Ballpark Estimate: $10 to $20 per group lesson + cost of outfit/shoes; $2,400 to $30,000 for professional training
Does your little girl love visions of sugar plum fairies, creamy pink pointe shoes and layers upon layers of sparkly tulle? If so, then she may have her heart set on one day becoming a prima ballerina. Many girls – and lots of boys, too — are entranced by the romance of ballet and all its lovely trappings, and some are willing to go to great lengths to try to master this art. But keep in mind that taking ballet classes isn’t inexpensive.
Teaching an Array of Skills
While the idea of becoming a professional dancer appeals to many young people, it is important to remember that few of them ever make it professionally in this challenging world. But this does not mean that you shouldn’t encourage your child to give it a try, since you never know who will have the talent to become a serious dancer. And even if your child never dances with the New York City Ballet, ballet classes can teach a host of skills that can translate into other arenas, such as hard work, persistence, coordination, gracefulness, strength, endurance and poise.
Maybe you’d love your child to take up ballet but are nervous about the financial commitment it will require you to make. Well, the good news is that there are a wide range of settings where you can find relatively affordable classes geared to beginners. You can usually find easy access to lessons through local places such as community centers, YMCAs and small privately-run dance studios. Such recreational dance lessons can be relatively affordable and can accommodate a variety of ability levels. (Many of these dance schools also offer classes for adults, too, so you can also have a chance to try this classical form of exercise if you so desire.)
To check out your options, you can look online, read classified ads in your local newspaper that advertise ballet studios, or ask around for recommendations from other parents.
Just know that if your child becomes especially becomes skilled at ballet and wants to pursue it more seriously, you may need to find a more serious dance school, and you can expect that the commitment in time and money will increase quite a bit at that time.
What to Look For
When shopping for the best ballet class for your child, you will want to take into account several important factors. First, the day and time of the class offerings is essential, since you’ll need to find a studio or setting that offers classes that work with your schedule. You will also want to find a teacher whose style seems like a good fit for your child’s attention span and temperament. And while it is easy to get caught up in the credentials that a teacher brings to the job, remember that if you are signing your child up to take ballet simply as a hobby, then connecting with the teacher can end up being more important in the end so you child will enjoy the class and want to go back again.
Something for Everyone
Many ballet classes start accepting students as young as two years old when accompanied by a parent or caregiver. These toddler classes usually focus on helping little ones feel comfortable in the dance studio and get used to moving their bodies in new ways. Most young students are ready to go into classes on their own at around three or four years of age.
Also keep in mind that while ballet typically appeals to more girls than boys, it actually offers many benefits for both sexes. Even football players take ballet classes to strengthen their grace and body control. Therefore, if your son wants to sign up for classes, find a studio that embraces males as well as females and will make them both feel comfortable.
Further, many ballet studios also offer a variety of other dance classes, including modern dance, jazz, tap, hip hop, pointe, acrobatics and ribbon gymnastics. This can be convenient for dancers who want to explore the range of expressions available to them, so keep this in mind as you are comparing different schools.
What It Costs for Classes
What you can expect to spend on a ballet classes depends on a wide variety of factors, such as where you live, the training and expertise the teacher brings to the studio, the teacher/student ratio, the school’s reputation, whether there is a pianist providing live accompaniment for the students and the length and level of the class.
Some of the least expensive ballet classes can be found through YMCAs, local parks and recreation departments and community centers, while some of the more expensive studios will be private training schools. The price for classes is usually in the $10 to $20 range per group class, depending on which end up of the spectrum you select.
For instance, a YMCA would be about $10 a class, while The School of American Ballet in NYC charges $20 for professional dancers to participate in a single class. If your child takes multiple classes a week, the cost per class may come down a little. On the other hand, if your child takes private or semi-private lessons, you can expect the price to be higher, depending on the length of the session and the expertise and training the teacher brings.
Also keep in mind that a most recreational classes last between 30 minutes and an hour, although at more advanced levels it could run a little longer. You should also know that if you sign your child up for classes through a membership organization, such as the YMCA or a health club facility, there could also be membership fees involved. If money is tight but your child really wants to dance, you might also check around for a ballet studio that offers scholarships or discounted fees for students who qualify.
Don’t Forget the Extras
In addition to the cost of ballet lessons, there are other related expenses you will need to consider. For instance, most girls will usually need to wear a leotard, tights and ballet shoes to lessons. (What boys are expected to wear can vary depending on the setting.) You can expect to spend between $10 and $50 for a leotard, depending on how fancy it is and where you buy it. Tights can cost between $5 and $25. Ballet shoes start at about $20 for an inexpensive version, and can go up to $50 or more for a professional brand. Finally, if your child moves goes en pointe, you can expect to spend as much as $75 to $100 on a good pair of pointe shoes. Also remember that as your child’s feet grow, the shoes will need to be replaced. In addition, as your child gets more serious about dance, you will find that the shoes can wear out more often and need to be replaced more frequently. (Professional dancers can even go through a pair of pointe shoes every few weeks, adding up to a substantial investment in footwear each year.) Another expense to consider as your child gets to a more serious level is that recitals and other performances require multiple rehearsals and parents are often expected to pay for the time involved in these as well.
What It Costs for Professional Dance Training
While recreational dance schools can offer your child a good overview of the basics of ballet and perhaps a foundation upon which to build in the future, it is interesting to note that for serious dancers, there are a number of designated top ballet schools in the United States that train dancers for a professional career in the field. For instance, The School of American Ballet is for serious dancers only, many of whom become principle dancers with the prestigious New York City Ballet. The annual fee for students who are accepted into the program (and are from 6 to 18 years old) starts at just under $2,400 a year for two classes a week, and goes on up to an annual fee of almost $5,000 for 10 lessons a week. In addition, since students come from around the country and even around the world to attend, some choose to live on campus. The cost to live and eat at the school residence hall costs another $14,000 or so per year.
Another option for a dancer is to get a college degree in the field. In this case, The Julliard School of Performing Arts could be a good choice. This school, which is also located in NYC, was featured in the movie “Fame” and the television series of the same name. But prospective students must dance for a committee as part of the application procedure and the judges are rumored to be very difficult to please. And even if your child makes the cut, keep in mind that you have to be able to afford the cost of $30,500 tuition per year, plus living expenses.
Less Expensive Options to Consider
If your young child has his or her heart set on learning ballet but the price for lessons is just too rich for your tight budget right now, there are a few less expensive options you can consider. First, for $25 or even less you can buy a ballet class on DVD and let your child take a private “lesson” at home. The back of a chair or a table top can easily double as the ballet barre. Or, if your child is old enough to read, you can also find an inexpensive introduction to ballet book that can be a good way to let your child teach him or herself and get familiar with some of the basic steps in the comfort of your home setting. Finally, if your child just wants to dance for fun, consider letting him or her put on a fancy dress or pants. Then put on some classical music and let your child dance and twirl in your living room to his or her heart’s content.