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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Payment of teacher expenses at competition


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Hi all,

My daughter has recently joined a more intensive mixed academic-dance program. We pay monthly fees to attend. We attend a few competitions. We have a competition coming up that involves travel, and in addition to extra fees for costumes and entrance fees, which I expected, we've also been informed that we have to pay to cover the costs of the teacher's travel to the competition (hotel, vehicle costs) as well as pay additional to cover salary they're forgoing to be there (I don't quite understand how they're forgoing income - it might have to do with the evening classes they're missing). I am surprised by this because it's something that I assume the studio would cover and would be included in our fees. A cost of doing business. I just wanted to get some input - is this normal? Am I over-reacting? It's not that it's a huge amount of money (my daughter isn't in that many dances and the cost is split among the dancers) but it just seems odd to me. Thoughts appreciated.

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Many places will simply add to the fees that they are charging each student and consider that the cost to attend. The parents either don't know those fees have been inflated to cover some costs, or they know and understand that this is the reason for the inflation. There are many ways to do this and many ways to explain this. It is fairly common so that teacher expenses are covered. The explanation they are giving seems to want to be transparent. However, sometimes being that transparent creates more ill feelings than not be so transparent.

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In my experience the cost of accompanying teachers were covered and split among the participating students. Those costs included transportation , accommodation, meals and forgoing income. We were not charged any fee specifically for competitions.

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We have always paid to have a teacher attend a competition with us. Travel, hotel, food etc. The fees I have paid do not really begin to cover the cost of them giving up their time and talent to be there in a coaching role. I think this is a common and somewhat expected practice.

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Wow! I always thought the coaching was paid for prior to the competition in the form of privates and classes. Coaches prepare you for the competition. . I never had to pay for a coach to attend a competition. Many times, we have not even had a coach attend the competition!

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  • Administrators

If this is something like YAGP, then the coaching fees should cover the Regional competition, unless one has to travel to be there, and possibly give up paid classes for a day or two. If the coach has to travel, then those expenses should be covered. If there are several students attending from the same school, at least one teacher/coach should be there with them, and the costs can be split by all the students. If any students get accepted to New York finals, then the same situation applies.


Some schools will pay for a teacher/coach to go to NY, but, if they don't, then the students are expected to help. The NY finals are a long and very expensive week that most teachers cannot possibly afford. Travel and hotel and food expenses for a week in NY are very expensive for anyone, so a family needs to consider this before deciding to go and expecting a coach to be there.


I have done it a few times, paid for by the school. Since "retiring", and teaching part time in smaller schools, I have done Regionals with no charge, and one trip to NY, with 2 students, but on my own, only because I have a place to stay with a friend in the city. There is no way I could have done it otherwise. I was gone for 8 days, and gave up income for a week of teaching and covered the flight and other expenses involved myself. But, that was my choice and I was in a position to be able to afford the flight, food, taxi fares, baby sitter for my pup, and food. If there had been hotel expenses I could not have done it.

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Thanks for your thoughts. I was just surprised because we pay more than$6k a year to participate in this program, which is great - my duaghter loves it, but now we're being asked to pay expenses for 2-3 teachers in addition for competitions which just seems a bit too much. I certainly do think that the teachers should be supported to go, but it seemed like it was an administrative cost to me. But as has been suggested perhaps this is just more transparent than putting it within the cost of the program. Based on what I'm hearing it isn't unusual anyway. So thank you again for taking the time to post.


And no it's not YGAP - it's just a more local competition - not as prestigious by any means, just an opportunity to get out there and compete and see the other kids dance,

Edited by IslandGirl2
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I didn't pay last year, but my daughter's teacher literally went in between the classes she was teaching two miles from the competitive. Just went to watch and my daughter warmed herself up (teacher saw her at open stage).


This year we were required to pay I think $75 each (seven or eight dancers from the studio) in travel expenses, it was three hours away from home and the teacher brought his entire family and the Nanny. The teacher did a full warmup before class and was there backstage (although I think this stressed my daughter out more than if she'd been on her own but she's a strangely independent kid who is very methodical).


If the amount is reasonable then it certainly makes sense, you shouldn't expect people to work for free. I'm sure you wouldn't be happy if your work decided you needed to pay to go on a business trip over the weekend and miss payment for hours worked during that time. If the amount is absurd (when figured with other dancers who are also attending, so if you're being expected to pay $200 and there are 60 dancers attending) then you have something to complain about.

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Teachers at competition schools make way more than those at ballet schools- from what I've seen. The competition world is a huge money maker, and both teachers and the competition owners don't really care how much of a burden it is to parents. I think it's rediculous to pay anything beyond the hotel. Do you give them gas money to get to the studio to teach you every week? Do you order them food for dinner during an evening class? Of course not. Those are just normal living expenses. It's just crazy and greedy IMO to pay for their food or "lost salary" or even travel expenses. Having said all that, you signed up for it so I guess there's nothing you can really do about it now.


Not a popular opinion but it's my two cents.

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I don't think it is ridiculous, at all. As for food, it is an additional expense when one is away from home. It is not the same as preparing your own meal from your own stocked pantry and refrigerator. This is usually given as a per diem allotment. Same with gas money or flight expense. If driving, often the total mileage is significantly greater than the total mileage incurred at home---and it is a business expense, not a personal expense.


DD never competed in dance competitions, so no experience there. However, non-DD did compete in a number of competitions, local, regional, national, and international. Depending on the event, we were asked/expected to contribute to the coach's travel/hotel/food (per diem) expenses, split among the athletes' families. The local events and regional events were covered by our organization (which had annual dues per athlete), but the national and international events, we split per athlete.

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Teachers in competition schools do not make much more than at non-competition schools. The SCHOOLS make that money. Oftentimes, the teacher is treated by the school as an independent contractor, not a full employee with all the benefits an employee would be provided (e.g. paid sick leave, health insurance, etc.). Many work at more than one studio to make ends meet.


It is not unreasonable to pay a teacher's expenses. They lose income by not being able to teach at their other jobs, in addition to the hours lost at the comp school, if any.

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I'm not sure what happened to my second post... I did competition for years and it was never expected of us to pay for teachers expenses. The studio was doing well, and they paid their teachers well. I still think it's unreasonable, considering all of the working parents also have to take time off of work. Also, you have to consider what the studios get from these comptitions. They are using their best students to market for them. I know from first hand experience that students have switched studios because of seeing students from other schools at competitions. Again, I know this isn't a popular opinion, but if you're going to market students, and expect them for free labor in the Nutcracker for example, I don't think it's unreasonable that they pay for their own gas and pack their own lunches. (Or at least it should come out of administrative costs- as the OP suggested). This is just my experience, comparing the largest competition school vs. the largest ballet school in my area.


I would like to just add that I know dance teachers are underpaid in general, and this is unfortunate. I wonder- do students pay for teachers travel for other traveling sports? Soccor...gymnaticis...hockey...huge list. Anybody know?

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  • Administrators

Ballerinamom2girls, competition schools are a very different ball game than ballet schools. Teachers in most ballet schools are simply not paid enough to leave their regular classes, for which they are not paid because the school has to pay a substitute, travel to another city, stay in a hotel, and all the other expenses involved in travel. A few very large pre-pro schools may send enough students to a given competition to justify paying a teacher to go with them, but most cannot do that. If the students do not contribute to the expenses for a teacher/coach, then it can be an expensive that many cannot afford. As I said above, in terms of YAGP, the Regionals may be only a day or two, and may not even involve travel. If it does involve travel, then someone has to cover those expenses for the teacher/coach. And, if the students are accepted to NY, that is a full week that is extremely expensive. If the school cannot pay for it, and the teacher cannot afford it, then the students who are going need to pay to have a teacher/coach there with them, or they go on their own, which is not optimal.


Ballet Schools generally do not charge the same kinds of fees that competition schools do. Competition schools also generally have a large number of students attending their events. Either the school owners/directors go with them, or, if they send their teachers, then I have to assume that their expenses are covered by the school. I really cannot believe that those fees are not covered in some way, either by the school through the competition fees, or by the students. It just doesn't make any sense unless teachers at those schools make a whole lot more money than those of us in ballet schools make.

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And when your regional is over 8 hours away the whole idea of 'marketing' doesn't hold water either. We charge very little to coach dancers for YAGP and we do ask them to help with our travel expenses, otherwise there would be no way for us to attend. Given our area, when we have had multiple dancers qualify for the NYC finals, the expense for lodging, travel, food, and very basics while there was well over $10,000. That was for 2 coaches, one parent, and four dancers. We help with fundraising and events as best we can, but the parents know before hand that this endeavor is expensive. We also have to pay a subs otitis to cover classes while we are away. YAGP if far from lucrative for us, but the benefits it's given our students are priceless.


As for other 'sports' we work with an elite gymnastics team coaching their beam and floor routines for ballet occasionally. We are very good friends with the two main coaches. ALL of their expenses are covered by the team girls for every competition. I cannot imagine how expensive that gets. They are well known coaches, but they, like I think most ballet teachers, do what they do because the are passionate and love the art. It definitely isnt adding to a 401K fund...

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