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.
It’s important to think about all the different pieces of equipment and dance gear that will make up your dance studio space, because each feature has an important role. Whether it’s the height of the ceiling, deciding which of the dance floor types is most suitable, what kind of mirrors you’ll need, what kind of barre you’ll want, have a picture in mind of what you want your ideal school to look like (and have a budget ready to work with). And, make sure to have fun in your decorating; allow your personality and passion to shine!
Walls & Ceilings
When outfitting your space, it is helpful to install insulation in the walls to assist in reducing noise transfer between studio rooms. It is not always required to install insulation in interior spaces, but this can be an inexpensive way to keep your space quieter (lobbies, bathrooms, if you have multiple rooms)
A high ceiling can make a space feel larger, and, conversely, a low ceiling can make a room feel smaller. The Dance Exec’s Studio has 12-foot ceilings in the studio rooms, making the area feel open and spacious. In comparison, some studios with lower ceilings and similar sized rooms do not feel nearly as large.
Some spaces will not be able to accommodate high ceilings, but you certainly want them to be as high as possible. Ceiling materials can also affect noise transfer, so be sure to take that into consideration in your planning and product selection.
The single most important feature in a dance studio is quite possibly the dance room floor. Which of the dance floor types you select will largely be dictated by budget, but a nice sprung floor system can easily be constructed for around seven to nine dollars per square foot.
There are also several flooring companies that install dance floors, though their prices are considerably higher. Sprung floors can greatly reduce risk of injury, and increase the overall health and well being of the instructors and dancers at your studio. For the health and longevity of your students and instructors, this is absolutely not a corner you can afford to cut.
There are several choices when it comes to dance floor types. What you choose will be dictated by your use of the dance room (ballet only, tap only, multipurpose floor, etc.).
The size of your studio’s mirrors can also make a big difference in how large a space appears. The Dance Exec’s Studio has mirrors that are 8 feet high, which makes the space appear much larger than studios that opt to use 4 or 6-foot mirrors.
For walls with mirrors, it is important to have an open wall with minimal obstructions (electrical outlets, light switches, etc). The cost of working around switches and outlets can significantly increase the cost of mirror installation.
There are several companies that sell wall and floor mounted barres. Wall mounted or floor mounted barres can be expensive, but are a great permanent installation for your space. The Dance Exec’s Studio chose to use portable barres. This allows barres to be pulled into the middle of the floor, and they can be oriented so they face the mirrors as well.
Portable barres are an optimal, flexible option for studio space. They can be built with PVC piping or metal piping (iron or galvanized is a great option). Your choice for barres will likely depend on your budget and how you would like to utilize your space.
Your sound system selections should be professional, functioning, and appropriate for your studio space.
Sound systems should play CDs, iPods, iPads, laptops, etc. Make sure your equipment is up-to-date with the current technology.
Closed-Circuit Monitoring System & Options
Observation windows are likely the biggest deterrent from creating a focused learning environment for dance studio students. Younger students are easily distracted and will likely want to wave or blow kisses to their parents through the observation window.
The parents reciprocate communication, thinking it is cute without realizing that it is drawing every single students’ attention away from the reason they are there: to receive a dance education. As the students age, they become self-conscious about being observed, which can be equally distracting.
In order to remedy this problem, The Dance Exec’s Studio installed a closed circuit monitoring system. In the lobby, there are 4 flat screen, wall-mounted, television monitors. Three of them display our three dance rooms, and parents have the ability to watch their students’ entire classes without creating a distraction.
On studio tours, this is pointed out as a huge selling point to increase focus in the classroom, while allowing parents to watch the entire class without crowding around an observation window. It is a win-win for students, instructors and parents! The other TV monitor is used to show DVDs of previous recitals, pictures of dancers put on DVD, or other items that can be further selling points to prospective parents.
***This is a project that you can accomplish independently. Several home security systems are built to provide closed circuit monitoring (you can even include digital recording options). These systems are fairly inexpensive and relatively simple to install. Security companies are also able to install a similar system, but are more expensive to hire.
Studio Security Options
You may choose to have a security system installed that has monitoring that is paid through a monthly fee. If you are considering a closed circuit monitoring system, these can connect into one system that will provide your space with a heightened level of security to ease your mind and serve as a part of your parent observation system.
One thing that many studio owners do not consider is: “Who has a key to your studio?” Inevitably, someone will wind up with a key, and you will wish they did not have one. Even if they return the key, how do you know they did not have a copy made? Do you want to change the locks every time this happens?
The Dance Exec’s Studio has a keypad with a code that owners/employees have to type in that unlocks the door. This was a relatively expensive installation fee upfront, but the functionality has made it worth the investment. We never have to worry about having the locks changed for fear of someone having a key (or incur such an expense). Changing the code to the front door is about a 2- minute process.
The front desk person is always present to allow parents to enter (by pressing a button that “buzzes” them in). A doorbell was also installed for clients to ring in the event the front desk person has stepped away. This may seem like overkill, but many daycares and preschools are implementing this level of security, so in many cases, parents in this area are familiar with the concept. Hopefully, you have chosen a safe location, but this truly prevents people from entering your studio without someone in the building knowing that they are there.
This can be used as a selling point to parents as it also helps ensure that children are not running outside without a parent, and parents also know that you work hard to keep potentially unsafe people out of the studio. At one point in The Dance Exec’s career (at another facility), someone came into the office (where staff members kept their purses during classes) and stole all of the purses. A locked front door would have easily prevented this incident.
Please note that these systems run on electricity, so having a key backup is necessary in the case of a power outage or if the keypad entry system fails for some reason.
Select your décor, paint colors, and thematic concept to fit your niche market within the dance industry. If you are a training facility for children, make sure your look and set-up is reflective of your mission. If you are a classical ballet conservatory, make sure your look reflects that, too.
Starting a dance studio (or relocating a studio) is certainly not an easy endeavor. It is a decision that should be thoroughly considered, weighed, and understood. Varying personal factors that should be considered are: personality type, business sense, life stability, income requirements, investment resources, personal willingness to commit, and a passion for business and/or dance. Most people would not open a clothing boutique if they did not love fashion, and the same should be said for dance studio entrepreneurs.
In starting a dance studio (or expanding your current studio), you must find your niche location and market. This section of the guide will cover all of the factors involved in choosing and up fitting a space for your current or prospective dance studio. In terms of your success, location is everything!
Finding Your Ideal Property
To begin searching for commercial property, it is a best practice to consult a commercial real estate agent. The agent will represent you and will protect your best interests throughout the process.
In searching for a prospective studio spot, it is important to consider the following items:
How much space (think square footage) do you need for your dance studio? How much space can you support with your anticipated student base and financial resources? Will the studio be a one-room facility, or will it have multiple studio rooms?
In planning for the studio, consider the following spaces:
When looking at spaces and considering prospective floor plans and layouts, as much space as possible should be dedicated to the actual studio areas. This is the primary selling point of your facility and will be the most used, income producing space.
Is the space you are considering zoned for your intended use? A real estate agent or landlord can clarify an area’s intended use and zoning.
Lobby space should be kept to a minimum. The lobby does not need to be a large space for parents to loiter, as that encourages gossip and detracts from studio space.
Office space, bathrooms, and storage should be kept to a minimum, but be sure that they are adequate enough to accommodate your needs.
Does the space have adequate parking to accommodate the number of clients you hope to have at your studio? Be mindful that you will likely need a spot for every person at your studio at any given time, including: students currently taking class, students transitioning to the next class, and staff vehicles.
The bottom line is that you need a spot for every single person that might be in attendance at the studio. Extra parking is always a plus—people will never complain if there are too many spaces, but there will be complaints if there is not enough parking.
You may also consider having a student drop off area, so parents can drop off and pick up students without utilizing a parking space. In considering this option, you want to ensure that someone that may take too long in the drop off area will not interrupt the overall traffic flow.
A well-designed parking/drop off area can be one less thing for parents to stress about when coming to your studio.
Since dance studios frequently involve children, it is absolutely imperative to consider the safety (actual or perceived) of your location. Ask yourself if you would feel comfortable leaving your own child in a particular locale?
You can run the best studio in the world, but if it is not a great, safe location, people will hesitate to bring their children. This could cost you business! And, while the price of a less than desirable location may be appealing, this is not an area to skimp on your budget; rather, you should invest in being in a better part of town.
When considering locations, investigate your neighbors and see if that fits into your ideologies and overall theme. A great place for a primary location might be in an area with a fun park, a children’s preschool, and a music center. You would not want to open your facility in an area that was surrounded by bars or other non-child friendly venues. Be alert, and think of how parents may view your location and presentation.
The cost of a visible location is expensive, and ultimately you will pay more rent. But, you will compensate the cost through blatant marketing. If your location is centered in an area that supports a lot of drive-by traffic, your facility will constantly be on the forefront of your community’s mind.
Keep in mind that convenience is a primary factor for people joining a dance studio (or any extracurricular activity). Make sure your locale is near prospective clients and reflects the mentality of the neighborhood. Some dancers will come to you because you run an excellent program and train great performers. But, the bulk of your students (and, consequently, your income) will result from people that are taking dance because your activity is convenient to their home. Make sure that where you decide to put your studio is near a solid base of prospective clients.
Consider what nearby, prospective clients want in a space. Are you near a country club with high expectations for their children’s extracurricular activities? Be sure that your space reflects the mentality of the neighborhood and fits in with your potential client’s expectations. If a competitor (dance studio, gym or otherwise) has a considerably nicer or more visible facility, how are you planning on competing?
5. Nearby Anchors
As mentioned in the safety segment, knowing the businesses that surround you can greatly impact your business, positively or negatively. Know the resources that will be surrounding you and how you can use them to benefit your business. Being near a popular landmark can help your business when providing directions. Also, if you are near a school or another complimentary business to your target market, this can be highly beneficial. People appreciate surroundings that are familiar.
6. Feasibility of Meeting your Opening Goals / Timeline
It’s important to consult with your landlord/contractor to ensure that they can meet your opening goals with construction permitting, up fits, etc. It’s important to initiate the beginning phases of starting a dance studio with the highest levels of professionalism and organization.
The Bottom Line
Your dance studio’s outward appearance will make a huge impression on your clientele. Take the time to provide the best possible environment and regularly evaluate areas for potential improvement. Make sure your facility is cutting-edge, safe, and the appropriate environment for your dancers to thrive.