As the mother of a dance-mad 7 year old, I am well aware that some dance schools and the associated equipment can be horrendously expensive. Some dance schools, especially those teaching formal ballet, can demand their students have leotard, tutu, tights and shoes bought from their approved retailer, and that’s on top of the hefty tuition fees and exam entrance costs. And don’t even get me started on what some places charge parents to watch the end of term show and buy the obligatory DVD. It doesn’t have to be this way, but things will only change if parents and children want change.
My daughter loves her dancing and many times we catch her jigging around her room to Little Mix or One Direction. I have no allusions though that she is going to be a ballerina – for her going dancing is about having fun, gaining confidence and keeping fit. Lots of other parents I talk to are coming from the same viewpoint, so why do so many dance schools insist on putting children in for expensive ballet exams? I think it’s more of a revenue generating exercise than anything else, and my point of view has always been that if my daughter suddenly decides at the age of 16 she wants to be a dancer, she can take the exams then.
Not all dance schools insist on expensive kit, but many do. And when you have to supply ballet shoes, tap shoes, leotard, hoodie and dance bag for a child who goes through a growth spurt every few months, it can get very expensive. A better option than formal ballet classes is a street dance or modern dance class, where children more often wear their own leggings or t shirts and don’t have to buy expensive additional shoes. There is often a thriving second hand market in dance kit, especially the sorts of things which are only worn once for exams, so check out eBay for some bargains.
Dance doesn’t have to be ballet or tap, and especially in the larger cities there are many other options available to children and adults. Flamenco is growing in popularity and is cheap to get started in as all you’ll need is a flamenco fan, swirly skirt and special shoes which you might be able to get from specialist retailers. Similarly other dance styles like salsa or folk dancing require little to get started and the classes tend to be more relaxed than ballet or tap.
The Strictly Effect
Strictly Come Dancing is compulsory Saturday night viewing in our house and the popularity of the show has spiked demand for flamenco fans, sequins and fake tan. Ballroom dancing has the advantage of being suitable for all ages and abilities, but if children want to progress in their ballroom, parents will soon find they are forking out hundreds of pounds for outfits and spending each weekend travelling to competitions. And remember, it’s only the best of the best who make it as a professional dancer and end up on shows like Strictly.
Article by Morag Peers