In my experience coaching dance studio owners, the word bullying can paralyze even the most experienced entrepreneur. It’s a word that means there is a serious cause for concern, and it’s a word that is sometimes mistakenly used when conflict would be a better choice. To say the least, knowing how to define and address bullying in the dance studio environment can be a challenge.
As a business owner who serves families and children, your first priority is to keep them safe within your walls. True bullying must be taken seriously and handled swiftly, and it’s important to educate your clientele and your staff about what that means. One such way we are handling this at Misty’s Dance Unlimited is by becoming YPAD (Youth Protection Advocates in Dance) Certified. Our staff has completed the YPAD online education coursework in order to become more knowledgeable about bullying and other harmful behaviors. We have implemented new policies around bullying to show our clients that we are invested in keeping their kids safe, happy, and healthy.
Through this education, and through my own experience over the past two decades, I’ve developed a few clear ways of addressing bullying at my studio. I encourage you to keep reading to learn more about my 3 Ways to Address Bullying and build your confidence in developing a studio culture that minimizes issues with bullying.
Here are my 3 Ways to Address Bullying:
Decide what type of meeting it will be
Clarity is key for successful meetings! Make sure your team knows what type of meeting they are stepping into, and set the expectation that the meeting will be focused on specific outcomes related to that type—off-topic questions or conversations will be saved for another time. Here are some common meeting types you may be using (or will want to implement):
Use these meetings to brief the team on projects you are working on, or to check in with them on the status of their projects. Status check meetings should serve as task-oriented progress reports, where everyone contributes to discuss their specific responsibilities.
The problem-solving meeting is centered around brainstorming new ideas on how to approach a specific issue, or related issues, the studio is facing. These meetings will probably be centered around finding the best resolution, or at the very least, innovating solutions that can be explored further.
Setting studio-wide goals and expectations are the two pillars of a visionary type of meeting. This is likely to be a meeting led by you or someone on your leadership team, to set the tone of the season, the semester, or the month ahead. Also, remember that casting the vision for your team means this type of meeting is usually the most motivational!
2. Know who needs to attend and why
Not every meeting is for every staff member. For example, you may have meetings that are better suited for your leadership team only or meetings that are strictly for administrative personnel. Or perhaps your teachers need their own classroom-focused meeting once every quarter. Dial into the needs of your team by making sure each meeting has a defined purpose and no one’s time is wasted.
One great way to do this is by taking the time to personally invite team members to a meeting and giving them advance notice of the topic at hand. There may be times where you also ask them to bring ideas to share. Explain how much listening, note-taking, or contributing they should expect. Doing this allows meetings to feel less like an obligation, and more of an opportunity to connect.
3. Be prepared—and be prepared to improvise
Go into every meeting with an agenda, and expect to improvise off of it as needed. I’ve learned that when I’m in charge of a meeting, I do my best when I’m clear about the main points that need to be discussed. If I’m not clear, nobody is clear.
If you have members of your team who also lead meetings, talk to them about developing this skill too. Consistency and organization among staff, no matter who is setting the meeting, shows that meetings are not taken lightly and will be used to enhance everyone’s productivity.
Don’t underestimate the value of a great staff meeting! With some fine-tuned planning and a little extra attention to detail, your team can gain a whole new appreciation for what a A+ meeting can be like.
I hope that your studio can benefit from these tips and turn meetings into a source of respectful relationship-building and enhanced focus at work. And if there something else YOU do with your meetings to make them successful, please share your advice in the comments. I’d love to hear what serves you well when it comes to meetings—and maybe try it out myself!
Looking for more great ideas to help address bullying in your studio? Check out the following articles:
It’s that time of year again! That time when we start to see our students feel the “mid-year slump” … which means they’re in need of some extra TLC and motivation in class as we push through the remaining cold weather months. But did you know that your employees are probably feeling the slump too? The post-winter break, dreary weather, pre-recital doldrums are VERY real for your team as well, whether they show it or not. But fear not, there are ways that make boosting employee morale a breeze!
I know you want to keep employee morale up ALL year long (I do too) so this time of year is perfect to recalibrate that dial. Remember that keeping your team motivated and excited about work isn’t just about making them feel good; it’s about setting them up for success so they can do their best work for your studio and dance families.
If you’re expecting a high level of performance from your team, it’s in your best interest to ensure they are working in an environment conducive to reaching goals and seeing results. Taking the time to keep their morale up will continue to benefit your business in this way. Keep reading to learn more about my 4 Ideas for Boosting Employee Morale, and see if you can give everyone’s spirits a little lift!
Here are my 4 Ideas for Boosting Employee Morale:
Solicit their feedback and suggestions
Although not every business decision you make is a democratic one, you can choose to allow your team’s suggestions to be heard on decisions that affect them. People are energized when they contribute to their organization’s success, so by being open to their feedback, you are letting your team know that they—and their opinions—matter.
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying you should have a free-for-all on feedback! It is still important that you communicate when your people have a “voice” versus when they have a “vote.” But everyone’s confidence gets a boost when they know that you are actively listening and that you care about what they think.
Have fun together outside of work
Perhaps this is “easier said than done” when it comes to scheduling, but getting together with your team just for fun can be a MAJOR morale booster! This could be as simple as a Sunday brunch, or as involved as a weekend retreat. The idea is to create a relaxed environment for everyone to enjoy each other’s company, without any work pressures or agendas. These group experiences away from the studio humanize you and them by taking everyone out of the usual routine. Think bonding activities like bowling or visiting an escape room; or entertainment, such as a game night at your house or seeing a show together.
You don’t have to hold these types of events often, but make it a point to schedule at least a few each season. Be prepared to pick up the tab, and consider inviting spouses or significant others into the mix too!
Discover their “language of appreciation”
You may have heard of The 5 Love Languages before, a book by Gary Chapman. Well, he also has a companion book, authored with Paul White, called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. The concept behind the book is that different personality styles value different expressions of appreciation, and it’s important to tap into your employees’ preferences in order to show appreciation in a meaningful way.
What’s most important is to learn what is motivating for your team members! For example, if you have an employee who values tangible gifts, they are going to feel appreciated when you bring them a Starbucks gift card. Another employee, however, may feel more motivated by quality time, and so scheduling regular check-ins with that person is going to bring more value to them than Starbucks does.
Offer consistent praise and encouragement
When you see an employee doing something great, honor it! Don’t wait. Praise often, as soon as you witness a positive interaction or grace under pressure. And don’t hesitate to praise publicly, especially in front of other team members.
As a studio owner, it’s easy to get caught up in giving constant corrections, but by offering frequent and deserving praise, you are showing your employees that you notice their efforts. Everyone loves being lifted up for a job well done, and finding these moments of praise demonstrates that you’re committed to finding a balance between compliments and criticism.
I challenge you to use all four of these ideas to give your team an extra boost and some well-earned pats-on-the-back. Your employees are the conduit to your customers, and so the more confident and positive they feel, the better they can serve. Allow them to be heard and encourage their successes. Share in the comments below if you have experienced a great return on your investment into employee morale! I’d love to hear about it.
Looking for more great ideas to help with boosting employee morale? Check out the following articles:
With competition season upon us, there’s a lot to think about – have your dancers perfected their routines? Do they have their costumes? Have you recruited some volunteers that can help out backstage? However, don’t forget to think about how your dancers will get to the venue in the first place. Organizing dance travel to a competition can seem like one big headache, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these tips to get you and your dancers to the competition without the stress.
Check Out the Venue Ahead of Time
Prior to the competition, if possible, travel to the venue to familiarize yourself with the best route to take to get there. Also, take a look at the available parking options. This way, you can have a better idea of the best transportation method your dancers and their families should take to get to the venue, whether that’s carpooling, taking a bus or driving.
You’ll also be able to give better instructions on directions and minimize surprises the day of the competition.
If the venue is far enough away that your students and their families will need to stay in hotels, spend some time researching the area online and using Google Maps to identify the best lodging options in the vicinity so you and the parents can plan the necessary accommodation ahead of time.
Organizing a Carpool
Carpooling to the competition is a great way to streamline and simplify transportation. It’s also cost-effective, and is eco-friendly, as Dance Advantage pointed out. Make sure you leave enough time to organize the carpool – a month before the competition should be ample time.
You can use a physical sign-up sheet in the studio, or you could use online sheets or create a private Facebook group for arranging the carpool.
VolunteerSpot recommended creating a permission slip for parents to sign that affirms that the parents are alright with you taking the students out of state, if applicable, and that you have their permission to get the kids medical treatment in the event of an emergency.
In the month leading up to the competition, hold a meeting with parents – or send out an email – that outlines the details of the carpool trip like when and where the car will leave from, the route you will take, when the car will arrive and other pertinent information. Also, make sure you have all the parents’ contact info prior to heading out.
Dance Travel by Bus
While carpooling in one or a few vehicles can be an efficient and cost-effective way to get to the competition venue, factors like the distance to the event and large amounts of equipment or luggage may make renting a bus a better transportation option. Before booking a bus with a private company, make sure you do your due diligence and research.
Texas Meetings & Events magazine recommended that you book a bus early, since you can usually save money by making reservations far ahead of time. You should also have a meeting with a representative from the transportation company and ask them about the company’s insurance coverage, the experience of the drivers and their emergency protocols.
Make sure you consider the itinerary for the day of the competition – should the dancers be dropped off at a designated area near the hotel to meet up with their families first, or should the bus go directly to the competition? Taking the time to figure out the specifics of the trip will help the transportation go more smoothly.
Flying to the Competition
If the competition is several states away or on an opposite coast, it makes sense to fly to the venue. If you have just a few dancers traveling to the competition, it may make sense for each dancer to buy a ticket individually to the same flight, or for the studio to buy a batch of tickets for the dancers all at once and then be reimbursed later.
However, if you have a large group of dancers traveling, it may be a better idea to book the trip through a travel agent. U.S. News and World Report noted that agents can help large groups get discounts for flying together, so spend time looking at your options.
Other considerations include coordinating transportation to the airport, figuring out accommodation and making sure everyone is checked in on time, which is easier to do these days because of mobile apps. If you are using a travel agent, he can help lock down these details.
Also, don’t forget to consider luggage limitations. It can be helpful to give dancers a checklist of what they should bring with them. Pay special consideration to costumes, which should ideally go in carry-on because of the risk that checked luggage could be lost.
On stage during a recital, audiences see the result of months of hard work. They watch in awe as your students dance gracefully and perfectly hit their choreography – hopefully. But what they don’t see is all the choreographed backstage management going on behind the scenes.
As any dance teacher knows, managing your dancers backstage can be rather stressful. With nervous kids – and teachers – costume mishaps and other various issues, keeping kids in line and focused can be a real headache.
Follow these tips for better backstage management at your studio’s next recital.
1. Practice Quick Costume Changes Ahead of Time
With your dancers performing multiple routines for one recital, they’ll need to be pros at quickly changing in and out of their costumes, along with any makeup or hair alterations. In reality, though, this isn’t always the case. To help them become better at changing quickly, have them practice switching costumes at the studio.
“Our students have 90 seconds between classes to change their shoes and be ready for the next class,” said Brandon Rios, artistic director of Old Dominion Performance Arts Studio in Virginia, in an interview with Dance Studio Life. “If they can get in the habit of changing quickly at the studio, they will be able to do it come performance day.”
So grab a stopwatch and time your dancers in the weeks leading up to the recital – the extra effort is worth it to save you and your dancers stress come performance time.
2. Repeat After Me: Stay in Your Designated Area!
Young kids have trouble staying put in general – add pre-performance anxiety to the mix, and you’ve got yourself some antsy dancers. Your students might also want to wander off to the audience area to chat with friends, or sneak down to the vending machine for a snack. Big no-nos. It’s important that your dancers stay put backstage. As Dance Advantage noted, you have a lot to manage and keep track of during the performance, and students wandering off means that they might miss their entrances or interrupt someone else’s, along with being a safety issue. So, pre-performance, drill into your students’ heads: stay in place!
3. Assemble a Super Team
There’s way to much going backstage for only you to be in charge, so you need to assemble a super team. Gather volunteers or other teachers and assign specific roles to them for the most seamless operation.
Carol Zee, artistic director of The Gabriella Foundation, told dance Studio Life that she assigns the following jobs: stage manager, on-deck supervisor, quick-change supervisor, stage left headset, stage right headset and dressing room monitors.
Looking for more tips on creating a great day-of recital experience? Check out these articles from guest blogger Misty Lown:
It’s mid-April, right? If you own a dance studio, that’s not EXACTLY true. It may be the middle of April on your Google calendar, but if you are like me, your mind is somewhere closer to September.
Not convinced? Just take a look at your to-do list.
Finalize fall schedule
Find one more teacher for Tuesday nights.
Send out teacher contracts.
Take one final look at tuition changes.
Add policy for kids who skip rehearsal and still show up at competition. 🙂
A successful Back-to-School experience starts today. Are you ready?
Keep reading for 7 things that you can do today for a successful September and a successful dance studio registration campaign.
Review Tuition Structure
Call me nuts, but every year I make an excel spreadsheet of every student and every class that they take. This is a long and arduous process, but I do it to find find and fix the cracks that can emerge over time as pricing and programs fluctuate. For example, when I started this process three years ago I realized that our “Unlimited Dancer” program was no longer viable. Not even by a long shot. It worked eighteen years ago when we only offered eight classes for high school students. But, fast forward fifteen years and I found myself in a situation where families were paying for six classes under our Unlimited Dancer program and taking twenty. Our tuition structure had simply not kept pace with our program and it was not sustainable. We had to make some difficult decisions, but in the end we ended up with a program/price structure that was fair to the students and to the studio.
Evaluate Your Teachers
There is no busier time of year for studio owners than spring. Between the daily demands of preparing for the year-end recital and the planning required to get fall classes ready there is hardly time to breathe. Even so, you must slow down enough to get into your teacher’s classrooms. Are their kids prepared to for the big show? Do they look confident, calm and happy? A positive recital experience for current students means more returning students. This is also a chance for you to make adjustments to what your faculty will be teaching in the fall. You might find, as I did, that you have a teacher on older level classes who is actually strong with the little ones, and then make a change to what they are teaching for the fall.
“Parse” Your Programs
Parse means “to analyze a sentence,” but I think it is a pretty good description of the way we have to break down our programs into details so that we can make good decisions about what stays and what goes. Do you know which of your programs were profitable? Maybe ballet is selling well for you, but musical theater has fallen out of favor. What about individual classes and levels? Are you busting at the seams in pre-school classes and pretty slim in the advanced classes. If so, combo up some of those older level classes to make room for younger ones.
Plan for Partnerships
The organizations we want to partner with in town are also planning for fall at this time. I know it’s important to get on their calendars now if we want to be able to work together come fall, so I am spending April making calls to the mall, daycares, preschools, the Children’s Museum, the Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs, and Big Brother’s Big Sisters, to name a few. We want to be aligned with the other organizations that do good things for kids in our community.
Your Personal Schedule
I remember one time years ago when I was complaining about how hard my schedule was to keep up. I was telling my husband about the long days I was teaching and the piles of book work in between. He responded, “Don’t you know the person who made that schedule?” Point made! I’ve long since learned to make sure that my decisions on a schedule that I will have to keep for an entire year will not have a negative impact on family life.
Build a Budget
I often joke that I became a dance teacher because I don’t do math beyond 5-6-7-8. I’m kidding, of course, but that doesn’t mean I’m skilled at accounting. When it comes to having my hands on the numbers for fall, I’m going to be spending time with my accountant now. An accountant can bring a valuable perspective by looking at the big picture of your finances and helping you make wise decisions for the future.
Press and Promotions
Plan now an action-packed open house to kick off your fall semester of classes. A really great event could mean an opportunity for you to share your studio story with the press, which could translate into greater enrollment later. Think of your ideal media placement (radio, newspaper, TV) and then design an event to get their attention.
Looking for more inspiration? Sign up for the Misty Minute for weekly ideas to transform your studio and your life.
The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.
As a studio owner, I have three lists running in my brain at all times. I’m always asking myself the following three questions:
What needs to be done today?
What needs to be done in the next 2-6 months?
What can I make for dinner without going to the store?
(Not kidding on that last one. Anyone whose business is open almost exclusively nights and weekends is sure to have some challenges in the getting-dinner-on-the-table department!)
But, back to practical things. It’s the second week of March, so while our bodies are busy distributing recital costumes and getting ready for competition, our minds are on RECITAL. And, a great show from the audience perspective is dependent on having an awesome act backstage.
Are you gearing up for recital? Keep reading for 5 Backstage Management Tools to make your backstage flow smoothly this year for all ages!
Entertainment reigns supreme for little ones.
At our recital, we run different types of activities to keep little kids entertained backstage. First are the quiet hands-on activities such as drawing, reading and making crafts. When the attention for crafting wanes, we watch a bit of a movie. Nothing lasts more than 20 minutes, so we rotate activities often.
Manage quick changes for really little ones by using “shape cards.”
It was a real “a-ha” moment for me as a teacher when I realized that the reason our little kids couldn’t keep track of their things backstage was because they couldn’t read yet. Now we line up their shoes, accessories and costume changes on easy to identify “shape cards.” Three- and four-year-olds may not be able to read name labels, but they won’t forget their items are on the card shaped like a sunshine! Other shapes include rainbows, stars, clouds, animals and more. Get creative. Kids love picking out their “shape cards!”
Have a backstage “show.”
Our younger dancers wait for their turn in the show in a large room just off the true backstage area. We take advantage of the generous space by having older girls practice their dances in front of the little ones backstage before they hit the big stage. This serves two purposes: First of all, you don’t want the first time that your older students run their choreography that day to be on the stage. The backstage “show” takes care of this. Second, the little kids don’t ever really get a sense of how amazing it is to be in your studio’s production if they only see the stage for a few minutes during the entire show. Sharing dances helps the little ones see a mini-version of recital and increases their understanding of the bigger picture.
Have a code word, hand signal or rhythm clap for getting attention.
All of our students know that when they hear the iconic “clap, clap, clap clap clap,” it’s time to listen. The students repeat the clap pattern in a call-and-response fashion followed by silence. If your waiting area is too close to the stage for rhythm claps, consider having a hand signal for silence. We use the “quiet fox,” which is a hand signal where the third and fourth finger touch the thumb and the pinky and pointer go up for the fox’s ears. If a teacher puts up her fox, it’s a race to see how quickly the kids can put up their foxes as well. The “quiet fox” was intended for little ones, but I think the older ones get more of a kick out of it than the little ones do.
Keep performers moving “stations and checkpoints.”
Another go-to that we use backstage with all age groups is “stations and checkpoints.” Students stay in their dressing room until called by the stage manager. From that point they go to a costume checking station where everyone is checked for accessories, correct shoes, clean tights and tidy hairstyles. If anything needs attention it is taken care of before hitting the true backstage area. Next, they are “in the hole,” which is the area just outside the backstage followed by “on deck,” which is true backstage or side stage. And then, it’s time to dance on stage! The whole process is both very orderly and anticipation-building for the dancers.
Do you have a great tool for backstage management? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Well-developed studio policies are essential to keeping your dance studio running smoothly. Not only that, they also help keep your sanity intact! If your policies are poorly drawn up, or don’t cover what they need to, then your classes will be disorganized and inefficient, dealing with parent and student issues will be a headache and you may not even receive the tuition payments that you deserve.
Strong, clear-cut studio policies are the gears that make the dance studio machine turn. However, creating policies is not as simple as just jotting a few basic rules down. Read on to learn how you can create the best policies for your business.
The Bottom Line
Suzanne Blake Gerety of DanceStudioOwner.com told listeners in a recent webinar that studio policies are the terms of a business transaction. Keep this thought at the forefront of your mind when creating your rules.
“When someone becomes a student, it’s easy for us to get caught in the warm welcome, without realizing that you’re doing a business exchange: tuition for education,” said one of the hosts.
You can’t continue to operate your dance studio and share your passion with students if you can’t make a profit. While emphasizing payment requirements may seem uncouth or harsh, it’s absolutely necessary to make sure they’re clearly communicated in your policies. Your time and expertise is valuable, so don’t be afraid to strongly express payment requirements – and stick with them. If a parent has an issue with tuition or other financial expectations, you can then point to the policies that were agreed upon ahead of time.
Keep It Snappy
Another factor to keep in mind when drafting your dance studio’s policies is that, like it or not, people have short attention spans in this digital age. That doesn’t mean you should skimp on creating comprehensive policies or leave things out, however, it’s worth it to think about how you can most effectively communicate your policies. Parents deal with demanding schedules and a million different responsibilities, not to mention how they have many forms to sign and disclaimers to read over for their children on a daily basis.
“They have messages coming at them from 8 million different directions and it’s getting more and more challenging to deliver and get the message into their hand, not only get it to them, but make them clearly understand it,” said one of the webinar hosts.
Keep policies clear and concise, and use images wherever you can to dynamically convey information. Bullet point lists break up longer blocks of content so parents can digest it more quickly. Put the most important information at the top, and bold, use color font, use all capital letters – or do all three – to make important deadlines stick out, or otherwise they will be missed. Also, post your policies in as many places as possible, so it’s easily accessible and never more than a few clicks away. Upload them on your website and email them to parents, and make sure you’re constantly regularly reminding students and parents about them.
Topics to Include
DanceStudioOwner.com provided a helpful checklist of which topics should be covered in your policies. These include:
Tuition and fee general information
Tuition & fees due date
Releases, consent forms and privacy policies
Attendance expectations and minimum participation policy
Dress code, class attire, student/parent conduct, studio rules and regulations
The most well-crafted policies in the world, however, don’t matter if they can’t be enforced. As one of the hosts of the policies webinar said:
“This is the hard part: imposing the late fee, kicking the kid out of class, not letting them perform in the recital. We agonize over this. Let me tell you, your policies do not carry any weight if you’re not ready to enforce them.”
Making sure your policies are followed ensures that you can provide the best dance education and experience for your students.
Clear and concise dance registration forms make things easier for both dance parents and studio owners. Before drawing up a form or downloading a template off of the Internet, it’s important to give a little consideration to what will be included. Well-designed dance registration forms that contains only the most pertinent information will make it a snap for parents to register their children and for studio owners to organize and reference student information.
Paper or Online?
A primary consideration when designing a dance studio registration form is whether it will be in print, online or both. A paper form makes it easy for parents to sign their children up for classes on the spot, and can be handed out when owners are away from the studio, for example when running a table at a fair or after a performance. Additionally, a physical form makes sure that those without Internet access can still sign up for classes.
However, an online form provides convenience and accessibility from almost anywhere, especially as more and more people own smartphones and conduct their business online. Parents are already using their phones to take care of everyday tasks, like booking medical appointments and paying bills. A study by the Federal Reserve found that 52 percent of smartphone owners have used mobile banking in the last year, and research by Accenture estimated that two-thirds of patients will book their medical appointments online by the end of 2019.
By adapting to these digital habits, studio owners make registering for classes as easy as possible for parents. One studio owner started online registration through her studio’s website and offered a limited-time offer of 50 percent off the registration fee for parents that registered online, and saw great results. Another owner advertised online registration on her website and then received 80 registrations in addition to the 120 she got through her open house. Handling registration online also gives studio owners the extra benefit of being able to post registration reminders on Facebook and via email. Creating an online form is easy and cheap, since no printer is required! There are several easy and free ways to create online registration forms, like Google Forms and Wufoo.
Depending on a studio’s clientele and website budget, providing both paper forms and online registration may be the best option.
Sections to Include
The first section of your dance registration forms should be the student’s information, including his/her name, date of birth, home address and home telephone number. Then include the contact information of her parents, including the parents’ names, email addresses, cell phone numbers and emergency contact information. A line that asks parents to note whether they would prefer to communicate via email or phone is also helpful. Beneath the contact information, ask parents to list whether their children have any allergies or other medical concerns.
The next section should cover legal issues and policy acceptance. These affirm that the parent and student understand the rules of the studio, the risks associated with dance and their responsibilities for attendance and payment. DanceStudioOwner.com provides a sample legal agreement:
I understand that dance classes may include, without limitation, dancing with props, stretching, barre work, across the floor combinations, dance routines in the center, and other related activities. I further understand that all of the activities of the dance class involve some degree of risk of strain or bodily injury. XYZ Dance Studio is not responsible for personal property.
I have received the student handbook and agree to adhere to all the content stated therein including: Studio Policies,Tuition & Payment Information, Dress Code, Traffic Pattern, Visitor Weeks and Calendar
I agree to be responsible for reading studio correspondence and respecting deadlines, if applicable.
I hereby acknowledge that I have read the statements above and agree to participate accordingly.
Next, include a section for listing which classes the student is signing up for. One way to do this is by creating a table with columns for the class name, scheduled date/time and tuition. Beneath the table, include a line for the registration fee and any additional expenses, like a recital fee or costume fee, followed by a line for the total balance due.
Some studio owners attach their class schedule and a condensed version of their policies to the dance registration forms so parents can easily reference them. Try to keep the whole document to as few pages as possible, though, since handing parents a stack of papers – or forcing them to click “Next Page” 50 times online – will only overwhelm them!
When beginning any new job, you’re bound to make a few mistakes. The same goes for new dance teachers. Even after years of dance practices, routines and recitals, being a teacher for other dancers isn’t easy, and it can definitely difficult at the beginning. If you’re a new dance teacher, you want to make the best impression possible for your new dance studio teacher and your students. While some mistakes are unavoidable, others can be easily stepped past. Here are some tips for dance teacher training and the lessons to be learned from your students!
1. Juggling Too Many Things at Once
When you first become a dance teacher, you may bite off more than you can chew, Discount Dance noted. In some instances, you want to impress your boss so you take on more classes than you can handle, leaving you tired, weary and mistake-prone. It’s important to realize that you can only volunteer for as many classes as you can realistically take on.
It may be smarter to only begin with one or two classes and then add on a few more as you get the hang of things. In other instances, you might be the studio owner and the dance teacher. You may also be the receptionist and the studio cleaner. Taking on too many roles can leave you overwhelmed and cause your business to crumble before it even gets off the ground. If you just opened a dance studio, look into hiring dance students from local colleges as teachers.
2. Short Attention Spans
Sure, there is a lot more to being a dance teacher than just dancing. Any talented dance teacher will tell you that you have to have a passion for teaching at heart. However, though you might have had lectures in school, it’s important to not bring those to dance classes.
Whether you’re teaching young students or an older, advanced class, all students will become bored if they’re listening to a teacher ramble on. After awhile, they might even stop listening, Adventure and Me stated. Though you want to impress your dance students and let them get to know you, talking too much isn’t the right move. Instead, let them get to know you through your dance style and instruction!
3. Different Tones for Different Students
When many dance teachers begin their careers, it can be hard to differentiate the dance levels of students. You may be asked to take on a beginner’s class for adults and an advanced class for children, and it can lead you to potentially talk down to a student. After taking years of dance courses yourself, you may have a hard time understanding what different levels need and what they already know.
From teaching an advanced dancer a commonly known move or expecting a beginner to pick up a routine with very little flaws, these actions can be discouraging for dancers and potentially cause them to leave the class. Every good dance teacher supports her students and knows their exact skill levels, so they never feel out of their league or underwhelmed, Dance Advantage stated.
4. Students Need Repetition
As a dance student, you may have been a skilled learner and had the ability to pick up routines very quickly. Without issue you could get the basic moves down and quickly execute them with precision and grace. As a result, that may be the only style of teaching you’re familiar with.
Some dance teachers tend to rush through a routine with dancers, causing them to be confused and unorganized. As a teacher, it’s important to realize that your dancers aren’t familiar with your style – and pace – of dancing. When going through a routine for the first time, take it slow – your dancers will appreciate it!
Almost every dance studio owner has dealt with some problem parents at one point or another. Sometimes you might not see them coming, other times you can tell they’ll be difficult from a mile away. However it occurs, one bad apple tends to spoil the rest. You don’t want to let one parent turn all of the other parents against you, or encourage them to engage in the drama. So what is a dance studio owner to do? Consider these four tips on how to deal with troublesome dance parents and how to avoid welcoming them back for another year.
1. Have Legitimate Reasons
It is important for dance studio owners to have a contract that lays out the studio policies as well as the consequences for breaking those rules. All parents, and children if they’re of age, should sign this contract before enrolling. If a parent violates one of these rules, studio owners should document the incident and notify the parent.* Refer to your list of studio policies that the parent agreed to upon enrolling in your studio.
Most studio rules don’t welcome aggressive or negative behavior, regardless of whether it comes from the student or parent. It’s also important not to bring other dance parents into the mix. While they may agree with you, you don’t want to start drama between dance parents. However, it is OK to corroborate your opinion with other studio staff members to help support your stance.
2. Deal With Problems in a Timely Manner
Sometimes parents will cause a scene during the dance year, forget about it over the following summer, and assume they can come back and have a fresh start. However, you and other parents may not have forgotten about that incident. While you might be surprised by their attempts at re-entry, it does happen.
If studio owners don’t handle bad behavior right away, it could have unexpected consequences—other parents may be dismayed that a parent got away with poor behavior and choose to leave the studio. When these scenarios occur, it is vitally important to deal with them in a timely fashion.
3. Offer Feedback Forms
Some dance studios offer feedback forms, according to DanceAdvantage.net. These forms give parents the opportunity to mention any comments, good or bad, that they have about the studio. Sure, the commentary may not always be constructive, especially if they bring up something like a costume malfunction, but these forms can also help keep the peace and prevent gossip from stirring up.
Once these forms are submitted, dance owners and parents can sit down to discuss the issues at hand. Setting up a meeting can be a calm, constructive way to find a resolution for a problem. Sometimes, though, resolutions cannot be found. At this point, you’re allowed to note that it’s studio policy and can calmly suggest that they find another studio to go to. Even though it isn’t the best way to refuse a parent back, you can do so knowing that you tried your best to hear the parent’s point of view.
4. Note Issues With Tardiness and Payments
Tardiness shouldn’t be welcomed at practice or any other time, as it can quickly become a habit. Dancers who show up late may throw off routines, cause practices to go later or could compromise a dance recital.
As a studio owner, it’s important to discuss your rules about tardiness with parents. Note the issues that arise from tardiness, and its effects on other dancers and parents. The same goes for payments. To keep your business up and running, you need to charge parents for their children’s lessons. Whether you charge them weekly, monthly or bi-annually is up to you.
However, if a parent doesn’t pay, it can quickly become an issue. If a parent consistently forgets or owes the studio a significant amount of money, it’s acceptable to terminate his or her contract. Discuss with the parent how lack of payment affects the studio as well as the purchase of costumes, footwear and equipment. Hopefully the parent will understand these legitimate reasons for not being welcomed back.
*Reader and veteran studio owner Danie Beck also suggested that in some cases, after you’ve spoken with the parent it may be a good idea to put the dismissal and the reasoning behind it in writing and send it to the parent. If you do, she noted that you should be sure to send it to them “return receipt requested,” so everyone is on the same page and there won’t be any surprises at registration time.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include reader feedback.
Does the thought of having to sub for someone on top of your already hectic schedule make you sweat? Does the idea of having to plan a holiday show keep you up at night? Is your laundry piling up at home while you teach plies at the studio? Are you having trouble keeping up with bookwork now that the studio is in full session? Do you stare 5 p.m. in the face each day and say, “Dinner? What’s that? I’ll have one of those over Christmas break.”
If so, you may have a case of the “Back-to-Dance Blues!”
And, if this is you, it’s time to re-focus the lens on your attitude and actions so that you can thrive, not just survive in the coming months.
Keep reading these back-to-dance tips to get back your A+ game in 3 easy (but not-so-easy) steps…
Break up with your phone.
Have you ever closed your laptop and said, “That’s enough for tonight” only to crawl into your bed and scroll Facebook for another 40 minutes? I’ve been there and it’s a BAD idea for a number of reasons. Science tells us that the blue light coming off of our devices destroys the melatonin we need for a good night’s sleep. And, if you DO get to sleep, you might be woken by email alerts from a parent who forgot their child’s shoes, but is just remembering to write you about it 2 a.m.
Now let’s talk about mornings. Do you roll over after your alarm goes off and start thumbing at the screen lock for a peek at the activity that you may have missed while sleeping? I know all you want to do is take a quick peek around your email, texts and social to make sure everything is okay before getting out of bed. I get it. The problem is that in doing so, you effectively hand over the steering wheel of your day to someone else’s agenda. You are now in reactive and not proactive mode, which is a close second to starting-the-day-without-coffee on the list of bad ideas for entrepreneurs.
2. Start owning your calendar.
Recently I blocked the following into my Google calendar: Morning Reading and Devotional Time, Exercise, Writing, Business Development, Lunch with Husband, Time with Kids, Email and Phone Calls. Yes, I write them with capital letters because to me they are proper nouns—as in if I don’t treat my time properly no one else will. Now when somebody wants to do a call, go to lunch or meet at the office I literally have take something of real value to me OFF the calendar to make room for the new activity. If I look at my calendar and have to choose between another evening meeting at the studio or Time with Kids, my kids win almost every time. But, if my calendar is empty, I’ll just fill with things that take me away from the kids. The truth of the matter is that I can always attend another meeting, but I’ll never get a second chance to raise my kids.
3. Eat the bullfrog first.
Here’s a math problem for you:
You have a list of ten things to do. Seven are easy and three are hard. What do you do?
The seven easy things, of course, because we love to feel accomplished and crossing things off of our list helps us to feel like we are really getting things done. But are we? What about the three meaningful, but hard things, get transferred from list to list until you’ve spent more time rewriting the difficult tasks than it would’ve taken to just do them.
The reality is that for as many hats as you wear at the studio, there are only a few functions that really move the business forward. To that end, may I suggest re-organizing your to-do to begin the day with the hardest/most meaningful task. That’s “eating the bullfrog first” is all about—tackling the ugliest, yuckiest project on your list and getting on with more pleasant things after that. If you can eat the bullfrog first, everything else after that is easy. Are you ready to get back on your A+ game? Then turn off your phone, fill up your calendar with your own proper nouns and eat the biggest bullfrog in your day before noon☺
The same things that you love about young dancers – their high energy, cute behavior and candid outbursts – can often become the things you struggle with the most during dance class. On good days, you may walk away after teaching preschool dance classes with a big smile and lots of hugs! But on the less-than-perfect days, the hour might as well have been spent herding cats.
Teaching young dancers comes with its own set of challenges, but the good news is that many of these problems are easy to solve. Here are five common problems that you may experience when teaching preschool dance classes and how you can solve them.
1. Making a Scene
According to HealthDay, kids between the ages of 3 and 6 are particularly prone to tantrums, as this is the time when children start to exert their independence. This is also around the same age when young kids enroll in dance classes for the first time. So what’s a teacher to do when an unhappy dancer starts making a scene?
Stacey Schwartz, founder of the Leaping Legs Creative Movement Program, explained on the 4dancers blog that in times like these, it’s essential that dance teachers have good relationships with parents. After all, who knows better how to calm an upset child than her parent? If a dancer has an outburst or tantrum, approach her parent after class and ask for pointers if the situations arises again.
2. Not Paying Attention
Young dancers are easily distracted. Something as simple as a person talking in the waiting room may be enough to make your students lose focus – especially if they’re not engaged to begin with. Dance Advantage explained that you need to be the most interesting thing in the room if you want your students to pay attention. To achieve this goal, you’ll need to keep the energy high throughout class. Play games, try new activities and move on if something’s falling short.
3. Fussing Over Props
One poster on a Dance.net forum expressed her frustration that her young students constantly fuss over props. She got to the point where she avoided using them in class because she knew the students would fight over getting the color they wanted or some other trivial factor.
It definitely makes it hard to teach when students argue over who gets the pink bean bag. There are two solutions you can try. The first is to pick props that are all the same – no color, size or pattern variations. The other, as suggested by Dance.net members, is to adopt the maxim “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset!”
4. Talking Back
Students who are wielding their newfound independence often talk back. You probably won’t get anything rude or offensive with young kids, but you’ll certainly encounter resistance to instructions or discipline. Education World explained that the key rule when dealing with backtalk is to simply not respond. You’ll get further simply waiting in silence for the student to comply than arguing with the dancer.
5. Not Retaining Lessons
It’s certainly frustrating when you spend 15 minutes working on plies, only to have your students forget everything they learned by the next class. However, keep in mind that your students are new to dance, and that the best way for them to learn is by repetition. Don’t be afraid to try new activities and games to mix things up, but make sure you’re reviewing essential skills often. This will help your little dancers retain the techniques that they’ll need to advance in their dance careers.
You may think that you know what you’re getting into when you decide to open a dance studio. After all, you’ve likely been involved in the industry for a good part of your life. However, there are definitely some tough lessons you’ll learn when you enter the business side of the dance world. Here are 8 things you’ll come to understand throughout your time as a dance studio owner.
1. ‘No’ is a powerful and necessary word
As a new business owner, you’ll likely want to say yes to everything. It’s hard to tell people no, especially when you are just starting to build relationships with your customers. However, make sure you balance the needs of your students and parents with the needs of the studio. It’s a delicate scale, and you’ll occasionally have to use “no” to keep the balance in check.
2. You need an written, actionable plan
You probably have goals, plans and aspirations for your studio, and that’s great! But you should really be putting them in writing, otherwise they’re easy to forget or lose sight of. This is where an actionable business plan comes in handy – write a detailed roadmap before you open your studio and make sure to update it every year.
3. Your dance know-how isn’t enough
Your pirouettes and plies will come in handy when you’re teaching young dancers, but they’re not going to help you much when it comes time to pay taxes, send invoices or market your studio. Small business owners of all sorts need to have some business-savvy if they’re going to excel, so you may need to purchase a how-to book or sign up for a seminar to fill out your skill set.
4. Customer service isn’t a cakewalk
No two mama dramas are alike, and you’ll be faced with a host of problems throughout your time as a studio owner. It’s important to figure out how you’ll deal with problem parents, diva students and other issues that affect the atmosphere at your school. Your customer service can make or break your studio, so be sure to give it the attention it deserves.
5. Your support system is key
Because you’re serving as a teacher, marketer, book keeper, administrator and more, there will be days when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed. This is when you need your support system more than ever. Whether it’s your spouse, friend, partner, child or fellow teacher, you should have someone who’s there to lend a hand on your toughest days. If you go at it alone, chances are that you’ll wind up with more gray hair than you bargained for.
6. Not everyone will like you
It’s human nature to want people to like you, but very few business owners go through their careers without stepping on a few toes. Sometimes you’ll have to say “no” – as mentioned in No. 1 – and this can lead to upset parents, dejected dancers or disgruntled teachers. Do your best to mend the relationship when this happens, and continue on your way.
7. At the end of the day, you’re running a business
The reality of the business world is that only 50 percent of companies survive for five years and just 30 percent last 10 years or more. If you’re in this for the long haul, you need to keep in mind that you’re running a business! Each decision you make should be beneficial to the studio if you want to make it in the competitive world of dance.
8. The hard work is worth it
You know the happiness that fills you up when you do something you love? Well you’ll probably get to feel that way every day you’re in the studio. Teaching people to dance is amazingly rewarding, and you’ll find that even on your longest days, you have a smile on your face.
What would your studio be without your awesome dance instructors? They’re the ones working with students, helping put together recital pieces and fending parent questions. In many dance schools, instructors are an integral part of the business.
However, being a dance teacher isn’t all tutus and glitter. There are times when your instructors will be stressed and frustrated, and it’s in your best interest to help alleviate some of their problems to make their lives a little easier. Here are five common problems that studio owners can solve for the sake of their teachers.
1. Set Clear Studio Policies
You may not realize it, but if your studio has lax or unclear policies, it can end up affecting your teachers. On a Dance.net forum, a few instructors explained that when their studios do a poor job of communicating with parents, setting up dress codes or explaining expected class behaviors, it makes their lives a lot harder.
Setting up set policies for your school is a quick fix to this issues, and it not only will benefit your teachers, but it will likely help out you and your business as a whole.
2. Enforce Pickup and Dropoff Times
Your teachers likely love their charges, but that doesn’t mean they want to hang out with students for 20 minutes after class ends. Instructors have lives too, and many times, they’ll have places they need to be. It’s your job as the studio owner to enforce your pickup and dropoff times so that no one has to be babysitting after class is over.
3. Be a Parent Buffer
Mama drama is inevitable sometimes, and you should be there to help your instructors deal with unhappy parents. Establish clear guidelines for parent complaints and make sure you’re involved in the resolution process. It will take a whole lot of stress off the shoulders of your teachers.
4. Limit Parent Observation
Parents love to watch their little dancers perform, but it’s often distracting for the class and the instructor. Find a way to minimize distractions that come along with parent observation, whether it’s by setting up limited class time when parents can watch or installing a one-way mirror or TV monitoring system.
5.Offer Compensation for Any Extras
There may be times when you really need a teacher to stay after hours with a student or to help set up for a recital. However, it’s important that you realize what tasks aren’t in the usual scope of a dance instructor’s job description and offer additional compensation if necessary.
Zero time? Yes. That’s what I call the period after recital. In my world, it looks something like this:
From eating out every day at rehearsals to ZERO food in the fridge at home the next week.
From 800 students on the day of the last recital to ZERO students the next day.
From performance adrenaline to ZERO energy the morning after recital.
From hundreds of people telling you how great you are at the show to seemingly making ZERO people happy after fall placements come out.
It may feel like zero time to those of us in the trenches of dance studio ownership, but to quote YouTube sensation ‘Sweet Brown,’ “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
It’s dance registration time, people! So kick off the recital dust and “zero time” blues and get ready for 5 Tips for Dance Registration that Rocks:
Amp the excitement with a new program. Last year I felt like our registration buzz was a little low, so we added Acro, Leaps & Turns and Modern to the roster. Every one of those classes was full with a waiting list in 9 MINUTES after online registration opened. While that was exciting, the real win for us was that the people who rushed to register for the new and exciting classes also registered for the standards like ballet, tap and jazz at the same time.
Tie accepting a performance company placement to registration. At our studio we hold our auditions for performing groups the week after recital. Audition results go out at the same time as registration info. To accept a placement, a student must register for fall (and summer) classes. This is a great way to firm up involvement for fall, especially with teen students who may lose motivation for returning classes as the summer wears on.
Race to Registration. Last year we launched a “Race to Registration” contest that was very successful. Here’s how the contest worked: At the end of each week of the contest we drew a name from those who had enrolled over the course of the week. The winner could choose from a $100 studio gift card, a studio jacket or a studio birthday party. To claim the prize, they would need to come with a parent to the studio and have their picture taken, which was then promoted on Facebook and Instagram, and ultimately shared by the winning family to their social circles. We ran this promotion for the four weeks leading up to fall classes and captured more than 50 additional students in the process.
Make FB actually work for you. Gone are the days of counting on FB posts alone to drive action from your fan base. FB has changed its algorithm so that less than 10% of people who like your page will ever see a post from you. The new power of FB belongs to paid promotions to targeted audiences, boosted posts and getting people to share posts, which puts your message into the news feed of people who already know and love you. If FB advertising isn’t already in your budget, make room for it this year. Even a small budget of $5/day for a week on a specific call to action can make a big difference.
Don’t let people fall through the cracks. Do you know what the least expensive way to get enrollment is? DON’T LOSE YOUR CURRENT STUDENTS! This should be obvious, but based on the number of calls I get from people wanting to know how to attract new students, it isn’t. My first piece of advice is to do whatever you can to get the current students to return. Do you have a system to measure who returns and who doesn’t? What do you do to reach out to previous students? No, they won’t all come back. Some move on, some age out and some just weren’t your cup of tea. Many, however, probably had a great experience and just have not gotten around to re-registering. If too much time passes after recital time they might figure it’s just too late. Don’t let people fall through the cracks. Even if they don’t re-register, they will appreciate the care you showed in reaching out to them and likely refer future families to your studio.