Updated: Jan 1
We have an "Our Story" section here on our website, but there's really more to it than that. This is my story. It's a longer version than what you may have already read, but it's my whole story. The story you've read spares you all the details, the ups and the downs. I want to be true to myself and true to you, so here it is - the whole story of the path that led me to this dream...
My own dance studio wasn't growing. I had been in business for about 18 years and I had hit sort of a plateau - the studio wasn't in danger of going under or anything, but it just wasn't growing. We're located in a medium-sized city with a ton of dance studios. I felt like I was doing everything right, I was doing what every other studio was doing; paying dance studio coaches, paying social media gurus, following all of their advice, and still, we weren't growing.
At about that same time, I was at a dance workshop and during lunch I heard another dance teacher comment that so many studios were dropping their tap classes down to just 30 minutes. This teacher wondered aloud "how does anyone have time to teach the history of tap dancing, or even play a game with the kids if you only have 30 minutes?". It really made me think. Most of my younger tap and jazz classes were only 30 minutes. Geez, he had a really good point! 30 minutes flies by and you just don't have time to share any of the amazing things that are a part of our history as dancers. I knew I needed to make a change. If other dance studios were making their classes shorter, I was going to do the opposite and make mine longer.
So the very next day, I sat down and reworked our schedule for the following school year. Remember, my studio hadn't been growing, so I had some wiggle room in our schedule to make some changes. Every age group / level would have at least one of their classes extended by 15 minutes. Maybe a 30 minute ballet class for 7 year olds became 45 minutes, or if they were older and already had a longer ballet class, I added 15 minutes to their tap and/or jazz classes, and so on. I was really excited about this new schedule, after all, longer classes = increased tuition, plus we would finally have time to teach the extra details that really make us dancers on the inside.
But then I realized that what I thought was a perfect solution wasn't so perfect after all... All of my teachers, besides me, have other full time jobs. Now I was going to ask them to prepare 15 minutes more every week for one or more of their classes! And in addition to preparing more choreography/classwork, I was going to ask them to teach dance history, current events, and vocabulary, on a regular basis. That was a big ask! Take one step forward and two steps back, right?
And so I decided to get creative! We're all dance teachers. We are some of the most creative people around. There had to be a way to help my teachers plan for the extra class time, without giving them a pre-written lesson plan, or worse, a history lesson. That's when I figured it out! I created what's now known as Elevate Dance! 5-7 minute end of class activities that allowed my teachers to share bits and pieces about terminology, dance history, current events and even allowed them to give their dancers a chance to experiment with choreography. The best part was, I did all the work for my teachers, all they had to do was read the cards I had made and follow the directions! I hadn't yet realized the amazing tool I had created, but I was excited to give it a try!
Now fast forward an entire school year... my teachers were loving the extra time they could spend in class teaching more than the steps and our dancers were talking about dance outside of the studio! I had dancers asking for more classes and parents of their friends contacting me about enrolling new students! My studio grew in one year! Our enrollment increased, our current students asked for more classes, and our attrition rate dropped! I did it! Instead of doing the same thing as everyone else and getting very few results from it, I thought outside the box. I made a change. I created a new opportunity and it worked. And it's still working! Sure, it's unconventional, but isn't everything about owning a dance studio unconventional compared to other businesses?
It took another year before I was ready to offer this to other studio owners, but now that I have, there's no looking back! The growth I experienced (on so many levels) was so great that I knew I couldn't keep it to myself. I want all dancers to learn more - not just my dancers. I want everyone to learn about our shared history, and our amazing vocabulary - yeah, ballet teachers I'm looking at you! We speak French to our dancers everyday! Shouldn't we celebrate that?! And I want dance studio owners who are ready to think outside the box to start teaching more than the steps! And the best part? I already did all the work for you!
That's it! In a very big nutshell. That's my story. It's been an amazing journey and there's so much more to come!