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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Things To Consider Before Signing Your Child Up For Ballroom Dance Lessons


Last week I published a post on costuming rules for children, so while I am on the topic of kids, which is a rarity here on Ballroom Bitch, I want to focus on a few other child-related topics that might be particularly helpful for parents who have no experience in Ballroom and/or Latin dancing.

As children have become more aware of ballroom dancing, thanks largely to television shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars, and have begun to express interest in learning to dance themselves, many parents feel lost when it comes to getting their child involved in the DanceSport. For those of you who have children who have expressed an interest in Ballroom and/or Latin dancing (DanceSport), this post will walk you through a few things you need to know before you sign your little would-be dancer up for lessons at your local studio.

Above all, before you get your child excited about the prospect of learning to ballroom dance, you need to seriously consider whether you can afford to be a DanceSport family. Unfortunately, in the United States and increasingly throughout Europe ballroom dance is expensive. For example, where I live in the Mid-Atlantic, ballet classes are an average of $100 per month for 90 minutes of instruction per week, whereas group ballroom classes are $30 per 40-minute session. Keep in mind, these are children’s prices – adult prices are higher. If your child is actually going to learn how to dance, they’ll need at minimum two 40-minute group sessions per week at the beginning. Dance related expenses will only increase the older, more accomplished, and more competitive your child becomes.

As you consider whether your family can afford to be a ballroom family, you also want to consider how seriously involved your child will be and what are your goals for your child. In addition to helping you select the best studio and teacher for your child, understanding your child’s drive and your goals for your child can also help you determine if you can afford ballroom dancing. In my experience, ballroom is somewhat of an all-or-nothing sport, meaning that either you’re just there “to have fun” or you’re really competitive. Here is what you can expect with those extremes:
Just for Fun: Pretty much any reputable studio will work for your child if the only goal is to have fun and build confidence. If you don’t see your child becoming a serious competitor, I recommend looking for a larger studio that, although offers children’s classes, focuses primarily on adults. For example, your local Fred Astaire that offers children’s classes will do just fine. Although there are exceptions, these studios tend to be more focused on building confidence and having fun rather than producing serious competitors. If you don’t see your child as a competitor, you can probably plan your financial investment on the base cost of lessons and perhaps 2-3 small competitions per year.
Potential Competitor: If you think your child is likely to become involved in the sport long-term, your investment is going to be much higher. I’ll talk about what you should look for in a studio/teacher in an upcoming post, but for now I want to emphasize the investment you need to consider before you promise your kid that she can be the best Katusha Demidova. In addition to the estimated weekly pricing I mentioned (which will probably be more than just two lessons per week), you’ll need to consider that your child will need private lessons as he/she becomes a stronger dancer. These lessons range anywhere $70 to $180 per lesson, depending on your studio and where you live. On top of this your child and his/her partner will need outside coaching as they become more competitive – these sessions can range from $150 to $500 per lesson, depending on the particular coach, where you live, etc. Likewise, you’ll need to calculate in the costs for competitions and costumes. The more advanced your child becomes, the more expensive competitions and costumes will become. Likewise, you'll need to consider the time investment involved in traveling to competitions, coaching sessions, and carting kids to and from the studio on a regular basis. 

Finally, you’ll want to consider whether you have a partner in mind for your child. This is especially important if you have a daughter, because realistically there are many more girls interested in ballroom dancing than boys. If your son wants to dance, you’re golden as far as partners go. However, if you have a daughter you may want to go ahead and evaluate who might be a good partner for her, as it is difficult to advance in ballroom dancing without a partner. She can, of course, participate in both group and private lessons without a partner, but realistically she won’t make competitive progress without a partner. Although the studio may have a partner available, or one may come along after your child has started taking lessons, having someone in mind beforehand is always helpful. You’ll also want to consider whether your child’s partner can afford his/her share of the financial burden and if his/her family will make the time-related sacrifices necessary, and if not, you need to consider whether you’re willing to cover his/her share.

Now that I've likely scared you off, I do want to emphasize that becoming a reasonably good (albeit probably not champion) ballroom dancer is totally financially attainable for most middle-class families. In general, you'll split most of the steepest expenses (private lessons, coachings, comps) with your child's partner. For those of you who have already decided that you're ready to dive into the investment involved in becoming a DanceSport family or for those of you still interested in learning more before you decide, I'll be posting an interview with the President of Ukraine's (read: the best) DanceSport Federation where we discuss what you need to look for when selecting a studio for your child soon! He's trained multiple Ukrainian Champions himself, so he'll know exactly what you need to look for when trying to select the best teacher for your child.

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