Dollar Dance

I can’t believe how much it cost to enroll my daughter in a dance class.

She was four years old.  The class was $35 per month.  Harmless, right?  Then came that first pair of ballet shoes, the first leotard and first pair of tights.  Soon, there was the recital, with costume fees and ridiculously overpriced tickets to watch my kid spin and stumble around on the stage for 90 seconds somewhere in the middle of a three-hour bit of performance art, the memory of which still has the ability to make my head pound.

The Princess loved it.  She thrived on it.

That one little class ballooned into two, then three.  When she was seven, she wanted to audition for the competition team.  When she was nine, she started begging for pointe class.  Luckily, her teacher doesn’t allow her students to begin pre-pointe until age eleven, so we got a couple years respite before having to invest in pointe shoes.

Just as a side note, I want to mention that my beautiful, wonderfully talented daughter inherited her mother’s big feet, which means that her pointe shoes have to be custom-ordered. Can you hear the cash registers going cha-ching?

Competition fees are ungodly.  I’m sorry, but there is just no other word to describe the astronomical amount of money that parents and dance studios have to shell out for these events. We’re talking hundreds of dollars every competition season, and we’re pretty small potatoes out here in Michigan.  I can’t even begin to imagine how high those fees must run in some of the bigger cities.

Gravity?  What gravity?
Gravity? What gravity?

My heart really goes out the parents with more than one kid in competitive dance. We’re talking second mortgages here.

And the costumes!  Big, big bucks.  Sometimes, it seems like the cost per costume is directly proportional to the amount of fabric involved: less fabric seems to equal more money.  We’re lucky that my daughter’s teacher is a very smart woman who tries to stretch our costume dollars.  She often orders one “base” costume and adds hats or collars and cuffs or maybe a little skirt for the different numbers to help keep the cost down.  She’s also been known to recruit dance moms and senior students to save a few bucks by gluing on the sequins and spangles ourselves.

If I think too hard about what the costumes might cost without her money-saving tricks, we may need to dial 9-1-1.

Then there are the recitals. This same dance teacher works tirelessly to hold fundraisers and find inexpensive places to host the recitals, but she still has to set the ticket prices well above what I would pay to take my family to see a performance by a professional dance company.  Okay, a professional dance company wouldn’t be oozing cuteness, like when the four year-olds forget what they are doing onstage and start waving at the audience. Those tickets are worth every penny, especially as the years go by and I get to see those stumbling four year-olds develop into graceful dancers alongside my daughter. But it’s still physically painful to hand over a wad of cash twice a year for these shows.

Has it been worth the cost?

Absolutely.

My daughter hopes to continue dancing after she graduates this year.  She wants to teach, and she hopes to own her own dance studio some day.  She had the confidence to audition for a highly competitive college dance program, and she’s got the inner strength to be okay if she doesn’t make it.  Dancing has played a big role in making her the amazing person she has become.

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I have to be honest and say that it’s not just dancing itself that has been so good for her.  We were blessed to find a dance studio run by a woman who has become a role model, a mentor, an advisor, and in some ways, another mother.  This is a woman who refuses to dress her students in the overly sexual, age-inappropriate costumes that are so prevalent at dance competitions. She rewards her students for their hard work, ability, and attitude; she talks to them about healthy eating but never about dieting or weight loss. In short, she takes care of “her kids” in ways that go far beyond just teaching them the right steps.

I don’t allow anyone in my house to watch the show “Dance Moms” because I find Abby Lee to be an utterly reprehensible human being.  I guess I was spoiled by having my daughter dance with a good teacher; teachers are supposed to guide and lead by example, not by shaming and belittling their students.  If my daughter had gone to a studio with an instructor who treats the children the way Abby Lee treats her students on that show, I would have yanked her out of dance and put her in an activity less likely to do lasting harm, like football or rugby.

If I had it to do again, would I still enroll my daughter in that $35 beginning ballet class?  Yes.  She’s my baby girl, and this is what she loves.  I’d do the same if my son’s STEM club meetings came with this kind of cost, because that is what he loves.

But I’d go into it with my eyes open to the eventual cost of her dreams, and I would budget for it a lot better.  I’d try to be better prepared.

In the meantime, I’ve got a six year-old son who wants to try dancing like his big sister, and I’m just not ready to shell out $35 for his first class. I just keep hoping he likes football.

***

This post is part of Finish the Sentence Friday, with the prompt “I cant believe how much it costs to . . . “

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24 thoughts on “Dollar Dance

  1. I’m a dance mom, too – and my daughter is taking three classes this year. We also started out with the $35 class when she was very young, and I lucked out – she loved her teacher. Her program is through the local Parks and Rec department, so the cost is manageable. One year she took a class at a “dance school” and it was three hundred dollars to just sign up! But the teacher was not very good and everyone kept dropping out (I refused, because of the money), but eventually the class was cancelled for low enrollment. So I got my money back. She hasn’t asked to do competition (yet), so fingers crossed she stays content where she is.

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    • Over the years, there have been many times when I wish we wouldn’t have allowed her to compete. The studio she dances with doesn’t require members to be part of the competition team, and she would have just as much of a dance education without being on the team. But in the long run, I think it’s been good for her. Not so much for my wallet, but . . .

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  2. I felt the sting of the ‘Cha-Ching’. We had a daughter that went into music. Two flutes, one for field marching and the other, for concert and contests.

    The young lady is almost twenty-five, knows who she is, and cares about the world around her. Being part of a group that requires group effort, as well as solo performance, is something money really does not buy. When you put children, of like mind together, dedicated to their best, and taught by long respected instructors, you receive ten-fold.

    But I do feel your pain, even at the public school level we began our year with a base $350.00 fee, each student was responsible for selling race schedules at the Texas Motor Speedway, twice a year. Proceeds went to the district to fund bus travel to UIL contests, away games, food, etc. The cost for her concert flute cost several mortgage payments, but we budgeted. We made it.

    If I had it to do over again, would I do it? You bet I would!

    And so would you!❤️☕️

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    • You said that beautifully! Being part of a team, any team, is good for our kids.

      I never thought about the fact that my oldest son plays the trumpet in the marching band and concert band. I don’t think about the expenses that he incurs because it tends to be so much less than the dance expenses. Then again, I help the band teacher by hemming some of the uniforms, so I guess I’m still paying, right?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a football and baskeball mom. Initially all the registration and gear is expensive but then that’s just one season. So even though you have to add up the cost of gas for minor traveling and eating out it in no way comes to the cost of being a dance mom. One “costume” that just get washed to death almost five days a week 😉 So glad your daughter is having a wonderful “healthy” experience in dance.

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    • It all evens out, though — football and basketball moms have more practices to drive to, and more concerns about injuries. I hope yours is also having a wonderful — and safe!– experience in sports!

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  4. One blessing was Abby took that $35 class and at the recital when the teacher said see you next year she replied: didn’t you just see me on stage? I’m done!

    Course then she got into horses…..

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  5. oh! money well spent for your daughter, A.J!
    I have also been enrolling my kid in classes here and there with the hope that he finds his passion in one of them…and future is intact 🙂

    I hope your son finds his passion too
    xoxo

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    • I like the way you said that: “finds his passion.” My oldest son found his in playing the trumpet, but only after trying Karate, baseball, soccer, and football. He still hates the marching band portion of school band, but he creates magic in the concert band.

      I’m sure your son will find his passion soon. It will probably be the one thing you least expect!

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  6. I feel like all of the kid activities are so so expensive! I had no idea! My son wants to take karate and it’s quite a bit more than I thought it would be – crazy! Your daughter’s dance teacher sounds truly amazing and wonderful which is huge. A friend of mine has a daughter who is a dancer and her teacher once said something about her needing to lose weight (she didn’t need to). A year later, she was in the hospital weighing 76 pounds and has been in a variety of treatments for eating disorders. She still dances but I do wonder how much more happy she’d be were she to have a wonderful teacher.

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    • The eating disorder thing was my #1 biggest fear when my kid got on the team. I’ve never been a small person, so I was already worried that my daughter might end up with an eating disorder out of fear of becoming like me. I had a talk with the dance teacher before I let the Princess audition, and I felt satisfied that the teacher would never push the kids to be skinny-mini. And over the years, she’s had kids of all sizes on the team.

      She really is an amazing teacher, and we were so blessed to end up at that studio!

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  7. I had to laugh when my 8-year-old daughter was “invited” to participate for her dance studio’s Nutcracker performance, but then we had to pay for her to be involved! Of course she had a wonderful experience, and loved it, but yes, everything costs. It is worth it, I know it is.
    Sounds like your daughter is an amazing dancer, and that her dancing has been an unbelievably positive experience for her, one that she will carry with her forever. And that is priceless.

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    • Luckily, we’ve never had to deal with one of those “special invitations” to perform where the parents end up paying for the privilege, but I’ve heard of that kind of thing. I’m glad I never had to make that decision!

      Dancing really has been a positive experience for her, all the way through. Whether she ends up with it as a career or not, I hope you’re right and she gets to carry it with her forever. She’s learned so much through dancing!

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  8. I remember working the sound and light booth for local dance schools when I was in college, and I felt so bad for the parents subjected to going to those. I had no idea how much money they had invested. I guess for them it was definitely worth it. For me it was worth the paycheck! I’m glad for you, you got the added benefit of a daughter who found one of her passions!

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  9. I remember you working lights back in those days! Yes, the recitals can sometimes seem endless, but they are more enjoyable when you get to know the kids dancing out there. And it really is worth it to see those smiles, whether the kids are 4 or 17!

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  10. Great that your daughter was able to connect with something that caught her fancy, and in a healthy supportive environment! Obviously, her teacher must be so thrilled to see your daughter continue on in dance and aspire to be a dance teacher. I think that seeing students succeed is what motivates truly wonderful teachers. Sending my best wishes for your daughter’s continued enjoyment of her passion and avocation!

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    • Thank you! He’s already played Rocket Football for a couple of years, and I just signed him up for his third year of T-ball, so at least he’s staying active. He REALLY wants to play basketball, but can’t until next year when he’s in second grade.

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  11. I’m a club soccer mom for 2 daughters. My son will be joining them in the next 3-4 years or so. Insane amount on money and time and money… but the skills and confidence and self worth and strength! Priceless without a doubt. I still feel like I’m going to vomit every time registration comes around, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

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    • Right there with you on the whole vomit feeling. I’m so thankful that this is her last year of compeition!

      Good luck to your kids with soccer! My oldest played for a couple of years but gradually lost interest when he realized that the game is always going to involve running.

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  12. Former dancer here, and daughter to the most amazing dance mom. As far as the injury concern goes… I personally think dancers have it worse. Yes football and basketball players are at risk for injury, but as dancers we are bending and moving in ways that aren’t really natural for the human body. After 16 years of competitive dance I had three surgeries.

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  13. Reblogged this on A Goode One and commented:

    I’m reblogging a post from a few months ago, not because I’m too lazy to write something new, but because what I have to ask is too important to monkey around trying to say it any better than I already have.

    My daughter’s dance team has been invited to go to the Nextar Dance Competition Nationals in Ohio, and some of us parents simply can’t afford to pay their way. These girls have held bake sales and sold cookie dough and frozen pizzas. They worked their little dancer-butts off at a spaghetti dinner at the local American Legion. And through it all, they’ve kept dancing. Hoping. Believing.

    The beautiful woman who runs the studio — a woman I’ve often referred to as my daughter’s “other mother” — has set up a gofundme account to raise money to take our kids to the competition. I’m including the link here, along with this blog post, which (I hope!) explains why the expense has been worth it to so many of us parents over the years.

    http://www.gofundme.com/s8rxe8g

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