The Show Must Go On

Pictured: Next Step Dance Performing Arts Center, Frisco,TX.

How to put together a creative yet cost effective recital

As Nutcracker and the Holidays draw to close it’s time for dance studio owners in North Texas to focus on their upcoming recital season. Every year from January to June studio owners are consumed with recital themes, choreography, music and costumes. And every year owners are challenged with the task of making this recital more memorable than the last. And the fact studio owners have to work within a set budget only makes this task harder. Here are some ways studio owners are managing to put together quality shows without breaking the bank.

Budget Outside The Box. “Studio owners are creative by nature,” says Debra Swaim owner and director of Frisco Dance Force and Prosper Dance Force. So, if you are in need of some extra funds to pull off a memorable recital, Swaim suggests creating an event to help build extra revenue. This year Swaim put together a holiday performance called “Adventures in Toyland” in which the extra revenue from ticket sales went toward her recital costs. Next Step Dance is also thinking outside the box with the addition of a silent auction at this year’s recital. “When I was president of the Booster Club at another studio we organized a silent auction and it was very successful,” says Rita Allen, office manager of Next Step Dance Performing Arts Center in Frisco, TX. If you decide to do a silent auction, Allen says, it would be wise to get a group of parents or booster club together to organize it. “It is definitely too much for one person to handle,” she says. Allen also recommends selling flowers, t-shirts and programs to make some extra profit during recital season. “Regarding our programs we have mostly done individual ads but this year we are also seeking corporate ads,” Allen says.

Costume Control. When it comes to making costume selections Swaim says studio owners should use no more than three costume companies during one recital season. “This way you know who you are dealing with,” Swaim says. On the other hand, Allen says Next Step Dance typically uses four to five different costumes companies so as to not limit its teachers. “But we do ask the teachers not to go crazy with the accessories,” Allen says. “Things like gloves, hats, chokers and bracelets can really bring up the price of a costume.” She adds that studio owners can get most of these accessories at stores like San Moons for half the price. Dana’s Dance Academy also likes to get creative with accessories. “I have held many sleep-overs where the kids help glue bows and put together head pieces,” says Dana Davis-Bailey, owner and artistic director of Dana’s Dance Academy in Irving, TX. “It’s a great learning experience for them,” she adds. “Every dancer needs to know how to sew and center a bow.” In terms of which costume companies to use Swaim has had great experiences with Curtain Call, Dansco and Costume Gallery. She advises that a good costume company should offer a good selection of quality products at reasonable prices and be willing to call you if the turnaround time is delayed. Allen, from Next Step Dance, adds, “We have been fortunate to work with costume companies such as Make A Wish and Algy that have quick turnaround times and are willing to over-night costumes if need be.”

Venue Value. One of the top priorities for many studio owners when planning their recital budget is location. “You want a nice place that is well organized and caters to your needs,” Swaim says. “Is it big enough for your client base and does it have the amenities your need such as dressing rooms, ticket booth and refreshment area. It’s these little details that either makes the show a good experience or a bad one for audience members and performers,” Swaim adds. Studio owners should also look for a venue that is convenient for their customers. “That’s one of the reasons why we use the local Frisco and Prosper High School theaters,” Swaim says. In some cases studio owners might have to get creative if they want a particular venue for their show. “Unfortunately, there are not enough theaters in Frisco for everyone to use,” Allen says. ”So we have our recital on a Sunday because the availability is better at most places.” Davis-Bailey has also had to move her recital date over the years so as to not conflict with school system changes as well as summer camps and mission trips. “In the beginning we held our recital in May and now it’s the second to last weekend in June,” Davis-Bailey says. She has also had to deal with some snafus at the local high schools. “One year we didn’t have air conditioning in the room we were using as a dressing room and last year we didn’t have air conditioning anywhere,” Davis-Bailey says. “But these things happen and you need to get past it and stay positive for the kids,” she adds.

Be Up Front. Sometimes raising recital fees is the most cost-effective solution for studio owners. If you are going to do this, owners recommend that you be up front with your customers about it. Last year Swaim increased her recital fees to compensate for the theater’s increased hourly fee. “As long as you take the time to explain to the parents why it is happening, they should understand and accept the reason,” Swaim says. Next Step Dance has also raised recital fees to offset the cost of its venue. “We tell the parents from the beginning: this is your monthly fee, this is your recital fee and this is your costume fee,” Allen says. “And when we increased recital fees this year, we told the parents up front that this increase is the cost of having a recital in a large theater at a venue like the Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts,” Allen adds. Having open communication between you and the clientele and you and your staff is the key, studio owners say. “You don’t want to do this by yourself,” Davis-Bailey says. “It’s always nice to have someone else in the room when you’re ordering so they can watch your back,” she adds. “Learn to delegate and be fine with that. And don’t hesitate to seek advice from other studio owners.”

This article was first published in DANCE by the Dance Council of North Texas.

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