Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The High Cost of a Quality Dance Education

During my ballet years, I never once considered the actual costs associated with my training. My job was to simply pay attention and get myself to all my various classes {sometimes as many as 14 a week}, Monday through Saturday. The "minor details"--my tuition, pointe shoes, leos, tights, costume and audition fees--were all covered by my parents.

Now that I have a dancing daughter of my own, I've come to realize two important things:  The cost of a quality dance education is very high, and the decision to enroll one's child in dance should not to be made lightly.

Time and Energy: A Parent's Most Precious Commodity

"Dance parents" give up a lot of personal time to further their child's education. Although weekly class times are set in stone, the pace picks up quite a bit during the winter months (Nutcracker), as well as during May-June (recital season). Additionally, if your child attends a summer session, you can pretty much guarantee she/he will have extra classes in other genres including character, lyrical, Spanish, and/or jazz. {For example, Abby took 7 classes a week this past July.}

Traveling back 'n forth between classes is a necessary burden. If you're having a bad day and/or just don't "feel" like taking your son/daughter to class, they will pay the price. The same rule applies if they're the ones having an off-day. Not only will their teacher(s) be upset, but they will miss out on crucial training and, given the time of year, performance opportunities as well.

Homework for middle and high schoolers is often done late into the evening, and at the upper levels dance classes may not always be conducive to one's school hours.

If your family cherishes Saturdays as "family day" or keeps Shabbat, this will be another important aspect to consider, especially as your child gets older. This is because in the dance world, many rehearsals, performances and required classes are all held on Saturday.

Money: Cha-Ching!

Fund raising is often a crucial component to a dance studio's livelihood. In addition to monetary donations, many families are required to sell products (candy, magazine subscriptions), contribute to an annual auction, or even help run various studio-sponsored events such as mid-year performances and Open House.

Tuition of course, is where the bulk of your money goes. This fee will vary greatly between schools, and even between different parts of the country. Tuition also increases per each level of advancement. {For example, little Anna's pre-ballet class costs $40/month, whereas Susie's tuition is $175/month for 8 classes a week.}

If your child desires to attend a "professional" school {meaning one associated with a company such as Joffery, Pacific Northwest Ballet, New York City Ballet, etc.}, be prepared to pay even more. These schools are considered "the best of the best", and they charge accordingly. ;o]

While these institutions offer both full and partial scholarship programs, parents should be aware of three things:
  1. Scholarship funds are often in high demand and in short supply.
  2. Monies are given to students who show the most promise.
  3. Scholarship families are often required to donate even more time to the school, serving in various capacities.
Miscellaneous expenses such as costume fees and class attire {read: pointe shoes are not cheap!} should also be considered.

Conclusion {or, I hope I didn't totally scare you away!}

As with any worthy endeavor, a quality dance education will cost you quite a bit. And while dance may only be a fun, creative outlet for your child--which is wonderful!--for others it's their life's passion. If this describes your child, then it's important to nurture and encourage their God-given talents and aspirations.

What if you can't afford dance lessons right now? Many low-cost alternatives are available, including community recreational centers. These classes are usually taught by local dance teachers and provide a more relaxed atmosphere for the beginner.

If you own your own business, you may want to look into bartering services such as advertising in exchange for lessons. With the economy the way it is, many studios are being forced to cut back in this crucial area.

Most of all, pray that the Lord would direct you to the right opportunities. If dance is a part of His divine plan for your child, then He will bring those plans to fruition. Guaranteed.

In the end, there is nothing quite like seeing the look of joy spread across your child's face as they take their bows to thunderous applause {insert dreamy sigh here}. It's in that moment that you realize that every penny, every sacrifice, every moment--was worth it!

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