This year was very different for us. One – we stepped into the world of conventions and Two – we traveled far for nationals. Both of which really added to the bottom line!
Cutting to the chase – Is it a lot of money? Yes. Is there a way to do it cheaper & at a high level? I don’t think so (or not by much).
Here are our grand totals: (Click on the year to read a post on the specific expenses)
Year 1: $8,356.27 – 2 dances
Year 2: $13,565.75 – 5 dances
Year 3: $10,641.91 – 8 dances
Year 4: $18,905.29 – 9 dances
TUITION: The tuition at our studio is $300/month for unlimited classes. That is industry standard in our area. We pay tuition 10 months of the year on a company contract for a total of $3,000. We do have a deal where we can pay upfront prior to the start of the season and get a $500 discount. Most months we pay close to $1,000 in fees not including tuition, so it’s nice to have that out of the way!
CHOREOGRAPHY/CLEANING: We pay a choreography fee for every dance – group, solo, duet/trio. Group dances are $800 or $1000 and divided among the group; solos are $500; duets are $550; trio are $600. Piper competed in 1 solo, 1 duet, and 7 groups. Our total for the year was $3,600.
We typically clean solos once a week for 30 minutes. Our duet was an oddity because it was a junior and a teen dancing together. We didn’t make the schedule for a set weekly cleaning, so we cleaned substantially less than everyone else. Groups were cleaned roughly 2x a month, but what I love about our studio is that group choreo fees also cover the cleanings. It’s great to have that built in!
COSTUMES: We tried a little bit of everything with costumes this year. We did catalog. We did basics and embellished with tons of stones. We did custom. We did off the rack from Macy’s. Like I said, we tried it all. Honestly, they all looked great on stage. Some were more pricey than they should have been, but you live and learn, right? All in all, we spent just over $1,100 on costumes. (If you are in the market, I sell ours!)
(1) Competition fees: We have the option to go to competitions and/or conventions on our off weekends. We have our favorites and tend to go to the ones that are on our end of town. Solos typically run $100-110 and duets/trios/groups run between $55-65 each. You can hit up a competition fairly inexpensively in the grand scheme. We did 5 competitions last year – two as a full company taking every dance, and 3 on our own just taking our solo and twice the duet. Our competition fees came in at $1,400.
(2) Convention fees: Conventions are a different animal. First of all, you can’t just go and compete your solo – you must pay the workshop fee regardless. Our workshop fees ran between $225-295 per convention. Then, after that, you pay for dances that will compete. (Same pricing as competitions). As you can see, these weekends can turn expensive right off the bat sometimes going as high as $700-800 per weekend.
We did 5 conventions. One, we only competed our solo. At two, we only did groups. Another two, we took everything! Our convention fees topped out at $3,000 – more than double our competition fees.
The catch is that your dancer gets to also do the workshop. I’m not completely sold on conventions. But, that’s another post altogether!
Conventions can also get expensive if you stay at the hotel overnight. We did not stay the first convention and quickly decided that from then on we would. Piper dances in junior and teen groups which make for late competition nights on Friday and Saturday! Sometimes awards wouldn’t end until close to midnight. By the time we drove home, got settled in bed, and had to be back at the hotel for 8am workshop classes the next day – we met ourselves coming and going. We split a room with another dancer/mom which helped tremendously, but we still spent another $1,000 on hotel even with that!
PACKING UP: I am still absolutely in love with my Dream Duffel. They are so great and such a lifesaver. I now own a medium, large, and Carry-On duffel. (Carry-On duffel review coming soon.) They are well worth the money and their accessories are second-to-none.
TRAVEL: This was huge for us this year. We did a convention in Dallas and a convention nationals in Las Vegas. It was a lot for our family, I’ll admit. But, you have to be a bit savvy. We ended up staying at another hotel in Dallas that was close-by and where we had points. It was a bit of a pain to drive back and forth, but well worth it. Most families after the weekend was over stated that they spent nearly $1,000 on that weekend trip. (Hotel rooms often mean eating out all weekend. It’s much better if your hotel is near a mall or within walking distance of a variety of restaurants.)
With nationals being in Vegas, everyone was vying for flights. One would think that with gas prices dropping this spring – that flight prices would also drop. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Those that just went “mom and dancer” were getting a bargain at $350/seat. Our whole family went, so we used a combination of points and miles and called it our family vacation for the year!
The convention hotel was just a typical strip hotel. I searched and found a Hilton Vacation Club hotel that was connected by a mall (about a 5 minute walk) for the same price. The catch was that it had a kitchen! We ate all of our breakfasts and lunches in the room. (We packed a lunch for Piper and sent it with her each day.) That really helped the bottom line!
Using miles for flights and eating in the room helped costs tremendously. We did go to a show and called in favors from friends for other things. Overall, we finished nationals with a bill of $4,000 not including entry fees.
Next year, we are back to doing a competition nationals and for the first time, we are staying in state. I’ve noted in previous years that nationals has been a $3,000 trip for us. I anticipate that being close to the same this year as well, even with staying in state. Dancing in multiple age divisions means that Piper will dance nearly every day and at all times of the day, so we will most likely need to get a room (or rent a house) for the week. If that’s the case, the only real savings on nationals will be fuel, so I’m just dropping my budget for this week slightly!
So, here we are, four years later, over $50,000 invested in a tiny little dancer. I can think of so many things that $50k could do for our family. But I also think about a statement Avery (my son, the most supportive brother ever) said right before we left for Vegas “Think of how different our life would be if Piper didn’t dance!”
It would be SOOOO different.
We’ve made incredible friends. We’ve traveled and had some great vacations/trips.
We’ve also seen a child start from scratch and hone a passion for an art. We’ve seen her form friendships that will be lifelong. We’ve seen a work-ethic develop that most adults don’t have. We’ve seen some beautiful performances from her, and we’ve seen her work her tail off to recover from upset.
… and still, to this day, Piper has never said “I don’t want to go to dance.” She aches to go every day and if she had her way would be there every time the door is unlocked!
The money is tight, and gets tighter by the minute it seems. But we’ll continue to make it work. Because, like Avery said, I can’t imagine our life without Piper dancing. And, I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that she can dance for as long as her dream is alive.