Building a dance studio from the ground up is an exciting endeavor, but it’s also an intimidating one. There’s a lot involved in transforming an empty lot into a gleaming dance studio. It’s important to spend time researching all the steps involved in the process so there are as few surprises along the way as possible. Failing to consider certain requirements or design standards can cause problems later down the road, and adding on components after your studio is already built is complicated, costly and time-consuming.
So, make sure to head into the building process confident and informed. Here’s a quick guide to building a dance studio the right way.
Before you break ground on building a dance studio, you need to familiarize yourself with local zoning and construction regulations and any operating permits you’ll need to acquire. Zoning laws dictate that certain types of businesses can only be built in specific areas, for example, commercial properties cannot be located within a certain distance from residential neighborhoods. Zoning laws vary by community, so the U.S. Small Business Administration recommended contacting your local planning agency to figure out the property laws in your area.
Your dance studio will likely also need a series of permits and certifications, including a “CO,” which is a certificate of occupancy. To receive a CO, your building will need to pass building inspections and receive fire safety and health permits, and the Houston Chronicle noted that some areas require dance studios to pass additional measures. So, make sure the design plans of your studio are compliant with the health and safety standards of your state and community.
You’ve probably danced in a studio that was too dark, had a floor that was too stiff or ceilings that didn’t seem quite tall enough. For your students to dance their best, they need to be in a comfortable and open environment that’s designed with them in mind, so it’s important to make sure every aspect of your studio is optimally designed. Consider these main components of a dance studio:
For the most effective practice, a dance studio space should be designed to mirror a performance venue, which means a wide, rectangular area. It may seem creative or cost-effective to design a rounded space, but irregular shapes like these make it difficult for dancers to easily determine the front of the room. A large area allowing for uninhibited diagonal movement is vital.
Think about how many students your studio space will need to accommodate at one time, as well. The British National Dance Teachers Association recommended providing a minimum of three square meters of space for every young dancer of preschool or elementary school age and five square meters for every older dancer. Specifically, it advised dance spaces for children to be at least 150 square meters and adult spaces to be a minimum of 10 x 9 meters. And think about your ceiling, too – it should be tall enough for dancers to lift one another without worrying about smacking their heads on a beam!
The wrong type of floor has serious consequences for dancers, and can damage joints and muscles. It’s important to consider your bottom floor layer and top it with ample padding and support. Wooden, sprung floors are the ideal type for a dance studio. Cement floors are always avoided, however if you’re building your studio from the ground up, it’s hard to avoid using cement as at least the bottom layer of the floor. Consider building a wooden, sprung dance floor slightly above the ground to ensure dancers are fully supported. Harlequin Floors provides a comprehensive, in-depth flooring guide that is a great resource for those building their own studios.
No dance studio is complete without mirrors, which are essential for perfecting form and technique. They should be installed seamlessly, so one single smooth image is presented, and dancers should be able to see their feet on the ground when looking into them. You can install barres in front of some of the mirrors, but make sure you have one wall with mirrors that are completely unobstructed.
Don’t leave figuring out your lighting until after your studio is built. As NDTA noted, the cost of installing wiring and sockets is much more expensive later on – after the studio is finished – than it is at the beginning of the construction process. Overhead lighting should be soft and florescent and evenly spread out across the room. Windows can be great for letting in bright, natural light, but make sure they are positioned higher up on the walls so as not to be distracting to the dancers.
Other necessary components for building a dance studio include lobby and office areas, ventilation and climate-control systems, sound insulation and security systems.
“It’s well worth spending the time to vet the best contractor to build your studio.”
Choosing a Contractor
With all the other things you have on your plate, you may be tempted to just hire the first contractor that pops up in a Google search. But it’s well worth spending the time to find the best contractor to build your studio. Make sure to thoroughly check the credentials of any contractor you’re considering hiring. G2 Builders recommended calling at least three previous clients as references for each company, asking for a copy of their licenses and making sure their insurance is comprehensive and at minimum includes liability and workers compensation.
Building a dance studio is a big undertaking, but with some research, planning and preparation you can have the studio of your dreams. A successful dance studio requires a strong foundation, so make sure you keep in mind the considerations above to build your studio the right way.
A dance studio sound system is an essential – the success of your dancers depends in part on whether they can practice and perform to music with a high sound quality. Unfortunately, many people are intimidated by the technical jargon associated with sound systems and may not be using the best one for their studios. Don’t let feeling overwhelmed stop you from getting the best sound system for your money. Instead, read through this simple guide to finding the right sound system for your dance studio.
Studio sound systems should include a music player, speakers and at least one amplifier. The music travels from the player and is amplified through the speakers to effectively fill the room. When possible, you should select equipment that is specially designed to work with the unique characteristics of a dance studio, recommended Kenleigh Industries, a sound equipment provider.
Studios have tricky acoustics because of their many hard surfaces, so general sound equipment may not be effective. The number of speakers and amplifiers you need for your studio depends on its square footage and ceiling height and on your class size, since the presence of people also affects how sound travels. The bigger your classroom space, the higher your speaker and amplifier power should be, advised Kenleigh.
According to Fitness AV, 80 to 200 watts is generally enough power for small studios, while bigger studios will need more.
Choosing a Music Player
If your studio is still playing music off of vinyl records, then it’s probably time for an upgrade. Your two main music format options are CDs and MP3s. A CD player is easy to use and connect to speakers, and ones with built-in recording and editing features will enable you to put compilations together or adjust songs to better fit with choreography.
Using MP3 files for your music saves a lot of space, and they won’t skip when dancers jump around, noted the Royal Academy of Dance. The source recommended purchasing a dual CD player and MP3 system for the most flexibility. You can play MP3 files without a docking station by directly connecting the player to the speakers via an auxiliary cord, however, you’ll miss out on remote capabilities, recording and other convenient features that come with a specially designed player.
It’s important to give some thought to how you install and set up your dance studio sound system to get the most out of it. The Royal Academy of Dance provided the following guidelines:
“Hi-fi separates should be wall-mounted at the front of your studio around 1.5m [4.9 feet] off the ground, away from the fingers of young children. Speakers should be wall-mounted around 2.5 metres [8.2 feet] from the ground on the front wall, at least 1m [3.3 feet] from each of the side walls. Basic loudspeaker cable is adequate for dance studios – make sure you get enough to run from the amplifier to both of your speakers. PA equipment can be mounted in a 19″ rack which can be portable (with wheels if possible) or attached to a wall. Be aware that powerful PA amplifiers can be extremely heavy and will require substantial support if wall-mounted.”
Depending on your prowess with tools, it can be wise to hire an AV specialist team to ensure your equipment is safely and correctly installed.
In addition to your music player, amplifier and speakers, there are other equipment and features that may be beneficial for your studio. One is pitch control, also known as varispeed, that is included with some CD players. According to the Royal Academy of Dance, pitch control is useful because it allows you to slow down or speed up songs.
However, the source noted that it may double or triple the cost of your music player. Another piece of equipment you might want to purchase is a wireless microphone so you can give instructions to the class over music without being restricted by cords. If you opt for a microphone, Kenleigh noted that you should also purchase a simple mixer, since it allows you to talk through the microphone while music is playing.
Additionally, it’s worth considering whether you want active speakers or passive speakers, according to the Royal Academy of Dance. Active speakers have built-in amplifiers, which make them heavier than passive speakers, so choose passive ones if you need your dance studio sound system to be easily transportable.
While music players are relatively inexpensive, amplifiers and speakers tend to come with a heftier price tag. However, consider amps and loudspeakers an investment. The Royal Academy of Dance stated that these two types of equipment “will often work perfectly well for 10 years or more if they’re not pushed beyond their limitations.”
While you’ll likely come across “integrated sound systems” in your search – music players, amplifiers and speakers that are sold together as a package – it’s more cost-effective to by the components individually, according to Fitness AV. This way, you can buy each piece of equipment and any add-ons over time, according to your budget, and can easily update or expand your dance studio sound system as your studio size or resources grow.
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.
You’ve put together your class schedule and written your studio policies, but one of the most important tasks still has to be done: deciding how you will process payments. As using cash and checks has fallen by the wayside, credit cards have become the preferred form of payment. Her are some tips for secure credit card processing for your dance studio!
Why you Should Accept Credit Cards
Accepting credit cards helps ensure your studio generates as much revenue as possible. One way it does this is by making it convenient for parents to pay tuition and other fees. Paying with a credit card takes just seconds and, depending on your system, can take place almost anywhere, whether online or from a mobile phone. Parents are already using credit cards for their children’s other activities and expenses, and by accepting credit cards you make sure parents can pay the way they prefer and don’t see your studio as that one difficult business they have to deal with.
As more and more dance studios accept credit cards, it’s important that your business remains competitive. Jon Koerber, software expert for dance studios and gymnastics classes, cited that online credit card transactions increased from $2.8 billion to $4.8 billion between 2006 and 2012, and they are only set to grow even more. Credit card processing is no longer weighed down to a clunky machine – they’ve been released online and in mobile applications. As Koerber wrote in a blog post for Capterra:
“You’ll also be losing business to your competitors if you not are doing business around the clock … And all the more so if [parents] can go ahead and sign up for classes from their living room after dinner. If your competitors have online registration and payment processing but you don’t, guess which dance studio will get the new customer after hours.”
Beyond providing convenience for your clients, accepting credit cards also makes everything easier for you. All the payment information will be stored in one place, which makes it simple to view or print revenue reports and quickly access the payment history of certain customers. All the complicated tasks involved with handling and depositing funds is left to the credit card service, which leaves you more time to run your studio.
What You Need to Get Started
You first need to identify which credit card providers you want to accept. Most business accept Visa and MasterCard, while some choose to also accept American Express. Then, you need to select a merchant account service. DanceExec explained a merchant account as “a kind of bank account designed to enable your business to accept payments by debit cards or credit cards. Your merchant account establishes an agreement between you the merchant and the merchant account bank on how to settle money you receive in the form of payment card transactions.”
Make sure the merchant account service you select enables you to accept credit card payments in multiple ways – ideally in-studio, online, over the phone and via smartphones. This way, parents can have a variety of payment methods available to them and can choose the one that’s most convenient for them, wherever they are.
Once you have chosen a merchant account and bank and have been verified, you can begin accepting credit card payments. While you can track and manage credit card payments on a separate system, most major dance studio management software companies enable credit card transactions in their overall system. This is a great option because the credit card transaction program is already fully integrated into the rest of your studio’s systems, which saves you time and headaches!
If you’re accepting credit card payments, you’re dealing with sensitive financial and personal information. So, you need to make sure you’re following the highest measures for security and privacy. Make sure the merchant account service you select has a strong record of PCI, or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, compliance.
Another security consideration is where the credit card payment information is stored. The information should not be kept on your computer or on servers owned by credit card transaction software that you use – instead, the data should be stored securely on an independent server.
Costs to Be Aware Of
Accepting credit card payments comes with several fees. One is gateway fees, which are the fees that merchant accounts charge each month for verifying that the credit card used in each transaction is in good standing. Other merchant account fees include a monthly fixed management fee and PCI compliance fee.
Additionally, there are small fees placed on every individual credit card transaction. These include an interchange fee, which depends on the type of credit card used, discount fees and per-transaction fees. The specific fee amounts vary from provider to provider, so make sure you compare these figures when choosing a merchant account to get the best value for your money.
Though setting up secure credit card processing requires some initial research, the benefits for your dance studio make it well worth the time.
You’ve jumped and soared to incredible heights throughout your dance career, but now it’s time to make your biggest leap yet. With a love of dance and a passion for sharing it with others, you’ve decided to open your own brand new studio.
Editor’s Note: Since the publication of this article, TutuTix has created an even more in-depth resource for studio owners looking to take their studios to the next level. It even includes an example business plan for a new dance studio!
Starting a dance studio involves considering a wide variety of categories that concern everything from advertising methods to payment processing systems. It’s a lot to think about, but following a checklist will help make the process a little less stressful. We’ve outlined the major categories involved in how to start a dance studio, and the smaller tasks that they encompass:
Of course, after passion and determination, the most important thing you need to open a dance studio is money! While you can’t predict every expense, try to prevent surprises.
Hiring a financial advisor is a smart move to make sure that you have sufficient savings to not only start your dance studio but continue operating it for the long-term. An advisor can also help you determine if you need to take out loans to help finance your business.
The first category you need to consider when starting a dance studio is location. You need to reconcile your studio’s ideal location with the facility size and layout that best suits your needs.
A studio located in a populated, busy area that’s visible to passing traffic will get you noticed the most and draw in more customers. The location should also be in a neighborhood that’s safe for children. Research the demographics of the area and how many other dance studios are located in the proximity.
When looking at building layout, consider how many rooms you want the studio to have and the number of office spaces, storage rooms and bathrooms needed. Make sure the lobby and reception area is spacious enough to be comfortable.
Your studio will also need to have more than enough parking spots to accommodate not only the daily class load but the added influx of parents and students during performances and other special events.
A strong, well-developed brand communicates who you are and what you have to offer to clients. Branding involves a range of duties, including choosing the decor of the studio, deciding on a name and creating a unique logo and sign.
You should create a business plan early on, and in this plan outline your mission statement, values and goals. Think about what makes you and your teaching style unique and valuable to students. Make sure you dedicate ample resources to advertising, because you will have to rely on it as a new and unknown studio.
Create business cards, brochures, a company website and advertising campaigns on social media sites. Contact local schools and community groups to investigate opportunities for partnerships and collaboration, and see if you can participate set up a table at at town events like festivals and parades. Hold an open house day, and consider offering incentives for signing up for classes on the day, like studio-branded dance gear or a discounted tuition rate.
A strong brand helps customers recognize the value of your services, so don’t skimp on getting your name out there.
Starting any kind of business is a confusing and taxing process that gets even more complicated when you add in all the legal mumbo jumbo. Consider hiring a lawyer to help you deal with these complexities.
A lawyer can read over and advise you on the lease of your building, and can help you make sure that you register your business correctly. Take out an insurance policy and draw up waivers and other necessary forms to help protect and support your studio.
Enlist the help of other legal and business professionals to ensure that your studio complies with all health, safety and environmental standards and that you possess all necessary permits and music licenses.
Order and install the big pieces of your studio, like padded or marley floors, floor-to-ceiling mirrors and barres. Buy a sound system for the studio, and sound-proof each studio room as much as you can to cut down on excess noise and distraction.
Is there sufficient lighting in classrooms, throughout the building and in parking lots? Beyond dance equipment, you also need the basic equipment required for running a business, like a computer system, studio-management software and payment processing system.
In order to accept credit card payments, you’ll have to register merchant accounts with the major providers. Install locks and a security system in the studio to help ensure it is safe and protected. You’ll need to maintain your studio, too, so set up regular shipments of cleaning supplies and restroom products. And don’t forget WiFi!
“Establish your studio policies early on.”
Think about all the things that will be necessary for you to successfully run your new studio. Establish your studio policies early on, including tuition rates and attendance and discipline rules.
Create your schedule, deciding when the registration period for classes will be, how many and which types of classes you will offer each week and when and where performances will be held throughout the year. Create a document including your policies and calendar and make copies.
Determine how many instructors and staff you will need to cover all your classes and what experience and skills you require, and hire those that are a good fit with the culture and attitude of your studio.
For more in-depth information on starting a dance studio, take a look at our Studio Start-Up blog category, or choose from any of the articles below:
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!
It’s halftime! No, I’m not talking about football (and I call the Packers’ mid-game break “intermission” anyway). I’m talking about halftime of the DANCE SEASON—the midway point for studio owners between the first days of class and the finish line of recital.
By now you are far enough into classes to be past the busyness of the season opener and into a routine of the season. Your time is likely stretched carefully between the behind the scenes work that keeps the business going during the day and the actual work of serving your clients in the evenings. Running a dance studio is a delicate balancing act of time management, often with no margin for error.
Time may be at a premium, but don’t let that be an excuse to overlook one of the most critical pieces of your business: meaningful communication with your teachers. As a studio owner, this is an ongoing challenge for me. I have five kids under the age of 14 and I am no longer in the classroom on a regular basis. I work on the studio every day, but because I’m not always at the studio when the teachers are, it’s really important to establish routines to keep communication flowing.
There are all sorts of tools that we use at the studio to keep in touch with teachers on a regular basis such as weekly emails, private Facebook groups for staff and quarterly meetings with the whole group.
For as great as all of those things are, nothing replaces the importance of meeting a teacher face to face in the middle of the season to give and receive feedback before recital and competition season kicks in.
If you are ready to step up your communication with your teachers, keep reading for 5 Ideas for Mid-Season Dance Teacher Reviews.
Have a clear definition of what winning looks like on your teaching team. At my studio every studio knows that we have five firm expectations of teachers:
Have an organized and well-disciplined classroom.
Cover the entire curriculum by the end of the year.
Follow dress code for yourself and students.
Have a well-rehearsed, age-appropriate dance for recital.
Continue to learn and grow as a dancer yourself.
These clear expectations become the basis of our Mid-Season Teacher Review.
Keep it simple. In each of these areas we ask teachers, “Where are you winning? Where are you striking out? What ideas do you have to make it better?”
Listen before offering advice. Start by asking the teacher these questions before you give any feedback. Only after they have had a chance to give their feedback, do we give our feedback as leaders.
Ditch the papers. Have a conversation. In my early years of studio ownership, I tried to develop an elaborate scoring system for classroom performance. I hated sitting there grading teachers and I don’t think they liked it much either. I have found it is much more effective to have a clear definition of what it looks like to be a great teacher at our studio and then to have a conversation with teachers about how they are doing upholding those standards. These conversations focus on the positive and on finding solutions for problems. The mark of a good review is when both people leave feeling equipped to better do their jobs.
Follow up. Does your teacher need support in a particular area to succeed with a difficult class or a challenging situation? Follow up with the coaching, resources or tools your teachers need to succeed.
Our main job as leaders is to equip the people we lead for success. A Mid-Season Review goes a long way towards making that possible!
For the second year in a row, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our most recent dance studio management software 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.
You can see the results of the dance studio management survey here!
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.
If you’re considering opening a dance studio, you may have a lot of questions. Well, you’re not alone. There are plenty of other aspiring dance studio owners with the same concerns. Consider a few of these frequently asked questions if you want to start a dance studio.
1. What’s the best place to open a studio?
Picking the right location for your dance studio can have a lot to do with your success rate. Of course, you want it to be in a spot that’s easy for parents and dancers to find and see—it shouldn’t be tucked away out of sight. It should also have adequate parking space—enough for staff, students and parents, Dance Exec stated.
It’s also a good idea to look at a location that has a space for a drop-off lane. That way, it won’t disrupt traffic flow but dancers can come and go as they please. The location should also be safe or else parents will not feel comfortable dropping off their children. Look for a space that is local to a park, a school or another establishment that welcomes children. It shouldn’t be near bars or other areas that are adults-only.
Another location consideration is your proximity to other studios, and whether you’ve taught or attended at those locations. Most studio owners would take offense at a former teacher or student opening a studio in a location that would place them in direct competition. Even if you were not previously affiliated with nearby studios, you’ll want to consider whether you’re willing to go head-to-head with those already-established businesses.
2. How can I afford to start a dance studio?
Owning a dance studio can certainly come with its expenses. Between leasing or buying a space and utilities and maintenance, costs can quickly add up. All studio owners need have a business plan, which should include an analysis of these and all other costs, before considering opening a studio. Again, it’s important not to skimp on the studio’s location to try and help your budget.
Instead, choose a smaller space at first that you can expand on later. Look into bank loans and see if there’s one you qualify for that’s reasonable for your budget. If you’re incredibly passionate about opening a studio but can’t afford the space, think about opening one in your basement or garage to help build clientele before moving to a bigger spot.
3. Where should I look for potential staff?
As an owner, you may attempt to run the studio on your own at first, and that’s OK. However, as your clientele grows, you’re going to need a little help. Consider posting ads for local college dance students to see if they are willing to take on an unpaid internship, Dance Teacher suggested. That way, you can save money and have an experienced staff.
If you’re impressed by their teaching skills, offer them a job down the road when you’re completely financially stable. If you are ready to hire instructors right away, the administration of those nearby college dance programs may be able to recommend suitable candidates. If there are any semi-professional dance companies in the vicinity, you might also want to send them information on open positions. Whichever route you take, make sure you are hiring staff with the right qualities for the job.
4. How do I come up with a good name for my studio?
If you’ve always wanted to open a dance studio, you may have a few names in mind. However, if this is a recent initiative, it might be more difficult for you to think of something. Picking a name is one of the very early steps in the process of opening a studio. Regardless of what you choose, it should be easy to remember. That means it shouldn’t be a long name, DanceStudioOwner.com noted. It should also be a name that clearly indicates you’re a dance studio, whether it has dance in the name or not. You can choose something simple, like Jenny Smith Dance Studios, or something that has a play on words, like At the Barre.
Finally, make sure that your name is easy to say AND easy to search for on the web. You don’t want a name that you have to constantly spell or explain—those can be hard to remember. On the other hand, you also don’t want to choose a name that’s too generic and risk people being unable to find you in an online search. Find a good balance!
My five kids are all getting ready to go back to school in the next week and along with registration for school comes paperwork…lots of paperwork.
Dance schools are no exception. In fact, among all the studio owners I have spoken with this year (and there have been hundreds), not a single one allows students to participate without signed registration forms.
And, yet for as many who are diligent with student paperwork, there are half as many who take the same care to create a dance teacher contract before class is in session.
If you have other people teaching for you, check out this list for 10 Tips for a Confident Dance Teacher Contract:
Binding – The first part of the employment contract should sets the stage for the rest of agreement. “Binding” establishes that the document is a binding legal document for the term set forth in the contract.
Terms – The terms spell out the basic agreement of how long your employee will work (usually the length of your dance season) and what they will do (position) during that time. To avoid possible future questions or problems, be as detailed as possible when describing what an employee’s responsibilities will be for the length of the contract.
Liquidated Damages Clause – This clause outlines what will happen if either party fails to fulfill the contract. For example, what will the consequence be if a teacher decides to leave mid-season? Spell it out now to avoid problems later.
Non-Compete – A non-compete clause protects you by prohibiting an employee from working for another studio, or opening their own studio, within a certain amount of miles and length of time. Non-compete language and viability varies from state to state, so check with your attorney for state specific language.
Closure Clause – This clause allows for the contract to become null and void if the studio ceases operations for a certain period of days (30 days is typical). Causes for ceasing operations include, but are not limited to, natural disaster, mechanical failure, fire, theft, lawsuit, bankruptcy, and personal emergency of the owner.
Compensation – This is the area to spell out what the employee will earn in exchange for the services provided. Be sure to account for compensation for non-teaching time such as meetings, rehearsals, recitals and competitions.
Benefits – You may be thinking, “I don’t offer benefits,” but I am confident you do. Do you provide complimentary lessons for children of staff members? That’s a benefit to your employees. Do you pay for convention fees or other continuing education opportunities? Again, that’s a benefit. A contract is an opportunity to spell out the great things you do for your employees over and above an hourly wage.
Absences – Now is the time to establish what the acceptable number of absences will be for the employees at your studio and how absences will affect pay and other privileges.
Professional Courtesies – A series of “professionals courtesies” are outlined in our employment contracts and include things such as arriving 15 minutes early to class, wearing neat hairstyles, adhering to dress code, returning messages within 24 hours and reporting any problems with students, parents or the facility to the leadership team in timely manner.
Employee Restrictions – Is there anything that is off limits for your employees? For example, our employees are not allowed to drive students to events, to use office equipment for personal use or to share confidential information about students. Any restrictions should be noted in your contracts.
You may also give consideration to including a policy regarding social media and a photo and video release as part of your employment contracts.
Regardless of your studio size or geographic location, a well-written contract is a foundation for a healthy employer-employee relationship. Will you take the time to write, or update, yours this year?
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.
You probably have a system for planning classes for dance season. Maybe you have some tried-and-true methods that you’ll be repeating or perhaps you’re going to revamp your class structure to better your studio. Either way, you should make a point to create class syllabi for the different courses you’ll be offering in the coming season. Here are some of the benefits that studio owners can reap from a structured dance class syllabus and a few pointers for drafting these documents.
Benefits of an Established Syllabus
A carefully crafted syllabus can benefit not only the teachers, but the students as well. When you take the time to create these documents for your classes, you can ensure that everyone will have a better experience at your studio.
The perks for instructors include:
Syllabi help teachers prepare for classes.
The document helps teachers keep the course on track throughout the year.
Syllabi serve as a reminder of the skills teachers need to cover.
It helps staff enforce studio policies.
It clearly establishes behavioral expectations for students.
According to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, the benefits of syllabi for students include:
The document can help students establish educational plans. In this case, it helps them to plan their growth as dancers.
It provides essential information, such as contact details, class times, rehearsal schedules and the like.
A syllabus serves as a remind of studio policies on behavior, dress code, attendance and more.
It informs students of what they’ll be learning, when they’ll be learning it and what they need to do to succeed in the class.
What to Include in a Syllabus
When you first sit down to create a syllabus, you may be tempted to simply jot down all your thoughts and goals for the class. This is a good way to get your thoughts down on paper, but you’ll want to create a document with a little more structure.
Start by writing the static parts of your syllabus – these sections will likely remain unchanged between courses and seasons. If you have a studio contract, you may even want to simply copy and paste the sections about classroom behavior, attendance, proper attire and other studio rules.
Next, you’ll want to create sections like:
Instructor info: Note who will be teaching the class and his or her contact information.
Class description: A general description of the course, genre and skill level.
Course goals: List the skills and techniques that students will ideally master over the course of the season.
Class timeline: Lay out the major events and lesson plans that will take place in the class. Include the topic for each class, as well as dates for performances and dress rehearsals if you know them.
Once you have these sections written, you may want to have the instructor look over the document and make changes or suggestions. This will ensure that the syllabus is a team effort and that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the class.
Don’t Forget to Revisit Old Syllabi
If you have syllabi that you’ve been using for years, it’s a good idea to revise them each season. After all, there are likely things that your studio could be doing better and you’ll want to reflect those changes in the document.
“We constantly reassess what we are doing, but it’s the team effort that makes it successful,” Peter Stark, dance department chair at the Patel Conservatory, explained to Dance Teacher magazine. “Star students come and go, star teachers come and go, but a methodology can maintain through that.”
Once you’ve written, revised and reviewed your syllabi, you’ll be ready to distribute them to the students, post them on your website and jump on into the new season of dance.
What makes a dance teacher great? Yes, knowledge of the art form and technical ability are important, but what sets the dancers apart from the teachers? Here are a few qualities that you may want to look for when you’re hiring dance teachers.
As is important in many other careers, passion is a necessary quality in a superior dance instructor. Not only will love of dance make even the toughest classes enjoyable, but a teacher with continually positive energy will pass that same joy on to young students.
Another important characteristic is flexibility. Dance teachers need to be able to go with the flow, and this is something that poses a struggle for some professional dancers. You never know when a lesson is going to fall flat with students or when a class will be particularly rowdy. A great teacher will adjust on the fly and make the most of each class, even when things don’t go according to plan.
Great dance teachers are often set apart from mediocre instructors by their dedication to the job at hand. Teachers who aren’t fully committed to explaining the necessary skills and molding young dancers often let little things slide in the studio. Maybe they aren’t willing to help out at dress rehearsal or won’t commit to extra hours with a struggling student. The once-in-a-lifetime teachers are the ones who are willing and ready to go the extra mile in the name of teaching.
Patience is a necessary virtue for all types of teachers. There will more than likely be difficult days with challenging students, and an awesome teacher will overcome these obstacles without losing her cool. Patience is doubly important for instructors who will be working with young or inexperienced dancers, as these students sometimes need a little extra time to grasp concepts.
Even great dancers with natural teaching ability will benefit from training geared specifically for dance education (as opposed to performance). While there are college programs in dance education, there are also other opportunities for instructors to hone their skills, like the teacher training schools offered by Dance Masters of America or Dance Educators of America. While there may be some positions, like assistant teachers, that may not necessitate a certification, requiring your teachers to have some more advanced credentials will greatly increase the quality and safety of instruction provided by your studio.
Finally, a truly top-notch teacher is one that you can count on to handle parents and students with the utmost grace and professionalism. When you have a great teacher on your staff, you won’t worry about him or her sullying the studio’s reputation by acting inappropriately.
Editor’s note: This article was updated to include additional information on dance education programs.
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.