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Dance lessons - where to draw the line

(64 Posts)
shebird Wed 22-Oct-14 10:58:04

Hello all, I am in need of some advice about dance lessons and exams because it's starting to take over our lives and our bank account. I have 2 DDs and both do ballet, tap and modern and also extra group lessons for dance competitions and festivals. What started out as a bit of fun dancing about at age 3 has now snowballed with most days taken up with dance.

Both DDs love dance and I am very happy that they are so active and healthy and I do believe they benefit from it. However, as they are getting older there are constant requests for extra lessons for exams or shows involving more time and expense and I am starting to question where all this is going. They are both good dancers and do well in exams but I am unsure if dance is something they will pursue as a career.

I guess what I'm asking is, where do I draw the line? Do I continue shelling out a small fortune indefinitely and run myself ragged? I am happy for them to continue lessons but the extras are just a bridge too far. Is there any point doing lessons if they don't do exams? I would be love some advice because I just don't know where all of this is going.

Ishouldbeweaving Wed 22-Oct-14 14:58:17

I read your post this morning and returned to see if there were any insightful comments. I think this is something that many of us can relate to if you substitute "dance" for music/swimming/football/karate/some other activity. At entry level it's not too demanding and then it develops into something all consuming that is not what you signed up for at the outset.

If you're asking yourself the question of "how much is too much" then I think you've reached the stage of drawing the line. What's the thing that's making you ask yourself the question - is it the money, the time spent in the car, the vanishing weekends? If it's the constant extra lessons that are the problem then can you not say no for a term or two and see what difference it makes?

mydaftlass Wed 22-Oct-14 15:15:26

It sounds like the line has been reached already. Perhaps you could ask them to drop a dance form or to stop doing comp? I won't let mine do comp as it is such a time and money drain and such a commitment. They still get to do classes, exams and shows so they still get to dance and enjoy it. Just not at the expense of absolutely everything else!

Dancergirl Wed 22-Oct-14 21:14:35

I completely understand what you are saying. My oldest dd has done ballet most of her life and has recently started tap and modern. She does 3 classes a week at her regular ballet school (4 per week during exam term), plus associates on Saturdays, plus festival rehearsals and the festivals themselves. And English Youth Ballet when that comes up.

I don't think she is going to pursue it professionally but I am happy to pay for it plus take her here and there because I can see enormous benefits in having ballet as a hobby. It's good physical exercise (as you say), in my dd's case it has improved her confidence generally. She puts in a lot of effort and hard work into her dancing which has a knock on effect in other areas of her life. She has a great work ethic and is doing very well at school. She's also made lots of new friends.

Taking part in shows and festivals is time well spent IMO. It gives them something to work towards and to aim for.

It doesn't have to 'go' anywhere. Dd dances for the pure love of it, yes she has hopes and ambitions for her dancing but most of all she has fun and all the experiences she has along the way give her lovely memories.

Picturesinthefirelight Thu 23-Oct-14 18:28:36

I'm still working out where the line is as at the age of 11 dd went off to full time dance school. I have no idea if she will make it, but she's happy, getting the best tuition & she's getting the chance to at least try.

For us actually the line was festivals & competitions. Dd never did those as I felt the money was better spent on classes & summer schools than choreography & costumes. Her previous dance school also didn't charge extra to take part in shows.

We completely lost Christmas one year when dd was in panto.

In fact it's easier now she's at full time vocational school!!!

Picklewickle Thu 23-Oct-14 23:24:17

It's your call, you have to balance it with the rest of your lives (adults' and DC's) and it sounds like it's too much.

My parents always said I could do either tap or modern but not both. Plenty of families decide dance festivals or gym competitions are just not right for their families, or too expensive.

taxi4ballet Fri 24-Oct-14 00:32:18

I'm wondering whether you have chatted to your dd's and asked them how they feel about doing so much?

IntheMummyCaseisAmeliaPeasbody Fri 24-Oct-14 01:00:37

AllMost days taken up with dance here, too!

Agree about asking how they feel. Do they feel it is too much? If it is becoming too much of a strain financially or in terms of time, then personally perhaps I would drop comp and festivals (though I believe the performance skills experience gained through these is a good thing).

madwomanbackintheattic Fri 24-Oct-14 01:02:15

If you find out, let me know wink

Dd1 is 14 and dances. Ds1 is 12 and dances. Dd2 is 11 and dances. fortunately dd1 TAs a couple of tap classes, so the school comps one of ds1's classes...

Only one competes though, although we still have the expense of x number of costumes for everyone for the year end show. And only one takes exams.

I am a huge fan. None of them are going to dance professionally (dd2 has cerebral palsy lol, and it's great for her coordination and posture, but she's no dancer) but it instils a fabulous discipline and work ethic.

I'd like to be richer though. Or for it to be cheaper. Only a couple of years until dd1 can drive herself...

To be honest, dd1 would dance anyway. She's been known to tap unconsciously in an elevator wearing wellies, and I catch her trying to tap in flip flops all the time. She couldn't stop if she wanted to. Last year she started pointe though, and I am still boggled. My clumsy three year old that we put in a class to help her balance is a ballerina. Lol.

Dancergirl Fri 24-Oct-14 10:27:52

Also it slightly annoys me with this attitude that if it's not going to lead anywhere professionally, the 'point' of doing so much is questioned. That's like saying something is only worth doing if there is a financial reward. I doubt my dd is going to dance professionally. But she wants to be the very best she can be and doing festivals and performances etc help her achieve this.

OP, you need to decide how much time and money you can devote to dance. If they really love it keep as many doors open as possible. It could possibly lead to a dance related career, but even if not it won't be wasted IMO.

IntheMummyCaseisAmeliaPeasbody Fri 24-Oct-14 10:41:39

I agree that it isn't money wasted (very few do go on to have professional careers after all).

I try to think of it as an investment when we're going through a particularly expensive time, and I really believe it is.

taxi4ballet Fri 24-Oct-14 10:48:32

How old are the girls? It may be that they would be happy to drop either tap or modern, and possibly concentrate on solos in festivals rather than groups. That way, you aren't letting other group members down if you can't commit to the rehearsals etc.

Cutting down on ballet classes & exams isn't really an option if they want to continue competing/doing associates/EYB etc as they wouldn't be keeping up technically with others.

At the end of the day it is down to what you as a family can manage, both financially and time-wise, and of course as time goes on they may find that their dancing commitments have to take second place to homework and revision etc.

taxi4ballet Fri 24-Oct-14 10:49:28

Sorry, just re-read my post and realised that I used "etc" a lot!

shebird Fri 24-Oct-14 18:52:41

Thank you for all your comments, it great to get some perspective on this. It is true that this could apply to any lessons and I'm sure others have wondered whether the early mornings at the pool or weekends freezing on the sidelines have questioned why they were doing it.

Dancegirl- I probably didn't express it very well but I have no expectations from dance financial or otherwise. My DDs simply enjoy dancing and I can see it has many benefits far beyond just dancing. I am just questioning what we are doing because we seem to have been swept along with it all without any thought and now that both DDs are involved it has become very time consuming and very expensive.

Taxi- DDs are 11 and 7. DD1 loves bathe group competitions and festivals and when I asken if she wanted to give up anything it was exams.

CharlieSierra Fri 24-Oct-14 19:01:11

Just read this as it popped up in active and it's made me so nostalgic and a bit sad, I used to love it when mine were dancing (all grown up now). We didn't do festivals, but everything else. It's worth it for the confidence if nothing else, but also the sheer pleasure of watching them I think.

Dancergirl Fri 24-Oct-14 19:05:42

Well in that case OP, I would definitely agree you need to talk to them about how much they are doing and how much they would like to do in an ideal world. Of course you have to take cost and time into account and only you can decide that.

shebird Fri 24-Oct-14 21:50:43

Apologies for typos, too much multitasking blush

taxi4ballet Fri 24-Oct-14 23:50:06

How much time do the exams actually take up?

At my dd's school it is one exam practice, and the exam itself a couple of weeks later. There isn't all that much to it really as they learn the whole syllabus during regular classes anyway.

What I'm wondering is whether your dd's teacher doesn't have time to cover everything during normal class because of all the practices for festivals/comps etc and has to lay on extra 'exam practice'sessions.

If they give up doing exams it might mean they also miss out on learning everything, which will eventually have an impact on their training and negatively affect their performance, which would be a pity, since that is what they are enjoying the most.

teacherwith2kids Sat 25-Oct-14 10:52:22

Reads thread, laughs hollowly, goes off to get DD's hair and makeup prepared for festival...

In DD's dance school at least, progression is via exam - so you move from Grade 5 to Grade 6 ballet thriough doing the Grade 5 exam. Choosing not to do exams would mean staying in the same level for ever, with others moving up around you. The exams are on a 'take when ready' model - the school is big enough to be its own exam centre, so they are simply entered for whatever grade they are working towards in the term in which they are ready for it. Lessons teach the syllabus (plus lots of free work, as they are an ISTD school, and ISTD exams contain free work set by the examiner pretty much from the very earliest grade) , so it's a bit pointless not doing the exam as it isn only the half hour exam itself that you wouldn't do IYSWIM.

Picklewickle Sat 25-Oct-14 11:12:14

Teacher it's not pointless avoiding exam at our ballet school - £60 each which is ridiculous if you have a couple of children each doing several disciplines!

And children who aren't doing exams, for whatever reason - too stressy, too expensive or whatever - are moved up with children of their own level. Maybe exams are cheaper at your dance school, but surely no child would be kept in preprimary forever because of financial difficulties - that's bonkers!

teacherwith2kids Sat 25-Oct-14 11:28:45

Children do progress through the early stages (they don't do pre-primary as it is seen as 'money for nothing', and exams proper start with primary or Grade 1, depending on the discipline) with their peers if they don't take the exam - but that does stop once well into the 'main' grades.

The main vocational grades - Intermediate, Advanced - are getting on for £60. The grade exams are MUCH less than that, to the extent that I can't imagine anyone able to pay for the main weekly lessons finding the cost of exas a barrier IYSWIM?

teacherwith2kids Sat 25-Oct-14 11:35:33

DD's dance school also does a very sensible scheme whereby, once you are in the 'dance quite a lot' group, you simply pay a flat weekly fee, and you can attend as many classes as wanted / needed - so extra show rehearsals, joining with a higher grade class (she does 3 ballet classes at different grades), pointe, body conditioning, choir, drama etc etc doesn't make any differentce to the cost.

teacherwith2kids Sat 25-Oct-14 11:36:37

doesn't = don't. Apologies.

Picklewickle Sat 25-Oct-14 13:36:30

Yes I strongly suspect we are being fleeced for 6 year olds' exams! The exams cost more than a term's worth of lessons so it's not uncommon for them to be skipping exams... But my 2 are both quite new to dance so we are not into the serious stuff.

annegelus Sat 25-Oct-14 15:05:36

Depends on the syllabus and stage the children are too.

Idta exams in the early years/grades are approx £20, RAD around 40-50. They're expected to do the exams, I haven't come across anybody in all the years we've been dancing (and during my own dancing years) whose child has opted out. If they pass they're allowed to move up to the next grade.
One of our dance schools does (discreetly) allow parents to pay for the exams months in advance, just a couple of pounds here or there or what they can afford.

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