Summer Shape-Up

By Arnett, Lisa | Dance Teacher, June 2007 | Go to article overview
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Summer Shape-Up


Arnett, Lisa, Dance Teacher


BUSINESS How-To

Keep the summer months profitable-and build your bottom line for fall.

After the momentum of the spring recital season, the slow summer months are a perpetual puzzle for studio owners. "We still struggle with how to live through the summer," admits Elaine Pinto, owner of Dance Attack in Los Gatos, California. "We consider it a success if we only lose $20,000, which is two months' rent."

Some owners amp up their class offerings in an attempt to bring in extra revenue and attract new students. To kick-start the summer, for example, Kimberly Lewis of Kimberly Lewis School of Dance in Phoenix, Arizona, enlists big-name teachers for the studio's summer dance camp, which runs five hours a day for several days and covers multiple dance forms. This year's headliners include Barry Youngblood, Doug Caldwell, Eddie Garcia and Blake McGrath. "I open up my dance camp to dancers from all over our state, so dancers do not have to be registered at my studio to attend," says Lewis.

Others head in a completely different direction. "To me, the bottom line is my dancers and staff," says Karen Daggett, owner/director of All That Jazz Dance Studio in Grants Pass, Oregon. "Rather than struggle to keep regular classes in session during the summer months, I use that time to rejuvenate, decompress and enrich myself, my staff and my dancers."

From cross-country trips to creative camps that draw new students, here are seven summer tips to help you stay in the black, increase your visibility in the community and boost fall enrollment.

Keep Class Sessions Short

Erratic schedules and family vacations are notorious for making summer attendance unpredictable. Whether you're planning regular classes or a special intensive, keep these disruptions in mind by limiting your sessions to a few weeks at most.

Instead of working against students' and parents' busy schedules, Zenon Dance School in Minneapolis accommodates them by running several three-week sessions throughout the summer rather than one long one. "This allows for a shorter time commitment and flexibility for parents," explains Denise Gagner, school coordinator. Pinto has shortened her summer camps even more: "We have made it a policy to have all summer camp activities last just one week," she says. "This is to avoid the question, 'I can only do the third week, can I still take part?'"

Require Summer Training

One way to keep summer enrollment up is simply to make it mandatory. Emphasizing the importance of continuous training, for example, has helped Lewis keep her serious dancers active throughout the year. "I really stress that a dancer must train year round," says Lewis. "Dancers cannot take the summer off from their technique."

Lori Pryor, owner of Dance Foundations in Columbia, Maryland, goes a step further and requires senior students to complete a set number of classes. "The older students are required to continue their studies with evening classes or a two-week camp," she says. "This helps our bottom line, but it also produces better dancers since they aren't just vegging by the pool all summer."

In late summer, Pinto holds a mandatory choreography camp for her performing company. "This is guaranteed income for three weeks in August," she says. "It also benefits us by [starting rehearsals for] the bulk of our competition choreography, and we can avoid taking up all those fall weekends with extra rehearsals."

Start the School Year Early

Some teachers fill the slow months by getting a jump-start on the fall. For instance, Lewis holds events usually reserved for the busy fall session in the second half of the summer. She runs her competition company rehearsals the first week in August, rather than during the first week of the fall session, followed by three weeks of intensive rehearsals.

"Another way I keep dancers busy is by starting early to prepare for The Nutcracker," says Lewis.

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