster. If you have a staffing conflict disciplinary system in place, you will likely see indicators that a staff member is no longer contributing to your business. When the time comes to release a staff member from his/her duties, it is important that you handle the process in a professional manner. Remember, at the end of day, this is your business and your livelihood and you must protect those interests before anything else.
Make sure that you call the staff into the studio for their dismissal (if permissible) and be prepared to present them with a letter stating their termination. For meetings like this, it is helpful to have a non-partisan witness in the room.
Thus far, firing has been discussed as fairly commonplace; however, it certainly is not meant to detract from the seriousness of the issue. Letting a staff member go is not easy, but once the “letting go” has occurred, there have repeatedly been noticeable, positive changes in the studio.
Of course, the other side of firing personnel, especially in the dance studio business, is being prepared to handle the backlash. You have to explain the change to students and parents and must be prepared for any negative publicity/stories that the disgruntled employee spreads. One suggestion to make the process easier is to have a qualified, likable replacement ready to step into the vacant role (preferably immediately).
In addition to staff members being replaceable, it is also important to remember that studios and studio owners are replaceable, too. A client can choose to leave for another studio or another extracurricular. It is your responsibility to make sure you are doing everything in your power to run the best business possible.
Need to Review?
You can find the other two parts of the Dance Staff Management Guide here:
One element of the dance studio that can make or break your business is your dance staff. From executive roles to administration to instructors, every piece of the dance staff puzzle must fit perfectly to implement a smooth operation that reflects your culture, mission, and brand. This begins with the hiring process and leads into detailing roles, responsibilities, and expectations.
In order to keep your studio running the way you would like, you must consistently:
Offer feedback and training sessions
Know when it is time for a staff member to move on to another venture.
Undoubtedly, staff management is one of the most challenging components of owning a business. You are bringing together an assortment of people with entirely different backgrounds. That group is then supposed to maintain and uphold the values and beliefs of your entire business environment.
Additionally, you are not dealing with employees in a competitive academic market (like, technology companies, for example). Most of the time, you are dealing with artists that may underestimate the underlying business strategies required for dance studios. Creating and maintaining a “dream team” staff takes time, energy, commitment, and frequently, mistakes, to ultimately create a team that pushes your business towards greater success.
STEP 1: Defining Leadership Roles
Within your business, it is absolutely essential that you have explicitly detailed and defined roles of who is in charge of each facet of the business. At The Dance Exec’s Studio, the executive role is broken down into two divisions: Business Manager & Artistic Director.
The breakdown of your executive duties may differ (as may task assignments), but the duties required will be similar for all studios. This insures completion of tasks and organizational efficiency.
The Business Manager oversees the logistical and financial operations of the business. This includes: accounting, payroll, building maintenance and repair, cleaning of the facility, registration and enrollment, and all financial transactions. If a particular item is beyond the Business Manager’s skill set, it is their responsibility to arrange and oversee its completion (i.e. tax preparation or serious repairs). The Business Manager is the only person at The Dance Exec’s Studio that handles money.
The Artistic Director oversees class scheduling and curriculums, staffing, parent and student issues, the competition team, the work-study program, recital planning, community partnerships, and marketing. The Artistic Director also oversees the Business Manager’s transactions.
In reading these descriptions, you can see that each role is detailed. If you attempt to manage all of these tasks independently, it is very likely that something will get “lost in the shuffle”. You should never let one area of your business suffer because it becomes “too much” work.
Running a dance studio is a very involved process, and you must guarantee that you have the help needed to make your business a true success. (Please note that help does not have to be employees. It can be an accountant, maintenance person, cleaning service, etc.)
Additionally, it is important to note that “too many hands in the pot” can be just as frustrating as not having enough hands. The executive roles and responsibilities are critical to the success of your business, and you should avoid carelessly distributing the roles to multiple staff that may not have accountability or investment in your brand. At the end of the day, studio owners cannot independently accomplish everything that is required of their business, so it is important to delegate tasks to people you trust.
STEP 2: Finding the Perfect Cast
When you are venturing into the hiring process, think of the procedure as casting a show. Each role needs just the right person. If you cast the tenth best person for a part, your ticket sales and show reviews will not soar. The same goes for your in-studio hiring considerations. If you miscast a role with the wrong instructor, it will lead to more headaches for you and your business.
Take the time to make the right choices, but do not be afraid to correct an incorrect choice. Everyone makes mistakes, and this is certainly a learning process.
How do you go about finding your instructors? Many studios rely on online postings, local college programs, or former students.
Whatever search techniques you utilize, it is imperative that your ad postings be reflective regarding the quality of instructor you are seeking for your business.
What character traits do you value? For The Dance Exec’s Studio, we reiterate that prospective employees must be motivated, enthusiastic, professional, punctual, and organized. We also value educational and instructional experience, especially with children.
In our posting, we ask that interested candidates provide a cover letter, resume, and headshot. This request alone will assist in weeding through candidates that are not detail oriented enough to be a part of our business.
In candidates’ responses to your posting, you should look for the following:
The prospective instructor should include a resume, headshot, and cover letter (per your request). If anything is missing from their response, you should immediately eliminate them from your search because it shows they cannot follow very basic instructions.
The resume should be properly formatted and condensed to one page. The experiences listed on each person’s resume should be checked for accuracy (internet searches greatly help with this process). If a person lies or exaggerates on their resume, you should eliminate them from your list of potential candidates.
In the cover letter and resume, check for use of proper grammar and formality as indicators of professionalism and attention to correctness. Since professionalism is a character trait valued at The Dance Exec, it is imperative in making it to the interview process. This also indicates levels of a candidate’s seriousness and shows a glimpse into their personality.
Use the candidate’s headshot to determine if the request was taken seriously. Is the photo a professional headshot, or is it a snapshot or something pulled from Facebook? If a candidate sends in a snapshot from Facebook of him/her partying, he/she is likely not a good candidate for your business.
Remember, whatever the prospective candidates have sent you, they are putting their best foot forward in their initial interaction.
If this does not appeal to what you want, then you should follow-up with a response that indicates that the candidate is not best suited for the position. If you find the applicant to be a decent but not great candidate, you can always state that your staff positions are currently filled. But, let them know that you will keep their resume on file for future openings.
If their resume is appealing to you, then you should promptly follow-up with an interview request. Offer a list of times that would work for you (obviously, offering a variety of times, if possible). If the candidate is interested, they will find time to meet with you. State in this email that if the interview goes well, the candidate may be asked to teach a demo class. Keep in mind that this is the candidate’s opportunity and attempt to put their best foot forward. Consider anything less than impressive as a red flag.
When the candidate attends their interview, there are several observations you should note:
How early does the interviewee arrive for the interview? Did he/she take the time to find your location in advance? If an interviewee arrives late, they should not be interviewed or considered for the position. This shows a less than exemplary work ethic and poor planning.
What is the interviewee wearing? Even though this is the dance industry, The Dance Exec’s Studio likes to see potential candidates taking the interview seriously. As such, expect candidates to dress in business casual attire.
How is the initial interaction with the candidate? Is the candidate gracious and mature? If the candidate’s behavior would not work in a corporate interview, then it should be noted as a “red flag”.
During the interview process, The Dance Exec’s Studio prefers to ask standardized interview questions. This allows all candidates an equal option to answer, but, often the questions will distinguish the higher qualified candidates from the mediocre or weaker candidates.
Some examples of questions include:
If you had a choice between seeking and avoiding challenges in the performance industry, where would you place yourself? Please give an example to support your choice.
This type of question asks the candidate to place him/herself on an industry-related spectrum while also showing levels of ambition and motivation. Ideally, the candidate will back-up their ranking with a legitimate example that supports his/her self-perception.
What is the name of one of your close friends? What did (your close friend) think you would grow up to be? Tell us what you may have done to make him/her feel this way.
This type of question allows the person to give a personal reference. The story he/she chooses will give you insight to his/her personality as well as a back story. If the candidate struggles to think of anyone, it could be indicative of a weaker candidate.
Please tell us about a time you dealt with a challenging child in the classroom environment. Justify your rationale for handling the situation in such a way.
This type of question allows insight into how the candidate would handle conflict. Through their answer, you will gain insight to their thought process, diplomacy, regard to instruction, etc. Based on their answer, you will know if their method of conflict management ties into your culture and brand.
Based on these questions and questions you create on your own, you should gain a lot of insight into the interviewee’s personality and thinking process. With open-ended questions, you are allowing the candidate the opportunity to tell stories and engage you via examples and observances throughout their life. Such questions can make some interviewees feel uncomfortable.
Use this exercise to observe a candidate’s communication skills, thinking strategies, and behavioral gestures. Through this process, you should be able to identify confident, well-spoken, thoughtful instructors that could be an asset to your business.
In your interview, avoid asking “yes” or “no” questions. Try to steer the candidate towards open-ended questions so that the candidate has time to provide more details. Questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” are often the easy way out and do not give you a complete representation of a candidate’s personality.
In your interviewing, make sure that you never ask questions concerning protected classes as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
If a candidate succeeds in the interview, invite him/her to teach a demo class with students. The Dance Exec’s Studio always pays teachers for instructing demo classes. The studio wants there to be an understanding from the beginning that this is a strictly professional work environment.
Ultimately, there is no greater way to judge a candidate’s qualifications than putting him/her directly in the classroom environment. During the demo class, make sure you observe the teacher’s preparedness, confidence, teaching style, charisma, and enthusiasm. After the class, ask for students’ opinions, and more importantly, value your instincts. After the demo, do not feel obligated to immediately let the instructor know your decision. Thank him/her for teaching the class and take the time to truly consider if this person is right for you and your business.
Whatever your decision, you must let the person know. A prompt response shows professionalism on your part, and people will have greater respect for you (even with a “no” answer) than they will if you neglect to respond. Through experience with dance studios, some owners do not place enough value on communication. With so many readily available communication devices (email, cell phones, etc.), there is no excuse for not responding to prospective candidates.
Paying staff is also a hot topic of discussion for dance studios. There are the questions of dance teacher salaries versus hourly rates, and how much for each?
At The Dance Exec’s Studio, there are two salaried employees (the Business Manager and the Artistic Director). The remainder of the staff are paid on an hourly basis.
Our hourly employee rate begins at the baseline of what is commonly paid within our region. To increase pay from the baseline, we consider the following factors:
Commitment to the art of dance and teaching dance
Loyalty/time with the studio
Yearly reviews are performed for staff members each season, and based on performance, staff members may be eligible for raises and/or bonuses.
Your studio should have a set pay schedule/calendar, and you should make sure checks are distributed in a timely, professional manner. If you are having employees submit time sheets, inform them of the expectations upfront and be prompt in delivering their paychecks.
Keeping Staff Engaged
Aside from regular pay, you must determine a way to keep your staff fresh, excited, and committed to your vision. To do this, we encourage employers to reward their staff members with things like:
Gifts of appreciation
Annual opportunities for pay increase (if deserved)
Recognition within the studio
Inclusion to studio events/conventions/trips
Based on your budget, you may do one, some, or all of these, or you may choose a more homemade approach. Regardless of your approach, taking the time to say “thank you” goes long way in keeping your staff aligned with the culture of your dance studio.
Once you complete your end-of-year show, you may have a few remaining souvenir merchandise items. If you are wondering what to do with them, here are some creative ways we make use of our leftover dance recital items!
Distribute A Copy to Advertisers
Save Copies to Promote Next Year’s Program
Place A Few In the Lobby for Reference
Frame the Cover for Display
Play in Your Lobby
Send to Prospective Clients for Reference
Recital-Specific T-Shirts or Clothing
Frame and Display in Your Lobby
Use As Summer Door Prizes
Replace the Show T-Shirt with a Logo T-Shirt and Include in Auction Baskets/Giveaways
Donate to children’s hospitals
Donate to preschools
Donate to elementary schools
Flowers or Flower Bouquets
Donate to a Nursing Home
Give extra flowers to your parent volunteers
Give flowers to any of the merchants you used for your recital (printers, caterers, venue management staff, etc)
At your performances, pre-show announcements regarding safety, etiquette, and intermission should be conveyed to your audience members. You may choose to deliver the announcements on stage, from backstage, or via a pre-recorded message.
General Pre-Show Announcements Template
ProduceAPlay.com had a great template for a standard announcement for the performing arts:
“Welcome to the Sidewalk Studio Theatre’s production of Milk and Cookies by Jonathan Dorf.
At this time, please turn off or silence any cell phones or electronic devices and refrain from texting, and please keep in mind that recording the performance or taking photographs is not permitted.
There will be one fifteen-minute intermission, and next month, we hope you’ll join us for our production of Great Expectations, adapted from the Dickens classic by Rocco P. Natale.
In case of an emergency, please exit through the door through which you entered, or through the curtain to your left. Thank you, and enjoy the show!”
The language can be customized for your studio. Produce A Play is clearly geared towards a drama production, not a dance recital, but they nail some of the basic information to include:
Welcome and Introduction to the evening
Cell Phone / Photography / Recording
Information about the order of events (this may already be in the program, but it’s often worth it to mention it again)
Announcement about any other dance studio events coming up
Emergency exits or other emergency information
This year, we are going to start our show with our Opening Number (in order for the audience to be attentive), and THEN we’ll play the pre-show announcements. This method also helps us facilitate some quick changes before the second piece!
This year, in order to make sure everyone is fully prepared for recital, we are taking a proactive approach to dance recital shoes and checking shoes in class. That way, we can directly communicate with parents that may need to purchase or borrow a new pair or clean up their current shoes.
The details really do matter for a stage ready look! When checking shoes, take the following into consideration:
Correct Style – having recommended brands for parents to go find can be a HUGE help in this category
Correct Color – do the recital costumes require a different color than what is typically worn in class?
Proper Fit – has the dancer’s foot grown throughout the course of the dance year?
Condition of Shoes – has dance class taken a toll on a pair of shoes, making them preferable for practice instead of performance?
It’s very important for dance recital shoes to fit properly, and to look the part: performance-ready!
For dancers who need to replace their pointe shoes, or who want to have an extra pair just in case, make sure they and their parents know the right way to get fitted for pointe shoes. Sometimes a studio will go as a group to get fitted, or might bring in a fitter for a class’ first pair. But close to recital season, studio owners and teachers won’t have time to help each dancer prepare their own materials.
If parents require some redirection, make sure you give them plenty of time to properly replace shoes. Last minute notices may create unnecessary tension or frustration. When you approach it collaboratively, it will usually yield the most successful results!
The curtain call is the final moment of the show where all of the students re-appear for a final time. This year, I challenged myself to heighten the organization and systemization of our Curtain Call for our varying shows. To do this, I planned out specific curtain call choreography and practiced it in our classes for the weeks leading up to recital.
This is the culmination of your year, as a studio, and the results should appear effortless, organized, and fun for students. Select fun, inspiring music (or a mix of music) that compliments your theme, and delegate times for each group to take their bows.
Each year, the Curtain Call is organized into group numbers (for example, a 2-3 year old class might be Group #1). Prior to curtain call, the hallway backstage is lined up with the group numbers to make the curtain call process easy to fluidly feed into the stage area.
All students are asked to remain onstage after the curtain call. If the students were held in the younger students area, then their room chaperones take them back to their area. If the students were held in the backstage area, they return to their dressing rooms to wait for dismissal.
The final product is a tabled infographic specific to each show and showtime, which you can see below:
CURTAIN CALL 2017
Show Time (7PM)
3-8 Counts to Walk Out / 1-8 Count to Bow / 1-8 Count to Move to Final Pose
This is an easy to read, easy to understand diagram. It will be posted in all of the studio rooms with a copy of the music for class rehearsal. We usually rehearse the Curtain Call for 5 minutes at the end of each class for 4-5 weeks before recital.
Thanks to Chasta Hamilton Calhoun, founder and creator of the Dance Exec, we’ve put together a complete dance recital checklist to help studio owners get ready for their big event. You can download this extensive guide for FREE below!
As studio owners, we know the power that the recital has on your brand. At the end of each year, this is your culminating event that will ultimately affect registrations for the upcoming seasons. The planning process should be taken very seriously, and you should get started early!
Pre-planning, organization, preparedness, and professionalism are essential elements in creating a strong, cohesive positive performance experience for students, parents, and instructors. If people love your recital, then they will love your brand! In fact, if the recital is an enjoyable experience, your clientele will eagerly anticipate the arrival of the event each year.
Looking for more ideas to take your recital and your studio to the next level? Check out these additional resources:
Connecting with students is imperative to the lasting success and legacy of your business. You have an opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life and inspire their appreciation for the performing arts. Being a dance teacher is a huge role, responsibility, and opportunity, and it should be taken seriously. The following tips will help you connect in meaningful ways that are fruitful for yourself and your students.
TIP 1: Be a Role Model
When you work with children on a regular basis, it is important you take your job seriously and that you strive to be the best role model possible. Students should never see personal vices (cursing, drinking, smoking), and you should always have the students’ best interest at heart with each and every interaction.
TIP 2: Be Realistic with Expectations
Some students may choose to pursue a professional career in dance, but, for many, the experience will be about building self-confidence, leadership, physical fitness, poise, discipline, time management, and an appreciation for the arts. Even the students that are not destined for professional careers are important, and you should treat them with an equal level of significance.
TIP 3: Be Knowledgeable
When students come to you inquiring about professional opportunities and avenues for personal growth, be prepared with an accurate and helpful response. Familiarize yourself with area dance programs, conventions, summer workshops, colleges, benefits of varying majors, conservatories, industrial work, theatrical work, theme park work, agencies, etc. You should know every avenue available to students; they are relying on you for that information.
TIP 4: Be the Teacher
When instructing students throughout their lives, it can be difficult to maintain professional boundaries; however, it is critical that those boundaries exist for the relationship to be effective in the child’s development. In order for the student to have respect for you as an instructor, there must clear boundaries in place. Communication should only be managed through professional outlets (i.e. the studio), and owners/instructors should avoid unprofessional relationships via social media outlets (remember, you are the adult, so the student is relying on you to utilize professional protocol).
TIP 5: Be Truthful
Always be open and honest with your students. Inform them when they are doing great and let them know when they can improve. If students respect your truthfulness, the relationship will flourish and grow.
TIP 6: Teach More than Steps
The dance world is full of history, knowledge, and culture. Make sure students know their terminology, origin of steps, and important figures and moments in dance history.
At the same time, instill lifelong values in your students; teach them to be strong, productive, good-willed citizens and leaders. You can do this through community service events, supporting their artistic and scholastic endeavors, and offering them multiple avenues to express themselves and acquire leadership roles (Work Study Programming, Junior Membership Organizations, etc.).
TIP 7: Resist Parent Influence
When working with children, parents’ behavior can easily influence the treatment of a child in the classroom setting. Try to rise above this desire and objectively view the situation from the child’s perspective. Your kindness and professionalism will go a long way in impacting the student, and it may even result in a change of heart from the parent.
TIP 8: Refrain from Judgment
Sometimes, students need to leave the studio to venture on another path in life (whether it be a relocation, studio change, activity change, etc.). If you approach these changes with support rather than resentment, the students/parents are only going to respect your business and brand.
When one door closes, another usually opens. Celebrate the opportunity and take solace in the fact that the change was likely for the benefit of all parties involved.
If clientele have a positive exit experience, they will share it with others and will recommend your studio. The Dance Exec’s Studio makes a point to let people know that “our door is always open.” And, countless times, we have had clients return.
YOUR DANCE SCHOOL WEBSITE = YOUR INTERNET STOREFRONT
The Internet is here to stay, so instead of avoiding cyberspace, dance studios should embrace the endless marketing opportunities available. There are numerous ways to increase exposure, strengthen your brand, and provide insight into your programming. Most online options are an incredibly reasonable expense, especially after doing a cost-benefit analysis in potential for strengthening, growing, and building your brand.
Your storefront defines your business within your community. Your website defines your business within the Internet. Your website should be taken seriously; spend the money to make it look professional, intellectual, and representative of the product you are offering your clients. When you are representing your business, you should have a cohesive graphic identity and that should flow from your print marketing to your website design. It is your responsibility to make sure everything makes sense to the consumer.
Within the dance studio world, there are a variety of websites, some effective and some ineffective, and because we are in the arts industry, studio owners tend to devalue the importance of their web presence. This is a huge mistake! Your dance school website could influence a prospective client’s decision to choose your studio versus another studio or extracurricular activity.
Here are some things to consider during your website design process:
The appearance of your website is the first thing that will catch a viewer’s eye, and it will also influence whether or not the viewer chooses to continue reading the information your site provides. Your online appearance is of vital importance.
Hire a web designer: Free, homemade, or cheap-looking sites are not acceptable for your business. If you want your clients to take you seriously, design and brand your website in a professional manner.
Keep your site updated. An outdated or neglected website is a disservice to your brand and will only negatively impact you. Make sure you have a format that is user-friendly for updates and regularly skim the site for outdated content.
Be aware of the design quality. In the dance world, we love bright, crazy colors and sparkly things. Your website may not be the best avenue to showcase that love, so when designing your site, think “less is more.” Less vibrant tones will be more visually appealing to your site visitors.
Use proper grammar and spelling. This would seemingly be stating the obvious, but there are many dance studio websites with improper grammar and spelling. Ultimately, this is a poor reflection on the studio, so when preparing your written content for the website, please proofread and check for grammatical errors (often, it takes two, three, or more people to sufficiently proofread content).
Make sure your site offers easy, logical navigation options with a sleek and clean design. If your site is cluttered, it will be frustrating for clients to navigate.
Use your own content. Do NOT copy and paste materials from other studios’ websites. Be creative, be original, and create content that exclusively represents your studio and your business. On a similar topic, you should only use photos that actually represent your business; stock photos or photos from another studio are not an accurate representation and should not be used to promote your business.
Dance School Website Content
Your website content should be informative, accurate, and thorough. If a person visits your website, you should be willing to provide all of the information necessary to enroll and be a part of your program. Being evasive with your information is not an efficient way to promote your program or your business. Providing commonly requested information will also decrease time spent informing new or potential clients about your programming (since they will have access to that information).
When building your dance school website, you should include:
Your location and contact info on every page; people should be able to easily connect with you via your site.
Links to your social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blog, photo sites, etc.)
Information about the people that currently work at your studio: owners, directors, and instructors.
Information about your business: mission statement, class descriptions, facility photos, testimonials, and contact links.
Class schedules presented and formatted in an easy to read and easy to find format that makes sense to non-dancers (remember, the majority of your parents will not be experienced dance professionals).
Online Registration! Make it easy for people to register for classes.
Information about your studio’s special events (intensives, workshops, open houses), performances, special offerings (birthday parties, private lessons, etc.), community service, and anything else that is important to the culture of your brand.
Your studio’s policies and calendar. (If this information is on your website, people will not have an excuse for not knowing.)
Photos and videos taken from within your studio (with parental permission and acknowledgement).
Contact form that makes it easy for people to communicate with you.
When people visit your site, it should be informative and functional in the following ways:
Visitors should gain a solid knowledge of the overall culture and brand of your studio. They should know your complete expectations for enrollment, tuition, recital participation, etc.
Visitors should be able to register students for classes.
Visitors should be informed about upcoming events, schedules, and calendar.
Every studio, at some point, has to manage difficult situations involving dance parents. The Dance Exec’s Studio has been in that position numerous times, and parent management is a skill that must be continually honed and evolved in order to be effective and productive.
Before sharing information that The Dance Exec’s Studio has found beneficial, it is necessary to preface this topic with the disclaimer that many dance parents are perfectly reasonable, rational, understanding, and nice. For parents that may not be as reasonable, there are measures that can be implemented to protect yourself and your business. These tips are most certainly not the definitive pinnacles of dance parent management, but they have helped The Dance Exec’s Studio greatly and will likely help you, as well.
TIP 1: Define Communication Methods
Your ability to communicate and interact with dance parents is critical to the success of your business. You must be confident in your business, staff, methods, and service, and you should have written materials to back-up your rules, policies, and procedures. The combination of confidence and written materials will deter and quickly dissolve many of your studio’s potential conflicts. You are providing your studio parents the tools to succeed, and if they choose to neglect the materials presented, their failure is no longer your fault.
Within your communication infrastructure, your studio should have a single point person (ideally, the Owner or Director) that handles resolving serious concerns and issues. This point person should be accessible to parents. When there are too many people to go through, resolutions feel impersonal and unimportant. It is imperative that the point person take the time to respond to emails, field phone calls, and speak to parents that request meetings.
Concerns and issues should be addressed in a timely manner and should not be avoided. Issues should be addressed within 24 hours. Many times, people assume avoidance will resolve an issue; instead, this assumption often backfires and the issue magnifies and may even escalate throughout the studio (parents love to convince other parents to “take their side”). Take every initiative possible to prevent miscommunications and misunderstandings, and when a situation arises, defuse it immediately.
TIP 2: Set Professional Boundaries
When studios blur the lines between friendship and clientele, opportunity arises for conflicts, accusations of favoritism, and disrespect towards the studio. If everyone is treated equally and no favoritism is shown towards any particular family, then no one can comment or complain on unfair situations (whether they are accurate or not). Since the students and families of your studio are your clientele and the livelihood of your business, they should all be treated in an equal and respectful manner.
Often, studios will accept lavish gifts from particular dance parents or will give certain families scholarships. Ask yourself if engaging in these acts influences the way you treat these students and families. When relationships become overly personal, it is difficult to see situations from an objective perspective, which can negatively influence the relationship and the culture of your business.
Treat everyone as equally and professionally as possible. Apply the rules to everyone and only make exceptions if you are willing to equally offer them.
TIP 3: Be Confident in Your Knowledge
Parents have opinions on how classes should be taught, who you should hire, what costumes should be worn, and how recital should be organized—and, that is only the beginning of the list of their opinions. You have to be confident enough in what you offer that you are unwavering in your decisions and choices for your business.
You are the expert, and you must approach each situation from that perspective. Parents are paying to have their students enrolled in your training program. And for the training to be successful, they have to trust your judgment and qualifications.
For this relationship to be successful, you have to maintain your qualifications. Stay current, know what is happening in your studio and in the dance industry, and be quick, confident, and knowledgeable about any questions regarding dance, the dance industry, your studio, your class disciplines, dance apparel, dance music, etc. If it happens in the dance world and is related to dance in any way, you should know how to answer the question. Not knowing is unacceptable and will damage parental confidence in your brand.
(As a side note, if you do not know the answer to a particular question, you should research and find the appropriate answer. Making up an answer is unacceptable, too.)
TIP 4: Be the Leader
Your studio culture depends heavily on your leadership and behavior. Dance parents will follow your behavioral cues. If you easily lose your temper, parents will be on edge. If you stress winning over learning, parents will buy into that philosophy. If you employ an inner competitiveness over a nurturing facility, that will be the environment within your studio. If you teach improper technique, your clients will think that you are right.
The bottom line is that you are the professional, and you have the highly important duty of setting in motion the values and culture that will influence each and every one of your students and parents during the time spent at your studio. You must be very careful in your daily interactions, continuing education, networking, and communication because it all intertwines to define your studio. How do you want to be perceived? Be sure your behavior sows the seeds you wish to reap.
TIP 5: Take the Higher Road
There will be sensitive situations, criticisms, and feedback that will be difficult to hear. It is absolutely unavoidable, and the more people and clients you encounter, the greater the likelihood of such situations. Even if a client is losing his/her temper, it is imperative that you remain calm, professional, and collected regardless of the situation. With such situations, it is important that you handle them in a discretionary manner; gossiping about clients will only make you appear unprofessional and immature.
TIP 6: Prepare for Stressful Situations
Identify high-stress times for parents during the dance year and take extra measures to ensure they are prepared and ready (Per Tip #1, eliminating the surprise element and communicating explicit details are keys to your success). For The Dance Exec’s Studio, the highest-stress times are competitions and recitals. Be sensitive to parental needs and realize that their stress is likely stemming from being in an unfamiliar environment. If you approach the situation with confidence and reassurance, the stress will likely diffuse.
TIP 7: Sometimes It’s Better to Let Go
Sometimes, clients will be dissatisfied with your business, and often times, it has absolutely nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Our studio operates under the policy that everyone deserves to be a part of a studio or extracurricular that is the “best fit” for his or her family.
With some situations, offering the person the opportunity to receive a refund and attend elsewhere is the ideal option. It allows them the opportunity to leave your studio on a positive note (in most cases) and removes their toxicity from your studio. An overly negative parent can affect other clients, and it is much better to let them go than to hang on to them.
Money is not necessarily everything in regards to your business, and it is important that you recognize when it is time to let someone go from your programming.
TIP 8: Rely on Your Networks
Dealing with dance parents and clients can be stressful. Rely on your network of business and studio owners to discuss problematic situations and read books about interacting and managing people to maintain a fresh perspective. The Dance Exec is also happy to help discuss handling case-by-case scenarios. Do not let parental problems effect the way you operate your business; be confident, be strong, and be proud of what you have created.
Once you find your ideal location, the next step is setting up the space and determining the best, most cost effective and functional way to fill the space. When you find your space, you will have a tangible element to begin constructing your dream and your studio. As mentioned before, the layout of your dance studio floor plans is critical to maximizing your business capabilities. Your design should be smart, sleek, and efficient.
Free Space vs Common Space
At The Dance Exec’s Studio as much space as possible was dedicated to actual dancing space. Out of 4,200 square feet, about 1,050 square feet is dedicated to common spaces like a lobby, office, hallway, bathroom and storage space. When designing your overall space keep in mind that about three-fourths of your space should be dedicated to income producing (danceable) space.
An important question to consider is: how much free space does a dancer need? If there is a 1,000 square foot room, how many teenage dancers can fit into that room comfortably?
Lobby space should be minimal. The lobby does not need to be a large space for parents to loiter, as that encourages gossip and detracts from studio space. The Dance Exec’s Studio’s lobby is about 240 square feet and can accommodate 24 seated parents plus their children in laps during the transition times in between classes.
Sometimes, there are upward of 35 adults and their small children bustling through the lobby. Though it is uncomfortable with that many people in the space, the way the dance studio floor plans were designed encourages people to be expeditious and transient. You are running a dance education business, not a hang out spot for parents or idle students.
Necessary spaces like office space, bathrooms, and hallways should be practical (often, minimum size is dictated by building codes), but should be kept as small as possible.
Dressing room areas should be large enough to accommodate a few changing students but should not be so large as to encourage students to loiter. A student in the changing room should be there solely with the purpose of preparing for their next class (or storing a few items while they attend class).
Storage room should not be neglected in planning your space. Storage should be large enough to keep all items for studio operations organized and out of sight. Though very important, storage space too should not be huge and should be organized in a structured manner.
In creating your dance studio floor plans and finalizing a layout, maintaining dance space as the priority is key. Homework areas and places to eat and hangout should be avoided. Schedules should be planned in a way that students at the studio are there to take class. If the time arises for activities such as a snack or homework, the lobby space should be sufficient to serve as a temporary spot for such tasks.