When you’re in the process of opening a dance studio, there are many, many decisions to be made. While you think about names and locations, you’ll also need to take the general dance studio curriculum into consideration. Today, there are two main categories of dance classes – competition and recreational. It’s important to decide if your studio is going to cater to just one of these types or offer both options to dancers. It goes without saying that it’s a big decision! Here are some considerations to take into account when deciding what type of dance classes to hold in your new studio.
Studios that boast recreational programs often work with a wide variety of students. You can offer lots of different class genres and have different skill levels, but the bottom line is that your dancers aren’t pressured to perform competitively. Aspire Dance Academy noted that in its recreational dance program, students are guided toward their fitness goals in a more relaxed class atmosphere. At the end of each season, recreational students usually perform in a recital to show off their skills to family and friends.
The major difference with competitive dance is that there’s a greater financial and time commitment, both for students and the studio. In addition to offering a set number of competition classes each week, you’ll have to take into account the costs of entering, preparing for and traveling to competitions with your dancers. However, the opportunity to perform in front of new audiences and compete around the country is often appealing to many students. If you’re on the fence about offering competitive dance at your studio, it can often be helpful to talk to other studio owners for a first-hand account of the pros and cons.
Consider Your Target Market
As with any big decision when it comes to your studio, you need to take your target market into account. Think about the students who you believe will attend your studio. If they’re dedicated athletes, chances are there will be lots of interest in a competition program. On the other hand, if you’re catering to mostly preschoolers, it may be best to start off with just recreational classes. You should also take into account the other dance schools in your area and the classes they offer – if there are lots of recreational studios, but no competition programs, competitive dance could very well be a profitable niche.
The more information you can gather about the needs of your community, the better informed you will be when it comes to making decisions about your studio’s curriculum. If you really aren’t sure about what types of classes potential students would be interested in, it would probably be beneficial to do a little bit of research, either by surveying local students or simply talking to parents in the community.
Quality Across the Board
No matter which path you choose for your studio, it’s important to realize that you should focus on providing the best quality instruction possible. The Dance Exec blog noted that sometimes the dance industry views recreational classes as less technical and informative than competitive classes. However, if you want to run a competitive business, it’s important that all your courses offer the same high-quality instruction. A good measure of if your recreational classes are up to snuff with your competitive offerings is if groups of dancers with similar skill levels can perform together harmoniously at an end-of-season recital.
Teachers make a profound impact on the world. Whether you’re teaching math, science, music, art or dance, you’re helping children to find their passions, boost their skill sets and follow their dreams. While dance instructors might not be able to explain algebra and math teachers can’t demonstrate tombes, that doesn’t mean the different professions can’t borrow a note from each other’s books. Here are five dance teacher ideas that can be borrowed from from school teachers for application in the studio.
1. Listening to Instructions
It doesn’t matter what subject you’re teaching – if your students don’t listen to instructions, they won’t properly grasp the lesson. That’s why both school and dance instructors have to learn how to capture the attention of their students and deliver clear directions. Edutopia recommended that, from day one, teachers establish behavioral expectations when they’re talking to the class. Don’t begin giving instructions until there’s complete silence and you have the full attention of each and every student.
2. Varying Teaching Methods
School teachers quickly learn that all students have different learning styles. You’ll likely encounter similar challenges in the studio, so it’s a good idea to have a few strategies for teaching your dancers. When you keep things fresh, you’ll also make classes fun and interesting for everyone, and hopefully prevent boredom from turning into behavioral problems.
“The more a teacher varies his or her methods to get all types of students involved, the fewer behavior problems he or she will encounter,” Walker School psychologist Neal Clark, M.A., explained to Scholastic.
Even when you have a great lesson plan, it’s best to have a few alternative activities up your sleeve that teach the same skills in different ways. You never know what’s going to be a hit – or fall flat – with students.
3. Collaborating for Success
Another lesson that students need to learn is how to work as a team. Your dancers will have to be able to rely on and trust one another if they want to give amazing performances, so don’t skimp on collaboration activities. Explain to your students the role that teamwork plays in success – both in the studio and outside of it.
4. Getting Parents Involved
Parents shouldn’t just be the vessels that drop dancers off at the studio. Education World explained that parental support can really accelerate a student’s progress in the classroom. Not to mention that parents are amazingly helpful when it comes to fundraising, competition transportation, chaperoning field trips and helping out at recitals. Studio owners and dance instructors should work to build strong relationships with their students’ parents, as it will be beneficial to all parties.
5. Having Fun Along the Way
Any teacher will tell you that it’s just as important for you to have fun as it is to make class fun for the kids. When everyone enjoys time spent in the studio, it will make learning a positive, rewarding experience and keep dancers coming back for more.
Remember this Broadway song? “Summertime….and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumping and the cotton is high.” Well, that may be true for Porgy and Bess, but in my world summer can be tough. If I were singing that song, the lyrics might go more like, “Summertime…and the livin’ ain’t easy. Students are jumping and the overhead’s high!”
Summer enrollment drop is a natural phenomenon as families try other activities, head out for vacation, or just plain take a break. As a mom, I totally get it. I have five kids and summer is the best time for us to decompress and get out the scheduling grind.
But, when I look at summer through the eyes of business ownership, there is no doubt about it—the show must go on!
If you are looking for ideas to take your summer from fizzle to sizzle, keep reading for Seven Summer Savers, including summer dance camp ideas and more!
Pre-Pay the Rent (or Mortgage) – Payroll and utilities may fluctuate by the season, but rent and mortgage obligations stay the same all year around. Save yourself summer stress by pre-paying all or part of your summer rental or mortgage over the course of the school year. By paying a little bit more each month when tuition is steady, you can step into summer with confidence even though cash flow may not be as strong.
Weekly Stay Strong Classes – Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best solutions, so read the following statement twice. “The best way to keep things going is to keep things going.” Sometimes we get so caught up in doing something “new” for the summer that we forget to work what already works. Weekly classes work for us all year long. To that end, we run a six week session of regular technique classes to keep our company kids in shape over the summer. No splash, no flash, just six weeks of solid technique classes. Last year we had over 100 kids participate in this program.
Themed Kid Camps – If you want to capture the hearts of kids, look no further than the toy aisle at Target. What are the hottest selling toys, movies and games for kids? Once you figure that out, you have a treasure trove of ideas for theme-based camps at your fingertips. We have had over 200 kids participate in Frozen-themed camps with no sign of slowing, and there are plenty more warm hugs with Olaf ahead on our summer roster.
Master Class Series – Once a month each summer we will bring in a master teacher for a series of classes. These two- to three-day workshops give students a chance to spread their wings technically and artistically without the expense of travel. Get more out of master classes by asking teachers to bring choreography selections that can be used for future community events or competitions.
Alumni Features – Summer is a time when graduates return home from college and are looking for work. Motivate your current students by letting them take class with alumni who are dancing in college or have established careers. Featuring alumni is also a great reminder to parents that dance lessons can add up to great things for students in the future.
Look Outside the Box – One of our best summer programs has been selling technique to local dance teams. These students may not have time to take weekly classes during the school year, but summer is a different story. Add value to your team class by bundling classes with choreography or complimentary cleaning sessions for competition later in the year.
Private Power – If you are looking for a way to not only strengthen your dancers, but to make use of studio space in the summer, nothing is more flexible than private lessons. Take the administrative hassle out of private lessons by using an app like SignUpGenius.com and put the power of private instruction to work for you this summer.
The Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance in Roswell, Georgia, is entering its 35th year and still continues to grow and thrive under the leadership of Nancy Tolbert Yilmaz. If the school’s five start-of-the-art studios, changing rooms and closed-circuit monitoring weren’t impressive enough, the studio is planning to move to a new custom-designed facility in the coming years to offer the best possible experience to the young dancers it serves.
Starting Off with a Bang
The idea to open her own studio first came to Yilmaz when she was teaching and dancing professionally in Atlanta. She saw the lack of studios in Roswell, a town 30 miles north of downtown Atlanta, and jumped on the market opening. With the help of her now associate director, Yilmaz converted an old building into a dance studio, and the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance was off and running.
“I decided, along with our associate director, Mary Lynn Taylor, to offer a few classes,” Yilmaz explained. “So we put out the notice and anticipated maybe 75 kids tops on the day of the first open house. That day, 350 kids showed up.”
Since then, the school has only continued to grow as it teaches dancers of all ages the beautiful art form. Today, Yilmaz estimated that there are around 800 students in her open school, as well as 100 pre-professional dancers in the resident ballet company. The studio, which has moved to a larger location since its impressive kick off, caters to students ages 2 through adult and offers classes in ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, acrobatics, musical theater, Pilates and kinderdance. They also recently added an aerial silks course, which allows dancers to take their performances to new heights.
Staying ahead of the game
New dance studios have cropped up in Roswell over the course of 35 years, but Yilmaz has managed to keep her business ahead of the pack through a dedication to professionalism and quality instruction. The school’s resident performing dance company, the Roswell Dance Theatre, offers pre-professional instruction to young men and women ages 10 to 18.
“The kids in the ballet and modern companies are on a pre-professional track,” Yilmaz noted. “They’re looking not only to go to college for dance, but to go on a dance scholarship. I’ve got former students that are working all over the place: one with the New York City Ballet, one with Ballet Hispanico, a couple on Broadway.”
Over the years, the group has performed around the country and internationally, as well as in three Olympic ceremonies. However, among their various performances and competitions, the Roswell Theatre still finds time to give back to the community.
“We have an entire concert that’s held every year called ‘Hugs from Young Choreographers,’ which is a project conceived and run by Mary Lynn,” Yilmaz explained. “The oldest dancers from our company each choreograph a piece for the concert … All the money raised goes towards a charitable organization. [Over the years], we’ve given the funds to a shelter for homeless girls, a student here who needed a kidney transplant and an organization called Camp Sunshine.”
At the end of the day, Yilmaz realizes that to ensure the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance’s continued success, she has to always strive to provide new, exciting opportunities and keep up with industry trends.
Growing Sales with TutuTix
One of the ways that Yilmaz kept up with the growth of her studio is by switching to online ticketing. She looked into a number of different vendors, but ultimately decided that TutuTix would be the best fit for her business.
“What really brought me to TutuTix was the customer service,” Yilmaz said. “I’m not the Internet whiz that a lot of younger people are. I didn’t know how the service would work, and they were very patient. They took their time and answered all my crazy questions.”
The first year using the online ticketing service, the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance almost doubled their ticket sales. Increased profits from performances go a long way toward providing a better experience for students.
“It really helped our company get that much better overnight!” Yilmaz noted.
When you decided to open a dance studio, your goal was probably to teach young children an appreciation for the beautiful art form. Most studio owners offer classes predominantly for children and teens, but there’s a growing market looking for a dance class for adults. There are a number of benefits that adults can experience from structured dancing, as it’s a low-impact activity. AARP explained that dancing can help strengthen bones and muscles, improve posture and help to ward off illnesses associated with a sedentary lifestyle. There are definitely benefits to offering adult dance classes, but you might not be certain if it’s right for your studio. Consider the following questions if you’re thinking about expanding your class offerings to accommodate an older crowd.
Do you have the right market?
Just as you (hopefully) evaluated your neighborhood for potential young students, you’ll need to consider whether or not your studio is in a good area to cater to adults. Think about if there are any businesses in the vicinity that would compete with your dance class for adults. This doesn’t necessarily have to be another studio – gyms and community centers often offer dance exercise classes for adults and could take away from your pool of potential students.
If you think that you’re in a good location to attract older students, you’ll also want to consider exactly who those dancers would be. Dance Studio Life explained that you may want to offer different classes for young professionals, middle-aged mothers or senior adults. If you can narrow down your potential student base to a specific demographic group, you’ll be in a good place to target them with marketing and able to design classes suited to their needs.
Do you have the right instructor?
The next important consideration is whether you have the staffing to provide high-quality classes for older adults. When teachers are working with younger children, most will be at the same skill level and progress at roughly the same pace. If there are students who excel, they can always hop up to a more advanced class that fits their needs. However, when you’re working with adults, the teacher must be able to cater to a variety of different skill levels, abilities and potentially ages. Chances are that you’ll start off with just one or two classes, and you might get a mixed variety of students. You’ll need an experienced and dedicated instructor who is able to comfortably lead a dance class for adults.
How can you get people in the door?
Once the logistics have been straightened out, you’ll need to consider the best way to promote these new offerings to your target market. It’s important to realize that while many young dancers are ready and eager to try something new, it might take a little convincing to get adults to step outside their comfort zone. Be sure to note the benefits of dance in your advertisements and promotions, and reassure interested individuals that the class caters to beginners.
If you’re targeting mothers for a daytime class, DanceStudioOwner.com recommended offering a discount for parents whose children already patronize your studio. Once you get a few customers in the door, word of mouth will help you with your marketing. When targeting seniors, you should consider visiting local retirement communities to talk about your classes. You can even offer a trial class at the facility to get residents interested. If you’re hoping to cater to young professionals, consider placing fliers at popular restaurants and coffee shops or offering class coupons on social media or Groupon.
To run the best studio possible, dance instructors need to teach more than plies and box steps. Teaching proper breathing techniques for young dancers is just as important as showing them the right moves. As a studio owner, you should make sure that all your beginners are being instructed in proper posture and breathing so they can grow into beautiful and confident dancers.
Benefits of Proper Breathing Techniques for Young Dancers
To new dancers, especially those who haven’t participated in physical activities before, practicing breathing may seem a bit silly. However, there are a number benefits that come along with proper breathing techniques. Live Healthy explained that you can help prevent muscle fatigue by giving your body extra oxygen. Dancers with strong respiratory muscles will be able to dance for longer periods of time and stay alert and focused.
Controlled breathing also helps to relieve tension dancers may be carrying. This can relax muscles and loosen movements. According to Live Healthy dancers who are stressed are more prone to injuries. Practicing breathing exercises will help young dancers to move more fluidly and give a better performance, all while preventing physical harm.
Practicing Better Breathing
Take a few minutes in each of your novice classes to practice some breathing exercises with the students, and make sure your instructors are doing the same. An article on teaching proper breathing from the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing recommended you encourage students to breathe deeply from their diaphragms by focusing on expanding their ribcages. Proper breathing techniques for dance includes heavy utilization of diaphragmatic breathing.
There are a couple of easy exercises to help dancers become accustomed to this potentially foreign practice. Live Healthy suggested you start by having students lay with their backs on the floor with their palms on the lower abdomen. Take deep breaths to the count of four, and have everyone watch their hands rise. Exhale and focus on tightening the abdominal muscles. Another option is to practice a few easy yoga poses, like upward salutes and forward folds. Everyone should inhale as they raise their arms up and exhale as they bend forward to touch their toes.
Slowly Progress to Rhythmic Breathing
Once your students get the hang of these exercises, Dance Teacher magazine suggested you move on to rhythmic breathing. To practice, play a song that you’ll be using during rehearsal, and have the dancers pace their breath to the tempo. This exercise will help prevent stiffness and tension when performing and make the dance appear smoother and more effortless.
This article was updated at 2:22 p.m. on September 17, 2014.