How to Choose the Right Dance Studio

The hunt for the right studio can be confusing. Not only are there different studios, there are different types of studios, and different types of dance. Here are some hints to help you find the perfect studio for your dancer.

First, make sure a prospective studio is willing to let you come and observe or have your child try classes. Before your visit, let’s break down the lingo and give you some key things to look for and questions to ask.

Types of Studios – These descriptions are not usually in the name of the studio. You will have to ask.

– Competition studios focus mostly on teaching choreography, perfecting it and taking it to competitions.

– Company schools are facilities run by professional dance companies. They usually focus primarily on the style of the company; i.e., a ballet company will have a school that is focused on teaching ballet.

– Non competition studios do not participate in competitions and might offer any number of dance styles. They may or may not offer performances for students.

Styles of dance – Let me give you a very brief description of and a few helpful hints concerning the most common ones.

– Ballet is said to be the foundation of all dance forms. While preparatory classes can be taken younger, formal ballet training should not begin until children are at least 7 years old.

– Tap is the one with the noisy shoes. It can be a fun, engaging way to help even very young kids learn musicality. It’s also a very safe dance form for adults that have never danced to start out with.

– Jazz dancing is energetic and fun, consisting of unique moves, fancy footwork, big leaps and quick turns. To excel in jazz, dancers need a strong background in ballet. As with ballet, formal training should not begin until children are 7.

– Modern or Contemporary consists of fluid dance movements, versatility and improvisation, and expressive explorations. Classes can usually start around 8, but this can also be a great place for older beginners to jump in.

– Hip Hop is a collection of street dance styles including breaking, locking, and popping and more and is a great way for even younger kids and adults to get moving to the beat.

– All Stars/ Dance Squad/ Dance Team/ Pom Squad is competitive dance and can incorporate different dance styles (i.e. hip-hop, jazz or lyrical), and technical work (leaps, turns, kicks, splits, jumps).

Dance classes for kids under 7 – Classes available for this age group can have any number of cute names, but there are definitely some key things to look for when finding the right studio for this precious and delicate set. Very young children are not just grown ups in little bodies. Be sure to find a studio that understands this and tailors classes for young children to their developmental stages. A positive dance experience can benefit development of motor skills, vocabulary, social skills, active listening, cooperation, the ability to follow directions, confidence, so much more. Classes should not focus on technique, but be a joyful way for children to explore movement and fall in love with dance.

If your child isn’t 3 yet, look for a class where the parent or caregiver also gets to participate alongside the child so your little mover feels safe and happy as you explore developmentally appropriate creative movement together.

“Combo” classes – these are classes that combine 2 or sometimes more styles of dance into 1 class, usually an hour in length. Combo classes are a great way to introduce young children to multiple styles of dance. For example, combining tap with pre-ballet is a fun and interesting way for kids under 7 to learn musicality and counting. Beyond that point, however, if students desire to progress in any given style of dance safely and effectively, classes dedicated to each style are of paramount importance.

Teachers – Most studios have teachers bios available on their website. Look for experience and training that are varied and extensive, but don’t stop there, an illustrious performance career or masters degree does not make someone a good teacher. The passion and ability to teach is something that great teachers are born with. Be sure to observe the teacher in action. They should be knowledgeable, positive and enthusiastic, giving both general and individual corrections and adjustments, and the class should be engaged in the instruction.

Facility – A dance space should be open and free of obstacles with enough room for everyone to move without bumping each other, with music that all of the students are able to hear and, most importantly, there must be a dance safe floor. Dance should NEVER be taught on concrete or any type of flooring placed directly over concrete as this can lead to injured joints in a hurry. Ideally, there should be what is referred to as a floating or sprung floor which means that there are multiple layers of wood suspended over foam or springs spaced at regular intervals. This is then usually covered with a vinyl floor designed specifically for dance. Be sure to ask about the floor.

Attire – Each style of dance has its own set of widely accepted attire. While clothing can look fairly pedestrian and relaxed in a hip hop class, seeing dancers wearing baggy garb or street clothes in ballet or jazz classes is a real red flag that your dancer is likely in better hands elsewhere. Proper dance wear is designed to allow teachers to see and correct the use of muscles and the alignment of the skeleton and allow students to dance safely and without distractions. Dress codes should be clear and students should be cooperating with the codes in place.

Costs – The cost of being involved in dance classes can vary greatly, so make sure that you know what you’re willing to invest and what you’re getting into. In addition to the cost of tuition, be sure to find out what other expenses to expect. These could include uniform, shoes, registration fees, performance fees, costume fees, competition fees. If you’re considering a competition studio be sure to find out how often your child will compete and where competitions will be held as many require out of town travel at your expense. Make sure you understand the length of time that you are committing to pay for and what happens if you have to withdraw early.

Now that you are armed with knowledge, I hope that you will be able to find a dance home for your children with confidence.

How Do You Set Consulting Fees?

One of the most frequent questions I receive

from those who are trying to start or grow

their own consulting business is: “How and

what do you charge clients for your consulting


The ways of billing clients are numerous.

There are hourly rates, by-the-job fixed rates,

contingency or performance arrangements,

flat fee plus expenses, daily fee plus expenses,

and many other methods of charging for your

consulting services. Which one is best?

Let us consider some ways of billing for your


1. Hourly or Daily Rate

Many consultants charge by the hour or day.

To establish an hourly or daily rate, they try

to calculate the number of billable hours in a

year. Many hours will be spent marketing and in

administrative and other functions, so this

time is not chargeable to the client. As well,

vacation time, holidays, sick days, and so on,

can not be directly billed to the client.

Consultants, like other businesses, must charge

enough to cover their overhead expenses and also

earn a profit. If a consultant wants to earn

twenty-five dollars per hour of working time,

he (or she) might have to charge one hundred

dollars per hour to the client. This assumes

one half billable hours and fifty percent

overhead and profit.

Your hourly or daily rate may be limited by

what your competition charges, especially if

you have not positioned yourself as different

from them.

2. Fixed or Flat Rate

Some consultants charge by the job or a flat rate.

For example, a tax consultant might charge three

hundred dollars to prepare a tax return for

you and your spouse, including an unaudited

income statement for your business from information

supplied by you. If the consultant takes only one

hour to do this, he grosses three hundred dollars

per hour. If, though, the tax consultant

miscalculates the time required, he could take

twenty hours to complete the job and make only

fifteen dollars per hour.

Of course, consultants can also make a profit on

the labour of their employees or subcontractors.

Many consultants claim to make more on a flat rate

than on a hourly basis. Advantages include being

able to give a quote to the client up front and

less disputes on price (as the total bill was

agreed upon in advance).

To protect yourself on flat rate assignments,

always limit the scope of your engagement to

something that you can calculate easily.

For example, if you are asked to give a quote

for setting up a website for a business, you

might break this project into smaller assignments.

First, you could give a quote for preliminary

research and recommendations. Estimate the time

required to meet with the client, learn about

his business and goals, develop strategies and a

budget, and prepare recommendations on how to

proceed. Then, give the client a quote (perhaps

in the form of a one page letter agreement or

proposal). Upon acceptance of the offer by the

client in writing, you may proceed with this

phase of the project.

Some consultants collect one-half of their fee

up front and half upon assignment completion for

each phase of the consulting project.

If the client doesn`t like your recommendations,

at least you get paid for the work you did.

Perhaps you can charge him to prepare

alternative suggestions.

If your website project was not broken into

smaller steps or assignments, you could find

that you spent way more time on the project

than anticipated.

Also, you might not find out until you present

your bill for the whole project that your client

won`t pay, either because he is not satisfied

with the results or because he is unable or

unwilling to pay.

Breaking down a project into smaller assignments

helps you estimate more accurately and limits

your financial exposure.

3. Contingency or Performance Arrangements

Sometimes clients will ask you to become their

partner. If you do, you are no longer an

objective consultant.

What if your client asks you to do management

consulting for twenty-five percent of the net

profits? Will there even be any profit by the

time he writes off his car, home office,

entertainment, travel, wages to self and

family members, and other expenses?

On the other hand, if you are a marketing

consultant that is absolutely certain

that you can increase a client`s sales, you

may feel confident charging a fee based on the

increased sales volume of the client. Are you

sure your client will co-operate with you in

the attaining of this goal?

Some consultants charge a flat rate plus a

percentage of ownership or profits for their


Fees based on contingency or performance

arrangements are risky. Most consultants are

better off charging a fair price for their

services and leaving the risk of the client`s

business to the client.

4. Value Based Fees

Sometimes consultants can justify fees based on

their value to the client. For example, if you

save a client one million dollars in taxes, your

fee may be higher than normal to reflect the

value of the services rendered.

You might pay an accountant or lawyer a fee of

fifteen hundred dollars based on time for certain

tax related services. What would you be willing

to pay to legally save an extra million dollars

in taxes? Ten thousand dollars, one hundred

thousand dollars, or more?

Can you apply this information to your own

consulting practice? Is there some particularly

valuable service that you can render that would

justify premium rates?

However and whatever you charge, be sure that

your fee is a good value for your client

and also compensates you fairly.

For further Information and resources about

consulting, visit:

Is This My Car Or a Space Shuttle?

How car electronics change your daily life, on the road and in the auto shop

· You are driving to a friend’s house and the airbag light is flashing: Then you remember that it always does this when you have your dog Max in the back.

· You grab the door handle to open the door and your car alarm goes off, everyone is looking at you and you feel like a thief.

· You approach a stop sign and your car suddenly goes into low idle and stalls.

· You unlock your car and all the windows go down. This only happens on cold winter trips.

Weird stuff happens with your car and you don’t have any idea why. Gone are the days when Do-It-Yourself could solve a lot of car issues. Today’s vehicles are much more like spaceships or at least like a plane. In fact, your car may contain 60-80 separate little computers providing more computing power than the 1982 Airbus A310 had or the Apollo Moon Lander!

Because modern cars are more like complex electronically controlled spaceships, their insides do not much resemble those of cars twenty years ago. Instead of things like a carburetor you’ll find lots of wires under your car’s hood, connecting sensors to the computers and giving status on the car’s vital signs. Electronics enable unprecedented functionality such as hybrid power or safety functions like airbags, ABS or stability control, just to name a few. Maintenance jobs like a tune-up used to mean getting the engine’s performance back on track. Today embedded software takes care of it by checking constantly thousands of sensor signals compensating for worn out spark plugs, clogged filters, etc. The so-called limp-home function lets you drive on limited power when your engine is in trouble. In the old days this might have meant a break down.

If your car is as complex as a spaceship and makes you feel helpless whenever it plays weird tricks on you, perhaps you’d like a space-age preventive maintenance solution. How about piloting like a real spaceship pilot and not to worry about inexplicable malfunctions? That is what professionals in auto shops take care of. Not only do they inspect, service and replace the still remaining 5,000 moving parts; they also understand the electronics’ side effects, run complex diagnostic and test sequences in order to fix and avoid malfunctions. Since electronics mask emerging problems so there is no detectable sign for you until much later, technicians in your shop need to find the root cause early. When too late you might have a need for replacing expensive parts. A speed sensor going bad and compensated by the software might start burning your transmission oil long before the engine light goes on. Ask the experts in your shop about space-age maintenance for your vehicle. Let them provide you with the right program to meet your service priorities (And don’t forget to quiz them about Max and the airbag light).

PS: Max is indeed the cause for the flashing airbag light. The airbag software detected the occupied seat. The person seems to move very erratically though (Max is jumping around in the back seat), which is not what the software expects humans would do. So it concludes a defect wire as cause and triggers the airbag light to flash.

PPS: Did you experience great and/or weird things with your car? Leave a comment in the section below. I’d like to help you exploring what is possible through electronics.

Uwe Kleinschmidt