In the eyes of your students, your dance studio is likely much more than just a place where they enjoy regular lessons. The act of dancing is much more than just learning the right steps -- it’s a way for your students to stay active, be creative and get inspired. This enthusiasm and thirst for fun is what keeps them coming back for more again and again.
However, if your instructors have lost their own passion for the art, it’s very possible that your students will be able to tell. Classes may have gotten repetitive and routine, and students may be simply going through the motions instead of losing themselves in something truly invigorating.
No matter which tactic you choose to keep students continually challenging themselves and improving their dance skills, the real issue may lie with your staff. So let’s discuss how you can help your instructors stay creative regardless of how long they’ve been teaching.
Start with the Environment
How you run your studio will have a direct impact on virtually every aspect of its operation. That includes the atmosphere of the classes and, in some cases, that may extend to the content as well. While we’re not necessarily saying you should micro-manage your instructors’ classes, it falls to you to create an atmosphere that encourages your staff to seek out new and different ways of approaching the material. When the teacher feels free to explore, the classes inevitably improve, creating an environment that should prove to be infectious for students as well as teachers. The critical question is whether or not there’s a positive, encouraging mood to each session. Such a culture will go a long way towards improving your studio’s classes.
How you decide to create an environment that supports an emphasis on free, lively dance classes depends entirely on you and your management style. What matters is that your studio makes a distinct effort to establish a community around the dancing it teaches, not just limiting the session to the physical act itself. Oftentimes, there’s a deeper message at play within any discipline, even if it simply means offering a means of escapism from the worries of day-to-day life. Your studio is a temple to dance for your students, and your instructors should act as such. Yet, they’ll only do so when you set the tone first. Once you do, you’ll be well on your way to unlocking your studio’s true potential.
Room for Inspiration
Our first tip may have centered on your role in creating an environment that nurtures your instructors, but it’s just as important for you to know when to step aside. If your instructors feel stifled or over-managed, they may be too anxious or self-aware to allow the inspiration to flow freely. Of course, you should provide the organization and tools your instructors will need to take their classes to the next level, and it might even be wise to incentivize them to find new ways of conducting class and engaging with students. However, there’s a big difference between keeping your studio ready to warmly receive your instructors’ ideas with open arms and mandating them to present new ideas on a set timetable.
Perhaps the best thing you can do is to empower your teachers with the ability to take more creative control on their classes. This sense of ownership not only gives them the chance to stray from the tried-and-true (read: stale) methodology your studio has relied on for too long, but it also lets them have more accountability. Since more of the class’s success or failure rests on their shoulders, they’re more likely to find their own ways to stay inspired. Just be sure to allow them plenty of downtime to devote to planning and brainstorming, perhaps even setting aside time in their schedule specifically intended for these critical stages. Most of all, maintain a positive attitude throughout, and that tone will no doubt carry over into your studio’s classes.
Time to Pay
Though it might sound disingenuous, nothing inspires more than the almighty dollar. So getting down to more practical motivators (remember those incentives we alluded to in the last section?), you might want to reconsider how you pay your instructors. Oftentimes, a standard hourly rate is a bad idea, since it doesn’t exactly inspire the best work out of your instructors. After all, there’s a great deal more work that goes into an hourlong class than simply those 60 minutes of teaching. At least, there should be, if your instructors are engaging in creative thinking the way you want them to. One model that works particularly well for situations such as this one involving your dance instructors is the “pay grade formula.”
What makes the pay grade formula such a perfect fit for your studio is that it takes a number of factors into account. For instance, an instructor’s experience influences greatly how much they make. This is just common sense, since a veteran instructor with years of dancing under his or her belt deserves to be compensated for the knowledge and professionalism they bring to your studio. Also, the pay grade formula accounts for the number of students in a given class. This approach is a great way to motivate teachers to foster growth among their students, whether by improving the quality of the classes or by actively engaging in outreach to bring in new faces (or, in the best of circumstances, both). Lastly, don’t forget to prorate an instructor’s pay based on the length of each class. A 45-minute class does not equal a 90-minute one, and with experience and class size added into the fold, you’ll be able to more accurately compensate your staff and push them to create increasingly more inspired classes.
Dance studio management software may free up your schedule and give you more time to focus on more creative matters, but it takes a certain kind of care and attention to maintain a studio environment that nurtures and rewards creativity. There’s no highly sophisticated system you can depend on to supplant the commitment it takes on your part and that of your instructors to keep dance classes feeling fresh and inspired.
Even if complacency sets in from time to time, your mission should be to keep your instructors performing at the top of their game at all times. After all, this is the best way to foster growth within your dance studio and guarantee the most positive experience possible for students. The tone of your studio always starts with the management. So, if you aren’t already, consider evaluating your studio’s operation to see how you can refocus on creativity. Your instructors will have more fun on the job, and your students will certainly notice the difference.