“Daddy, daddy, watch me do ballet!” That’s how it all started. I was hooked as I watched my four year old princess do her version of ballet that she learned just by watching her cartoons. I was amazed to see her passion and how hard she was trying. I knew I had to get her into a dance class but it was certainly new turf for me. Normally you would think of this as Mom territory but my wife’s work schedule left it up to me.
The guide below will help you make sense of your dance school choices as get you started. Read on to help your keep your “Daddy Hero” title intact!
Finding dance schools
Finding dance schools is usually pretty easy. But depending on the time of year, finding a dance school with open classes may or may not be as easy. Dance schools usually design their dance classes to coincide with the school year but most allow new students at any time as long as they have room.
The curriculum will be pretty standard across schools. They almost all use a combination of tap and ballet for their preschool classes. Some will also add creative movement.
The first thing that you will notice is that the class times are clearly designed around stay at home parents. Most classes for preschoolers are during the day with very few in the evenings or weekends and these are usually the first to fill up. Most of the evening and weekend classes are for school age students. Depending on where you live and work a class around your lunch time may be a good option, especially if you and your spouse work during the day.
The easiest time to find open classes is going to be early to mid summer when the classes are first posted and most parents are more worried about summer vacations. Usually you will have your pick of times and schools. Of course the drawback is that you probably won’t be able to get your little girl started right way. Also classes may not be in session so you may not get a chance to observe a class or even do a trial class.
If you are already into the school year, you get the benefit of being able to start right away. I didn’t get started until October and had to call several dance schools in my area. After a few calls, I found a dance school that had a slot open at a time that worked for me. I was a little concerned about her being behind but I quickly found that at this age it really doesn’t matter that much.
Understand the costs and policies involved
Just about all dance schools seem to operate the same and usually post all their policies and procedures on their website. Make sure you read through these well and understand what you are getting into. The good news is that they are usually very similar from school to school. Once you read through one school’s policies you will have a good understanding for all of them and will just need to look for the differences.
The dance school policy will include items such as dress code, attendance, make up classes, billing and cancellation, etc. Reading all of these for your dance school is very important to help you truly understand the costs involved. For example the dress code will usually specify what dancewear and dance gear you need to have such as leotards, tights, ballet shoes, tap shoes, bags, etc.
Most schools charge by the month not by the class. Usually this is based on four weeks a month. Some months may have five weeks while others will only have three or even less around the holidays. Over the year it will all average out, make sure you understand this! I got into a really nasty argument with the people at my daughter’s gymnastics school about this only to feel like a jerk when I got home and read the paperwork for the first time.
Recitals – Watch your wallet
At the end of every dance “school year” they have recitals. Recitals are where your brand new ballerina or tap dancer will have a chance to show off her newly learned dance skills. Recitals are also another opportunity for the dance school to collect even more money. Fees are usually collected sometime in the fall. There is always a recital fee which varies among the different dance schools and you have to buy costumes.
Apparently this is where women first get the idea that it is ok to buy an expensive outfit, wear it once, and then never wear it again. In fact you may end up having to buy more than one costume depending on how many times she is going to dance at the recital. How many times she is going to dance depends on how many classes she is enrolled in and her age group. I still haven’t been able to get a straight answer about why they can’t just wear the same outfit but that is just the way it is apparently.
After buying your dancewear and other dance gear you are ready for the first day of class. If you need help finding supplies see my other article here.
The first day is always fun, you finally get to see if your little princess loves it or hates it. Mine absolutely loved it and even though she started two months after the other students, she had caught up with them by the end of the first class.
You may be a little disappointed because the view isn’t always that good. Most schools have closed rooms and parents have to watch from behind a one way mirror. Some dance schools only have video cameras.
If you’re the typical photography and video Dad like me, you might as well leave your cameras at home or you will just end up being frustrated. You just aren’t going to get good pictures during a normal day of class. The good news is that most dance schools are sensitive to this and usually have at least one or two visitation days per semester.
On visitation days, you will be able to take all the pictures and video you want as they put on a special show so you can see what kind of progress they have made. You can also bring along Grandma and the rest of the family if you like.
Here is one last word of warning for dads. Do not get caught ogling the instructors and staff at the dance school! Most of them are dancers and yes, many will be attractive. The last thing you want to do is get caught checking out the staff by your wife or your daughter. The school we ended up with is owned by a former cheerleader for a NFL team. Just stay focused on your daughter. The smile on your little girl’s face as she dances will be more than enough to be worth the effort.