Dance Studio Collaboration

Welcome all new members. Please read this before posting so you understand our mission. Thanks

This is for professionals in the Ballroom, Swing , Salsa, Tango, Country worlds. Basically any partner form. I feel like Yoda going into exile on Dagobah at the end of Revenge of the Sith. I have spent 2 months running scenarios and exchanging ideas with mentors and friends in the Restaurant/Hospitality industry. In the last few days I have started to see what I predicted, the collapse of many studios around the country.  Please bear with me (I know it’s hard for me to write short stories) but it is critically important that we open this conversation. Whether or not you own a studio, teach full time, teach group lessons or only privates, we need you to participate. For once regardless of what style you teach, competitive or social, Ballroom or any other form of partner dancing, we need you to participate.

******Disclaimer: Even though I run a consulting service for Studios and Teachers, this is not about me in any way shape or form, I don’t want to be the people that swoop in and have bought up all the toilet paper at Costco, only to price gouge you later on. I have 40+ years in the Dance industry I love, and I’d rather save it than take advantage of the situation. Personally, I am a big believer in analogies because they let your imagination color something to your point of view, so expect that I will use them quite often. ********

I don’t have all the answers, but I have a few. They are not in this opening letter by the way. What we need to start is to all come together in one summit. I am not doing this through NDCA, or the Swing, Salsa, Country regulating boards because then it becomes a political nightmare. All I am going to do is ask you participate. If you don’t like the ideas, you are not obligated. Opinions fine, ad hominem attacks, and you are booted. For the immediate, I will be the admin only to hopefully keep it headed in one direction: the recovery and viability (better yet the survivability) of our industry. I will add several other admins from each world based on recommendations from others or my direct knowledge of you. In the past our various Worlds (Ballroom, Swing, Salsa, et al.) have viewed ourselves as having little in common and no interest in the success of the other. Having just binge watched Game of Thrones, I will use this recent storyline to convey our situation. Our various kingdoms all fighting for survival and supremacy and are not paying attention to the massive Army of the White Walkers. (Got your attention?)  Our White Walkers threat can be boiled down to (Governmental Regulatory interference- {Federal, State, Local Municipality}, Widespread Financial Meltdown, The New Social Distancing Normal, and all distilled into the biggest one FEAR.) So we can either turn away from our old petty grievances ( that studio owner “stole my students”, that studio “runs parties on the same day I do”, that studio “undercuts my price”, and on and on and on) OR we can call a truce and focus on the bigger problem and create a new vision. (For those that didn’t watch Game of Thrones, you’re on the Titanic, there are not enough boats but collaborative efforts will save more people than actually were saved.)

I want to start this with an idea (a mission statement so to speak) and pass it over to a Facebook Group. It will have to be limited to professionals (or students that have ownership in a studio). You’ll be able to invite anyone but please only pros. When reading the posts at right read them in chronological order. Unfortunately Word Press doesn’t let me present them in the oldest first.

I am going to start with an analogy here. (Picture yourself as the driver, the pro golfer, the airplane enthusiast) Imagine the Indy 500 RACETRACK. If you own a race car, you are worried about how you can pay your team, your garage fees, parts, your personal bills, etc, You are not thinking about the track “That’s their problem” you say. If you are a pro golfer, you’ve got bills to pay, you can’t be bothered to worry about AUGUSTA NATIONAL, or PEBBLE BEACH. And if you are a Pilot who uses small airports for your weekend flights you are not worried about the airport’s problems. But just like all these scenarios, if we lose Ballrooms, social venues, and studios, our industry will be on life support. As Elizabeth Warren likes to say “I have a PLAN!” and as Lewis Carroll said “if you don’t know where you are going, any road can take you there.”

THIS PART IS CRITICAL: Having owned a three story building in which I built a studio, restaurant and huge nightclub, I had to do back flips to get occupancy permits, ADA compliance, and a million other things to open. Many, if not most, of the big studios across the world were opened when parking was not an issue, nobody thought about fire safety, seating regulations were unheard of and lots more I can tell you about. When the current owners of big venues bought these types of businesses, they got GRANDFATHERED in. Once these businesses expire, if the building is unoccupied for 3-6 months (different in regions or states) the grandfather clause would not apply and opening a ballroom, or dance venue with a big floor will be virtually impossible or financially prohibitive. So back to Race car analogy, The Indy racetrack goes under, you got no place to drive. So I am going to be frank here- if you are just an independent teacher, it is in your best interest that the studios survive. If you are a small 2000 sq ft studio who resents the big juggernaut 7,000 sq ft studio, without places for your students to go besides your place, the local dance scene will contract as they will lose interest and move on. If you are a competitive teacher, what do you care about social dancing, right? Well, from 40 years of teaching, I can guarantee you that less than one percent of the people that get into competitive dancing came in because they wanted to compete. You need social, they don’t need you. Where  can you teach competitive dancing if the little studios are packed with the “Unwashed Masses”?

My initial plan is to forward this to studio owners and invite them to join, It is important that they understand the nature of the group is not to post adverts of comps or promotional material but to exchange ideas and plan collaboration. Though much of this will be Facebook type posts, they do tend to get buried under a bunch of replies. Ideally a periodic Zoom group would be ideal.

I am going to finish with this here. I will post some observations and projections of the armies we have to fight FINANCIAL, REGULATORY CONDITIONS, and FEAR in the group. Each one will be problematic because each of our groups will face them differently. I have plans for many of these. If we don’t have a plan for social distancing we may get pushed to the back of the line in opening.

So I am going to ask you to join our group and it can be worldwide. If someone wants to do one in each country more power to them. But they are welcome to join ours. I’m sure we’ll have enough people that can translate in any case. It will cost you nothing to participate though since we expect this to impact us for a couple of years at least, I would appreciate those that wish to kick in $5 or $10 towards a Zoom enterprise level account so that we can handle large meetings. Zoom will cost us ±$250 a year so I’m not doing a go fund me but I’d appreciate if you all had a little skin in the game. Even if not, the best thing you can do is forward this directly to other pros, studio owners  and let’s get to work and build a new dance world cause the old one is gone.