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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tip Tuesdays: Dance Classes

Ok, I know it's Wednesday- almost Thursday- but just go with it.
I've had several conversations with girlfriends in the past few months about dance classes for both children and adults. It seems that most people are largely unaware of the many considerations that go into choosing a dancing school and what they should be paying for classes. So I thought I might offer some assistance by providing info about pricing and offerings/expectations, along with some general definitions.
Dance schools offer classes for both youth and adults, with rates based on tuition scales and/or class cards. Youth classes are always offered on a tuition scale, with few schools allowing youth to try new classes on a card.
Tuition scale rates are usually about $45-$60 for each 45-60 minute class, then count on adding an average of $28 for each additional class. Some schools may discount each additional class by 10%-30% and may also offer a 10% discount for siblings or families.
You should be aware of schools that bill one class as two. For example, one 90-minute ballet class counts as two 45-minute classes at one particular Garland school.
At schools where both rate methods are offered, adults are usually given the choice of being billed on either the tuition scale or for a class card. Class cards can be great because they allow the adult the opportunity to try multiple genres and take those classes whenever their schedule allows. These cards are purchased in advance, usually costing $16 for one class, $70/5 classes, $115/10 classes. These costs are averages of what you'll find at many schools. Each time you attend a facility, one use is deducted from your card.
A class card should be more convenient and monetarily efficient than the tuition scale should you choose to use it. For example, one Dallas dance school requires adults to use class cards only, but you'll end up spending more if you're wanting to take more than one class a week on a regular basis. So make sure you do the math and/or call the school to confirm costs. Some schools charge a "drop-in" fee, instead of offering class cards. You can expect to pay about $15 per class.
If the classes are much more expensive than listed, consider exactly what you're getting for the extra expense. This is may be the most important factor, as the cumulative gain from each school will most likely be reflected in the costs. Specialty schools such as Dallas Power House and Studio C Dance Arts Center (just two of the many places offering Competitive/Performing Teams) may charge monthly flat rates of $95-$250 for these teams in addition to tuition for regular classes. On the other hand, Park Cities Dance (ran by a Broadway vet) and School of CBD (Contemporary Ballet) have higher monthly tuition primarily because of their specialties, in addition to class size, instuctors' experience, and location. Dance Institute of Dallas (specializes in Classical Ballet Training) offers upper level classes for $144-$188 per class per month, but the class will meet anywhere from three to five times a week.
Why are you looking into dancing school? Just for fun? Want to gain a basic dance foundation? Long-term growth or a career? If you're just testing your child's interests, dancing schools provide combo classes for children ages 3-6. These can be any 2- or 3-class combination of ballet, tap, jazz, or movement and will cost the same as regular tuition. Alot of moms ask me about the availability of classes for their kids under the age of 3. These are usually provided as "Mommy and Me" movement and music classes, and may cost about $50 per 5-week session. Recreation centers and churches also offer basic dance classes for much cheaper. Rec centers usually cost $25 for a 5-week session.
If the classes are for you, are you dancing for exercise and something fun/different to do? Or are you dancing for growth with the possibility of joining a company or performance group? Would you like to perform in the year-end recital (yes, the adult classes are encouraged to perform in most cases).
The Continuing Education department of some community colleges offers non-credit classes for around $35 per 4-week session if your aim is more for recreation.
General Policies
Anywhere you go, you should expect to pay fees for registration, performance, and costumes.
Registration fees run about $30 a student (on average), and can go down $10 or $15 with each additional student. If you're lucky, you'll find a school that charges $35-$50 per family!
Performance fees cost $50 per student on average, but can also go down $10 or $15 with each additional student. These fees take care of the recital venue, and usually allow spectators to attend for free. One particular studio has a $75 performance fee per family, but it only allows for five recital guests- any more than that will require additional fees. So again, check with your prospective school beforehand.
Costumes average $65 per class or dance. With adult classes, you might have the option of just fashioning something from your closet. Sometimes the school will try to find easy, cheap costumes for adults, which is always a plus.
Most schools will (and should) offer payment installments for tuition. This might be a necessity for those who have a kid(s) taking multiple classes.
Also, most schools will have rules/policies concerning conduct and attendance and strictly enforce them. Most policies will also include dress codes. Thankfully, more and more schools have taken the initiative of coordinating with local dance shops for easier purchase of attire.
There are some other questions to consider for either the young or adult student. Does the school offer workshops, intensives, or master classes? Do they allow parents to observe their children in class periodically? Do they have their own company or one they are affiliated with for future growth? Do they offer exams in the provided teaching methods or quizzes in dance theory?

Though I've danced at a few different studios around DFW and thoroughly enjoyed myself, my dance school of choice is Forcher's Dance Center in Irving. The pricing is competitive, the instructors are great, they offer a nice variety of adult classes each session, and there is a company (Momentum Dance Company) that I can aspire to join should I decide to work hard enough!
My dancewear shop of choice is Capezio Dance Theatre Shop in Dallas. I've been wearing their attire (even outside of the studio) since I was three years old. But some other reliable sources are Sandy's Dancewear, Discount Dance Supply, and Dancewear Solutions.
If you're currently shopping for a dancing school or will be in the near future, the Dance Council of North Texas has a map/tool that will assist you in finding a studio near you. The Council also provides a calendar of events including dance workshops, festivals and shows.
Feel free to email me with any further questions- I may have already done the research!