Spendin’ Cheese: Affording Your Passion for Dance

Unless you’re regularly receiving full scholarships for your dance tuition and sponsorships for your dance gear and other expenses, you may have heard your parents grumble more than once about the high cost of paying for your ballet (or jazz, or contemporary …). There are lessons, shoes, practice clothes, travel expenses, costumes and many other items to pay for in order to keep you in training.

First, the bad news: Your parents are right to question the worth of your many dance-related expenses. Don’t underestimate how burdensome it can be to support this kind of training on an average family’s salary. Good dance training and supplies cost serious money – often thousands and thousands of dollars each year. A proper dance education is a financial extravagance, and raising a family is financially challenging enough without this additional expense.

Some dancers are fortunate to have parents that can – and zestfully do – contribute to their talented offsprings’ pursuits, but more than half of the aspiring dancers I have known came from average financial backgrounds. So how can you make it all work? What do you do if your parents threaten to stop paying for your training?

There is some good news…

YOU can help.

That’s right, you probably have a lot more influence over this situation than you might think. There is a way that you can ease the financial burden, impress your parents with your dedication to your dancing and encourage them to contribute to your training. How you ask? By working!

Ok, ok, don’t click away just yet. Working doesn’t have to mean slaving away at American Eagle for a few bucks an hour. Though that is certainly an option! (Ah, the zen of folding a gazillion skinny jeans into neat stacks.) As a young dancer, I had a few sponsorships and scholarships, but I paid for a lot of my own training and gear as teenager with money I earned babysitting, teaching the children’s classes at my studio and even cleaning houses.

You don’t need three jobs on top of school and dance to impress your parents and be helpful though! Consider taking two babysitting jobs a week. If you charge $8 per hour, you could easily make over $100 per month. Agree with your parents that if they will pay for your tuition, you will pay for your dancewear, shoes and costumes – but you have to stick to the deal. Make sure you can pay for necessities like pointe shoes first and save up for any extra training programs and travel expenses before buying fun leotards and warm-ups.

If you can’t bring yourself to start working or to use your hard earned dollars to help your family with your dance expenses, it might be time to reevaluate whether dance is truly your passion or just a pursuit. If you enjoy it immensely but decide that you don’t want it enough to make sacrifices like this, you might find that you are happier just taking a weekly class for fun instead of a daily schedule. And that’s worth knowing for your own sanity’s sake! If it is your passion, you will probably find that you feel motivated to contribute and excited to be able to start taking charge of your own dance training.

As a final note: Money is very tight for a lot of people these days. My heart goes out to you if your family is dealing with a loss of employment or other financial hardship. There are undoubtedly situations where young dancers in this economy simply will not be able to continue to train regardless of how much they are able to help out. If this is your situation, know that there is a world of dance waiting for you when you are all grown up and on your own. There is a whole universe of people who started or continued dance after high school due to issues like this, and many of them love and enjoy taking class much, much more than they ever would otherwise.

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2 thoughts on “Spendin’ Cheese: Affording Your Passion for Dance

  1. Rachel says:

    Do you know of any jobs that take you only twice a week? I have dance every day, and school five times a week.

    • classicalballetteacher says:

      There are quite a few jobs where you can arrange to work just a couple days per week. Particularly during the holidays, it’s easy for retailers (think mall-type stores) to fill in resource gaps by hiring a few workers that can each be scheduled only a couple days a week. That way the store can mix and match the resources’ availability to their scheduling needs. If you are interested in a year-round position, you’ll find that most retailers need at least one such worker year-round. The holidays are a great way to get your foot in the door for a year-round spot, though. Most have no experience requirements; just fill out an application and put on your best professional and capable persona.

      Babysitting is a favorite occupation for young people for a good reason – it’s flexible and often fun. Additionally, once you have proven yourself to a family or two as trustworthy and reliable, you will find that they will treat you well, have reasonable expectations and pay appropriately. I developed some wonderful relationships with the families I worked for, and some became more than generous once they determined that I was a capable and careful caretaker for their kids. All you need is two families who each need you once a week. Many families of little dancers sought me out through my dance school once they found out I was sitting. Ask your dance teacher if she would help you find studio families in need of babysitting.

      Don’t underestimate other off-the-beaten-path jobs like delivering pizzas or cleaning homes. The flexibility they offer is the very reason most people in those occupations gravitate to them. Also, you may find other jobs that you didn’t know were even available to you if you make it clear to others that you are willing to work hard. That’s how I fell into assistant teaching for a couple dance classes at a young age, which eventually led to, well… this!

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