Zenon Dance Company and School, Inc.
The three tenants of Zenon Dance Company and School are outreach, performance, and education.
One of the nation’s premier repertory dance companies, Zenon Dance Company captivates audiences with a rare and dynamic blend of modern and jazz dance. Working with internationally renowned masters, as well as talented emerging choreographers, Zenon has continually redefined and pushed dance standards in Minnesota for 34 years. Additionally, Zenon Dance Company serves the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities, as well as at-risk youth, through our unique outreach programs, week-long residencies with the full dance company which prioritizes a low dancer-student ratio. Furthermore, Zenon Dance School serves our Twin Cities community by offering a wide array of classes for youth and adult students in a comfortable and inclusive atmosphere. One of the oldest and most established dance schools, providing adult dance education, in particular, we believe in the transformative and innate power of movement, and provide classes for all ability levels. We believe anyone can dance. In support of this belief, we provide quarterly scholarships for low-income families and host a large work-study program that makes dance classes accessible for over 40 students each season.
What new functionality we are looking for
Zenon needs a whole new website. Our last major web design overhaul was almost 10 years ago and does not speak to who we are as an organization any longer. With our current website, we are finding it difficult to compete in an increasingly complex dance instruction market with a new generation of students that rely on digital (particularly mobile) information. We are also having trouble competing in our grants funding cycles, grants which our organization would not be able to exist without.
There are several ways we see of addressing this problem. Firstly, we need easy integration of video and photography into our website, so the public can see what is being created right now by the dance company and the dynamic, top-quality classes we offer. We have archived materials dating back to the 1980s and extending right up to the present moment, beautiful photographs and video that we currently do not have a way to showcase. Integrating these images into our website would enable us to communicate the breadth and depth of our work to the Twin Cities community, potential students, audience members and funders alike. This will also help us integrate our website with our social media presence in a more productive way.
Secondly, we need a higher level of website organization. With two major branches--the professional dance company and the dance school--we need a website that clearly differentiates between the two for users seeking different types of information about Zenon. Currently, we get incessant complaints that it is hard to find information on our website.
Thirdly, we need increased ease-of-use. Our dance school works with the web application MindBody for client management and class scheduling, and we would like to make Mindbody easier for students to access through our website. MindBody offers website integration within its functions, but our outdated site does not allow for these upgrades and connections. The school also needs pages for our classes, schedules, and scholarship programs that are easier to find. Finally, we would like a page for requesting studio and marley floor rentals, so that rental requests are not received through multiple avenues as they are now.
For the dance company branch, we particularly need pages that highlight the outreach programs that we offer all over the state so that we can attract future outreach partners locally and in greater Minnesota, as well as communicate to potential students and donors our value to underserved communities. We also need to be able to easily update the website with information on current visiting choreographers the dance company is working with.
Lastly, but probably most essentially, we need to quit using a website written in CMS Joomla!. We inherited Joomla! from our previous web designers and it is beyond difficult to update and riddled with backend problems. Our staff are not versed in HTML and cannot fix the problems when they arise. These problems are most noticeable in font style and size changes that occur at random through the text of our website, which we find to be embarrassingly unprofessional.
How the new functionality will help
If you look at our website today, it in no way communicates who we are as an organization or what we offer. This is primarily due to a lack of funds to develop it. We currently administer 10 outreach programs, 250 dance classes at two locations, and 8 youth and adult summer dance camps per year, as well as the year-round work of the dance company, with only two part-time administrative staff (down from 4 mostly full-time employees in 2015). The changes in accessibility of our downtown location, the decreased availability of grant funding, and a rapidly evolving digital marketing landscape have all made it difficult for Zenon to stay competitive, which has led to our downsizing. However, with a new active board and a marketing-savvy staff, we are working on a strategic plan for growth.
We need a new website to grow again. As a school, we've been seeing a decline in attendance, which we believe is due to a changing downtown environment and more competitive dance and fitness market. The school has been operating for 35 years as the premier and often the only school locally to provide recreational and pre-professional dance training for adults. Currently, we still offer the most adult dance classes in the widest array of techniques of any dance school in the Twin Cities in the beautiful, historic old Masonic Temple building, which is currently the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts. A new website will enable us to communicate to current, former and potential students the quality of our dance education and increase our class attendance by creating a more accessible and user-friendly client experience.
As a 34-year-old dance company, one of the most established in the Twin Cities, a new website with the ability to show our work with photography and video will better communicate our unique and boundary-pushing dance. This will help us reach audiences, and give us a better edge in our grant applications. Both concert dance audiences and funders rely upon digital representations of this work when deciding to support it. Currently, we are not able to do our work justice through our website or social media, which is negatively affecting our financial support. Furthermore, a section devoted to our outreach programs would help us both communicate the community service we do, which is currently almost invisible to our audiences and students, and help us connect with potential partners for this work in greater Minnesota.
In essence, a new website would help us better connect to the communities we serve. We need this to continue to fulfill Zenon’s mission.
How our organization will use the technology
In the day-to-day, our staff will use this new functionality to update our website with current video and photography of dance classes and the work of the dance company. We will use it to update our class schedules and provide information on special circumstances, like class cancellations due to weather. We will use it to promote special events, like our seasonal open houses, workshop weeks, the annual benefit, and our semi-annual dance company shows. We would also like to use it to manage our studio and marley floor rentals. Finally, if we can get Mindbody integrated into our own website, we will use it to process enrollments, payments, and attendance records keeping.
Who will use the technology
Our website will be updated mainly by our Managing Director, Jane Raine, who is responsible for our performance company, and our School Coordinator, Sydney Ward, who administers our quarterly dance class schedule and the day-to-day functions of the dance school.
Our current website is coded with Joomla!. Neither staff member knows HTML and both find it very difficult to update while creating a consistent, professional look. A new website with easy to update pages would free up time and take stress off of our staff. Currently, the website can only be updated once every few months when one of the staff has time to really dig into updating the information. This means that the staff is constantly fighting against outdated information and spends hours every day fielding emails and phone calls correcting misinformation. This misinformation also creates distrust among our clients on occasion. We want our website to be reliable, and trustworthy. A place where students know they can go for up-to-the-minute information. A website that can be updated in a few minutes would help us avoid these issues by providing accurate information in a respectful timeframe. It would also allow the staff time to spend more time on development, marketing, and recruitment of staff and students, issues that will truly help the organization rise out of our current slump.
On a higher level, increased enrollment at our school and increased grants funding will allow us to increase the hours of our staff and hopefully hire back those positions that were laid off. We need a better website to help us do this. Increasing our revenues will hugely impact the job quality of our staff who are currently doing way too much on way too little.
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