We Can't Afford Dance Lessons

Updated on July 20, 2017
C.M. asks from Bartlett, IL
20 answers

When my husband and I decided that I would stay home and homeschool our daughter, it was absolutely the right choice. That meant a pay cut, as now I can only work part-time. We make ends meet, we don't live extravagantly but we do get to go see movies and have some family fun.

My daughter is naturally talented at dance, gymnastics and cheerleading. Now, she's been able to participate in competitive gymnastics and cheerleading because I work there and she gets free lessons. I've managed to afford her leotards by getting them second-hand and we saved up for her cheer outfits and shoes. I get a discount on her competitions. It also works out because she can take class while I'm working. She LOVES it, and is very good.

This year we signed her up for a dance class and she fell in love with dance. I don't work at the studio so we paid full price, which was a lot for us. I almost died when they told me her costume was $75!! We made it work, though. I had chosen that studio because the time worked and I really liked the people there. It was also one of the cheaper studios.

Recently she was in a small dance competition and she didn't do very well. The judges said she needed to work on her technique, which, with only one year of dance under her belt, I could agree with. She was crushed, as she is used to finishing in the top 3 at gymnastics and cheerleading. Well, she took this advice to heart and wants to take more dance classes like the judges suggested. She wants to take ballet and jazz.

There's no way we could do that. Not only could we not afford 2 extra dance classes but I don't know how I'd get her to class and back when I'm working. My husband will not allow us to car pool as he doesn't know any of the other families well enough to trust them with his daughter.

Right now she is sad that we said she could not take more than one dance class. Part of me feels like I'm holding her back from her dream of being a dancer, as I know how important training when you're young is. She is 10 now, and what I'm mostly afraid of is they don't make beginner classes for older kids. Once you're a teenager you can't take Ballet I because the ages listed are like 6 and up.

The other part of me thinks she's is very, very lucky to be able to participate in both competitive gymnastics and cheerleading, both of which are super expensive. I also think that if she sticks with both of them, she'll remain limber and strong so if she does choose dance when she's older or when circumstances change for us, she'll be just fine.

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So What Happened?

Thanks mamas! I will talk to the studio and see if there is a scholarship or she can help out the little kids classes. She already helps out the little kids classes with gymnastics and cheerleading and she's a really good helper.

I also agree that she could practice dance on her own with DVDs. I guess if she REALLY wants to be a dancer she will find a way. If she loves it that much. I taught myself how to play the piano and the guitar when I was her age because my parents could't afford lessons. I did it with books out of the library.

She's not willing to give up cheer or gymnastics, I asked. She wants to do EVERYTHING!! :) We can afford one dance class, just not three. The studio had suggested she take ballet for technique in addition to her other class, which is common. We can't swing two classes, but maybe they'd be willing to help us work something out--but I agree that she is now 10 and should help a bit to earn her class.

More Answers



answers from Seattle on

You have a GREAT lesson to teach her: initiative.

She needs to work on technique; that means PRACTICE, not lessons. Standing in front of a mirror and drilling, drilling, drilling. It means asking the instructor if she can sit and watch some classes, or help with littles to be a 'working student', AND if the teacher can recommend some good instructional videos (YouTube is an artist's PARADISE. We used to just have VHS recordings of professional dancers we had to pay for, now one can just search youtube and watch professional dancers not just preform but go over minutia).

Watching, absorbing, practicing, trying. Each and every single day. Then when she DOES have her weekly lesson the time is spent correcting minor things (to practice and drill at home), asking detailed questions (from problems she's run into practicing or some detail she's seen someone do and would like to know more about).

I was a gymnast, and I was also a dancer (and a few other things as well, but I'll skip those for the time being). One of the "bad habits" gymnasts fall into is "Needing to be in the gym". Because that is where the equipment and spotters are. There is a very FINITE amount of work you can do at home (all floor and beam, unless you just so happen to have uneven bars, a vault, etc.)

Same problem with Cheer (and other team sports). With cheer you get in the "bad habit" of needing other people, you can only practice so much cheer at home, and then just like gymnastics, your "real" practice is somewhere else.

((Ditto other equipment necessary or people necessary arts and sports; crew, horseback riding, drama, football, whatever... when you need to be elsewhere for your REAL work))

Dance, however, is just the opposite. Like writing, or photography, or painting, or dozens of other individual arts and sports the BULK of your work is done at home. You can dance until your feet bleed, tape them up, keep going. When I was serious about dance, I was dancing 10 hours a day. I started off with just an hour or two, and as my endurance built and my skill level, I got up to 10 hours.

She WILL need full length mirrors. Have her work out that problem (if you don't own them). Hint: Mirror tile is inexpensive compared to real mirrors 9x out of 10. Bars are SUPER cheap, because you don't buy a real bar, you buy a handrailing from HomeDepot and brackets. But if you have a sliding glass door, you don't need mirrors in the daytime. Because if you work outside, your reflection is in the glass. There are TONS of 'work arounds' it's just finding them.

From team & equipment sports, to "self starter"/initiative/practice sports it takes a BIG mental shifting of gears. Ideally, coax her toward the "answers" herself (like, what's the holdup to practicing at home? Mirror & barre. Okay, how can we do that/ how much does it cost/ how can we figure out a way to make it work?) so that she's "thrilled" with the affordable option instead of sad that it's not 'good enough' / perfect. Give her a project (love HS'ing) to find some "heros" in dance (aka she'll start finding those videos on youtube, and the library, etc.), find out what their daily lives are like (practice hours, etc.)

It's a major mental shift. But yah, TOTALLY doable.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

You are doing the best that you can for your daughter. I think this is a great opportunity for her to learn that sometimes money can only be stretched so far. If she really wants dance lessons that much, maybe you can have her choose between ballet and jazz. Or if she wants both, she can choose to drop cheerleading or gymnastics.

She really is a lucky girl for being able to participate in cheerleading and gymnastics and also have you stay at home. I'm sure she won't be scarred for life if she can't take dance lessons. Good luck in whatever you decide.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I normally have a lot of empathy for family choices and questions like this but in this case I don't get what's really going on. We all make sacrifices and choices. As a parent you decided to limit your ability to pay for dance lessons by working less. Your husband decided to limit your ability to work full time and let your daughter attend classes by not being willing to meet other families and carpool. Why not be honest with your daughter and tell her that dance is not a priority in your family right now OR consider making choices that allow her to do it. I don't think that a 10 year old can realistically train without a teacher and in your heart you don't either. I just think that you could let your daughter know that you can have it all - just not at the same time. A good life lesson early in life.

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answers from Chicago on

Ok, so, she is 10, I think she can begin doing things around the neighborhood like mowing lawns, raking, walking dogs, cat sitting etc for extra funds. If it is something she WANTS to do then she will have to help make it happen. If you homeschool then her schedule could possibly be altered a bit for some of these "jobs" to be done at certain times if needed. I am sure there are pleanty of things that can be done. I used to help my neighbors clean out their garages and attics, I also would walk dogs and play with cats (plus feed/water) for working neighbors etc. This is something she can do to help with the costs. I would also find out if there is any extra work at the dance studio she/you can do to help trim down the costs of the lessons. I also think she will succeed if she is willing to work hard at it, dancing is not an easy life and it's a broke life for quite a while too. I wish you well in this.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I'm sorry, but my family never had the money to put me in any of those things when I was a kid. I was fortunate to go to an art class for one or two classes here or there. I don't think that any kid HAS to have all of these classes or things if the family can't afford it. You have made an awesome choice to homeschool your daughter and that's something special that she has which means giving up other stuff. My mother quit her job when I was 7 and we had a lot less money and just went with it. I was thankful to have my mom home and not be in daycare anymore! I have a nearly 5 yr old dd who would LOVE to be in a million classes, but time and consistent money is just not there and so she doesn't go. Park district classes are still very expensive in my mind, so we can't even afford those. The reality of your dd doing any of these things professionally is so small, is it worth the stress of the time and money right now. I'm sorry, but I just don't get giving a child everything they want when the family can't afford it. I grew up just fine with little money and things and activities and b/c of that I can live on very little, not go into debt, and be content with what I do have.

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answers from St. Louis on

Could you find DVDs that teach the basics of ballet and jazz? Since she's homeschooled, she's obviously comfortable with working by herself and she's motivated enough to do it. Ask the dance studio if they would recommend any or do a search on the internet for some. Half.com always has used DVDs for cheap, so I bet you could grab a few for the price of one class. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I think that since you have instilled a good sense of judgment in your daughter that she will adjust and learn to adapt to doing without sometimes. If she is extremely strong in these activities and you cannot pay, then sometimes we as parents swallow our pride, go to whomever is in charge and ask if we can make some sort of payment plan or trade. As far as car pooling, I am sure the other parents are perfectly fine unless you are talking about a two hour drive somewhere and your husband needs to be convinced that we have to take baby steps with our children to let them do things.
Many people on earth have had to do without things and have soared in their beloved fields through determination and/or attempted other available things. Your area has wonderful shows that the children have opportunities to be in, school programs, park district, etc etc She and you will find her niche and she will be able to stay with it in your community. You live in an area where there are a lot caring people and sometimes they will surprise you with how much they can help. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would talk with the studio and find out if they have scholarships and if they do - apply for them.

If not - your daughter is 10 years old and should be able to understand the family finances on what you can and cannot afford...while it is her dream to dance - she's already involved in gymnastics and cheer leading...

I would not give her two classes - i would try and swing one. I would also go through the house and try to sell things that we are no longer using to make it happen...she needs to do her part...as well and understand that you are TRYING to make it happen but money does not grow on trees...

My oldest son is in baseball and baseball camps and sessions are not cheap, nor is the equipment....he realizes when we say - that's too much - that we aren't trying to keep him back but we have to do things within reason.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Charleston on

I am a dance teacher - PLEASE talk to your studio owner about your situation. We do this frequently by allowing the child to be an apprentice during preschool classes for trade for their lessons. Basically, she would be a "helper" in the classroom - helping change shoes, starting/stopping music, keeping the flow going, etc.... We've even gone so far as to help pick up and drop off kids to and from classes! Explain your situation and see how they react! If they value your business, I'm sure they will try to work with you. If your studio will not teach Ballet I to her because of her age, find another studio who will. Anyone can learn ballet at any age. Have you considered having her forgo cheer for a year to allow for the ballet? A ballet background is the core of all dance types, and without a good, sound foundation, one will struggle with technique in all styles. Good luck, and she sounds tremendously talented! :)



answers from Fort Myers on

"The other part of me thinks she's is very, very lucky to be able to participate in both competitive gymnastics and cheerleading, both of which are super expensive."
Sounds like a no brainer to me. We can't always have everything we want. I wouldn't feel bad.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Perhaps if she really wants dance, she can give up the cheer and gymnastics - it sounds like the still cost $$ even with free lessons. If you husband doesn't want to car pool, he can drive her.

I plan to expose my son to LOTS of art, music, dance and sports. I also do not plan on giving up my life and getting a second job if he decides he really likes one of these things. I do NOT see this as being unfair to him. It is part of raising a well rounded human being. You did not plan on her becoming a professional dancer (and likely she won't anyway, plus competitive cheer is a sport, not a career), you planned on giving her some exposure to dance, an important art form. I see no reason you should feel bad about that.

Have you asked the dance teacher if she might be good enough for a career? It sounds like she is probably already too old to become professional as she is just starting at age 10. Most apparently start training at 7-8 and should be training at a competitive ballet academy if they hope to dance professionally (wow, that is not the life I would want for a daughter). Since I would assume this is then a hobby/sport, whatever you do is going to be fine.


answers from Eugene on

Where I live we have a ballet company. For many years the ballet master tried to teach children. It was dismal. She may be able to run a company but she couldn't spot a body and tell the young dancer how to move or where to place her/his feet and hips. They were failures in her hands. Two other dance studios opened and they have real teacher who make awkward bodies graceful and teach excellent techniques.
Look further. I went to a high school that had an excellent dance chor. I had studied dance with a fine teacher.
I also home schooled my children but put them in school when we moved to an area that had good schools. I felt they needed the social diversity and the courses that were offered.



answers from Oklahoma City on

I can say that I know of one instance where a young lady decided she wanted to take dance and took ballet later. She only had 2 years of dance when she graduated from high school and got a full scholarship to a full university for dance. She was very talented though. She choreographed "Grease" for the local community theatre the summer she graduated high school.

I think if she really likes the dance that you should talk to the owner and see if there is any jobs you could do for her so your daughter can take at least one extra class. It sounds like it would not be wasted money. Dance also helps cheer and gymnastics.

I work in the clothing store of our local dance gymnastics studio. I work about 4-5 hours a week and we trade 1 1/2 hours of work for one hour of dance instruction. Our single lesson is currently $12 per hour. It also goes down the more classes you add. First class is $48 per month, add a second then you pay $80, third then it's $95. Then it is only $15 more for each month to add any other classes.

I had 4 grand kids taking a total of 7 classes one year. I worked in the store extra hours and only paid about $50 per month. Our owner tries to help those she thinks it means the most to, or the most needing the help. She lets some clean her house, some husbands do repairs to the studio, some do their plumbing, one lady sews many many costumes for recital, others clean each and every week in the studio when there are no classes going on. It can't possibly hurt to ask if there is any kind of scholarship program too.



answers from Washington DC on

Yes, as others noted, talk to your studio about being a class helper and about scholarships (you may have to prove your financial need, and they may question how she's able to do gymnastics and cheerleading, so you'll have to explain that). But also check out other studios. There are a lot of dance schools in the world and probably more than one in your location, so comparison shop. Also see if any studios can let you pay for things on a longer schedule. Costumes are tougher; the costume companies aren't part of the local studios and must be paid when they want.

She may indeed need to choose. If she does do gymanstics, cheerleading AND dance that's a lot of extracurricular physical activities. If your daughter truly wants to progress with dance she will find herself being told she needs increasing numbers of classes as she gets older, depending on the studio. She may need to give up gymnastics and cheer, later if not sooner, if she continues dance seriously. BUT it is NOT too late for her start dance at age 10, and any good teachers worth their salt will work with her, and you, to advance her technique if she's talented, and to get her into classes somehow!

One red flag for me was the word "competition." Check to see if your current studio focuses more on "dance teams" where kids learn modern/jazz/hip-hop and go to lots of competitions, or whether it also offers non-competitive classical ballet as well as other forms -- where the result is a performance/recital rather than a competition. You might have her try a non-competitive school that doesn't do dance competitions -- there may be less to pay for costumes. It all hinges on her and what forms of dance she ends up liking; some kids adore hip-hop while others only like classical ballet and some like bits of both.

If you find the right studio and explain that she's starting at age 10 and is really, truly interested, they'll work with her and work with you on finances. Also, she is old enough to really think through whether she wants to give up cheer and gymnastics -- maybe just for one school year, not necessariily forever -- to focus just on dance and find out for sure if that's her passion or if she wants to go back to the other pursuits at the end of that year.

As for learning at home -- no video can look at her positions and steps and correct her if she's moving wrong. She can learn basics but it won't advance her and she would likely develop habits that would be very tough to break if she went into dance classes later on. A good dance teacher touches students, moves their arms and legs and feet as needed, and corrects them so they learn the right, safe habits and don't have to unlearn things. Just my two cents.


answers from Williamsport on

Time to make her choose. God knows I want all my kids in piano, violin, tai kwon do, gymnastics, french lessons and more all at once. Alas, my dream was to have my first in a French immersion school by kindergarten, after which it's too late for her brain to enroll her. Here she is, 5 years old, we don't have the money to move somewhere with a French immersion school or to France. sigh. So much for the intellectual benefits of learning languages. (and I took 4 yrs of French in high school-and lived there for a year-and don't speak at all, so its not the SAME to take it later...:(

Compromise: She's in piano and violin, we have friends meeting for mutual french study (free) and going through books weekly ourselves, and I'm teaching her little brother piano myself instead of putting him in lessons right away. He gets tai kwon do at 4, at which time my daughter may have to drop an instrument....

Help her choose the most important one to her, since she can't do all. You're right, she will remain strong and talented for all of them in case you guys can swing it in a couple of years.

If it was me, I'd urge her to scrap the gymnastics or cheerleading, because dance can be done longer and in more forms throughout life. It can be rewarding even if it's not a "career". If she wants to be a better dancer, she needs to get started, and gymnastics and cheerleading will NOT help with that. Gymnastics will peter out naturally at a pretty young age (same with cheerleading unless she does those college squads) unless she's petite and at a really competitive level, but then again, gymnastics is EXTREMELY physically beneficial, and I'm no fan of cheerleading, so I'd probably suggest losing the cheerleading but if she's good and having a blast, it's really tough. But life is full of these types of choices, so have her help you choose. Lay out the futures each leads to, so she can make a bit of a long term plan. Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

I think your husband needs to lighten up a little. I mean if you think someone is okay to car pool with - that should be enough.

In terms of affording more dance classes - does the studio have any scholarships or payment plan options?

I'd also check out the park districts - sometimes they offer different types of dance classes and rates are very reasonable.

I know your schedule is already tight with homeschooling and all - but sometimes you can find ways to make some extra cash. Like baking and selling cakes and pies at the holidays, picnics, etc. Would any of her grandparents or aunts or uncles be willing to help her pay for some dance classes in exchange for babysitting or doing some household chores or something?

I know you want to be able to give your kids everything, but it sounds like you are giving her alot and you need to let yourself off the hook. She'll be fine and she'll look back later and be grateful for all you have done for her.


answers from Kansas City on

Here's what I think... I applaud you for making things work with the cheer and gymnastics. My friend did the same as you with 4 children. However, each of her kids had stress fractures repeatedly. None of them are using these skills now as adults. The family lived and breathed all of this when they were young and now the kids are living with very real aches and pains that belong in people three times their ages. The oldest was so good that he was first in state a few times and when he was supposed to compete in Nationals and everyone believed he had a real shot at speeding right a long to the Olympics, he busted another bone and was not able to compete. That was his last year to compete unless he turned it into a lifetime thing. He went into the military instead.

Not everyone can go all the way and the long term price and toll it takes on the body really isn't worth it. As her mother I think you should limit what she does. If she wants to switch to dance for awhile, try and find a way to make that work but end the gymnastics and cheerleading.

Also, see about getting licensed for childcare and take a couple of kids. The money you bring in will far surpass what you can make working part-time and then you'll be available to drive your daughter to dance. If you only take a couple of kids you'll have no problem with fitting them in the car.



answers from Omaha on

I was looking for ways to help me get more money for dance team when I seen this. Your daughter should be lucky she do all of that. I have been wanting to dance team since I was 8 and I am now 15. We can barely afford one class but being on team is another story. I've been saving up for years to do team and I still don't have enough. She should be grateful that she is able to cheer gymnastics and still do one dance class



answers from Chicago on

not sure where you live, but try park district classes! cheap!


answers from Dallas on

Why did you start her in a program when you knew you would not be able to provide more if it panned out? It is like giving her a taste of steak and pulling it away from her.

You've made your choices for your family and you know what is right for your family.. It is great that she has had some opportunity to be involved in some sort of activity and excel. Gymnastics and cheer, especially competitive, is very expensive. I have a cheerleader and we pay full price plus for everything.

Carpooling is a way of life for all the activities and organizations around here. GET to know the parents so it is an option. At this point my daughter now has her license and car so getting to and from is easier.

Talk to the owner of the dance studio. Sometimes "scholarships" are available. I know with our cheer program it is. When we close out the years finances a donation is always made back to the school for scholarship for any cheerleader who is qualified and makes the squad but needs a bit of help.

I would find a way to support my daughter. Your daughter is 10 so she is old enough to be a mom's helper and do something to help earn the dance if you require that. I hate seeing a child exposed to something they end up loving and then having it taken away when it was never a real option anyway.

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