Little girls in twirling tutus can mean steady business for ballet studios. But dance instruction businesses that cater mostly to adults have learned to offer some different.
Susie Murray, co-owner of Dance New York, operates studios in Coralville and Marion. She offers ballroom and Latin dance lessons for students ages 3 and up, but about 75 percent of her business is lessons for adults.
In that group it’s about a 50/50 split between couples signing up for lessons together — especially for special events such as weddings and anniversaries — and individuals.
“We focus on helping people out in their daily life in various ways including building self-confidence, having better posture, losing weight and getting in shape, improving balance and serving as a stress reliever,” Murray said. “We highlight grace and poise, class and dignity.”
Markus Cannon, professional ballroom dance instructor and owner of Cannon Studios in Cedar Rapids, opened his first studio six years ago but recently moved to 33rd Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids.
“We have only been in this new location since February, but we seem to be attracting a steady flow of new students through the doors,” Cannon said.
At Cannon Studios he provides lessons in salsa, waltz, tango, swing, fox trot, samba, cha-cha and rumba. A single class can be taken for as little as $10, and he offers both group and private lessons.
The majority of those students are adults, Cannon said.
Dance studios also have diversified their offerings just a bit to pull in clients. Cannon Studios, for example, has added workout and yoga classes, and Dance New York offers dance parties open to anyone interested in participating, not just students.
While most people might think it takes loads of certifications to become a dance instructor or open your own studio, but both Murray and Cannon agree the most important trait of a skilled dance instructor is personality. “The number one qualification is a fun personality,” said Cannon. “If you aren’t fun to be around, nobody will want to spend money to be there with you.”
“We can train anyone to dance and teach it,” agreed Murray. “But if you aren’t good with people, it doesn’t matter.”
DANCING WITH THE STAFF
Often, studio owners remain competitive dancers themselves so they are not only teaching lessons and handling the payroll but traveling to competitions around the country.
“I enjoy competing more than anything,” Cannon said. “When you finally take all the hours of preparation, and you put on the tuxedo and she puts on the dress.
“Then you take the floor with eight other couples to deliver the best performance you can possibly muster and ask someone to judge you against them and rank you. It provides a great sense of accomplishment.”
Dance New York hosts a regional dance competition each year.
“This will be our 10th year and people come from all over the Midwest to participate,” Murray said.
The popularity of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” certainly has helped business, she added.
“We have seen bigger interest since the show came on,” Murray said. “I think it’s because people didn’t know that the opportunity to take these kinds of lessons existed.”
These local dance studios tend to be very small businesses — Cannon Studios has just two employees and Dance New York has six.
“Its tough finding the balance between training teachers, training students and having a personal life,” Cannon said. “It is a very involved business.”
Murray, who teaches an average of 20 to 30 hours per week, agreed.
“I do all the payroll and taxes. As a small business, it’s easier if you can do it yourself. Its time-consuming, but it’s a big cost to farm it out.
“But it’s hard making sure all the paperwork gets done all the time when you’d rather just dance.”