How to Make Dancers Excited About Your Studio This Year
We’ve all seen it, Lizzie enrolls for classes with a self-expressed love for all things dance! Lizzie is at the studio every day possible. Eager to learn, applies corrections, and has a charismatic presence on stage. Then, it happens…. Interest wanes, classes get skipped, and when asked what happened?
- I’m not having any fun!
- I just don’t enjoy it anymore.
- Class is boring.
- All my friends are at _____ .
You don’t want to lose another talented dancer to another activity.
What do you do?
Here are 4 ways to make dancers want to stick around and get excited about your studio.
- Include everyone
- Make Connections with Dancers, and Their Grown-ups
- Broadcast the Benefits of Dance
- Make Classes Memorable
It starts in your Dance classes.
Well, it started in your recruiting process (but that’s a whole other topic).
Dancers get excited about your studio; they want to be there, enjoy being there, and have friends there.
So, how does your studio become the place to be?
➺ Include everyone
Include everyone in your classes.
Yup, I said everyone.
Every individual who has a desire to learn dance.
Every individual who gets excited about dance (and coming to class).
Every individual who wants to move in new and creative ways.
Dance is brand new to every single new dancer.
It is challenging for every single individual who learns it.
Challenging in different ways, but challenging, nonetheless.
At a studio where I taught, there was a dancer who thrived through years of ballet classes. Did it start that way? Nope. This young dancer had an atypical physical body and fell all the time in the first few years of classes. By the teenage years, it was a different story. The basics of barre trained stiff and locked muscles on how to function. The exercises worked to improve mobility in all areas of life, in and out of the studio.
Sound familiar? Increased muscle control. Improved mobility.
It sounds like the story of so many dancers, everywhere.
Include all individuals. Make them feel welcome.
You set the tone for your Studio.
➻ Make Connections
“Build a bridge of understanding between yourself and others.
Then cross it.”
Connect with Dancers
Greet each one. As they enter the studio, or when you enter the studio, or throughout the class.
Hi. Hello. Hey. Howdy. Ciao.
Make it unique or keep it simple. Same difference. The point is, you take the time to acknowledge each dancer. Doing so communicates the value of their presence in your class. When they miss class, others feel their absence. (Btw… this isn’t about making them feel guilty for missing a class.)
It tells them that they are relevant and important.
What if each of us heard that on a regular, consistent basis?! Game changer, right?
When you greet them, use their name.
And, for the love of all things tutus, use the correct pronunciation of their name. 🙂
I can’t stress this one enough. It’s a little personal, yep, it is. Hearing every possible pronunciation of my name was frustrating, annoying, and irritating. Most of all, it distracted me from the focus of ballet class. It made me question why I was there, in that specific class.
Take a Genuine Interest
Ask simple questions about their interests outside of dance. Phrase them so that you get a yes or no answer.
Is your cat feeling better?
Did your band concert go well?
Ask these types of questions as they are relevant and a natural fit into conversations. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, nor an entire life story, but enough to convey that you care about them in a holistic way.
Make the effort
Take a few breaths & return your focus to the human element before class begins.
Studio life, and all the things that happen in order for the classes to take place, can be time-consuming. At times, it feels like they need more brainpower than an individual can gather at any given moment. I hear ya.
It is easy to get stuck in the headspace of the combinations/exercises/choreography. It can make you come across as a task-master and seem unapproachable.
Make no mistake, focus on class is a good thing.
Keep that focus and make the effort to greet your dancers and convey your genuine interest.
Share your story
This one often gets overutilized or underutilized.
Stories about your journey bring humanness to you in the eyes of your students. They portray what life as a professional dancer/teacher/choreographer can be like.
Make your stories relevant. Sometimes we want to share stories for the sake of sharing stories, find a way to tie them into your lessons.
At my first Summer Intensive, Todd Bolender walked in to teach ballet class. Unannounced. We stood a little straighter and knew it would be a unique and memorable class. And, that we needed our A-game. We didn’t make it past tendus. He thought ours were sloppy, lazy, and needed major improvement. We spent the better part of 45 minutes at the barre. Doing tendus. *gulp* Center wasn’t much different…
Whenever I see similar quality tendus, this story immediately pops into my brain, but I don’t always share it. Sometimes I impart “Mr. Bolender would not approve of those tendus!” and move on with the next exercise.
Show how it applies to your dancers, at that moment. When stories are vague, students get distracted or worse, check out.
Keep it brief.
Be Caring and Kind
Connect with their Grown-ups
Hi. Hello. Hey. Howdy. Ciao.
Use their names; and the correct pronunciation of them. 🙂
Know who goes with who. Pay attention to who the dancer goes to after class. Oftentimes you meet a parent at registration or for the first few classes. Then a grandparent or other caregiver takes over drop-off or pick-up.
Take a Genuine Interest
Find out what they do: their job, activities, coffee, or tea drinker. It doesn’t need to be a long, drawn-out discussion, basics are good. It shows that you see the person behind the label of Suzy’s Dad or Johnny’s Grandma.
Greet them when you see them around town. Be assertive. Introduce yourself if they hesitate or the recognition isn’t immediate. Dance Teachers often look very different out of the context of the Studio.
Make the effort
Be visible for a few minutes before & after class. In online classes, be the first to login & the last to logout. They want to know by seeing that you are accessible should they need you.
Some individuals will try to take advantage of these opportunities but most won’t.
Did you notice I said try there?
You hold the power of your time. Ask them to email their questions or to schedule an appointment. Then, move on. Be firm, and kind.
Provide opportunities for chats & questions – once a semester/year or in an online forum. (Those individuals who try to take advantage of your before/after class time? Tell them about your Q&A Session.)
Be an active member of the community.
Join the Chamber of Commerce and get involved. Many have monthly breakfasts or lunch networking events.
Hold staff meetings once a quarter at the local coffee shop. They will likely be more social interactions than a focused agenda. Communicate with your staff beforehand the importance of these social interactions.
Whatever it is, find ways to get you and your staff out into the community. It is a change of scenery for all of you plus the added bonus of being visible to the community. Which means you become a known entity around town. Meaning ticket purchases.
Financial side note: If you pay for coffee/treats/food, keep your receipt. Give it to your bookkeeper/accountant, or better yet, snap a pic and text/email it to them. This is a business expense that is eligible for a tax deduction. 🙂
Share your story
Make your stories relevant and keep them brief.
Stories don’t always have to be about dance. Sometimes they are about connecting with similar family traditions or favorite pastimes.
Be caring and kind.
➻ Broadcast the Benefits of Dance
Let me say that again.
Broadcast the Benefits of Dance. On repeat.
When learning Dance gets hard, the more subtle benefits come into play. Find ways to make dancers want to stick it out.
To name a few:
- Assertive Leadership
- Resilient Determination
- Creative Problem-Solving
- Graceful Strength
Have you ever written down all the benefits you received from your dance training?
Now is the time.
These are the things for which grown-ups are willing to pay. They usually don’t care whether Annie learns life skills from ballet or soccer. The quality of those skills and the quantity of those skills showing up in one activity is worth gold.
Dance is the way you teach these benefits. The benefits are what people pay for.
Once the grown-ups know they are paying for the benefits, not dance lessons, they see the value in money spent. Loyalty solidifies. They feel better about the activity their child is in.
They see the intrinsic value of your program and support you.
➻ Make it Memorable
“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
This is one of my most favorite aspects of getting dancers excited about a studio.
Making classes memorable!
Planning creative classes so that students become intrigued, then involved, then hooked. The light-bulb goes on and their faces light up! To me, it is one of the greatest joys of teaching.
Flexibility within Structure
Structure is vital to a thriving program. Your curriculum needs to be logical, well defined, and progressive. Classes need to be well-planned. There needs to be a distinct path from beginner to advanced.
When you walk into the studio with the “best class you have ever prepared” and the dancers are bleh. What do you do? Forge ahead?
Yep, been there.
This is when we need to adapt.
Learn to read the room. Use the connections you have with your dancers to assess when they are most teachable.
When energy levels are not where you know they need to be for the class you have planned, adapt.
Begin with a few minutes of stretchy, yogaesque movements to get their minds focused. Or make them move to get their blood flowing and flush out some stagnant energies because they’ve been on Zoom all. day. long.
This is one that can help with your ability to adapt, and brings fresh energy to the class.
When you need to work on a tedious & repetitive step, young dancers often check out. Once they have the basic concept of the exercise, change it up! Face different directions. Travel in a circle. Groups from the 4 corners.
Create a go-to “dancey” combo (when they really get to move & travel). Use it in the middle to break up a particularly tedious class or to end class with an energized tone.
??? Yep, I said homework.
They might actually want to do this kind.
This is all about getting them to think about dance & performance art outside of the studio. Then keeping them engaged when they are in it.
- coloring pages for littles
- crossword or word search terminology at age-appropriate levels
- ask dancers to submit videos of dance for you to choose a vid of the week to share with the class
For intermediate dancers still interested in coloring pages, display them on the mirror. Ask the dancers to take a few minutes to make observations. Use it as an opportunity to discuss what they each like and why. This helps to build an eye for art. They look at color combinations or interpretations of why they like what they like. Looking beyond the fact that their bestie colored it.
You might find that your older dancers like to look at them and make observations too. They might even ask to do a coloring page of their own. Why not?
Nonverbal communication is a pillar of dance performance. And it doesn’t *poof* show up on performance day. It needs to be taught, cultivated and nurtured.
Whether it is pantomime, charades, or expressing emotions, provide opportunities for exploration.
Be creative and have fun!
Getting dancers excited about your studio creates contagious energy.
There is a lot to unpack here, and it won’t happen in a single class. (Download the overview quick e-book here)
The more you incorporate these elements, the more excited dancers get.
Your studio becomes the place they want to be.
They sign-up for more classes.
Your revenues increase.
Stress levels decrease.
You get back to focusing on the reasons why you opened a studio in the first place.
Remember, this isn’t a fast fix nor a once-and-done thing. It takes time, consistency, and thoughtful construction. Once you get going, the positivity is contagious.
Running a Dance Studio presents all sorts of unique challenges. When you need resources to help, check out my blog and Resources & Templates page. Join the discussion in our Facebook Group.
If you would like more information about inclusion in dance, Boston Ballet has a great program. Check it out, or email me for some connections.