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Dancing Outside the Box: How to Build a Successful Outdoor Dance Program

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Just when you think you are settling into the “new normal,” inevitably, a new curveball is thrown your way. Any setback or new challenge can feel like you’ve returned to those early, heady days in March when you were scrambling to adapt. But before you scream into a pillow, remember you are not alone! We have all learned a lot since those early days, including how to take a deep breath and view obstacles as opportunities. Every studio is facing their own unique challenges, and one of the most common challenges has been how to get creative about the way classes are offered. In California and many other areas, for example, this has meant literally bringing your studio outside.

Wondering what you can do to bring your studio into the outdoors? Take these three easy steps to pivot your business gracefully—to think and dance outside the box!

Dream

Every goal starts with a dream. Just like when you first opened your studio, you had a dream of how it would look and feel. It’s important that you make time to schedule and prioritize your dreams; to spend time visualizing the outcomes you want. While the “tyranny of the urgent” will always be pulling at you, take time to get out of your office and conceptualize your vision of an outdoor program and how it can serve a greater purpose for your studio.

While COVID has brought many restrictions, it has also presented opportunities. Maybe an outdoor studio provides a chance to expand your business. Investing in a robust outdoor space is likely more affordable than expanding your space indoors—and infinitely more affordable than taking on extra rent or mortgage expenses. Dream big, and then see if you can monetize the project for the short and long term. This is a marathon, not a sprint!

Design

Location: Do you have a parking lot, yard, or area where you can fit an outdoor studio?

Permission and Permits: Do you need permission from your landlord or local authorities to build an outdoor studio?

Power, Lighting, and Music: Make sure there is power that you can pull from for lighting and sound. Note that lighting can be a drain on power and may necessitate some simple electrical upgrades that will make a huge long-term difference. Consider renting twinkle lights from a local event company to add magic to your outdoor space. With many portable sound solutions, you can easily identify a good fit for your
outdoor space.

Flooring: If you are building outdoors for the long haul, consider a sprung floor as it will be a huge safety bonus for dancers and families. A simple grid with carpet padding covered in Masonite is an affordable alternative to Marley. 

Tenting: Consider renting a tent from a local events company, or think about whether it’s worth investing in a customized permanent tent, as large tents can be costly and may not be as waterproof as your own personalized option. (Extra tip: Have your tent be larger than the floor, to account for rain runoff and to cover an outdoor reception table for your staff.)

Fencing: Renting basic paneled construction fencing is an affordable way to secure your outdoor space. A simple padlock can help keep your investment protected.

Staffing: Don’t forget to consider the safety and service needs of your clientele outdoors. Teachers can step in, but also make sure you have necessary frontline support to manage your new outdoor lobby. A picnic table is a nice and secure way to create a place for an outdoor office. This can also double as an inviting outdoor space for your staff when classes are not in session.   

Pricing: Be sure to price your outdoor classes competitively. You may decide they are worth charging a higher rate than their online or hybrid counterparts.

Deliver

Once your outdoor oasis is built, it is time to spread the word! Make sure to capture photos and videos in daylight and at night to convey the magic of dancing under the big top. Parents will be delighted to know they have such a unique and special option for their children. With many youth sports sidelined or limited, your innovation will prove that your studio can be the one thing they can count on throughout the year!   

Don’t forget to deliver service out of the box as well. Promote custom outdoor classes at off-peak times to homeschool pods. Research private school schedules and see if you can promote or even partner to create a specific off-peak class to service their community. Also, lunch hour is a key time for children to replenish their recess deficit with a safe and distanced dance class. 

Once your outdoor classes are underway, encourage your families to post on social media and tag and share the new memories their dancers are making. These parent promoters are your secret marketing ninjas! You cannot beat organic reach and personal testimonials. Be sure to notice their posts to share and quote in future advertisements.

While the idea that this pandemic is temporary will help us cope, looking ahead to the long-term future is still necessary. Perhaps an investment in a permanent outdoor dance space will boost your bottom line and create opportunity for your studio to not only grow, but to showcase its resilience to your community. This may be the very thing that helps you achieve your most audacious goals to optimize enrollment and persevere through these challenging times. In other words, don’t just dance outside the box …leap into the future.

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