To borrow a made up word by one of my favorite bloggers, Glennon Doyle Melton, Summer is a BRUTIFUL season at the dance studio.
BRUTIFUL? Yes. Beautiful + brutal = brutiful.
Summer at the dance studio is BEAUTIFUL for several reasons:
It’s a break from the marathon of weekly classes.
There is a more relaxed schedule with schools no longer in session.
It’s warm and sunny in Wisconsin for a couple of days; I mean months.
But, summer at the dance studio is BRUTAL for other reasons:
A break from classes means far less income to cover fixed expenses.
It can be hard to balance studio and home now that school’s out.
With only a few days of true summer to enjoy in Wisconsin, the last place I want to be is in the office.
If this sounds familiar to you, keep reading for 4 easy ways to fill your studio with summer dance camps and more and still carve out time for family.
Last year our Community Outreach Coordinator came up with an idea to offer an hour and a half long camp each month. At first I didn’t think that anyone would be interested in buying one lesson per month, but boy was I wrong! We had almost 200 students participate in our monthly community camps over the course of the school year. The short camps were so popular that we decided to offer eight of them for our summer session and I am pleased to say that we have had OVER 200 sign up this time. The lesson here is two-fold: 1) Be willing to try new things. My old summer programming had gotten tired and this was the perfect way to freshen it up; 2) Parents really appreciate a low commitment way to try out dance as an activity.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the first-time student who appreciates community camps are the intermediate and advanced students who appreciate private lessons. While private lessons in and of themselves are not new, they way we package them is. Consider selling your lessons in a 10-pack for a discount or connecting them to content specific themes such as choreography, flexibility, core strength or turns. Content-focused lessons are more attractive to students than generic ones.
Hosting guest artists has become a staple of summer programming at my studio over the past ten years. The visiting teachers allow us to fill camps and programs during the summer months when our own faculty is travelling as well as get access to fresh choreography for our students before the school year starts. If you haven’t hosted a guest artist before, start with something as simple as having an alumnus who is home for the summer guest teach some classes. If you are ready and able to do more, consider a source like Stage Door Connections to deliver ready-made workshops with professional dancers to your doorstep.
About ten years ago we started requiring our team to participate in our annual Dance Camp in August. It was a great opportunity to kick off the year with technique classes and choreography. Soon we added a Stay Strong All Summer series of weekly classes to the roster in order to keep kids moving in the weeks between the spring recital in May and the big camp in August. This helped to keep both the teachers and the students active in the months of June and July.
As our summer schedule grew at the studio, it became harder to carve out much needed time for family over the summer months. A few years ago, I decided to pull myself off the June schedule and spend some time driving across the country with my family for a reunion. I was nervous about how things would go while I was gone and even more worried about what families would think about my absence. But, then the most beautiful thing happened…the studio survived without my involvement for a few weeks and most of the families told me to have a great time on vacation. Win-win!
Friends, I want you to fill your studio with activity in the summer, but not at the expense of being able to take a break with your loved ones. So, fill those summer hours with community camps, private lessons, dance camp and team classes, but don’t forget to put your family on the schedule as well. You can always teach another class, but you never get a second chance to raise your kids.
Happy Summer, everyone!
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Check out more articles on summer dance camps and other summer programming here.
With the chilly temperatures and few hours of daylight, summer seems ages away. While it’s hard to imagine lazy days of sun during not-so-fun January, it’s a good time to start thinking about how you will generate revenue for your studio during the summer months. Since many families go on vacation, ensuring your dance studio has an income from May to September takes some creativity. There are many summer dance ideas that your studio can keep revenue up during the summer months, including camps, intensives and workshops, and by renting out your facility.
During the summer, we’re all guilty of spending a few too many minutes daydreaming about the beach while we’re supposed to be working. But keep in mind that kids are even more susceptible to laziness and distraction during these dog days. To remain profitable over the school break, dance studios need to offer creative programs that keep students engaged and entertained.
Here are some summer dance ideas your studio can generate income this summer:
Summer camps are a win-win for everyone: Kids get out of the house, parents get some more time for themselves and dance studios get increased visibility. Camps can take place over a few days, a week or even a full month. Whichever duration you choose, the important thing is that your attendance policy is flexible. Since families have vacations and other commitments during the summer, letting students drop in and avoiding scheduling camp on Fridays and weekends makes the program convenient for parents. Also, allowing parents to pay for a total number of days, as opposed to one set fee for the entire camp, accommodates summer plans and reduces stress, which ultimately means greater profits for your studio.
Camps are especially great for young children, who are typically at home during summer break with lots of energy to spare! While your camp should include some elements of dance, it’s important to keep in mind that kids are raring to let loose and have fun. A creative camp theme that combines movement with crafts and other activities will garner the most interest and keep kids engaged.
Here are some easy theme ideas:
Princess Party: Kids will love living out their fairy tale dreams with this theme. Have them wear their favorite costumes to camp and spend the day dancing to songs from princess movies. Kids can decorate crowns as a fun craft, and lunchtime can be transformed into a royal tea-time!
Fairy/Butterfly Garden: Have the kids don sparkly wings for a day of fluttering fun. After learning some simple choreography, campers can “fly” around the room, maneuvering their way past some easy obstacles. The fairies or butterflies can pair up and learn a dance routine together that they then present for their friends. For a craft, the fairies can decorate wands and the butterflies can draw or paint colorful butterfly friends.
Pirates: A great idea from Dance Studio Life is offering camps that are geared more toward boys at the same time as your other camps, since parents are then more likely to enroll siblings. Mini-mateys will love a swashbuckling pirate camp, where they can learn simple dance-inspired “sword fight” routines (with foam cutlasses, of course!) and watch scenes from their favorite pirate films.
Intensives appeal especially to teenage and young adult dancers and are a great chance for students to dive into subjects that they may not have a chance to learn about during the school year. Try to make them as creative and in-depth as possible to attract the most students. To give your intensive an extra draw, hire “guest teachers” from local universities or big city-studios. Another idea is to focus your intensives on unique specialty subjects that expand students’ experience with dance. For example, Juilliard’s three-week summer intensive includes classes in yoga and improvisation, and collaborates with the music program. Another creative idea is the Dance College Preparation Intensive offered by Cornish College of the Arts, which provides students with technique classes in several styles along with lectures in helpful areas like essay writing.
One-day workshops are flexible and low-commitment, which makes them perfect for the summer months. To attract the most students, keep the purpose of the workshop ultra-specific. Dedicate the day to improving a specific set of moves, or focus on other useful skills, like choreography or improvisation. Think about an area that’s important for a dancer to learn in order to improve and grow, but that isn’t usually offered in regular classes. For example, Skidmore College’s Summer Dance Workshop includes a course in Performance Techniques.
“Rent out your studio for birthday parties or town recreation programs.”
Rent Out Your Studio
In addition to offering the programs above, renting out your studio will help you garner a higher income during the summer. Rent out the studio for birthday parties and town recreation programs or to school teams and fitness instructors. Consider the demographics and specific needs of your community to generate the most revenue from renting out your facility. DanceTeacher magazine profiled the owners of Downtown Dance Factory in New York City, who began offering birthday parties after noticing that there was a space in the local market.
“We knew from our own experience as moms that there was a demand for interesting, well-run birthday parties, and in downtown Manhattan, hardly anyone has room for that type of party at home,” said Hanne Larsen, one of the owners, in an interview with the magazine.
Beyond creating additional income, renting out your facility introduces new dancers to your programs. The more people that come into your studio, the better, and many parents whose kids attend events or parties at your studio will enroll them for classes come autumn.
Keep your studio hot this summer with these creative income generators.
Summer vacation means a break from school, but it shouldn’t mean a break from dance. The summer months are a great time to seek additional training opportunities that you wouldn’t have time for during the rest of the year. Dance intensives and workshops both provide fantastic opportunities to hone your skills and broaden your horizons, and are rewarding ways to spend your summer break and benefit your dance career.
Intensives are generally geared toward higher-level dancers, have a focused lesson plan and long duration- lasting anywhere from a couple weeks to a month. Workshops, on the other hand, are shorter, ranging from a single day to a weekend or full week, and are more open to dancers of all skill and experience levels. Each type of summer dance experience has its advantages, and it’s important to fully understand them in order to make the best decision for how to spend your break.
Define Your Goals
The first step to deciding between an intensive or a workshop is defining your goals. Make a list of why you want to attend a summer program and what specific skills you hope to gain from the experience. Ballet Scoop suggested asking yourself whether you want to just improve your technique or want exposure to college recruiters, directors and job opportunities. Do you want to add a new style of dance to your repertoire, or do you want to learn from a renowned instructor? Once you know what you want to get out of your summer dance experience, you can better evaluate which type of program is the most worthwhile.
Intensives are great for advanced dancers who are working toward the next phase in their careers. Intensives at a company school or university are designed to prep students for entry into a professional position or college career, and connect students with influential directors and decision-makers. Since many dancers attend intensives in a major city, they get a taste of what employment opportunities there are in that area, noted Dance Informa magazine. If dancers have their sights set on certain college programs, then attending an intensive at that school can help them form valuable connections and gain a better understanding of the skills and qualities most desired by the school, which gives them a leg up when audition times come around.
Alternatively, workshops are generally found locally in towns of all sizes. They are a great choice for younger dancers who have never been away from home before and for novice dancers or those looking for a fun dance experience with minimal commitment, since they typically focus more on different styles and techniques than career prep.
Scheduling and Costs
Another important factor to consider are the costs and schedule demands of each program type. Intensives generally cost much more than workshops, though the experience can be well worth the money. Dance Spirit magazine recommended that dancers consider any pre-arranged travel plans or other commitments that they may have during the summer when choosing a program, too. In some cases, a weekend workshop might be more feasible than a month-long intensive in a far-away city that offers little flexibility.
Dance intensives typically include more focused practices and lessons and stick to one style of dance, which is great for dancers looking to advance their skills and gain a professional edge. For dancers of all levels who are looking to learn a new dance style or jazz up their practice, workshops may be the better option, since they generally have a more laid-back environment that’s more open to experimentation. And being able to dance in multiple styles is a great advantage in college auditions. As Steps Dance Studio noted:
“Summer is your chance to move your body in different ways and try new styles. Nowadays, choreographers want to work with dancers that are versatile, who pick things up quickly and who can capture different styles immediately.”
Finally, dance intensives and workshops offer dancers different levels of personal development. Traveling away to an intensive gives dancers the chance to not only improve their skills, but grow as individuals. Dance Informa noted that intensives prepare students to be self-sufficient, which they’ll need to be as professional dancers, and to step beyond their comfort zones. The new and unfamiliar environment enables dancers to gain new perspectives and see themselves in a different light, which forms a stronger self-identity. Dance intensives also provide students with a rich sense of community and can help them form deep relationships with other dancers.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing a summer dance experience. Consider duration, costs and goals – both personal and dance-related – to make the best choice for you.
As I sit down to write this article, it’s 10 below zero outside the doors of my studio. We are in the depths of winter in Wisconsin and summer is on my mind. But, I’m not thinking about vacations or visits to the local pool. My mind is fixed on the programming I can offer to bring kids IN to the studio once school is OUT.
Summer is typically a hard time to keep things going for school year-based businesses such as ours. I suspect that if you are reading this article you, too, are looking for ways to strengthen your summer programs.
If so, keep reading for 7 Ways to Ensure a Stronger Dance Summer! The road to a strong summer starts NOW.
Take an afternoon to pound through this checklist. You’ll thank yourself in July.
Ensure your summer success by taking time to plan today.
Survey the families. Do you remember when you were a student and your English teacher told you to consider your audience before writing a word of that research paper? Turns out she was right. You have to know who you are speaking to before creating a single offering. Are your families looking for weekly classes in the summer or would they rather come every day for one week straight and then move on to other activities? Are they looking for theme-based camps or technique-based intensives? You’ll be surprised how much clarity you can get just by sending a simple survey to your families before the planning begins. Not ready to survey parents? Ask your students☺
Gather the troops. A successful summer program depends on having not just ENOUGH staff, but the RIGHT staff, to pull it off. If your parents want weekly summer ballet classes or the opportunity to get a jump-start on next season by setting solos in the summer, you are going to have to make sure you have the specialists around to serve those needs. Once you know what your clients want from your summer program, you can start confirming availability with teachers.
Study the landscape. As a mom of five kids I know that the competition for our summer spending is hot. There will be a night not too far from now when I sit at the kitchen table with ten brochures for summer camps for my kids in front of me. Your dance parents are no different. They are also trying to give their kids as many interesting and meaningful summer experiences as they can. Maximize your chance to be a part of their summer schedule by understanding what your programs will be competing against. In our community, the university, school district and parks district all have robust summer programs so I make sure my pricing and program packages are comparable. For example, if they are all offering weekly day camps, it doesn’t make sense for me to offer a program that meets once a week all summer. It simply wouldn’t line up with the other things kids are doing and would likely be passed overcome scheduling time.
Call in the experts. Summer is a great time to call in the experts. Start sending emails today to the guest teachers you know who might be willing to come in and share their knowledge with your students this summer. And, don’t forget about experts that are complementary to dance: nutritionists, photographers, boot camp instructors, sports psychologists, yoga instructors, chiropractors and more. Your community is likely bursting at the seams with people who have an expertise that would benefit your dancers, saving you the expense of flights and housing for guest teachers.
Brand the boring out of it. When my kids became school age I became a consumer of summer camps as a parent for the first time. I immediately noticed was how EXCITING the programs were. All of the sudden, my offering of “Summer Ballet Classes” looked pretty bland next to “Flip with the Ninjas Camp” that gymnastics was offering. Since that time, I’ve made a real effort to come up with attractive themes, catchy titles and compelling logos to capture the imagination of the reader. A generic “Jazz 1 Class” may be appropriate for the school year, but it just won’t cut on the summer camp circuit.
Publish and Promote. We may be in the digital age, but printed brochures still rule the summer camp world. Remember when I talked about sitting around the kitchen table with camp brochures and mapping my summer schedule out? That’s a real thing for parents. For as great as online everything is you still need to get your summer brochures into the hands of parents. Start with your existing clients and then work your way towards new families via community expos, local family publications and partnerships with other like-minded businesses.
Refine and Repeat. Monitor enrollment trends as you ramp up towards summer. Some of the programs you offer will be bursting at the seams and some might just be a bust. Decide early to increase offerings of summer classes and camps that are doing well and to cut program that will not have enough kids to make a go of it. This will give parents a chance to choose another class or camp to fit their schedule.
Summer success starts today. Are you ready to do the “winter work” now to have a great summer later?
Remember this Broadway song? “Summertime….and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumping and the cotton is high.” Well, that may be true for Porgy and Bess, but in my world summer can be tough. If I were singing that song, the lyrics might go more like, “Summertime…and the livin’ ain’t easy. Students are jumping and the overhead’s high!”
Summer enrollment drop is a natural phenomenon as families try other activities, head out for vacation, or just plain take a break. As a mom, I totally get it. I have five kids and summer is the best time for us to decompress and get out the scheduling grind.
But, when I look at summer through the eyes of business ownership, there is no doubt about it—the show must go on!
If you are looking for ideas to take your summer from fizzle to sizzle, keep reading for Seven Summer Savers, including summer dance camp ideas and more!
Pre-Pay the Rent (or Mortgage) – Payroll and utilities may fluctuate by the season, but rent and mortgage obligations stay the same all year around. Save yourself summer stress by pre-paying all or part of your summer rental or mortgage over the course of the school year. By paying a little bit more each month when tuition is steady, you can step into summer with confidence even though cash flow may not be as strong.
Weekly Stay Strong Classes – Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best solutions, so read the following statement twice. “The best way to keep things going is to keep things going.” Sometimes we get so caught up in doing something “new” for the summer that we forget to work what already works. Weekly classes work for us all year long. To that end, we run a six week session of regular technique classes to keep our company kids in shape over the summer. No splash, no flash, just six weeks of solid technique classes. Last year we had over 100 kids participate in this program.
Themed Kid Camps – If you want to capture the hearts of kids, look no further than the toy aisle at Target. What are the hottest selling toys, movies and games for kids? Once you figure that out, you have a treasure trove of ideas for theme-based camps at your fingertips. We have had over 200 kids participate in Frozen-themed camps with no sign of slowing, and there are plenty more warm hugs with Olaf ahead on our summer roster.
Master Class Series – Once a month each summer we will bring in a master teacher for a series of classes. These two- to three-day workshops give students a chance to spread their wings technically and artistically without the expense of travel. Get more out of master classes by asking teachers to bring choreography selections that can be used for future community events or competitions.
Alumni Features – Summer is a time when graduates return home from college and are looking for work. Motivate your current students by letting them take class with alumni who are dancing in college or have established careers. Featuring alumni is also a great reminder to parents that dance lessons can add up to great things for students in the future.
Look Outside the Box – One of our best summer programs has been selling technique to local dance teams. These students may not have time to take weekly classes during the school year, but summer is a different story. Add value to your team class by bundling classes with choreography or complimentary cleaning sessions for competition later in the year.
Private Power – If you are looking for a way to not only strengthen your dancers, but to make use of studio space in the summer, nothing is more flexible than private lessons. Take the administrative hassle out of private lessons by using an app like SignUpGenius.com and put the power of private instruction to work for you this summer.