The summer of 2104 my ballet dancing daughter was allowed to ‘go on pointe’. For non-dancers (myself included), this may not seem like such a big deal. Another pair of dance shoes, right? Yet my girl had lived and breathed with this one goal in mind for six years. More than half her life. So great, that’s wonderful. I hugged my daughter, told her I was proud and mentally budgeted for a pair of $90 pointe shoes. I figured she’d need a new pair once a year like her plain old leather ballet shoes, or the tap shoes she grew out of every year and a half.
No. What I didn’t know then is that pointe shoes ‘die’. After about 12-18 hours of wear. Serious dancers in lead ballet roles can kill a pair in one performance.
So I naively experienced the high of watching her try on the coveted shoes at the Dance Shoppe and looking the happiest I’ve ever seen her. I patiently taught my girl how to sew the silky ribbons and elastic onto the shoes (they don’t come pre-attached!! And yes, I had to look up how to do it on YouTube). Those first shoes sailed through light wear for eight months. Then she really started logging time on her toes.
She went through four pairs of pointe shoes in the summer of 2015. That’s $360 worth of shoes in four months, if you count September. I’ve never spent more than $80 on a pair of shoes for myself. My wedding dress cost $120. The helpful lady at the Dance Shoppe recommended that as soon as my daughter’s foot stops growing I buy the shoes three pair at a time to get a discount. What?
How can anyone afford to be a ballerina?
So this got me thinking about how much a hobby should reasonably cost. My son likes to make paracord survival bracelets. I can get the paracord and plastic clasps on Amazon for $20. This makes a whole bunch of bracelets. My husband likes to brew his own wine and beer. A kit costs from $50-$80 and makes a whole keg of alcoholic beverage.
Between what we pay for classes, leotards, tights, costumes, and pointe shoes, I have to conclude that based on a cost that reaches into the thousands per year, ballet is officially not a hobby. It is a lifestyle.
I think they say that about luxury cars, right? You can buy a plain old sensibly priced Ford, but Lexus is a lifestyle. I drive a Honda minivan, which I consider to be high-end. So why on earth are my husband and I willing to finance the ballet lifestyle for my 12-year-old?
My daughter loves dance with a constant passion I’ve never experienced for any one thing. Not even my husband (sorry, hon) or chocolate peanut-butter ice cream. Part of me admires her single-minded pursuit of dance, and part of me is scared of it. If she felt this way about a boy, I’d probably be willing to move to Wyoming to discourage their relationship. It’s intense. Obsessive maybe even.
But then here is what dance is teaching her: self-discipline, poise, responsibility, teamwork, future-planning, organization, reliability, sisterhood, tenacity, confidence, and grace under pressure. And when I see the excitement in her eyes when it’s time to go to dance class, and the pure joy on her face when she dances, I am happy we can provide her with the luxury of pursuing her passion.
And as soon as that child is old enough to legally work, she’d better get a part-time job to help pay for those pink satin money suckers.