Today on “10 Questions With…” I’m happy to feature Ashani Mfuko, a fellow dancer, dance writer, social media expert and all-around talent…enjoy!
1. What is your dance background?
I started dancing at age 10 (which many people consider “old” lol). I started off with the basic dance foundations, Ballet, Modern, Tap, and Jazz. After college I branched out and learned many other dance forms such as Hip-Hop, House, West-African, Haitian, Classical Indian dance, and Ballroom and Latin dance. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Connecticut College, and have trained at Alvin Ailey studios, and Steps on Broadway.
I’m currently doing a LOT in the dance field! For starters, I am a Dance Instructor, and have been teaching dance to ages 3 to adult, for the past several years. I teach Modern (Horton technique), Jazz, Lyrical, Musical Theater, Hip-Hop, West-African, and Ethnic Fusion. I’ve taught at the Ailey Studios for The Ailey Extension, I teach at Steps on Broadway, sub at Ballet Hispanico, and teach at many other local dance studios in the NYC Metropolitan area.
2. What are you currently doing in the dance field?
I am the CEO/President of Kiner Enterprises Inc., the first national dance instructor staffing agency in the U.S. We are the creators the America’s Best Dance Studio Contest, a contest showcasing excellence in dance studios across the country. I am also the creator of Kiner Dance Studio Success, the 1st online social media success resource center for dance studios.
Lastly, I’m a dance writer/blogger, and have a blog for dance studio owners, dance teachers, and dance professionals, http://kinerenterprisesincblog.com.
3. Can you talk a little about the staffing you do through Kiner Enterprises?
Sure. My company provides dance teachers for last-minute subs, long-term teaching positions, choreography, dance workshops, private dance lessons, and basically everything you can imagine that relates to teaching staff for dance studios, schools, and non-profit organizations. It’s a great resource for dance studios because they can come to us, and have their needs for talented, reliable dance teachers met, all in one place. It’s also a great resource for dance teachers who want access to more dance teaching job opportunities. We started out only working with dance studios and dance teachers in the NYC Metropolitan area, but last year, we expanded, and now are increasing our teacher roster in order to accomodate dance studios across the country.
4. How can dance professionals make good use of today’s social media?
They can make good use of today’s social media by first getting involved. There are many dance professionals out there who still haven’t quite taken that step yet. For those who already have, it’s all about connecting with other people in the dance industry, building relationships, engaging people, supporting other dance businesses, and really showing the world what unique skills and talent you have to offer. I truly believe that social media has leveled the playing field, and is a great way for dancers to highlight their talent and businesses in a way that wasn’t possible even 5 years ago. I highly recommend using videos in every aspect of your social media marketing, because they have a tremendous impact. Sites like YouTube and Blip.tv, are a dancer’s dream. I would also recommend getting plugged into Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, to get started. The possibilities are really endless in social media. You just have to know where to get the right tools, and learn how to utilize them to your best advantage.
5. What is the biggest mistake that dance studio owners make when it comes to marketing?
I would say the biggest mistake is having unrealistic expectations. Times have changed tremendously over the past few years as it relates to the economy, the use of magazines and newspaper publications, and just the way people search for and find the information they’re looking for. So having unrealistic expectations means a couple of things:
1) Believing that the traditional marketing methods that you used 5, or even 3 yrs ago, will still work as effectively today as they did before, with today’s shift to social media marketing.
2) Believing that by simply getting involved in social media, (i.e. creating a Facebook Fan Page, a Twitter account, and a YouTube page) it will have an impact on your dance studio, without having a specific plan and strategy in place to really maximize the benefits of social media marketing for your dance studio.
I love to dance, I love dancers, and I simply have a passion for supporting dancers that are pursuing their dream, whether as a dance studio owner, dance educator, choreographer, performer, etc. That is where my inspiration comes from. I always ask myself, “How can I create a way for dance studio owners to become more successful, have less stress, and enjoy what they do everyday? How can I help dance teachers become more successful and financially stable in their careers? How can I help professional dancers create a balance between doing what they love, and being able to truly thrive in this industry (myself included)?” These are questions that I ask myself everyday. I’ve just always believed that if you do what you love and are passionate about, and make a decision to not let anything get in your way, you will not only be successful, but you will be happy, appreciate your life, and be able to share that joy to help others succeed.
7. Who are your all-time favorites in the dance world?
My all-time favorites include: Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, Debbie Allen, Cynthia Gregory, Toni Pierce, Milton Myers, Troy Powell, Wade Robson, Desmond Richardson, George de la Pena, Emilio “Buddha Stretch” Austin, Jr., and last but not least, Mikhail Baryshnikov.
8. Is there a special moment from your career that you can share?
I’m going to share the 1st moment that came to mind when I read this question (out of all my ‘special career moments’, this is what I choose to share? Lol). I was auditioning for the show “Tarzan” on Broadway many years ago, and we had to go one at a time and show off some Martial Arts movement. I’ve studied a little Capoiera, so I decided to do some of that. All I remember is kicking my left leg up, high in the air, and feeling my right leg slide from underneath me, and falling flat on my back, in front of everyone. The casting directors nearly jumped out of their seats to see if I was ok lol. Needless to say, I didn’t get a callback, and I walked away with a bruised body and ego!
I can’t believe I just told you that story. But, I’ll say it’s a statement of just how tenacious us dancers really are. We fall down (literally lol), and we get back up, and try again.
9. What would you say are the top things you got from your dance training that prepared you to be a business owner?
Discipline, passion, tenacity (see question #8), determination, creativity, and simply the attitude that, just because I’ve never done something before, doesn’t mean that I can’t do it. There’s a first time for everything, and if you don’t take risks, then you won’t grow.
10. What’s next for you?
Well, my latest project, http://kinerdancestudiosuccess.com, the 1st online social media success resource center for dance studios, is a place where I’m dedicating a lot of my energy right now. We’re also focusing on building up our national dance teacher roster, so that we can accomodate more dance studios across the country, for the Fall hiring season. I plan on continuing to teach, pursuing my passion for writing, and still finding time to perform when I can. I know, it’s a lot, but, when you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t really feel like work, and, I love what I do!
Bio: Ashani Mfuko, a New York City native, graduated from Connecticut College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance. She is bi-lingual, and currently a professional dancer/dance instructor/model /dance writer. Ashani is trained in Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Musical Theater, Hip-Hop, West-African, Latin, and Ethnic-Fusion dance. She has performed across the United States with various dance companies at many world renowned venues including, Madison Square Garden, Times Square Studios, the Joyce Theater, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. Ashani has appeared on TV shows such as, Good Morning America and Showtime at the Apollo, as well as in films and music videos on MTV, BET, and VH1. She is the President and CEO of Kiner Enterprises Inc.,
“Like” Kiner Enterprises Inc. on Facebook, http://facebook.com/KinerEnterprisesInc
Follow her on Twitter, http://twitter.com/kinerenterprise
Become a member of Kiner Dance Studio Success, http://kinerdancestudiosuccess.com
Subscribe to her YouTube Page, http://youtube.com/dancestudiosuccess