A Teacher’s Journey!

My career in Dance has been every kind of wonderful.  As a child, I was drawn to Musical Theater and used to dance around the living room to my favorite Musical Records…  Hello Dolly, Two by Two, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Thoroughly Modern Millie, etc.  But, I didn’t take my first dance class until my Junior year in High School.

I started with Ballet, but classes were midday and would kick my @$$!! I would usually sleep my way through Math and History, and then participate in the after-school theater programs.  My senior year, I was cast in the a college production of Gypsy with an amazingly talented choreographer who insisted I immediately get into dance class.  So, I started tap and Jazz training.   I was religious in my practice and excelled quickly to the top of my class.   But, there was always more to learn and it was great fun.

After several successful years doing semi-professional theater I branched out to produce a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies.  This play required a Tango, and up to this point, I had no training with partner dancing (other than some basic improvised swing).  So, I hired the local Ballroom and Latin dance School owners to come and be a part of the production.  I recall driving by the studio at least three times before I worked up the nerve to go inside and speak to the owners.  Everyone there was always dressed so fancy and the people were all “adults” (unlike my other dance classes which were mostly teenagers, etc.)  Anywho… They agreed to do the show, which was a huge success.  They then asked if I was interested in training to be a Ballroom and Latin dance instructor.  They offered free training in exchange for light work at the studio and a loose commitment to work for the studio.  I jumped at the opportunity, as I’d always loved the movies of Fred Astaire, and Gene Kelly.  Plus, teaching dance seemed way more fun than waiting on tables.

From this early experience I developed as an instructor and learned quickly that I could make more money if I was an independent teacher.  The studio owners were a bit unorganized and eventually they closed their studio… I briefly tried another school, but with my personality I quickly developed a loyal following and I had bills to pay so I went fully independent.   I’ve always had a head for business, so I naturally leveraged my very minimal dance skills into a very lucrative career.

Next step was opening my own studio, which happened a couple years later.   Upon opening my Studio I promoted several of my talented students into apprentice teachers.  Training them how to be dance instructors.  We all thrived, but then it came time for them to spread their wings and fly, and that’s when I realized I was going to have to start with new teachers… it took about 5 years to get to this point, but it became clear that this was going to be a repeating scenario.  Apprentices become teachers, and then the teachers want to become owners.  I watched many try to duplicate my success, but so few had the head for business and they weren’t able to sustain their careers for very long.  Others, did very well… and I chose one of these to be my successor and sold my studio to him.

Over the years I’ve watched the same scenario play out over and over again. Many VERY talented instructors develop what seems to be a solid student following, but when making the move to independence, they fall short of sustaining their career for lack of marketing and good business practices.  Many don’t have websites, and if they do, they are low functioning sites, no better than a business card.  Many have no marketing budget so if they lose a student, they have no fresh new students to make up for the financial loss.   And, even the successful ones are too busy teaching to be able to foll0w-up adequately with potential new students that may be trying to book lessons but simply give up if there is too much back and forth or phone calls aren’t returned quickly enough.   Eventually these teachers will take other jobs, only teaching a few lessons here and there… It’s just a fact.  Talented Dancers and teachers aren’t always the best with business.  They spend their youth dedicated to the craft but this doesn’t translate into guaranteed financial success.  ZipDance is here to fix that.

ZipDance is bringing powerful marketing and scheduling software to independent teachers all around the globe.  It’s like having your own personal secretary in the palm of your hand.  Now students can see your availability and book lessons without back and forth phone calls.  ZipDance also provides a record of all the lessons, so one can easily track progress and keep students motivated and growing.  Because it’s a GPS based mobile app.  The marketing is targeted to local individuals who would be likely to take lessons, unlike a website which can get lost in the constellation of similar websites.  ZipDance also assists teacher’s by allowing them to connect with coaches and instructors who specialize in teaching pros.  So, the teacher that is no longer receiving training from a studio, can continue to get training and seek out advanced courses that will keep them learning new material that they can then market to their students.  It’s an all-in-one solution that hasn’t existed until now.

ZipDance will also assist independent teacher’s by providing them with “best business practices.”  Dance teachers don’t have time to go to University for a degree in business… with ZipDance, it’s plug and play.  Everything from Fee structures to cancellation policies are spelled out and you can either follow these guidelines or customize the app to suit your needs.  Are you focused more on performance?  Great! ZipDance will also help you get more performance gigs.  The first Dance-on-demand mobile platform will allow regular people to book you for performance gigs in your area.  It also assists with instructors who teach when they are traveling.  Students will be able to see when you are in their area, well before you get there.  And, all you have to do is confirm the bookings, the app does the rest.

As, I mentioned earlier, the natural progression for dance teachers is to start at a studio and eventually progress to an independent teacher.  Some of these teachers will eventually open their own studios.  But, some of the best teachers in the world remain independent for their entire careers.  ZipDance gives dance enthusiasts around the globe access to these incredibly talented instructors.  In many ways ZipDance will be creating a global community of independent teachers.  Leveling the playing field with the larger Studio Franchises and giving exposure to the dance industry’s finest instructors.