Danielle Hosker, artistic director of DanceFX, has been comparatively lucky. After wrapping her first year, DanceFX is still afloat and hardly crumbling under pressure. There are few, if any, sacrifices that Dancefx has had to make this year and Hosker attributes that success to the appeal of dance as an escape-like stress release, allowing dancers to concentrate on themselves for an hour. "I think it's a good investment during a bad economy," she says.
When assessing the big picture, Hosker says the reality of Charleston's economic state hit her when two or three Dancefx dancers were forced to move closer to home with the loss of family jobs. In Athens, homebase of the first Dancefx company, some of Hosker's competition has been shut down, but Hosker insists that although dance studios are up against each other for business, no one wants to see another studio out of business. "That is not good for the arts," says Hosker.
The key, she says, is to keep quality way up and to make sure you deliver the best product. If you're not offering a great class, they will go somewhere else, she says. And just like a woman's ties to a hair salon, a gym membership, or a coffee shop, if the product fails to be consistently satisfactory, she looks elsewhere.
How will Dancefx differ in their second year? They will do even more. They've recently added modern classes for all levels (beginner, intermediate, and advanced), making it more "accessible," regardless of the "bad rap" she says the genre receives.
They'll also be adding a teen-intensive performance company and a strip aerobics ensemble performance class, which will offer more opportunities to perform. The strip class, which incorporates "sexy hip-hop dancing," has been the biggest surprise hit for the new studio. Many take it to get in shape and to have fun. (If you are itching to learn the latest choreography from Beyonce or the Pussycat Dolls, sign up. I'll see you there.) The strip aerobics performance company will have the opportunity to take more varied and leveled classes, like Jazz Technique, in order to warrant more performance opportunities. They most recently performed at the Crazy Sexy Cancer benefit at the South of Broadway Theater this summer, with all the proceeds donated to the American Cancer Society).
For a dance company with many adult clients between the ages of 20 and 60-plus, Hosker has flipped all the recession strain into a creative opportunity. She candidly talks about this as a wake-up call. "It helps you lose the fat and get lean and mean and be the best that you can be. If you are doing that, I think you can really grow in this economy.
Since comprehensive adult performing dance studios are few these days, it has been even more important for Hosker to deliver a high value product. "You have to be on your toes because adults demand more," she says. And she's right. Adult dancers have either had extensive previous training, meaning they are more able to distinguish good quality dance from bad; or, they're putting themselves out there for the first time and are therefore more sensitive. Hosker is aware of this and strives to provide an environment that is safe for experimentation, but also one that is challenging and rewarding. A lot of adult former dancers miss dance, (I can testify to this) and Dancefx seems to be their first pick when they do make the big move go back.