Should Your Child Sign Up to Take Dance Classes?

It happens to everyone.  Your little one goes to a friend's birthday party at the local dance studio and desperately wants to sign up to take dance classes the second she (or he) is home.  Or maybe she attended a public dance performance and fell in love with the music or the costumes.  Or maybe it is mom or dad who think their little one could be the next prima ballerina or hip hop dance sensation.  Whatever the reason, it seems that many parents find themselves facing the decision of to dance or not to dance!  In our family's case, the dance type of choice was Irish step dancing--and we learned a lot about the pros and cons of being a dance family.  What are some things you should consider when deciding if your child should sign up for dance classes?

Irish step dancers in costume

 If you are following along from the Blogging from A to Z Challenge--D is for Dance! 

What are you child's dance goals? While it may sound a little crazy to ask your 5 year old just exactly what her long term dance goals are--you may soon be asked to decide what her long term dance goals are!  My daughter was 5 when she began Irish dance classes for the social experience, exercise and uniqueness of the activity.  She was quick to catch on--and within less than a year--she was guided (so I was guided) toward competitive Irish dance.  I am not sure that my daughter ever really wanted to compete.  She wanted to please people.  She wanted to please her instructor.  She wanted to make her parents proud. It is really easy to get caught up in the peer pressure of the competition groups--and most forms of dance has some sort of competitive element available. 

What are the "next steps" after beginner classes?  Before you sign up to take dance classes with a given studio, take a very realistic look at "the next steps" beyond those introductory classes.  The instructor will likely tell you that children in classes may dance recreationally or participate in competitive teams.  The reality may be that most of the children in the studio participate in the competitive side and your child will be drawn to it because "everyone else" is. Our Irish dance studio was so competition oriented that there were times that there were no activities during class for the few who were not dancing competitively.  

Does dance class fit the family budget? Weekly dance class costs are only part of the dance budget equation!  Even if dancing for fun, there will be dance gear--shoes, athletic wear, and a host of dance specific gear that you may never have even heard of before!  Expect fees for costumes, fees for recitals, fundraisers and special dance events.  If you opt to join competitive dance--the costume fees and requirements will increase.  You will likely be paying entry fees for competitions--and hotel fees/travel expenses to attend out of town competitions.  

Is your family up to the time commitment of dance?  How much time can your family devote to dance?  Is there time for only a class each week?  If thinking of competing, can you reasonably attend multiple weekly classes and travel for weekend competitions?  My youngest daughter wound up dancing along with her older sister out of convenience.  She was tagging along to all of the competitions, classes, workshops, etc.--it was easier for her to dance than plan soccer or another activity.

We enjoyed our dance friends and the time that we spent traveling so that our daughters could compete and perform.  Our daughters learned a lot of life skills through dance competitions and dance-mom dynamics--and made some lifelong friends.  At times, both of our daughters had to make choices between dance, which had become almost all consuming, and other activities (including school dances, parties, etc).  Both of our daughters also had to leave dance completely due to rather expensive and challenging injuries.

If your child wants to give dance a try--weigh the pros and cons before jumping in.  If it fits your goals and lifestyle--give it a chance.  It may be your child's passion--or it may be something to do for a few years before moving on to something else.  This is an activity that can certainly take on a life of its own quickly--so keep your child's (and your own) long term goals in mind for the activity as it goes along.

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