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  1. #1
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    I'm discouraged. Chasing my tail inside my head & just need to talk this out.

    First, a little background. I have two studios where my teachers and I offer a range of world dance & yoga classes. I'm a single mother with no other income, this is how I support my family. So I don't have the luxury of ignoring what my customers want completely.

    I've just had three students -- which was the entire class -- drop out of a Bollywood class after the first hour. I was at the class, the instructor did a GREAT job. But the students told me separately (one individual and the others as a pair of friends) that they were looking for more of a fun/fitness class and didn't really want to learn to dance.

    Two of them asked if they could transfer to the bellydance class, would that be more of a workout? I said no, that's also a dance class. We are a dance studio, we offer primarily dance classes.


    I offer one bellyrobics class at that studio, and a Zumba and two core fitness classes at the other studio, but the times/locations of those classes don't work for these students.


    On one hand, I understand that people often sign up for a dance class thinking it'll be a fun way to get a workout. (and our classes DO offer that to our ongoing students, but you have to learn the moves before it gets very aerobic). I started thinking maybe I need to offer more Bellyrobics, Bollyrobics, & zumba classes.

    But then I think... I run a DANCE studio, where we teach dance classes. Fun/fitness classes are available at fitness centers & health clubs all over the city. I'm not really interested in running one of those. If I can't offer primarily dance classes, I'd rather get a different job, frankly.


    I hear this mostly from LivingSocial/Groupon customers, who bought a 'deal' impulsively and didn't really read through the website, subscribe to the newsletter, or ask any questions. They're projecting what they WANT onto the studio and then are unhappy with what we really offer.

    Yes, dance class should be fun and offer a workout. But shouldn't it be about learning to DANCE, first and foremost?


  2. #2
    Master BHUZzer beafarhana's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    While it sticks in my craw to utter the words, could you add a couple more zumba classes? No-one would criticise you for riding that particular bandwagon, and it would meet the wishes of those clients who want more of an aerobic workout.


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    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Any chance you could entice Jazzercise to offer some classes there to bring more bodies through the studio and see what else you have to offer?


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    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Zumarrad's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Bleargh. I would go with Bea's advice and look to add another zumba or bellyrobics class. The upside is that these kinds of classes attract more people and will subsidise your actual dance classes. The downside is that these kinds of classes are everywhere and no longer attract QUITE so many.

    What about those cosmic not-dance dance classes like Nia? They appeal to people who want to just dance around without having to focus on technique etc.

    I'm assuming your studio is pretty well booked out? If not, there's always the option of subletting space to some other performance or physical activity teacher to maximise the use of the space.

    But you must stick with having actual dance classes, for those who care and for your SOUL.


  5. #5
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Quote Originally Posted by Zumarrad View Post
    But you must stick with having actual dance classes, for those who care and for your SOUL.
    Oh, yes, THIS.

    Maybe you're right, I may need to let market forces dominate and add a little more fitness to the schedule.

    I just need to NOT let that type of class dominate the schedule at the studio.

    For those who care and for my SOUL. for real.


  6. #6
    Advanced BHUZzer yameyameyame's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    So sorry to hear this, Lauren! I struggle with the same question as I look around for places to teach. I have been avoiding teaching at gyms because I just don't know how to make dance into a workout for someone who doesn't know enough of it for me to be able to give them the aerobic stuff. I can do belly dance workout, but I can't do belly dance workout for a total beginner, plus I am a stickler for good technique and I am afraid that would scare away all the students who just want a fun workout and don't actually want to learn dance.

    But since you already have dance-based fitness classes, I think you have come to some answers to those questions I am struggling with. So as others said above, perhaps the resolution would be to add more of those classes. As others pointed out, maybe eventually people from those classes will start getting interested in your dance-dance classes and they will start to pick up again?

    Good luck!


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    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. anala's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    I am the Bellyvangilist of Southern New Mexico. Every doctor or physical therapist or fitness instructor and every woman over 40 that I talk to - I rave about the inherent fitness qualities of belly dance for the physically challenged. I have had RA all my life. This is the one activity I have been able to do for 10 years without swollen knees or throbbing feet and hips. This dance can make one more fit, just not in the hard sweat, intense calorie burn way that Zumba offers. For people who have joint issues, or other physical challenges, this dance form can give them a level of fitness that cant be achieved by sitting on the sofa wishing they could participate in more strenuous activities. I don't spend anytime preaching to the hard bodies. I want more people my age to know that this may be the answer to their prayers. Of course the issue then becomes ... I cant be that provocative, I cant bare my body, I have no sense of rhythm. If those concerns can be addressed, there may be a very large (and getting larger) market for our services. Will it be a class that produces great dancers? Probably not, but it will produce women who are more fit, more physically secure for every day tasks and have a better body image than they came in with. I dont see a conflict, just different marketing for different classes.


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    Advanced BHUZzer MellyBelly's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Oh I feel your pain, it hurts my soul too when there seems to be so many students who just want to wiggle and live out some shakira "Arabian fantasy" instead of learning to dance. I once had a student complain there was "too much dancing" in my dance class... LOL!
    Melissa Gamal - Arabesque, Toronto Canada


  9. #9
    Ultimate BHUZzer Tourbeau's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    I would caution you not to base too much of your marketing model on Sandy from "Grease." It's valid to plan your business around what people want, but if you have to change yourself into someone different for other people to think you're cool, that's going to end up hurting you in the long run. Offering a little fitness on the side is a sensible offshoot, but this could evolve to the point where your main business is every kind of fitness but belly dance, and the dance classes are what's on the side. Could you live with that? IMHO, students who only want to burn calories and can't see the dance as something to connect to on an emotional, creative, or cultural level will eat your soul when that's what you love it for.

    Another point to consider is whether Zumba is even the right fad to chase now. With the way the economy is, they have to be hurting, too. If your house is getting foreclosed, you don't have money to spend on Zumba, either. Considering the rapid onset of their popularity, they have to have an oversaturated market with instant-wonder teachers, and they're also competing against DVDs and YouTube. Zumba is a trend that won't last forever. Are you jumping on the bandwagon two blocks before the parade ends? If you're going to diversify, would you be better off gambling on what's going to be the next big thing?

    Unlike teachers who don't have anything but the dance to their name, I'm assuming you (Lauren) have yoga and fitness credentials you could leverage for legitimate healthcare partnerships. All nonessential businesses are hurting now, but maybe there are local merchants who would be interested in some sort of partnered deal with you. Where else are women gathered? Beauty salons? Mommy groups at churches? PTAs? Senior Centers? Are there pockets of potential students you've missed?

    I hate to say it, but I worry this is just a market contraction where there's not enough money to go around any longer, and some folks are going to have to get out of the pool and others will have to be content to splash in shallow water. This dance has been going in and out of popularity for decades. It'll come around again. The problem is riding it out in the meantime.
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  10. #10
    Established BHUZzer yaalini's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Bollywood didn't give them a workout? Sheesh.

    Maybe one more Zumba class, but perhaps you could tie your dance classes to it - does your studio have Latin dances offered as well? Are they having similar issues?

    The motto for Zumba is "Ditch the Workout, Join the Party". Perhaps the studio could use something like "Be the LIFE of the Party - Learn the DANCE!"

    How about a once a month Open to the Public Dance Your Butt Off event? Join the Party bandwagon, and teachers from your dance classes do a "follow me" routine to uptempo music? Let everybody get their groove (and sweat) on (for a cover charge), right or wrong, once a month. Then back to classes (maybe with some new faces!)...

    Man, that would be fun!

    I hope you find something that works for you!
    Last edited by yaalini; 11-12-2011 at 08:29 AM. Reason: needed to add public and charge!
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  11. #11
    Ultimate BHUZzer kina's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    I understand where you are coming from.

    I'd like to maybe come at from the group fitness instructor point of view for you.

    You're absolutely correct that you cannot teach dance in the areobic class format in such a way that it gives a good cardio workout.

    What you CAN do, however, is to teach a fitness class that has a taste of bellydance in it, although this still will not be what the hard core fitness person is looking for. That person, however, would not be looking at a dance/yoga studio to provide it.

    The benefit to your studio from running such a class is that it will wet the appetite of someone who, while interested in getting fit, will also want to learn more about the dance aspect of it.

    It's easy enough to modify a basic aerobics class (if you know how to run an aerobics class, which is a skillset all by itself, trust me, I've seen enough bellydance teachers try and fail) adding in SOME aspects of ME dance.

    for example, simple aerobic grapevine, has a weight change at the end of the grapevine, add in a hip bump, so it could look like this:

    Right foot start: grapevine right, right hip hit repeat to the left, you end on the right foot again, start next combination

    say, step touch with hip lift forward X 4

    step together step back, add in undulation, or traveling diagonally both sides, end combination, repeat starting on left foot.

    The traveling will give a cardio benefit, while you have the opportunity to season it with ME moves, sort of like adding in a spice to the stew, you aren't changing the basic recipe of the stew you are adding in something new.

    My class was always well attended by people who wanted to add something new to their cardio routines AND had the benefit of funneling those who were interested into my beginners belly dance classes.

    I always started with a disclaimer that this was NOT a bellydance class, and ended the class with, if you're interested in building on what you started, this is how you find out about the beginner classes. You have the benefit that it's already in your studio, and they just have to step outside the classroom to find the new info.

    You could also add in complimentary classes, like pilates, or gyrokineses to your class offerings, these are restorative as well a workout and expand your market to those.
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  12. #12
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. anala's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    To build on Kina's post - just raising the arms above heart level works wonders for the cardio aspect. Shirt off or shirt on arms combined with a basic foot pattern achieves a huge increase in heart rate Set your pods to cross fade so there is no interruption in the beat and set the play list for a good cardio climb. I don't worry too much in my cardio drills class about correcting technique, as long as they don't appear to be hurting themselves. I want them to have fun and enjoy the thumping repetition of Arabic club music and move! I am sure many of us are aware of these methods, this is directed for those who wonder how to do a fitness fusion class.
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    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    I'm a bit confused by this thread. Why do people think an exercise-focused dance class can't be based on ethnic arts? Mine is.

    And why do people think students need a lot of "dance instruction" before you can teach them a workout class? I have brand-new beginners come to my "exercise" class, and the very first night of class I have no difficulty teaching them some basics and then doing some repetition of those basics.

    My "Belly Dance for Exercise" class sold out this fall, with 12 students, which is all my classroom size could accommodate. By the time the final night of class came along at the end of the 6-week session, all 12 were still there and they were eagerly asking me when the next session would start.

    Maybe one thing that makes my classes different from what others are doing is that I don't see "aerobics" as being the sole type of "exercise" included in my class. I don't call it "bellyrobics". I call it "Belly Dance for Exercise". I market it as containing deep core muscle toning & strengthening (hip circles & 8's), arms & upper body (veil), cardio (debke, Saidi, etc), sometimes even strength training (floor work).

    For those who are put off by the idea of teaching a workout-structured class, what, exactly, do all of you think a belly-dance-for-exercise class consists of? Because yours must be different from mine. I love teaching mine, actually.


  14. #14
    Ultimate BHUZzer Tourbeau's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    The student I encountered who was dissatisfied because she wanted more exercise out of the class was doing more than ten hours a week of high-impact/high-intensity cardio workouts (kickboxing, jump rope, spinning, power yoga, etc.). She was looking for something new to add to her list, and I don't know that there are many dance teachers offering a class that would have fit her interest. I don't think she was typical, though. I suspect most students coming to this for exercise are looking for a lower-impact workout.


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    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Quote Originally Posted by Tourbeau View Post
    Students who only want to burn calories and can't see the dance as something to connect to on an emotional, creative, or cultural level will eat your soul when that's what you love it for.
    Is that really the kind of student other teachers are seeing in their exercise-oriented belly dance classes? Is that kick-boxing student you described typical in your community? That's NOT what I'm seeing in mine.

    My BD-for-exercise students want a RECREATIONAL experience. And for many students, it's not much fun to worry about whether they're on the correct foot/hip, whether they're holding their arms in an aesthetically elegant position, etc. Many don't see themselves as future performers, and they may not want pressure to practice between classes or memorize choreography, but they do want to dance for the fun of dancing. So I don't worry about perfecting their technique - I'll correct things that could pose risk of injury, but in this class I don't try to fix droopy arms or slumpy shoulders.
    Last edited by *Shira*; 11-12-2011 at 01:42 PM.


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    Advanced BHUZzer showtime's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    I understand the passion and wanting total immersion in and dedication to dance. Playing the Devil's Advocate now - in this economy it might end-up being a choice of closing studios/ceasing most classes or expanding the type offerings - at least for the immediate future. As mentioned it might be beneficial to tweak the descriptions a bit.

    I know of 2 studio owners that insisted they would not diversify, they were purists. They followed their passion until they had to forfeit their studios. I am not suggesting one direction over another, only different points of view. The only right decision is the right one for each individual person. Tough situation for everyone.

    This thread forces us to think. I always enjoy the input. Bhuz is such an awesome source of good info. As always Lauren offered thought provoking input.
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  17. #17
    Ultimate BHUZzer Tourbeau's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post
    Is that really the kind of student other teachers are seeing in their exercise-oriented belly dance classes? Is that kick-boxing student you described typical in your community? That's NOT what I'm seeing in mine.
    I can't imagine how she could be. I've never met anyone else in the dance who trained that aggressively for recreation. I'll send you the rest of the story by PM.


  18. #18
    Just Starting! Houdah's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Would a SharQui class fill this need?


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    Advanced BHUZzer Elibelinde's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    I've taught dance at a gym for almost 3 years now, and here's the situation - in this economy, all the classes are struggling, from kickboxing to yoga. So I don't think abandoning your art is the best way to go.

    However, I think you can add a major fitness component to a straight up dance class in three ways: one, add cardio by using folk dances or folk dance steps which are simple to teach and do and which are great for aerobics, and which also are from the region. The music is great and you're still in the dance world and it might even energize and enlarge your own ideas about the dance.

    Secondly, for strength and flexibility add some floor, this could be actual floor work or it could be yoga-based, it could be focusing on core strength such as ab work and/or working the glutes, this works naturally into an oriental dance class anyway.

    Finally, stretch out and cool down with ballet stretches on the floor.

    The thing is you might need an extra 1/2 hour to work these 3 fitness angles into your straight up dance class but it might work for you. It's ultimately what I did to satisfy the fitness requirement and also satisfy me and my dance-oriented students. Or you could shorten the time spent teaching dance to work in the fitness but I don't think you want to do that - regardless - all of the above suggestions together will give you a hard workout plus enable you to teach the art.

    Now, I wouldn't want to teach any other way. Fitness is a big part of dancing well so I don't think you have to sacrifice your dance, just figure out how to sneak the fitness part into the dance class. You could split the difference too, make a class that's slanted a bit more toward fitness, another that's oriented more toward performance - either way though you don't compromise your art.

    And, you can satisfy a broader client base.

    Hope this helps!
    Last edited by Elibelinde; 11-13-2011 at 11:26 PM.


  20. #20
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    I don't personally teach the Bollywood class or the Bellyrobics class at my studios, and my teachers are independent contractors so I can only go so far in making suggestions as to HOW a class is taught before I cross the legal line between 'contractor' and 'employee' and have to follow a whole different set of laws.

    So I can't personally make much use of the specific teaching suggestions in this thread, but I'm sure they'll be really helpful to others who read it.

    My issue was the balance between dance and fitness in the overall mixture of class offerings, and how far I should bend to accommodate those who ONLY want fitness classes. My thinking has clarified around two concepts:
    1. My business needs to reflect who I am as much as it needs to reflect market trends (my SOUL thanks to those who said it for me in various ways)
    2. There are hundreds of fitness facilities in my metro area, but I am the only world dance studio

    I do understand what many of you are saying about offering both. My own classes have been successful over the years because I keep the beginner levels simple so people are moving/dancing/having fun QUICKLY and learn more advanced concepts later. I can recommend to my staff that they follow the same kind of format (although I can't legally tell them how/what to teach). But my studio will remain a dance studio with a few fitness classes....

    maybe what I need to give up are the deep-discount programs (groupon, living social) that are attracting the impulse-buying folk and focus on ways to attract students who actually want to learn world dance forms!


  21. #21
    Advanced BHUZzer Nisima's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Quote Originally Posted by anala View Post
    I am the Bellyvangilist of Southern New Mexico. Every doctor or physical therapist or fitness instructor and every woman over 40 that I talk to - I rave about the inherent fitness qualities of belly dance for the physically challenged. I have had RA all my life. This is the one activity I have been able to do for 10 years without swollen knees or throbbing feet and hips. This dance can make one more fit, just not in the hard sweat, intense calorie burn way that Zumba offers. For people who have joint issues, or other physical challenges, this dance form can give them a level of fitness that cant be achieved by sitting on the sofa wishing they could participate in more strenuous activities. I don't spend anytime preaching to the hard bodies. I want more people my age to know that this may be the answer to their prayers. Of course the issue then becomes ... I cant be that provocative, I cant bare my body, I have no sense of rhythm. If those concerns can be addressed, there may be a very large (and getting larger) market for our services. Will it be a class that produces great dancers? Probably not, but it will produce women who are more fit, more physically secure for every day tasks and have a better body image than they came in with. I dont see a conflict, just different marketing for different classes.
    This is a very interesting take on belly dance classes - aside from recessionary economy issues, I've observed in 25 years of dancing that it is often the "over 40" group who become the backbone of classes for all the reasons you list. Plus, they are not so bogged down with pregnancy, childcare issues. I have seen so many younger dancers take classes for 2 or 3 years before family responsibilities make it impossible for them to participate in any kind of performing, even a troupe. I agree "mature" dancers are a market in and of themselves. And, since so many affordable and clever costuming choices are available nowadays, it doesn't take much for us old gals to glam it up!
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  22. #22
    Established BHUZzer yaalini's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    My issue was the balance between dance and fitness in the overall mixture of class offerings, and how far I should bend to accommodate those who ONLY want fitness classes.
    As you mentioned, you are the only World Dance studio. My suggestions were more in line with accommodating the fitness people by enticing them to learn the foundations of something which they can bring to their fitness classes elsewhere (IE, don't bend too much for them!).

    I talk up the local dance teachers in my Zumba classes whenever anyone comments on my Zumba um...style. I also give out cards and flyers if I have them handy. You never know!

    not a teacher, but I figured ideas can come from all over so hope you don't mind my posting


  23. #23
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    My thinking has clarified around two concepts:
    1. My business needs to reflect who I am as much as it needs to reflect market trends (my SOUL thanks to those who said it for me in various ways)
    2. There are hundreds of fitness facilities in my metro area, but I am the only world dance studio
    I would add a third line item - You need to work with instructors who are serious about treating their classes as a business, and therefore take an active role in helping you attract/retain students. (See my further comments below.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    My own classes have been successful over the years because I keep the beginner levels simple so people are moving/dancing/having fun QUICKLY and learn more advanced concepts later. I can recommend to my staff that they follow the same kind of format (although I can't legally tell them how/what to teach).
    I was struck by the fact that only 3 students were in the Bollywood class, and all three of them signed up as a result of promotional efforts that YOU were doing. It made me wonder just what that instructor is doing herself to promote her classes and attract students. I teach through my local city's recreation program as an independent contractor, but I don't sit on my sequined butt waiting for the city to do all the marketing. I put posters up around town, I promote via facebook and twitter, I go out and do performances with my students to "be visible", I advertise the classes on my web site, I design posters for the city to put up, and more. If your instructors aren't doing their own promotion, then it may be valid to either replace them with someone who will, or to revise your contract with them.

    It may be time to talk with those instructors about charging you a lower per-person price for the deep-discount students, doing their own independent marketing to supplement what you do to attract new students, revising their class formats to accommodate what the market seems to WANT and retain the beginners beyond their original session, etc.

    But that's not a question of you telling them what to do, it's a question of them treating their relationship with you as that of a joint marketing partner, and treating their classes as a business that they themselves invest efforts in helping you grow. If they're not willing/able to help you bring bodies in the door, then maybe you need to recruit different instructors who have more fire in the belly.


  24. #24
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    maybe what I need to give up are the deep-discount programs (groupon, living social) that are attracting the impulse-buying folk and focus on ways to attract students who actually want to learn world dance forms!
    With respect to the deep-discount programs, a key question is, "Why do they seem to be failing for you?"
    • Is it because the people who sign up are flawed? Are they tire-kickers who just want to get something for cheap and move on? Or do they have a legitimate interest that your instructors are failing to meet?
    • Is it because your promotional text didn't set the right expectation regarding what the classes would contain? Could you have attracted better-qualified respondents with different promotional text?
    • Is it because the demographic of people who use those programs is different from the demographic your instructors want to teach? Or do your instructors want to teach that demographic but just aren't offering the right kind of classes to meet what they're looking for?

    Ie, is the deep-discount program attracting people who wouldn't stick around anyway, or is it attracting good consumers who could be retained if you closed the gap between what they expected versus what your instructors are offering?

    And how do your instructors feel about their small class sizes and attrition? Do they think it's YOUR fault for using a bad marketing method? Are they willing to adapt what they do to improve retention, or do they have more of a "my way or the highway" attitude?


  25. #25
    Ultimate BHUZzer kina's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post

    maybe what I need to give up are the deep-discount programs (groupon, living social) that are attracting the impulse-buying folk and focus on ways to attract students who actually want to learn world dance forms!
    I can't for the life of me remember where I read this (I surf the web during all too frequent bouts of insomnia) article that said that reported on the damage that groupon is doing to small businesses.

    Anecdotally, I went to a lovely restaurant where I would NEVER become a regular, not because the food wasn't good, it was way overpriced and I wouldn't pay that much for a meal because I had a groupon. Without the groupon, for the 4 people would have been well over $400, instead we paid just over a $100.

    Maybe offer them only once a year? Or semi annually, or to hell with it, run semi-annual specials, bring a friend to 1 class for free deal, etc.

    Just thoughts off the top of my head :-)
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  26. #26
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Shira, you said a mouthful.

    When I taught at other locations, I always ran my classes like a business. I advertised & had a website long before I had my own studio.

    Apparently teachers who are also business-savvy enough to fill their own classes are rare. In four years, I've worked with at least a dozen teachers and so far I've had exactly one so far who fills her own classes.

    This in spite of the fact that I pay them 60% of revenue & provide them with business cards, postcards to distribute, and downloadable tear-off posters specific to their individual classes (via TeachStreet).

    To be fair, some of them try. Most are not experienced in marketing and may not have a natural knack for it, but they're all DYNAMITE instructors, so I won't let them go!

    I've given up that particular frustration. In fact, I'm going to a flat rate of pay next year for all but one of my instructors. It'll be based on the performance of their class, since I like my teachers to be rewarded for retention. I don't mind doing the bulk of the marketing, that's what I bring to the table. It's just exceptionally tough in this economy!


  27. #27
    I could get used to this! susiboston's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Hi Lauren, I'm coming late into this discussion but wanted to read it all because I run a dance
    studio for someone else. Adult classes for all our renters have really been tough to fill. There is a gym upstairs which is full to the brim but I've noticed they don't offer many "classes"- why? probably because of the same conflict of intentions that make dance classes different from exercise classes. We would not be in business if we didn't have a huge children's program. People usually find the money to keep the kids dancing. Our instructors are faculty and get paid by the class with a minimum enrollment necessary for the class to make. Our big money high volume classes- ie hip hop and baby ballet subsidize our classical ballet program which is much more intensive hourly but necessarily cheaper per hour for the parents. Kids instruction is a totally different business to run.

    Our adult instructors rent from us, hourly rate, and do their own marketing. If they have to pay rent then it motivates them to fill their classes. A 60/40 split must be really tough for you since you must have a base amount the class needs to contribute to your bottom line.

    I've noticed that my classes at the Y are well attended especially if they are followed by an "exercise" class- maybe you could try pairing beginning level technique classes with a loosely related exercise class and offer a break for those who take both. Be sure your dance instructors are engaging and keep their classes moving and dancing ( that is the one thing the vast majority of adult students desire as they have no intention of ever performing- to feel like they are dancing in class) and offer them the workout class after and maybe the exercise class will grow your dance classes ... It takes a long time to build up an adult program and you need exponentially more adults to keep it going since they come and go so much. They want convenience and a dynamic instructor that makes them feel motivated and successful. I wouldn't look at the crowd pleasers as compromises but as enablers- they will enable you to stay in business to do what you want.

    Hope you figure it out ! let me know what you end up doing and how it worked for you. Thanks -Susi


  28. #28
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    Shira, you said a mouthful.

    Apparently teachers who are also business-savvy enough to fill their own classes are rare. In four years, I've worked with at least a dozen teachers and so far I've had exactly one so far who fills her own classes.

    This in spite of the fact that I pay them 60% of revenue & provide them with business cards, postcards to distribute, and downloadable tear-off posters specific to their individual classes (via TeachStreet).

    To be fair, some of them try. Most are not experienced in marketing and may not have a natural knack for it, but they're all DYNAMITE instructors, so I won't let them go!
    If they're not promoting their classes, it may be because they don't know what to do. It's great that you provide business cards and postcards, but they may need training in how to use them effectively.

    Something you may want to consider: Monthly teacher meetings. Include as a regular agenda item training for them on how to promote their classes. Each time, go around the group and get each one to practice her "elevator pitch". They can hear yours, and each others, and learn to refine their pitches. Then offer training in an educational topic, such as how to start up conversations with strangers about their classes, how to tell when someone seems genuinely interested, what to do with those tear-off flyers and other collateral that you provide, etc. Be specific in the tasks you assign them.

    Design a T-shirt with studio name and logo, and urge each to buy one from CafePress to wear when they're out in public, with the hope that strangers will see the shirt, ask about it, and help get the word out.

    Ask each to post something at least once a week on facebook about her dance classes. It could be as simple as, "My Bollywood class was really fun tonight! I taught them to ___," when classes are in session. When a new session is coming up, they can post Facebook event listings announcing their classes, and invite everyone in their friends list. Of course, not all their friends will want to go, but they may know someone who does....

    When a new 8-week session of classes is scheduled to start in a few weeks, organize a teacher meeting. Bring a list of all the places around town that you know of that have bulletin boards where the public can post flyers. Ask each to sign up to post a flyer for your studio at 3 such bulletin boards - have her identify which ones she'll do, and give her the posters to do it. Give each an extra poster or two just in case she finds another place to post something on her own. Follow up in a few days with an email to all the teachers to remind them to do it.

    I realize they're independent contractors, with the freedom to NOT do the things you ask them to do, but maybe they're willing and needing specific recommendations.
    Last edited by *Shira*; 11-23-2011 at 12:38 AM.


  29. #29
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    I'm going to a flat rate of pay next year for all but one of my instructors. It'll be based on the performance of their class, since I like my teachers to be rewarded for retention.
    I think you're right on track, to reward retention. It costs a lot less to remarket to an existing customer than it does to go out and find a new one.

    A flat rate of pay has its own risks, but I know you're a smart business person, so if you think that'll work out better for you, then go for it.

    If you should want to continue paying your teachers 60% of class fees, then I'd urge you to renegotiate your arrangement so that you pay them 60% of WHAT YOU ACTUALLY COLLECT rather than 60% of full price regardless of whether the student came in through a discount. That way, even if you don't continue using Groupon and its ilk, you'll still have the freedom to experiment with other promotional pricing variants. I don't think the problem here is the discounting of the Groupon/LivingSocial advertising, I think it's the fact that your marketing program is not in sync with your expense structure. If a teacher doesn't like getting paid 60% of a deeply discounted price, she still has the power to increase her pay by doing her own marketing to get people in the door at full price. If you offer training opportunities in how to market, she may feel more confident about trying.

    I wish you luck - I think there are ways to solve the problem, but it probably will take some work!


  30. #30
    Master BHUZzer shimarella's Avatar
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    Re: Teaching dance vs. fitness/fun classes

    Hmm! Lots of food for thought n this thread. I was actually contemplating starting a separate discussion but there's a lot here to think about....I'm starting to teach bellydance "for fun & fitness" at a studio that specialises in what I call sexy dance/sensual exercise ( pole..which I am now an advanced student of...lapdance...vegas stiletto fitness...burlesque aerobics etc). I definitely want to retain and build on my student base ( in part because it pays for my pretty expensive pole classes!) but I am constantly concerned that I am focusing too much on a purist approach and possibly freaking them out. I'm using the structure that worked just fine at a bellydance studio but now I'm rethinking the structure of the class because while I want them to appreciate the music & culture & learn a different way of making the hip circles & undulations they'll use in other classes, I'm fearing they're not getting to dance enough. So I'm definitely following this thread with great interest. Any non-judgey suggestions for me I'll take, too ;) PS_ they have seen me dance before...and I did a full-on cabaret taqsim at the event.
    PPS- Zumba instructor here who has had her other dance class steamrolled at the gym...I don't see the Zumba train stopping anytime soon. Do what you can.


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