Editor's Note

As we put together our annual studio business issue, a theme began to emerge. Not only did it seem the biggest challenges faced by studio owners were caused by things they couldn’t plan for, it was often a matter of not knowing the right questions to ask. Sound familiar?


In this issue these resilient entreprenuers tell how they solved problems or simply faced up to a new reality with grace and determination.


- In “Creating the Dream Studio," we’ll give you the questions four studio owners wished they’d asked when renovating space. It will help you troubleshoot for your next building project.


- In “Surviving the Storm," you’ll read about studio directors who learned they could overcome famine, flood and fire—with the help of their communities.
l And in “Built to Last," you’ll meet the charming Blackstones, who’ve grown (and changed!) as businesspeople over 30 years. They literally danced their way into our hearts the rainy afternoon we visited Denise Daniele Dance Studio in southern New Jersey.


If you enjoy these stories, I invite you to attend the Dance Teacher Summit, July 27–29, when studio owners and teachers will gather in New York City to share best practices and inspiration. Talk about community! All year, you work hard, often on your own, to make everything happen. Imagine what takes place when 1,600 people just like you come together. It’s pretty incredible. www.danceteachersummit.com


In the meantime, I’d love to hear what’s on your mind. Write to me at khildebrand@dancemedia.com or “like” Dance Teacher on Facebook.


Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

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Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

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Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

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