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Tag: studio management

Dance Studio Software Reviews: 2018

dance studio software reviews

For the fourth year in a row, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our annual dance studio software reviews survey. We asked thousands of dance studio owners to answer questions about their dance studio management software. We’ve continued to see some recurring trends about how studio owners choose their dance studio software, how they utilize it, and what they like and dislike about it.

If you’ve considered investing in software to help you manage your studio, this data will definitely be eye-opening.

Survey Highlights

  • The percentage of studio owners that are using dance studio management software continues to rise, from 67% in 2014 to 82.2% in 2018.
  • Studio owners overwhelmingly choose software based on its ability to meet their needs; referrals from friends and associates also carry significant influence in the purchase decision.
  • Jackrabbit and Studio Director continue to dominate market share with a combined 65% , but this has decreased from 2017, when they held 74% of the market.
  • The features most important to studio owners continue to be billing and payment processing, email and text communication, and class management. Following the 2017 trend, however, online registration continues to increase in popularity.
  • For the first time since the survey inception, overall customer satisfaction dipped, from a 2017 high of 84%, to 79% in 2018.

Read the In-Depth Report on Dance Studio Software Reviews

See the full summary of the survey results here!

 

Check out previous editions our dance studio management software survey results and dance studio software reviews here:

Interested in more articles about dance studio management? Check out these articles from the TutuTix archive:

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Dance Recital Day for the Studio Owner: What Should my Day Look Like?

Dance Recital Day for the Studio Owner

Have you ever gotten to the day of recital and been surprised by something you know you could have prevented, if only you had prepared ahead of time?  Yep, me too. I’ve been in those shoes before and boy do they hurt!  With time and experience though, I’ve learned better tactics for planning out my dance recital day.

I distinctly remember this one dance recital moment early in my career as a studio owner when we had mounted an ambitious opening number to “Be Our Guest,” complete with seven-year-old tap dancing waiters! The first show went off without a hitch and so I didn’t check to see if all of the classes were in place for the second show.  There we were, mid-production, with a faculty member gesturing to the side of the stage to usher in the waiters …. and NO WAITERS! You should’ve seen our faces of shock! We finished the dance, found the waiters, and ran the number again. And you can bet that’s an oversight I never made again.

While surprises will pop up, the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success is to plan your work and then work your plan.  The effort you spend upfront will save you from mishaps, when the last thing you need is to put out one more fire (or find a class of missing waiters!).

Keep reading to learn 6 Steps to a Satisfying Dance Recital Day.


Here are my 6 Steps to a Satisfying Recital Day:

1. Find a quiet moment to yourself before the day begins

This should be completely non-recital related: maybe you decide to take an early-morning walk with your spouse, enjoy a cup of coffee on your patio, or read through an inspirational book. It doesn’t need to be more than 15 minutes, but find the time to breathe before the you head off to the races. Because we all know that once you get in your car for the day, it will be go, go, go until your head hits your pillow at the end of the day (and then, likely, your mind will keep going).

2. Arrive early to greet venue staff, employees, volunteers, and vendors

Schedule time before your dancers’ arrival to personally (yet briefly) check in with everyone who is helping to run the show.  This is the perfect time to go through any last-minute notes or checkpoints to ensure the best organization.  Offer up some encouragement too; it’s not just the dancers who get nervous for recital day!  If you want to go the extra mile, bring them a care basket. Nothing warms the heart of a theater tech person like a basket of treats and some caffeine for long show days.

3. Be proactive: anticipate problems

Although you can’t predict everything, you can prepare for some problems.  Stash a “recital supplies” bag in the wings or in the dressing room with extra tights, extra tickets, backup music, an emergency kit, a sewing kit, Sharpies … anything you can think of that might come in handy.  We even station our Business Manager by the door to backstage with our recital supply kit to make sure that every child is checked over from head-to-toe before they hit the stage. We’ve averted many small crises of missing shoes and costume pieces, costumes on backwards and upside down hair pieces during this pre-show check.

4. Make plans in advance to protect your time

As the studio owner, you will likely be the first person a parent wants to see if they’re upset about something, however big or small.  We all know emotions can run high at performance time!  Designate a time on your calendar when you will be ready to answer phone calls or emails, and make sure you have an employee or a volunteer who can run interference and offer redirection for people who want to approach you.  Even something as simple as putting an autoresponder on your email and a cheery message on your voicemail box explaining that you are at the theater and will be returning calls and checking email at 9am each day of recital week can be very helpful for keeping parent expectations for communication in line with what you are able to actually give.

5. Give gratitude where it is due

Your recital day satisfaction goes way up the moment you start saying “thank you”.  Show your gratitude in whichever ways are most available to you: hand out small gifts to your employees, thank your teachers by name in your welcome speech, offer up compliments when you see great work happening, provide a meal for your employees, and tell your dance parents you appreciate their trust in your studio.  Recital day is full of opportunities to be share the love-be generous with your praise!

6. Enjoy the little things

Take note of the special things you notice throughout the day.  I once saw the spark of a new friendship, between a younger dancer and an older one, when the older dancer offered comfort to the younger one who was struck with stage fright.  It made my whole day to have witnessed that moment they shared, but I never would have paid attention to it if I had run right past them. The exchange even made my closing comments for the show because it was such an example of what we are really doing through dance … not just making great dancers, but making great kids!

Recital time is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work for us and our students, just in different ways!  It’s a highly emotional time on top of the busy-ness, so take steps to help give yourself a sense of control as well as the freedom to enjoy the day.  I’d love to hear if following these steps makes a difference in your recital planning, or if you have more steps to share!  Comment below or share your thoughts with me on social media @mistylown.  Here’s to a joyful and successful recital season!

Are you looking for some more recital tips and ideas? Check out these other articles and resources from Misty:

The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.

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I Need Help! (Part One) – Hiring Additional Studio Staff

Hiring Additional Studio Staff

Top 2 Tips For Smart Hiring

Overloaded. Scattered. Forgetful. Late. Have you ever felt that any of these words describe you as a studio owner? I once did. Other studio owners tell me often that they too, have been consumed by their work and feel like they are constantly in need of help. The one thing that made a difference for me? Hiring the right studio staff for my team. An amazing group of employees is a huge game-changer. I call mine the Dream Team.

The process of hiring can be one of the most daunting tasks for a studio owner. You feel a lot of pressure (from yourself!) to make a good decision; one that at best, could benefit your team for years to come and that at worst, could create a toxic environment. Hiring someone who is a good fit for your business is truly win-win: you get the help you need to run an organized and efficient studio, and your new employee obtains a job at a meaningful place to work.

Before taking the first step in your hiring process, be sure that you know what it is that you’re hiring for. I recommend writing up a job description: include the job title, responsibilities, and the qualities desired in your ideal candidate. This job description will be for your internal use only, so expect that it might change somewhat once you’ve found a great person to hire and want to adapt the position to their strengths. For now, the description is simply your guideline. Having it prepared gives you a starting point for the way you need to advertise the job opening, and for the types of questions you might need to ask during interviews.

Once your hiring needs are clear, it’s time to prepare a job listing or advertisement. This is the information you’ll post online, such as on Indeed or Craigslist, or through other hiring avenues, such as your local university or community newsletter. Be sure to tell your current staff members that you’re looking to hire; I often find that getting referrals from my employees is far more successful than any other method. Birds of a feather do flock together after all!

After your job description and job listing are complete, it’s time to focus on the big task ahead: the hiring process itself. Your diligent attention to the details can make all the difference! Normally I have a whole list of tips and ideas for you for each topic, but hiring is different. There are really only two rules you need to heed for hiring.

Keep reading for my “THE ONLY 2 TIPS FOR HIRING” so that you can build your very own Dream Team:

Here they are! THE ONLY 2 TIPS FOR HIRING you need:


  1. Hire slowly
My first tip is to never be in a hurry to hire! I’ve certainly learned this the hard way. Rushed hiring almost always results in a poor match between you and the new employee because you didn’t have enough time to thoroughly assess their potential with your business.
Create a hiring system that includes several steps instead; this will help you evaluate candidates in different ways over time.  For example, your first step might include instructing applicants to introduce themselves by leaving a voicemail (we use Google Voice) or by uploading a video message. This will allow you to “meet” them virtually. Those who are articulate and enthusiastic can be invited to complete the next step, which could be a phone interview or an email questionnaire.
At this point your goal is simply to get to know the candidate better, so your questions might include topics like “What type of books do you read?” or “Tell me about a time when you helped make a positive change in someone else’s life.” From there, you would ask the successful candidates to meet for a personal interview, either with you or someone from your leadership team.

 

A second, off-site personal interview (for example, over lunch) or a teaching audition would be an appropriate next step for those candidates who are still in the running after the first personal interview. Having your candidates pass through each of the benchmark steps allows you to get to know them under different conditions, and if at any point they no longer seem like a good fit for your studio, you can thank them for their time and move on.

  1. Hire for character
My second tip comes from 20 years’ experience building an excellent studio culture: hire only those people who have the character qualities you know you need in your business. There’s no better match for your studio than someone who already demonstrates that they hold similar values to yours.
Remember that the culture of your business depends heavily on its people, and so any new hires need to fit well within your culture. The difficulty is that your candidates (who want a job!) can easily profess to hold such values, but as well all know, actions speak louder than words.
A continued benefit of the “hire slowly” advice above is that you have several opportunities to see the candidate’s character qualities in action, and in different conditions. For example, do they send you a thank you note after an interview? That certainly displays their values. Are they kind to the waitstaff when you meet for lunch? Another values-check. When they teach a sample class, are they prepared, organized, pleasant, curious? All part of their personal values.
To be fair, some candidates may be excellent “politicians” and may say and do things to get the job and not show you their true selves. Though I find this is rare, I think it is important that you pay attention to your gut feelings about someone. Let your instincts guide you, whether the feeling is positive or negative. Remember that you can’t necessarily teach great character, but you can train and mold the skillset of the right candidate.

Hiring employees is truly one of the hardest and best parts of being a business owner. The people on your team are the ones who bring your vision, your mission, and your culture to life. It’s no wonder we feel such a heavy responsibility to get it right!

I’m confident that these two tips can boost your hiring process up a level, and that they will help you find the support you need. Share with us in the comments below how you plan to take action with your next new hire. And you can always find me @mistylown on social media if you’d like to discuss more about how to hire your Dream Team. I wish you much success as you revitalize your hiring process!

Misty Lown is the founder, president and energized force behind More Than Just Great Dancing™. Misty shares her methods of creating a professional environment where people learn and grow from the life experiences lived in the dance studio. Sharing information, providing helpful observations, and giving feedback to parents, teachers and students is an essential part of the learning process that Misty delivers with More Than Just Great Dancing™.

Looking for more dance studio staff insights? Check out these other articles and resources:

The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.

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Dance Studio Growth: 5 Ways To Support And Connect To Your Studio

Dance Studio Growth: 5 Ways To Support And Connect To Your Studio

Whether your studio is in its first season, its fifteenth, or its fiftieth, chances are you want to see it grow! And when I say “grow” I’m talking about making real progress, which for your studio might mean increasing enrollment, nurturing your current customers, gaining square footage, developing leadership roles for your staff, improving your culture, redefining your mission, or all of the above.

You may already be experiencing the growing pains that can happen as you, the studio owner, shift focus in order to navigate growth of any kind. For me, as my own children have grown, I’ve shifted more and more time leading our faculty at our studio and less time teaching in the classroom.

No matter which type of growth your studio goes through, it most likely means that it will depend on you less and less for its day-to-day operations, and that your physical presence there will likely become less as well. But your personal connection to the studio—to your employees and to your dance families—will still be essential to supporting its success as it shifts and changes over time.

So how do you keep your relationship with the studio feeling vibrant and effective, even during different stages and phases of growth?

Keep reading to learn more about my 5 Ways To Support And Connect To Your Studio As It Grows.


Here are 5 Ways To Support And Connect To Your Studio As It Grows:

  1. Have your dream team in place
    As your studio grows, be sure that you have the right people in the right places on your team because they will be the ones in the trenches every day. From customer service to classroom management they need your personal touch with training and leadership to feel confident in their authority at the studio. Their confidence = your confidence!
  2. Support your team while they lead
    Once you have full confidence in your staff members, let your dance families see that you believe in your team one hundred percent. Don’t correct your staff in front of others, but DO compliment them publicly! If they make a mistake, coach them on it afterwards in private. Work to pass customer questions to the right player on your team as well, so your dance families can trust that your team will have the right answers.
  3. Know when to step in
    Even with well-trained and confident staff, there will be questions they can’t answer or situations they don’t feel comfortable taking the lead on. Talk to your team about what these scenarios look like, so they are clear about what you want them to tackle on their own versus when they should reach out to you for help. For example, if there are technical difficulties with the classroom speakers, your office manager can probably handle the phone call to fix it. But if the speakers are damaged and need to be replaced, you might want to approve those charges. Come up with a list of example situations, and discuss with your team how those situations might be resolved.
  1. Studio special events
    Look through the calendar and find which event (or events) can become a special highlight for your presence at the studio. For me this year, it’s the week we measure for costumes—I’ll be the one in the lobby engaging with parents while I measure kids for recital costumes. Other highlight events for me will be our parent/student conferences, parent observation week and community performances. There are always opportunities to gain some personal face time with your team and your dance families if you look for them.
  2. When you are present, be really present
    As your studio grows, you will likely feel pulled in many directions—more so than normal! So whether you are with your team, chatting with a customer, visiting a dance class, or taking the lead on a special event, be all in while you’re there. You might’ve been knee-deep in costume order details in your home office the hour before, but while you are present at the studio, focus on the studio and the people in front of you. Just like we tell our dancers when class starts, leave your worries at the door! Studio growth—even with it’s challenges—is something to be thankful for. As your studio grows, the way you spend your time there may change, but your responsibility won’t. Staying connected and supporting your team and your customers will allow you to continue building those relationships and developing your skills as a leader. Tell us in the comments about which ways your studio is growing, and which tips here are most encouraging for you! I invite you to connect with me on social media @mistylown to continue sharing your growth stories, and wish you luck as you discover the best ways to support and connect with your studio.

Looking for more great info on dance studio growth and other studio management topics? Check out the following articles:

The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.

More Than Just Great Dancing

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3 Best Practices For Coaching Your Dance Studio Staff

3 Best Practices For Coaching Your Dance Studio Staff

By now your studio’s season is officially in full swing and your classes are humming along. Your students and their families are getting used to their new dance schedules, school commitments, and carpools. Your staff members have also settled into your new routines around the studio and you are starting to find your “new normal” with the fall schedule. It can be such a satisfying feeling as a studio owner to finally feel like the pieces of your puzzle have fallen into place!

It’s completely fine (and encouraged!) for you to celebrate the success of starting off the new season right. But don’t let that satisfaction turn into complacency when it comes to your leadership: your team is on the front lines of service every day, and they need your active support, direction, and motivation to keep moving forward and offering up their best selves.

It’s probably been at least a few weeks – maybe more – since your new-season kickoff meeting with your team, which means it is the perfect time to re-cast your expectations and set the pace for the year ahead.

Keep your staff members feeling excited to come to work and on the right track by implementing these 3 Best Practices For Coaching Your Dance Studio Staff This Fall:


  1. One-on-one check-in meetings
    Different from an annual performance review and with less formality, a one-on-one check-in meeting with each employee in September or October can give you the opportunity to receive feedback from them on how the season has started: what’s going well and where they need help. I recommend scheduling 15-30 minutes per staff member with the intent to do more listening than talking. If they need prompting to start the conversation, use just two guiding questions: 1) Which parts of your job are the most rewarding right now, and which are most challenging? And 2) How can I help you achieve your best work with both? Your team members will appreciate that you’re hearing them out, and you can use the information you learn to better support and direct them in the moment and in the coming weeks. It may even become a habit that you want to do these one-on-ones more often with your team, to keep your finger on the pulse of the studio and prevent fires before they start!
  2. Inspect what you expect
    By the time fall classes are in full swing, your staff members have probably already attended at least one staff meeting where you laid out your expectations for them as employees of your studio. For example, your front desk team probably knows that they are expected to follow-up with all trial class participants in a certain way. For the sake of this example, let’s say they follow four steps: they ask for the sale on the day of the trial class, making a follow-up phone call within two days to those who didn’t sign up, after which time an email is sent, and if there’s still no registration, the child’s information is put into a “general interest” email campaign. You know your front desk team knows and has practiced all of these steps, but are all the steps being completed (and correctly)? The only way to find out is to “inspect what you expect”: take the time to observe the process once in a while, and ask your team how it’s working for them. You may find a part of the process needs a little tweaking, or that a staff member needs a refresher on how to handle certain types of situations. Help redirect your team before any small glitches become waves.
  1. Praise the progress
    Make sure your team knows that you notice their hard work! As humans, we all have the desire to feel like we belong, and to feel appreciated. When you see or hear a staff member do something awesome, say something! Say your receptionist does an exemplary job converting a trial class participant into a student, and you happened to overhear the interaction – don’t just say “well done!” in the moment, also praise their work in a private email or in front of the team at the next staff meeting. That positive interaction offers the staff member a well-earned ego-boost and encourages them to repeat their efforts. I know it sounds almost too simple, but think about yourself: isn’t it a great feeling to be recognized when you do a good job at something and have set an example for your peers? And doesn’t it make you want to keep doing the thing that earned you the recognition in the first place? Yes! Case closed! Your team members need to hear that kind of special, personal affirmation from you when they are doing great work. It shows you care, and shows you notice them – and not just for showing up each day.

Fall is THE perfect time to ensure that your studio’s season is set up to run smoothly for the busy months ahead and to take care that your team has started the year on the right foot. Implementing these 3 Best Practices will help you coach your staff members to success! Tell us in the comments which practice helps you and your team the most, and connect with me on social media @MistyLown to continue sharing your leadership journey. I wish you AND your team a wonderfully productive fall semester!

Looking for more great studio staff management ideas? Check out the following articles:

The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.

More Than Just Great Dancing

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Dance Studio Software: 2017 Studio Owner Reviews

Dance Studio Software: 2017 Studio Owner Reviews

For the third year, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our annual dance studio management software reviews survey. We asked dance studio owners to answer questions about their dance studio management software. We’ve continued to see some recurring trends about how studio owners choose their dance studio software, how they utilize it, and what they like and dislike about it.

Survey Highlights

  • The percentage of studio owners that are using dance studio management software has steadily risen year after year, from 67% in 2014 to 80% in 2017.
  • The three most important features of studio management software have consistently been billing and payment processing, email or text communication and class management, but over the last year, online registration has seen a marked increase in importance.
  • The percentage of studios who have a majority of students paying by credit/debit card has continued to increase (to 54% in 2017), though studios across the country still vary widely in their ability to process credit card payments.
  • Overall satisfaction with dance studio management software has continued to creep up with 84%  indicating that they were either “extremely satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied,” up from 82% in 2015.

Read the In-Depth Report on Dance Studio Software Survey Results

Check out the 2017 results here!

Check out previous editions our dance studio management software survey results here:

Interested in more articles about dance studio management? Check out these articles from the TutuTix archive:

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Dance Studio Teacher Staff Meetings That ROCK

Dance Studio Teacher Staff Meetings that ROCK

The school supply lists are posted at Target, the mailbox is filling up with registration paperwork for my children’s schools and Facebook is blowing up with pictures of kids in backpacks. It’s officially time for back-to-school and that means it’s time to get serious about back-to-dance!

As a studio owner, I’m a big fan of observing what the local schools do and taking my cues from their systems. For example, we do our registration for summer classes when the local school opens theirs. We offer parent teacher conferences just like the schools do and we follow their model for teacher training as well.

Most studio owners consider themselves to be in the business of training students, but the strongest studios I know understand that they are in the business of training teachers as well.

Here are 5 tips to step up your teacher training this year with Dance Studio Teacher Staff Meetings that ROCK:


  1. Timing is everything.
    Time is the most important commodity we have. Make your meetings few and powerful. I meet with my full time leadership team once every two weeks and the entire staff once each quarter. Our bi-weekly leadership meetings are about 1.5 hours in length and our quarterly all-staff meetings are three hours. Bi-weekly leadership meetings focus on weekly operational issues such as scheduling, weekend events, student concerns, ordering costumes, dress code, equipment and tracking classroom progress. Quarterly meetings are centered on important times in our dance season: back-to-school kickoff in August, recital planning in October, parent-teacher conferences and competition details in January and preparing for the two biggest events of the year—registration and recital—in April. Respecting people’s time and hitting the most important parts of the season are two keys to having successful staff meetings.
  2. Remember that there are three parts to every successful meeting.
    The most successful meetings we have address three areas:

    1. Informational
    2. Inspirational
    3. Instructional
Take our Back-to-Dance meeting for example. A big part of this meeting is informational in nature—reviewing schedule changes, turning in contracts and going over employment handbooks. But, the real purpose of this meeting is inspirational. Back-to-school is a time for your teachers to remember why they became teachers in the first place and to set new goals for the year. The last part of a successful meeting is instructional. The best teachers never stop learning, so take advantage of this time together to teach your team something new. It could be as simple as getting everyone in the studio to decide what preparation for pirouette is going to look like for all the classes at your studio, or it could be a short teaching on time management or customer service.
  1. Develop a theme for the year.
    Every year at my studio we have an overarching theme that helps us focus our activities. One year when we were in a high period of growth our theme was “Every Student, Every Class.” The idea was that even though we had become a larger studio we wanted every student in every class to feel the warmth of personal and  positive attention. This year our theme is “Energize Enrollment” because we have set some ambitious enrollment goals for the upcoming season. At each of our meetings we talk about how we are measuring up against the theme that we have prioritized for the year.
  1. Celebrate what you want to elevate.
    Staff meetings are a great time to “lift up” what you want to “build up.” For example, one of our core values is service so I give shout outs at our meetings to staff members who have recently gone the extra mile for their colleagues or our clients. If dress code is something that is important to you, give some public praise to a teacher who exemplifies that. We even have an old-fashioned star chart to measure teacher progress just like you might see in a Kindergarten classroom. Our teachers are broken into teams and the teams can earn stars over the course of the year for things like being in dress code, attending meetings, turning their music in on time, helping colleagues by subbing, etc. Our teachers love it and get silly-competitive over earning stars because they know prizes will be handed out at the next meeting for the leaders.
  2. Bring the fun!
    Most people equate the word meetings with the word boring, so find ways to break it up with some fun.We once kicked off a meeting by tossing a ball from person to person asking them to share one thing we would never guess about them. Who knew I had one staff member whose mom is Australian and another who rides a Harley?! We have also broken it up by giving out dollar-store type prizes for our star chart winners and tossing out small candy bars for those who could answer pop questions about schedule or policies. When the meeting is about recital, we bring food to keep them fueled during the planning process. The idea is to make doing what you NEED to do something that they WANT to do.

How about you? What do you do to make your staff meetings worthwhile for teachers and owners alike? Leave your ideas in the comments below. Have a great season kick-off everyone!

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.

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First Impressions Still Matter

First Impressions Still Matter

In business we call it “first impressions.” Psychologists call it “thin slicing.” Regardless of what you call it, career experts say it takes just three seconds for someone to determine whether they like you and want to do business with you.

According to BusinessInsider.com (2015), you have even less time to make a good first impression. Research from Princeton, Loyola Marymount University and the University of Liverpool demonstrates that judgments people make regarding your trustworthiness, intelligence and competence as a business leader are based on first impressions—sometimes in as little as one-tenth of a second.

One-tenth of a second?

If you don’t think this is true, just measure your own reactions next time you walk into someone else’s business for the first time. If a friend recommends a new restaurant but it has a funny smell when I walk in the door, I immediately begin to question my decision to eat there. Once, when I was driving on vacation I stopped to check availability at a hotel, but walked out before I could get the answer—based on my first impression.

The situation doesn’t have to be extreme to leave a bad impression. Have you ever taken your children to another activity outside of dance and found yourself fighting the urge to jump in and help the coach manage the children? Or have you ever wanted to straighten up someone else’s lobby? That’s why the saying, “First impressions make lasting impressions” is true.

Keep reading to learn what first impressions you may be giving your dance families without even realizing it.


Indeed the very first impression we make on a potential or new client sets a powerful tone for the rest of the relationship. Think about all of the different layers of first impressions someone has with your business before the first class:

It might start with a referral from a friend, or overhearing an opinion from another community member at the pool or the PTA. This will be followed up with a Google search for your business or a scroll through your social media. You may not be able to control what people say at the pool or the PTA, but once a prospective client visits you online, you are in control of the first impressions and client experience. Will your potential customer find an easy-to-navigate and up-to-date mobile site, or will they be forced to stretch and scroll for days in order to find basic information? Can they register online, or will they have to leave a voicemail and hope someone gets back to them? What will the first time mom find when she searches for you on social media? She’s mostly likely looking for children’s classes. Is that what she will see, or will she only see accolades for your advanced dancers?

It will take much less time for a prospective client to do all of the things above than it took for me to write the paragraph describing the process. That’s how fast business is moving now. The process a prospective client will got through will either be:

  1. Hear about you, look for you online or call, have a good first impression, inquire for more information, become a student.
  2. Hear about you, look for you online or call, have a negative first impression, look someplace else.

And, it can happen in minutes.

Let’s assume for a moment that you leave a positive first impression with the prospective client and they enroll in classes. You’ve won, right? Not so fast. Now begin the many layers of first impressions you will have on your new client for years to come.

First impressions don’t end after an initial introduction or enrollment of a new student. Not at all! This is where the real work begins. Think of all the “first time experiences” a student will go through with your studio.

  1. First class.
  2. First parent’s day.
  3. First costume.
  4. First picture day.
  5. First buying recital tickets experience.
  6. First rehearsal.
  7. First recital.

And, that’s just the first year. The “firsts” keep building the longer they remain clients.

  1. First placement for the next year’s classes.
  2. First audition for a team.
  3. First problem with a class.
  4. First disappointment with a placement.
  5. First conflict with school.
  6. First pair of pointe shoes.
  7. First solo.

Each of these interactions is an opportunity to make another new first impression. How do you handle problems at your studio as a leader? Do you lead with communication and a we-can-figure-this-out-together attitude? Do have an attitude of grace and service or are you quick to become defensive about policies and complaints?

As the old adage goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I would add, “You never get to stop making first impressions.”

If first impressions matter so much, and for such a long time over the studio-client relationship, why don’t we do more to create more continuous positive first impressions as studio owners? The reasons are simple:

  1. Lack of understanding/awareness
  2. Lack of experience
  3. Lack of time
  4. Lack of resources
  5. You are simply too close to see it

Will you commit with me to make the 2016-17 school year a season of getting serious about the many layers of continuous first impressions we make on the students and families that we serve each week? It will not only help you to influence other’s perception of your business, but it also projects trustworthiness and inspires confidence in your abilities.

Putting continual effort into positive first impressions exudes friendliness, approachability and likeability to your clients and opens doors to opportunities in the community. Put first impressions first on your to-do list this year.

Looking for more inspiration?  Sign up for the Misty Minute for weekly ideas to transform your studio and your life. 


One Small Yes

Check out Misty’s new book, One Small Yes, available on AmazonThis book is a must read for studio owners that are looking for ways to balance the dance of work and life.

“Amazing! One Small Yes is such a great book on finding your calling in life and how to navigate and work through living out the calling. Must have for all entrepreneurs!!” – Kristen, Absolute Dance

“Loved One Small Yes by Misty Lown. Outstanding book for anyone, especially the small business owner or entrepreneur. An inspirational book which helps the reader face challenges and give them the courage to continue to move forward and face what lies ahead. Loved it!” – Melanie, Tonawanda Dance Arts

“Reading Misty’s book was like opening my inbox and finding a personal email written just for me. She took my thoughts and feelings about being a small business owner, put them down on paper, and then step by step carefully explained what was holding me back from achieving more in life. Now I have no excuses to moving closer to my Yes.” – Nancy, Studio B Dance


The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.

More Than Just Great Dancing

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Studio Policies for Dance Tuition Payments

Discussing finances can be an uncomfortable topic, but with these tips you can make it easier to collect your dance tuition payments.

Dance studio owners must fill many roles to keep their classes running. It can be very rewarding to build a career out of dance and to have the opportunity to foster a love for the art in a new generation of dancers. However, studios are businesses, and running a business requires payment from clients in the form of dance tuition and other fees.

Discussing finances can be an uncomfortable topic, even for seasoned business owners. However, in order to keep a dance studio running, owners need to be able to collect dance tuition on time from their students. When those payments aren’t coming through when they’re supposed to, studio owners will have to have conversations with their students or with parents to rectify the situation.

Fortunately, there are steps that dance studio owners can take early on to mitigate some of these conversations and problems related to late payments. With the right planning and communication, studio owners can create a system that works for everyone involved.

State Expectations Early

One of the most important things for any business owners to do before providing a service is make their expectations known from the start. Studios should have their prices and policy information clearly visible on their websites. When students enquire about classes or programs they should be given an information packet that has a clear, direct section dedicated to dance tuition payments.

While that should be more than enough to help keep students informed, the fact of the matter is that some people simply won’t read those kind of documents carefully. They’ll skim the parts that appeal to their interests and miss what they really need to know.

That’s why owners will need to verbally reiterate the structure to people as they sign up, and possibly even make a quick reminder announcement on the first day of class about payments or any other key policies that they don’t want anyone to miss. Remind students of where they can find this information so they can look back to it when they need to.

Dance tuition information should also be emphasized in class contracts. Use a bold emphasis for the numbers and make sure that the client signs all the right paperwork. If you want, you can even go a step further and ask that they specifically initial next to the payment due date information. If you say it enough and put it in writing your clients won’t be able to use “I didn’t know” as an excuse to try and shirk their responsibilities.

Give People Payment Options

Providing payment options for your students can encourage them to pay on time. Many times people who pay late aren’t trying to do anything malicious but are simply busy and lose track of the date easily. By making it as convenient as possible for people to pay, you can avoid the well-meaning “Oh, I meant to do that!” from your students and their parents.

An easy way to do this is to accept different methods of payment. Invest in mobile payment technology, which can let you accept credit card payments at the studio. According to a Bankrate survey, 9 percent of Americans report that they don’t carry cash on a regular basis. An additional 40 percent don’t carry more than $20 in paper money.

TutuTix POP is an app we’ve developed to let dance studios easily accept credit cards, anywhere, anytime.

Besides credit cards, while checks are decreasing in usage, you should still accept them. Most banks will allow you to deposit a check right through your smart phone, so it doesn’t need to be an inconvenience for you.

Give People Timelines

Another way to provide options is to give people a choice of how much they pay and when. You could reward people who pay for a full year’s worth of classes upfront by offering a small discount for a lump sum payment instead of paying month to month, or even for paying six or three months in advance. This could benefit you in a few ways.

For one thing, it can help stop those forgetful payers. They can write one check and not have to think about it again. It will also give you some extra cushioning in case several students stop paying on time during the year. Having that safety net from early payers can help keep late payments from doing any damage to your business while you work to collect from them. They may need that little incentive to do so, though, so small discounts that won’t break your bank can help incentivize them.

You can also use websites that will allow people to automate their payments. Some of these programs will send out due date alerts on your behalf, or you can also choose to send an email to all of your students yourself.

How to Collect Dance Tuition When They’re Late

It can be awkward to confront late payers, because sometimes people just can’t afford it. If a student starts the year with a good job and then suddenly gets her hours cut, she may find herself suddenly unable to hold to her agreements on time.

There are a few ways to handle people in those circumstances. If you’re willing to be lenient and allow students to continue classes even if their economic position changes, you should write that into your payment policy. If they know they can come to you and explain why they may be late with some of their payments you can deal with the situation early and not have to chase them down or guess why their payments have stopped.

You should decide before a session starts what the qualifications are for being allowed to pay late without penalty or before they need to suspend their involvement with the program. If you have to enforce either of those consequences, it will be easier and less awkward if you can point to a standing policy that’s been written out, Inc.com noted.

For students who can pay and just can’t seem to stay organized, you may want to implement a short grace period and then a late fee. Remind people with another written message that a fee is coming if they don’t pay, and then enforce it if they still don’t. People who can pay but routinely refuse to should have their access to school resources limited until they either start paying, or at least offer a viable reason for their lateness.

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Dance Recitals: Checklist for 2 Weeks Out

dance recitals

Only two weeks left to go before the recital – can you believe it? Your dancers are probably starting to feel some nerves, not to mention the stress you’re likely feeling as you run over in your head the zillion things you have to do before showtime.

Before you drive yourself crazy running around, take a breather and look at this checklist of the things you need to do over the next two weeks.

Host a Makeup Rehearsal

Whether it’s this week or next (before the dress rehearsal) make sure you hold a makeup and hair rehearsal for your dancers, and their parents if they want to join. A beauty rehearsal is a great way for novice dancers and the parents of younger students to practice how the makeup will be applied and how their hair will be styled. This way, you save the time going over the hair and makeup at the dress rehearsal, and there’s (hopefully) few or no questions before the actual recital.

It’s not just the newbies that need a beauty rehearsal, though. According to Dance Informa, even the most experienced dancers should attend a makeup and hair rehearsal before the recital, since this helps the dancers make sure that their hair and makeup styles are uniform and coordinated with the rest of the dancers in the group.

Have Recital Programs Submitted to the Printer

Recital programs are pretty much an expectation for dance recitals, as they help inform parents and patrons about the order of dances and the general timeline for the evening. At two weeks out, you MUST have your finalized program designs submitted to your printer to make sure:

  1. You have a timely delivery of the final product
  2. Any emergency issues can be resolved

Collect Pre-Orders of DVDs and Other Items for Dance Recitals

If you have the resources and manpower, it can be profitable to have a table at the recital selling performance DVDs, photos and other collectible items. However, collecting pre-orders a couple weeks before the event helps maximize profits and make sure every parent or dancer who wants the extras gets them. Send out emails and social media posts reminding parents to pre-order DVDs and other souvenirs and set a deadline for orders at least a week before the recital. You can use physical forms for orders, but online forms make things easy for both you and the parents.

Give Parents Detailed Drop-off/Pick-up Instructions

Dance Exec noted that it’s important that parents have detailed logistical information for the recital ahead of time. It’s a good idea to hold a pre-dress rehearsal meeting in addition to sending a detailed letter – over email is most convenient for the parents – that describes the drop-off and pick-up process, along with any reminders about ticket and DVD sales, costumes and other important dates and times, in addition to thorough directions to the venue if the recital is not held at your studio.

Need a letter or dance recital information sheet template? We’ve made an example sheet you can download and customize in Microsoft Word for your studio’s needs below:


Have “Day Of” Plans Finalized and Supplies Prepared

Two weeks before the recital – and in the week leading up to it – reach out to your volunteers to confirm that they will be helping out. Make sure you have enough volunteers to cover all duties. If not, you have time to recruit some last-minute helpers.

For some backstage organization ideas, check out this quick video:

Along the lines of volunteers, have all of your signs and backstage planning items printed/laminated/explained/etc. If you plan to have clear signs backstage that point to “Stage,” “Lobby,” “restrooms,” or particular areas of the backstage, have them done and checked off your list.

Need a quick backstage organization tip? Laundry baskets.

Put Together Supply Boxes

Michelle Spezio, director of Spezio’s Dance Dynamics in Buffalo, New York, shared a great tip with Dance Studio Life. She puts together boxes of frequently forgotten and emergency items like bobby pins, lip stick, hairspray, sewing kits, nail polish remover, tape, scissors and safety pins, and then places these boxes on either side of the stage and in dressing rooms. You should still remind dancers and their parents to bring their own back-up kits, but these boxes are much-appreciated insurance.

 

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Event Safety: Dance Recital Safety Tips

event safety

Recital season is an exciting time, but it can also be a cause of worry for parents. Recitals are typically, frenzied and fast-paced experiences, and parents may be a little weary of dropping their child in a chaotic situation. Here are some smart event safety tips to keep in mind this recital season:

Pack an Event Safety First Aid Kit

In addition to having a bag full of extra performance essentials, like bobby pins, hair spray and a spare pair of tights, you should also safety items, like Band-aids, Neosporin and wet wipes. Make sure you have a comprehensive first-aid kit on hand at the recital venue, too.

Make Sure Emergency Contact Info Is Up to Date

Emergency contact info is often a line parents quickly fill out without a second thought, but in the worst case that there ever is an actual emergency, this information will need to be up-to-date. In the weeks leading up to the recital, verify parent or guardian contact info and make sure it’s stored somewhere that’s easily and quickly accessible.

Do a Risk Assessment of the Venue

While you already have an overflowing to-do list to prepare for the recital, you must make time to do a risk assessment of the venue, noted the resource Safe Dance Practice. Tour the venue and note fire exits. You should also familiarize yourself with the venue’s emergency procedures, and alter them to fit the recital set-up if necessary. Record this information and make sure to share it with dancers, parents and all volunteers and studio staff members prior to the event.

Practice Safe Drop-off and Pick-Up Procedures

The nerves are flying before the curtain rises, but some of the most stressful times of a recital are when parents are dropping off and picking up their dancers. When you have a dizzying swarm of dancers coming and going or when you’re distracted by a million things all at once, it can be easy to lose sight of a dancer or not notice who came to get them.

There is software that you can purchase for checking in dancers, if you feel that it would help you organize the process better. Capterra noted that many check-in systems allow multiple ways to identify who is checking in, such as using the last name or phone number, or even a bar code. While software is not necessary, and may be beyond your resources, make sure you get the full name and contact info of the person who is checking in the dancer.

Think about what the best option is for check-out, too. You can have parents come directly to the dressing room during intermission or at the end of the show, or you can have a separate table staffed with volunteers to take the info of the family members picking up. Whatever you choose, make sure you fully brief the parents, dancers and volunteers on the event safety procedures.

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Backstage Management: 3 Tips for Organizing Dancers Backstage

backstage management

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:

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Dance Studio Registration: Back-to-School Starts TODAY!

dance studio registration

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.

  1. Finalize fall schedule
  2. Find one more teacher for Tuesday nights.
  3. Send out teacher contracts.
  4. Take one final look at tuition changes.
  5. 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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. “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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

More Than Just Great Dancing

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Dance Studio Management Software: Owner Reviews

dance studio management software

Editor’s Note: Check out the results of our most recent annual dance studio management software survey here.

For the second year in a row, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our most recent survey. We asked dance studio owners to answer questions about their dance studio management software. This year we’ve definitely noticed some recurring trends about how studio owners choose their dance studio management software, how they utilize it, and what they like and dislike about it.

Survey Highlights

  • The percentage of studio owners that are using dance studio management software increased 8% last year, from 67% in 2014 to 75% in 2015.
  • The three most important features of studio management software are still billing and payment processing, class management, and email or text communication, and online registration is gaining in importance.
  • Studios that fully embrace credit card payments see a vast majority of student payments come in via that method, though studios across the country vary widely in their ability to process credit card payments.
  • Overall satisfaction with dance studio management software has increased by 7%, with 82%  indicating that they were either “extremely satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied”.

Read the In-Depth Report on Survey Results

To see the full summary of the survey results here.

 

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The Ins and Outs of Dance Studio Rental

Dance studio rental is a fantastic way to maximize revenue. But don't hand over the keys just yet - read our guide to get started.

A dance studio is a large, open space suitable for a variety of activities, so why not get the most out of it? Dance studio rental is a fantastic way to maximize revenue. But don’t hand over the keys just yet – read our guide below to get started.

Why Rent out Your Studio?

Renting out your dance studio is a great way to generate extra income, especially during the slower summer months. Once you secure trustworthy renters, the effort on your end is minimal – you make money simply from letting someone use your space. Renting is especially helpful if you need to travel to attend a conference, perform in a show or even just take that well-earned vacation you’ve been putting off for years – with other people using your space, you can rest easy knowing that the power won’t be shut off at your studio while you’re away.

Dance studio rental also generates additional income by exposing your classes and services to new clients. Everyone that attends events held by renters at your studio will see firsthand the programs you offer and the space’s atmosphere, which can lead to new students. This type of exposure can sometimes be more effective than traditional marketing methods.

Who Can You Rent To?

The versatile design of a dance studio makes it a great fit for a wide range of activities. You can rent out the space for children’s birthday parties, and, if you have the resources, parents can hire one of your instructors to lead the party. The wood floors, high ceilings, sound systems and mirrored walls make dance studios a great fit for hosting fitness classes, like pilates and yoga.

If there’s a gym located near your studio, ask if they need extra space to hold their classes. Community groups and children’s scout troops are always looking for open spaces where they can hold events and meetings, too, along with local small businesses searching for an open space for team-building activities, retreats and training seminars.

Another creative way you can rent out your studio is by using it as a theater. Hanging black curtains on rods, adding seat risers and installing a few extra lights on the ceiling can transform a practice space into one fitting for performance. Dance Studio Life interviewed one studio owner who made an area of her studio workable as both a teaching space and a theater on a budget.

“You don’t have to have a large pocketbook to do the things you want to do. You just have to have a mission and share it—if you build it, they will come,” said Jonna Maule of Company Ballet School and Performing Arts Center in Spokane, Washington, in an interview with the site.

Once you’ve equipped your space with the basic theater equipment, you can rent it out to local performance groups, schools, dance troupes and bands. An added bonus is that your dancers now have a performance space in their studio, too.

“Successful renting depends on preparation and research.”

Liabilities to Consider

Successful and profitable renting depends on adequate preparation and research. Your first step should be to check whether your lease agreement for your facility allows you to rent out the space to other people, according to Dance Teacher magazine.

Safety is also another important consideration. Read up on your existing insurance policies and what they cover for outside renters and create a rental agreement outlining the risks the renter is responsible for that you can share with each client. It’s also necessary for the renter to have their own liability insurance so that you are not held responsible if they injure themselves during their classes or events.

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