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Ballet Talk for Dancers

How do you justify the cost?


silkmaiden

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I'm curious, for those of you who would describe yourself as a 'serious' recreational adult (we might as well be realistic, it's nigh impossible for 99.99% of us to end up pro in any way!), how do you justify the cost to yourself?

 

Obviously being responsible adults and parents and all, there's the fact that dance is a luxury, not a necessity. And clearly we should be fiscally responsible and put our household expenses and kids' costs first. But after that, where do you draw the line, if you've been able to?

 

I'm coming back to ballet after a very long 15 years away, and I guess I'm in a bit of 'do it all' mode, in my giddy enthusiasm! I've maxed out the number of classes I can take at my little small town school (ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, and even a bit of hip hop). My tuition just for myself is topping $3k next year, and with 2 of my sons dancing as well, our family's tuition is $4500+ for the year. And then there's still costumes to consider. And pointe shoes for me, that's ending up quite the expense too!

 

So I guess I'd love to know, especially from other ballet 'returners', how do you know when it's getting too much? Especially since there's no pro career carrot at the end of the stick. How do you justify the costs for you? It's easier justifying the costs for our kids, at least for me.

 

I've told my husband that, well, I'm going to be 'too old' to keep up a 6 day/week schedule like this for very long (I'm 33, not ancient, but no teen either). And that it wasn't THAT much money compared to a decent vacation, and considering how ballet feeds my soul, it's certainly cheaper than therapy bills! Hah!

 

But still.....I can't help the guilt I feel over using some of our emergency savings to pay for dance lessons of all things.

 

Thoughts? Experiences? You're own struggles with this issues? I'd love to hear them! :)

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It is too much if you have to dip into emergency funds, retirement funds or college funds. In place of a vacation, only if it benefits everyone. Saner mom year round might be a justification. Avoiding later health expenses might be a point in that column too.

 

Recital expenses would be harder for me to justify, but if it is a recital school where so much classtime is devoted to a dance, you might not have a choice.

 

I was up to 8 hrs a week at one point, but can no longer justify that with my daughter's expenses and my gym membership. I will go back to 3 or so classes a week one day, but it is not feasible now for a variety of reasons.

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Thanks for the feedback, Melissa. :) I know I'm probably starting to dip a toe into the 'too much' side of the line.... :blush:

 

I guess I'm weighing 'responsible' with the possible regrets of giving up my passion.....again. I was once an 18 year old with big dance dreams, whose parents talked her out of even trying because it wasn't the practical and 'grown up' thing to do. I've had lots of regrets, especially as I got older and had my own kids, of not even trying. Of course, my own parents quit supporting my dancing at the age of around 14, so it simply got too difficult as a teen in high school to work enough to pay my own way. I've always wondered, what could have been....

 

And now it's almost like I'm getting a second chance. Ok I'm not an idiot, I won't be turning pro, ever, but I don't want to wonder 'what if'. And, dancing isn't a thing you can always count on coming back to when you have time or money, this body ain't getting any younger! Still, it's a hard call. I've given up on some planned home improvements to pay for most of this tuition bill already.

 

Recital costs are an issue, of course, because how many fancy costumes could a grown up need, after all? :whistling: But of course once I get the performing bug out of my system, I can continue with classes but opt out of recital numbers.

Edited by silkmaiden
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Just as an aside--I do not consider myself a recreational dancer. I am a dancer who just happens not to get paid. Nor will I ever get paid which is just fine. To me, "recreational" conveys a certain indifference toward performance. But that's just me.

 

Before I ever began dancing, I was a competitive athlete. There was always a cost involved--equipment, training space, travel to competitions. I had those costs all through the time my kids were growing up and when they went to college. Having that as a constant expense made it easy for me to justify expenses for dancing. I just kept spending about the same amount of money, but for a different purpose.

 

I have always had a dance budget, however. Basically my budget allows for taking about 3 classes a week and a little for clothing. More classes is better, but more would put me over budget. I supplement classes with my own. At first I would just repeat classes that I'd taken at my school. With time, I got to creating my own classes. I derived a great deal of satisfaction from that. I've never only done ballet. Ballet is my basic training so I don't feel I need to do ballet six days a week. I'm really a modern dancer, but have done jazz and Spanish/flamenco, which makes it easier for me to create my own classes I believe.

 

As an "oldster" I do 5-6 classes a week. Only two are at my school. The rest are at home. Working at home tests your self-discipline and lets you work more intensively on certain skills. Working at home also lets you work more intensely. The only disadvantage is that you need a good space. My kids have been grown and gone for a long time so I'm lucky that way.

 

I think it's really difficult for a mother of young children to take the load of training associated with ballet. If it isn't justifying the money, it's justifying the time. I have great respect and admiration for those mothers who manage to combine child care, a job, and any kind of dance.

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Gary, thank you SO much for your thoughtful response. It really gave me some things to think about! Do you 'make up' your own classes using a syllabi (RAD, Cechetti, etc)? That's very inspirational that you've been able to do this!

 

I like the idea of 'studying' at home. I think, perhaps, that it might be an idea, for now, to keep my classes in the studio while I have the chance and time, and who knows, after a bit the whole recital 'thing' might not even be desirable anymore. I would think it would be wise, at least while I'm still 're'-learning, not to practice too much at home, as I am still figuring out the correct technique and reinforcement of poor technique would be an awful habit to break.

 

I have 3 kids (9, 7, and almost-4), and the youngest is off to JK this year, and perhaps this is why I am hitting a bit of an identity crisis, perhaps? It certainly is a shift in thinking from the 'baby years' to school aged kids. It helps, of course, that two of them dance as well, so our schedule isn't as crazy as it otherwise might be.

 

I'm considering installing a studio space in my basement at some point, if my kids continue to take dance seriously they'll need the practice space anyways. Of course you don't have the social aspect by yourself, but considering I'm taking class with teens half my age, it's not like I have much in common with them!! (I usually spend more time chatting with the teacher!)

Edited by silkmaiden
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I have no syllabi. I've got 100s of combinations for each part of a ballet class that I've collected over the years. Some of those are favorites that I often use. Sometimes I make modifications to other combinations. Sometimes I make up the entire combination so it fits the music and space I have. I make the whole thing a creative experience as best I can. I also place a technical emphasis on each exercise, typically things my teachers have emphasized as well as concepts such as oppositional forces that you find in other dance styles. Over the years, I've made the combinations easier and placed much more emphasis on technical performance.

 

Of the various dance forms, creating a ballet class is the easiest for me because of the standardization you find in ballet classes. There is a lot of information out there relating to the teaching of ballet. I try to read as much as I can. Just following the teacher's forum on BT is quite educational.

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Sounds like you've found the perfect balance, Gary. :) I just hope that I can manage the same, eventually.

 

What do you do about the drive to perform, though? Or is it not something that matters that much to you? I find myself as driven by the performance aspect as anything else, to practice forever with no audience to see is something I really find quite depressing.

 

And alas, I don't live in an area where there are ANY performance opportunities in ballet for adults, not even community Nutcracker productions. :( So even if, eventually, I can do my own practice at home, I can't see giving up the studio environment because it's the only avenue I have to get on a stage (albeit a small one!)

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As a fellow Mom of two dancers, I have managed to take 3-4 classes per week (2 ballet, 1 pointe, 1 lyrical; and considering adding a 3rd ballet class for the upcoming year if finances allow). My oldest dd is on what our studio considers "unlimited" classes and it is a very reasonable monthly tuition cost while my youngest dd does not take enough classes for the unlimited tuition (however by next year she'll be there as well).

 

Since there are three of us dancing, I do sometimes feel guilty about how much we are spending on dance BUT it wouldn't be any different if my kids were involved in some other sport or activity; or a gym membership. Lucky for me they love dance as much as I do; but recital costume fees and performance fees for our small ballet company's performances do add up - not to mention pointe shoes for oldest dd and myself (but mine last longer since I do limited pointe work), tights, leotards, etc. It keeps my girls busy and is great for my health (emotional and physical) so we will always have a "dance budget". If we have to tighten our budget for whatever reason, I'd take the fewer classes before I'd start reducing my dd's classes.

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DancinMom - you are so lucky to have an unlimited option! Alas, ours doesn't. :( My middle son is 7, and doing two classes this year, but it's really going to add up a lot if he starts ramping it up next year.

 

I've read some of your posts on the pointe shoe forum, and wow I can't even imagine. It's already killing me paying for pointe shoes for me! Thank goodness my kids are all boys, at least I'll never have to worry about pointe shoe costs for them.

 

You're right about other activities sometimes costing as much if not much more. I'm lucky that none of my kids ever got into hockey, now THAT'S an activity that's megabucks!! Friend's of ours pay upwards of $1500 just for rink fees alone, which I can't even wrap my mind around.

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For me, I justify the cost of my ballet classes as being an excellent workout and exercise as well as wanting to learn to dance. Back a few years ago, I was taking both a ballet and another dance class in addition such as zumba, hip hop, jazz, and even tried tap for a year. Really whatever the studio offered and was able to keep on the schedule. Unfortuantely, the adults in my area did not attend regularly and attendance dropped in all except for ballet and jazz.

 

But, I really liked ballet and even picked up adult ballet classes at a two other studios than my main studio along the way. The plan in the future is to go back to at least two classes a week. If things go well, maybe a third class. I'd love to perform in a performance in the future.

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I think it might be easier for me to justify because I'm not a mother or married, so my income is mine to do whatever I want with (though, there's a downside to that, too!) At any rate, it's not only exercise, but something that feeds my soul. My signature quote really describes how dancing makes me feel: alive. I've tried gyms and treadmills, and was miserable and bored. I need a class environment, and I need to dance. It costs more (in some cases) than a gym membership, but it won't go to waste like those dues used to, because I actually LIKE going to ballet class and look forward to it (rather than, "Oh no, I have to spend 45 minutes on the elliptical AGAIN.")

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morninglorie, it definitely feeds my soul too. :)

 

I'm like you - I too tried everything! Every gym and fitness class you can think of, from step to kickboxing to Zumba to bootcamp. I took up running. I tried ballroom (holy $$!). Nothing filled the gap.

 

I spent over a decade justifying why I couldn't go back to ballet....I was too old, I had kids to think of, I needed to let go of my childish ballerina dreams, I wasn't flexible enough anymore, it was too expensive, the studios would all laugh at me, yadda yadda. I was delighted when my son begged for dance lessons, and no I didn't make him do it, I really made sure HE wanted it before I signed him up. I thought I would be okay with being the ex-dancer dance mom, that it would be satisfying enough to watch my kids dance.

 

Then, I went to his first recital last year, and I realized - it wasn't enough. I didn't want to sit on the sidelines or hang around backstage, I wanted to be ON STAGE. That yearning was so deep in my soul that I couldn't make anymore excuses.

 

I have absolutely no problems justifying a few classes a week! At all. I just wonder if I'm trying to do too much sometimes. But we're not quite broke....yet....even though the husband is griping about the tuition bill that just came in today. :blush:

 

But you know, this year is very special. Because I'll get to be performing next spring on the same stage as two of my kids. I'll get to take final curtain calls with my sons, and that is going to be AMAZING, I already know it. How cool is that recital dvd going to be? I'm already getting the warm fuzzies thinking about it.

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Very cool, Silkmaiden!!!!! What a lovely experience it will be for you! If you can afford it and that's what you mainly spend your money on for your own personal wellbeing, then so be it. You certainly shouldn't feel guilty about it. Some women spend a fortune on going to hairdressers each week, buying new clothes and accessories in expensive designer places, belonging to a gym etc etc - we all splurge on dance classes - that's the most important thing that I do just for me and it's good for me, both physically and spiritually - definitely doesn't make me feel guilty.

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With regard to performance, I've been lucky in that I've had many performance opportunities. Only one was a ballet performance, a studio piece that was part of an adult show at my school. Most of my opportunities have been in modern and Spanish/flamenco, the result of teachers who had amateur dance companies. It does help to live in the right place and meet the right people.

 

Over about the last year I've been developing my own modern dance style and choreography. Last spring I invited some of my dance friends over for a showing of my work. My piece was only 7 minutes long, so essentially it was a party with a brief performance. Turned my living room into a performing space. I'm not saying that what I did was great. I do think it was art. I've got another piece that I made over the summer and plan to present it after a fall class in a few weeks.

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True, Hamorah! I tell my husband that I never buy new clothes, or jewelry, I don't even wear makeup, and my hair is stuck up in a ponytail (or bun) all the time....so surely that money I saved in years past not doing all those things must be mine to use now, right? :whistling:

 

I always think, well, no one knows how long we'll have on this earth. And, what's the point of scrimping and saving so conservatively today that you forego your heart's deepest desire? It's not really worth it if you have a big nest egg by retirement but only managed to build it by not 'living' at all for decades. These are supposed to be my best adult years, I want to look back at them with fondness and the knowledge that I really LIVED my dreams best I could, not regretting that I didn't go for it.

 

Wow that was saccharine. :blush:

 

Gary, wow, you have done some very impressive things! That's amazing all you've accomplished. I really applaud what you've been able to do, creating your own performance opportunities. Congrats!

 

I'm totally not a choreographer, by ANY stretch of the imagination....and I find I need the studio environment (and the stage).... I don't know, we're all different, but I find it's just not the same at home even though I do have some very good class dvd's by Finis Jhung and a barre mounted on my wall. It just doesn't feel as magical as taking class at the studio. I'm not sure why. Maybe because I'm a total egoist and need an audience? :blush:

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