Tips for owning a dance studio

For many of us, being a dancer is only a small part of the bigger, lifelong goal. Ultimately, dancers want the chance to inspire a new generation of dancers, to train younger dancers to reach their goals, and to provide the opportunity for the youth to become more educated in the ways of dance. Additionally, the sustainability of building a career out of dance relies on having a strong clientele that allows you to keep dancing in the long term. All of these dreams can be fulfilled by owning your own dance studio. At Dance Work Balance, we have gathered information from dancers who have set up their own dance studio, and we compiled a list of some of the most valuable pieces of advice that may help you get your own studio up and running.

tips for owning dance studio

Being a dance studio owner is different from being a dancer

This one is fairly self explanatory, but one of the most overlooked aspects of running a dance studio. As the owner of a studio, you will spend a significant amount of time doing things that are peripherally related to dance, but aren’t actually dancing. Some estimates say that you will be working on all other aspects of your dance studio (running your business and promoting your business for a start!) by an order of magnitude: For every hour you spend dancing, expect to put in about ten hours doing all the behind the scenes logistics that needs to go into making your studio function.

Develop your interpersonal skills

Being a studio owner involves interacting with clients much more than you ever did working in the entertainment industry. In the end, you will be spending much energy trying to make sure that your clients remain with you over time. The first year of being a studio owner will force you to learn new modes of interaction. Although the younger dancers who are in the studio are under your wing, in the end, you still need to be willing to appease the parents or the adults who are part of the studio.

Spend more time listening than speaking, especially when meeting potential new clients. Make sure you get an understanding for what their intent is on joining the studio, or what they want their children to gain after being a part of your dance studio. What skills do they want to gain? What dance styles are they most interested in? Are they interested in pushing and challenging themselves, or do they just want a venue to dance?

Of course, you can’t teach every class there. Naturally, you’ll also have to think of the instructors who you hire in your studio to teach classes. This is another time for you to work on your interpersonal skills. Some of your instructors will be wonderfully responsive, great teachers, well loved by their students, and responsible. They are obviously not your problem! The issue will be the handful of instructors you hire who are irresponsible, who do not regularly show up on time for their classes, and do not respond to your texts, emails, or messages. It now becomes a difficult question of what to do: Can you inspire them to become a better employee? Or do you warn them a few times before letting them go? It becomes a difficult question in the middle of the dance season when their students still depend on them until the recital.

Related to your interpersonal skills, spend time networking.

Learn secondary skills

The two main important skills as a dance studio owner are obviously dance and business sense. But on top of that, there are so many other skills that you should learn to become a successful dance studio owner.

You will have to become knowledgeable in legal issues regarding your city and state with respect to running a business. On a related note, there are many differences in business taxes that are different from doing your personal taxes. They can be quite overwhelming the first year, but they soon become routine. Just expect to put aside extra time at the beginning!

own dance studio tips

To be successful in your endeavor, you’ll have to learn videography, photography, and marketing skills - something that dancers aren’t always knowledgeable in. Luckily, in the generation of the internet and YouTube, you can very quickly and easily find how to run a marketing campaign using a combination of your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and every other social networking site available. You’ll have to learn the most basic features of photo editing software, you’ll learn the foundations of video editing software, and you’ll learn how to manage analytics like a pro.

Of course, music editing is an essential skill for any dancer, but you may have gotten away with not learning how to do it yourself. When you start running your studio and you have several groups of dancers who need their own cut of music, you may have to learn how to do it yourself. Software such as Adobe Audition isn’t free, but it’s wonderfully intuitive software. Alternatively, Audacity is the premier free, open-source audio editing software.

As stressful as it will be running your own dance studio, in the end, you will learn the business from the inside out. You’ll acquire a wide set of skills that are applicable across any other career. Your CV will be full with after running your studio for just a few years! Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Talk to other studio owners, they were once in your shoes.

Building a wall-mounted ballet barre for your home dance studio

Building a home dance studio is a rewarding experience on it's own. In the end, you will have a space of your own to rehearse, practice, make mistakes, experiment, and train. Renting studio space elsewhere can quickly become expensive, and for those of us who take advantage of studio space when we can, building a home dance studio might be the best option. For classically trained dancers, having a barre is helpful for mastering many of the foundations of ballet and for strengthening the muscles that are so important for ballet. They are great for your children to be able to practice at home also!

wall mounted ballet barre

The following tutorial is an explanation for how to set up your own ballet barre. The barre itself should be mounted on the wall close to the mirror if you already have a mirror in your home dance studio. This way you can see your form and technique as you practice. You will need the following materials:

  • Ballet bar about 4 feet long (PVC, wood or metal)
  •  2 brackets
  •  Wall anchors
  •  Screws

1. Measure the length of the studio space. PVC pipes, smoothly polished wood, or metal pipes are all good materials to build your bar, but the PVC and wood are the easiest to work with, but metal pipes are the sturdiest and safest. You will need the diameter to be 1.5 to 2 inches. Generally, pipes or wooden bars are sold in 10 feet long sections that can be cut in half by the shop. Home Depot, Menards, or any standard home improvement store will be able to do this for you.

2. Choose the height you will mount the bars. For the average adult, have the ballet bars installed three and a half feet above the floor. But the most important thing is to make sure that the height is appropriate for the dancer who will be the primary user of the studio. If in doubt, you could always purchase two bars and have one lower than the other mounted onto the same bracket.

3. Figure where the brackets need to be screwed into the wall. Measure three points on the wall at the height of your choice. Use a level to ensure that all three points are on the same plane, parallel to the floor. Mark the points and drill into the wall at these points. Use the drill bit that is equal to the diameter of the wall anchors. Insert the wall anchors - metal wall anchors are more sturdy and more stable. Use the appropriate wall anchors for dry wall or for wood.

4. Fix the bar with a screw that goes through the bracket. Brackets generally have a small hole into which you can drill a screw. Use this hole to affix the screw into the barre, and this will keep it from rotating when your hands are on the barre.

Once you have your own wall mounted ballet barre mounted, you'll be able to rehearse, strengthen, practice technique, and stretch on your own at any time!

Meniscus tears for dancers: symptoms, recovery, and strengthening exercises

Through my years of dancing, the most devastating injury I've ever had was a right inner meniscus tear that I experienced in the week leading up to a competition in 2008. I still know the exact move that led me to that permanent injury (don't turn your knee in too sharply!) In case you get lost about where the meniscus is and what it does, take a look at my post on the anatomy of the knee for dancers for a more detailed explanation.

In this post, I'll talk about my experiences with my meniscus tear, including the symptoms, how I managed to deal with the pain, and the exercises that I did to get my knee back to (almost) full strength.

dancer meniscus tear knee injury

Symptoms - aka, "Do I have a meniscus tear?"

1. The most obvious injury is pain in the knee. Unfortunately, this description is not very diagnostic, as a lot of injuries from minor bruises to severe ACL tears can produce this symptom, so I'll just assume you're aware of this point already. The pain is often sharp and very localized in one area.

2. The knee "locks up" until you move it in a certain way. When the knee is "locked," it feels painful or unstable until it is "freed" again. This tends to happen after the knee remains inactive for a long period of time, as in driving or sitting still for hours, or when first waking up. For me, I discovered a specific pattern of motion to unlock my knee. First, while keeping the knee bent, bring it up towards the chest. Unbend the knee, kicking outward, while lowering the foot back to the ground. The exact motion will differ depending on your meniscus tear.

3. Difficulty bending completely, or a decreased range of motion. For many meniscus tear injuries, you will be losing a range of motion. For example, I can't bend my knee any more than 30 degrees without causing a sharp pain. As such, my movements are limited on this half of my body. Wearing a knee brace during rehearsals and performance always helped.

4. It hurts going down stairs. This symptom is similar for several knee injuries, but the pain tends to persist for a long period of time. I find it difficult to walk down stairs without holding on the rail, and I put a lot of weight into my stronger knee when descending. This is almost a hallmark symptom for a meniscus tear, so keep an eye out for it!

Recovery exercises

Short of surgery, which is risky, expensive, and not guaranteed to improve the knee, there are a handful of exercises that you can do to strengthen the muscles around the knee, hip, and back to compensate for the weakness.

1. Resistance heel slide. (Requires exercise bands) Lie down on your back, and place your foot into the resistance band as you hold the handles. Bend the knee, as your foot slides towards your body. Try to bring your knee as close to your body as you can, maximizing mobility - although early on you might not be able to bend much. Kick your foot away, pressing against the band until your leg is fully extended. Repeat 10 times daily. Make sure your knee is aligned with the direction of your foot; avoid twisting. If you experience pain, either use a lower resistance band or try the exercise without resistance.

2. Single Leg Calf Raise. Find a ledge where you can hold onto something for balance. A stairwell is a perfect place for this. Put the ball of your foot on the platform with the heel off the ledge. Lower your heel below the level of the step, and come up on your tiptoe (releve, for you dance folk!). Repeat 20-30 times, then switch legs. This is also a great exercise for improving the small muscles around your ankle that help your balance.

How to install marley in your home dance studio

In previous posts, we have learned how to set up your very own home dance studio start to finish. From finding mirrors to mounting them on the walls, and even alternatives to traditional mirrors, you already know how to build a studio. But, what's left is the flooring. Dancing on carpet is a quick way to tear holes through socks and end up with carpet burns. In this post, I'll show you how to quickly and easily install marley on the floor in your home dance studio.

The floors of many dance studios are covered in a thin rubber / vinyl sheet called "marley." The purpose of this flooring is to provide some texture to the floor, and to give you the dancer a little bit more grip to prevent it the floor from becoming too slippery. It is also used to protect the wooden floors underneath from damage. Marley that is well taken care of can withstand hundreds of hours of dance time!

In the following three easy steps, you can install a marley floor in your own home dance studio.

Step 1: Measure your space.

Most often, rolls of marley are between 5 and 6 feet across. The length is usually custom ordered. Measure the space you plan to use from corner to corner. You should plan your space so that the depth of the studio is equal to a multiple of the width of the marley sheeting you intend to buy. This way, you won't need to cut any marley in half lengthwise.  

Step 2: Clean the floor.

wood floor marley dance studio

Any imperfections in the floor will decrease the life of the marley you put down on top, especially after heavy use. Thus, you will need to ensure that you are working with a smooth and level floor. This entails pulling up whatever carpet may be in the current space. You should remove any staples in the floor, and completely flatten and screws or nails that might be sticking up from the surface. 

When the hardware construction work is done, make sure the floor is now cleaned with a broom and a wet mop to remove all debris that may still be on the surface. Dust and oil will prevent the adhesive from keeping the marley secured on the floor, which could lead to a floor that slides around.

Step 3: Place the marley.

Roll the marley lengthwise across the studio, parallel to the mirrors. When you get to the end of the space you want covered, draw a line and cut cleanly using a utility knife. Move to the next row down, and continue doing this until the entire space is covered. Do not tape these pieces down yet: You will want to let these pieces of marley remain here overnight to allow any wrinkles to relax, giving you the smoothest floor possible.

Leave about an 1/8 inch gap in between each parallel piece of marley. From here, once the strips are in place, use some tape to hold down each piece. Pull the tape as tightly as possible, but avoid wrinkling the marley itself. You'll also want to flatten the tape tightly against the floor. One really good method to do this is to use the roll that the vinyl came in. It'll be a hard cardboard or plastic, and a few rolls with pressure back and forth across the seams will keep the marley secure when people are dancing on it.

And that should be it! As with any other surface, it will get dirty over time. Sweep with a broom to get the majority of the dirt off the surface, then use a water-based cleaner. DO NOT USE AMMONIA! This stuff is too abrasive, and will damage your surface.

Enjoy your new dance studio floor!

Got any good pictures or great tips that helped you put your dance studio floor together? Share them in the comments below.