What Would You Do for Your Child?

My longtime, childhood friend recently signed her 4-year-old up for ballet class, which caught me a bit off guard. I didn’t really see her as the ballet type. My friend, I mean.

I could see her signing up her daughter, Lola, for art class at the Y or Little Ninjas at the Y or Little Guppies at the Y, but ballet at a dance school? This was unexpected.

“Get ready to spend the big bucks,” I warned. I have no personal experience with professional dance schools, really, other than taking my three-year-old to Miss Dawn’s Militant Dance Class for Preschoolers, but I had heard the horror stories.

No matter what school parents chose for their children, they all seemed the same. They all cost a fortune to enroll in, participation in the year-end recital is mandatory and  multiple costume changes for the big day are required.

All of that was enough to keep me away, but when my sister signed my niece up for Shining Stars Dance Academy, I got the inside scoop on the little kids’ dance world. Although this place took adults too. That, I discovered when my little niece had her 12-hour marathon dance recital. We had to sit through every single class of grade school kids, middle-aged women and seniors all in body-hugging leotards before they brought on the real stars – the toddlers. That’s what we were there for.

And, when after the fifth hour I didn’t think I would make it, my sister handed me a cracker and a water bottle and told me that should sustain me for the next several hours.

I did survive, but I vowed never again. Never again.

Then, when Jackie, my friend, said she had enrolled her daughter, I wondered, hadn’t she heard? Didn’t she know the grueling road that lay ahead? I wanted to shout, “Save yourself!” And, I did in so many words, but she said she had done her research, visited several schools and decided on one that fit her budget and her values. Her school only required one costume for the recital. She said (and I didn’t even know this) ticket sale policy was a big factor in the decision-making process – for her at least.

I knew schools distributed a certain, limited number of tickets per pupil, but what I didn’t know was that select, judgement-impaired parents will camp out over night in the dance academy’s parking lot to be first on line when the school’s box office opens. This happens so frequently that some schools have implemented rules prohibiting parents from entering the parking lot before 6 am for the 7 am ticket sale frenzy. Even with this rule parents have found a way to ensure they get there first and buy up tickets for all the members of their extended family. These driven parents have started parking in lots across the street from the schools. They drive up around 3 am and just wait until the school’s lot opens three hours later.

Jacky’s school did not allow for any of this. They equitably disseminated tickets and never had any dealings with 3 am ticket lines. She had indeed done her homework. This was good because I’d hate to see her camping out on Bloomfield Avenue at 3 am while I was heading home to bed after a night out.

Would you do it? What have you done for your child?

(Photo: Flickr/adjustafresh)

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  1. We’ve done several area ballet schools: NJ School of Ballet, Miss Gisele’s, Sharon Miller and the new Academy of the Performing Arts at the Family Y.

    Only one of the four places required a 5-hour recital with two costume changes ($160 in costumes for 4-year-olds). It was cute–but not cute enough to sign up for a second year. Parents, not me, camped out for $20-a-head tickets. This school was pricey. The others schools’ prices are on par with kids’ gymnastics, swimming or piano lessons.

    I love to dance, and I take classes around town even though I move like a frog in a blender. I don’t expect my daughters to audition for The Nutcracker. I think dancing is good exercise for them. Dancing encourages them to be creative. They seem a little more self confident when they put on their ballet slippers from Payless. Dancing doesn’t have to be expensive, and it’s a lot of fun.

  2. ” What have you done for your child? ”

    You are kidding, right? Do you have an hour to read all that I & my wife did for our son? (and All the other parents on here have done?)

    * Four Years expensive college PAID All Books – PAID
    Spending Money – PAID
    Brand New Jeep Cherokee – PAID

    Went to every Band performance, Sporting Event, etc, etc.
    125 miles round trip, each time.

    and I was pleased to do it for him and never complained. It has paid off!!

  3. Hi-lar-ious! If only I had read this 2 years ago before I drank the dance school Kool-aid.

    My girlfriend had done the research for me and a few other friends. We all enrolled our daughters together. The up front tuition cost was not bad. So I said “ok”. Then we were told they couldn’t wear any old leotard and tights noooooooo. We had to go to a specific store and buy the hot pink leotard and skirt. Then I had to buy white tights, tap shoes and ballet shoes. That cost me $81.

    When recital time rolled around we had pictures (I should not have been suckered into buying) that was another $35. Then the costume $70 and the ticket prices $20 each. Of course you are not allowed to take any video of your darling’s dance recital. They were generous enough to tape it for us and sell it to us for the bargain basement price of $45.

    They did not think it was funny when I asked if I could buy a cheaper dvd of my daughter’s five minutes on stage and not the other 7 hours we had to sit through.

    Sandy, you sound like a fantastic loving father. I don’t think this post is about “what you would do for your child” as much as “dance school madness.”

  4. I don’t know where this 5 hour recital was, or which school was having you shell out so much money — but my two daughters LOVED Sharron Miller, and it was extremely down to earth for toddlers/preschoolers. No recital, just observe them in their class. Everything was super low-key and nice. This year, due to our schedule, we are at DanceWorks on Grove (better parking is a big plus) and we went to one observation class, didn’t have to buy anything fancy (yet) and I think the instructors are TOP notch. They are more classically structured than Sharron Miller, but the classes are shorter. My 6 year old needed ballet slippers and tights, but that’s very reasonable. The girls come out exhausted, but are learning a lot and having fun.

  5. The horror story above is exactly why we decided to work with Sharron Miller’s school — very low key. The only thing we’ve been forced to buy is tap shoes, and that’s only because our daughter decided that tap was one of the things she wanted to take.

    She’s 6, and taking two different classes there at the moment by her own choice. The school is great.

  6. Whatever you do with your children. Don’t complain, enjoy it. Your time with them goes too fast. I look at my daughter now and think “Where did that little girl go? That baby that I held in my arms at birth. The one about to enter H.S…..and so it goes.

  7. LOL Holly!! Just wait ’til she wants to do Crew!

    This year I had to buy a boatload of leotards and tights for dance class… at the High School! Thankfully there’s no performance or costumes, but as it was I thought it was a little overly zealous. And there was NO place to buy them except that dance store on Route 23, or, as the teacher suggested, Goodwill.

    When my girl was about 6 years old, she took a ballet class at the Saturday morning arts program thru the district, which runs out of Montclair HS. There were 4 girls total in the class, and about 4 weeks into it, my girl was the only one left. Ms. Tylek, her wonderful teacher, bless her forever, continued the class anyway and my girl ended up basically having private lessons for the rest of the session. Ms Tylek brought in costumes for her to borrow and she learned two pieces, and had her own personal recital. It was remarkable (if I do say so myself) and I will always be grateful to the teacher (and the program administrator) for allowing her to continue the class. Sadly, she wasn’t interested in doing it again but it will always be a bright spot in my memory.
    And it didn’t cost a fortune!

  8. I don’t chime in here too often but the title of this article caught my eye.
    First I have to ask, what does your friend not being the “ballet type” have to do with her daughter? Do you only enroll your children in classes that you’d find interesting?
    As someone who has been involved with dance for years I have to say that any school that has an end of the year performance that is anything other than a brief showcase is one to stay away from. In fact in the dance world there is a name for this type of school; Dolly Dinkle.
    These places are a waste of your time, money and sadly your child will never learn much. Whoever if you want to see toddlers in tutus, this is for you.

  9. camping out in a parking lot for dance recital tickets is insane. judging every mom and pop dance studio based on that is silly. i think it is a bit weird that the author thinks that signing up a child for dance classes is a huge radical decision? so you sit through a dance recital once a year. is it really that big of a deal?

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