As most readers would know, I don’t roll in dough. However, I do make a point of budgeting in dance. Dance benefits me both physically and mentally, so I include it in my budget. That isn’t to say that dance can’t costly. Here are some of my tips to keep yourself moving while not going broke.

  • Look into work study or bartering. I currently do work-study at a huge dance studio to pay for my Middle Eastern dance classes. It’s a very good deal, one hour of office work for one dance class. At least one other studio in this area offers work-study; I’m sure there are other studios in the world that have work-study established. Bartering also may be something to explore; teachers need anything from professional helpers (seamstresses, website designers, etc.) to other kinds of help (childcare). Ask politely; you never know what kind of deal you could strike up.
  • Distinguish wants from needs. Particularly with the active internet communities, I think it’s easy to get caught up in the want part of dance. You see the costumes, the fancy practicewear, etc. But how much of it do you need? There are cheap options for practicewear (a lot of people favor leggings or yoga pants and a tank top). Costumes may or may not make sense for you to purchase; if you’re not planning on performing for awhile/at all, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to purchase a costume if you don’t have the money. If you are performing, that brings me to my next hint.
  • Find where the deals are! Costumes can be purchased for lesser costs. You may not end up with a designer costume, but plenty of dancers sell their used costumes for fair prices; some costumes have very minimal wear. They do this online (Bhuz, for instance) or in face to face trades. If you do a dance form that doesn’t have an online community or in person swap meets, you should ask your teacher. S/he may know of used deals. If you’re looking for shoes/practicewear, it’s always good to ask other people where to go; your particular teacher or school may have worked out a discount deal for students if they name drop at certain stores. There are also online stores, such asĀ  Discount Dance Supply, where dance shoes, practice gear, etc. can be purchased for very reasonable prices.
  • Share studio space. If you and a friend are working on the same pieces and lack performance space, why not split the cost of a studio and practice together? I learned in the past few weeks that studios can rent for very fair prices. My classmates and I are splitting the cost of a studio to practice for 1.5 hours. Although we do not have a final head count, I don’t think I’m paying more than $4 for that practice.
  • Shop wisely. One of my favorite things to do with dance is take workshops. Those can indeed be costly. Although I encourage people who have time/money to check out everything, because you never know what you’ll like, it’s important to think about what you will learn at certain workshops. If you know, for instance, that tribal isn’t your thing, it probably isn’t worthwhile to attend a tribal workshop, particularly if there is another workshop coming up. I also am a big fan of asking around about teachers, workshop content, etc. People love sharing what they learned, so you can use their opinions to determine if the workshop is worth it to you. I also recommend checking local calendars, so you can really see what’s being offered and how to spend your money.

Anyone else have any other tips for saving money on dance?

Moving and working means I’ve been quite busy. Last week, I was keeping myself afloat best I can in life. I luckily have been able to keep myself ahead of the game with the students, but I’ve also had a mound of grading to do. Then I come home to clean, figure out how I’m getting certain items I don’t have (pots, pans, whatever) from Craig’s List or otherwise. My cats have been adjusting, as well, which has been some work; my one cat was having a hissing fit with the other two.

Last week, besides the moving stress, was a bit stressful because students like to argue grades. I’m not sure if it’s the nature of the beast, being female, or being young (or a combination), but a handful of students have mindblowingly crazy attitudes. It varies from telling me that I’m not fair for holding their grades to the syllabus, which they not only received prior to me but also we talked about when I did arrive, to being mad at me when they don’t understand what’s going on in class because they were absent and refuse to visit me during my tutoring hours. I’m not trying to be mean or harsh, but sometimes I’m astounded with the lack of accountability on the students’ behalf. I understand life is hard, but you have to take control of things. Thank goodness it’s only a handful, but they can sour things fast. I luckily have some fantastic students who may not totally understand physics, but they’re willing to work at it and not become accusative.

I’m also trying to make decisions on the rest of my life. Do I go to grad school next year (or rather, try to)? What kind of job do I want? And so on. Our work schedules for the next semester have not come out yet, which is stressful. While everyone at work insists that they keep people on as long as they can, there is no guarantee. I’m not trying to be negative or think for the worst, but the reality is I have a contract for so long. So in addition to trying to make long term plans, I am trying to keep my options open for the shorter term.

During my spare moments last week, I’ve also been exploring dance options. I discovered that the studio I used to attend offers a work-study program for dance classes, so I applied to there. I’m also looking at taking a drop-in ballet class. Once I have a feel for my job situation, I’ll likely return to Odissi classes here (or possibly Bharatanatyam). I would love to find a Flamenco class, but I a) don’t want to overextend myself and b) don’t know where one is.

A good part of me is interested in establishing a social life here of sorts; the last time I lived in the area, a bunch of my friends were here. They have either moved away, or we’ve gone very separate life paths at this point. I don’t want to go out all the time, but it’d be nice to hang out with some other people.

So that’s me in a nutshell for now. I think that I should be able to update more frequently next week, but who knows?

I have been looking at what search terms bring people here. One of the searches is “don’t like my dance studio.” I’m not sure what the person who was searching for it hopes to find, but I suspect maybe advice on what to do.

My first question is why s/he doesn’t like the dance studio. Is it the environment (catty students)? The teacher (incompetent, ineffective, just don’t jive)? The classes (switching times, offerings)? The physical space (too small, cold, far from home)? Once you know why you don’t like something, a solution is easier to find.

If you don’t like the students, how much do they affect you? I’ve been non-dance situations where I don’t like the people but I have to take a class. I’m polite and civil, but I’m not best friends with them. I learned to make the best out of it that way, because I like other things about the class.

If it’s the teacher you don’t like, I would be more inclined to leave the studio, depending on the situation. Students come and go all the time, teachers often stay at a studio for awhile (or forever). Figure out what you don’t like, though. If she lacks skill or you can’t learn from her for whatever reason, I’d leave. If she isn’t the warmest person, I’d reconsider. I’ve had good teachers who I don’t love and I’m not close to, but I’ve learned a lot from. If the teacher is just plain mean or abusive (insults students), I’d definitely leave without a second though. A former dance teacher of mine once said “I’m not paying money to be insulted and feel bad about myself.” I think that is excellent advice. You do want a teacher who’ll correct you, but there is a difference between correcting you and making you feel awful.

If you’ve talked to me in the last few weeks, flakiness annoys the heck out of me. I can empathize with people who have issues with unreliability, especially with classes. In that case, I’d suggest talking to the teacher/director about that matter in a polite way. Ask why it is and is there any way to ensure that the classes always run. If what you’re after isn’t being offered, you have two options. Find a new teacher or see if your current one is game for starting a new topic. I know both of my teachers were always interested in suggestions; I think some of mine have even helped start classes. Sometimes, teachers don’t know if their students want to learn new stuff. I know Sonya has honored requests, if there are a lot, for class time changes.

If you don’t like the physical space, I’d step back and figure how bad it really is. If it’s cold, you can always layer on clothes. Working in a small space may or may not be an issue; in Middle Eastern dance, there isn’t always a lot of traveling or moving about the stage. The stage sometimes is only 4 feet by 4 feet! Sometimes people carpool if the class is far; you save gas and you have a friend along for the ride.

The last thing, before you call it quits at a studio, is figure out if it isn’t them but you. I’ve been there about getting discouraged by my lack of progress at times. I know sometimes people feel like the teacher is “jus jellus”, but perhaps you really aren’t ready for the next level or to perform. If you have a good teacher (knows his/her stuff, is honest and helpful, etc.), you should trust and respect their opinion.

Ultimately, you have to weigh out the pros and cons and figure out what’s most important to you. Your money and time are important, so why waste it if you are unhappy somewhere? Shira’s site has an amazing directory of teachers; it is the largest one on the internet. If you want more of a recommendation for a new teacher, ask around on Bhuz, tribe, Livejournal, or the many other communities; people are always willing to recommend others. Good luck!

Someone located my blog by the search term “I don’t know how to dance but I want to.” Without knowing what kind of dance that person wanted to learn, I can’t give specific advice, but I hope it is helpful for someone.

I think if you didn’t grow up with dance lessons, you feel hesitant to start. I did a little, since I live very much inside my head and don’t have a gigantic connection with my body. For most people, I thoroughly recommend finding a good teacher and not going with an instructional DVD. Why? A good teacher (note: the teacher must be good) will correct bad body habits ASAP and prevent damage to your body. It is very hard to unlearn bad habits in the body. DVDs can be a great supplement to your education, particularly when you get familiar with the proper posture, but they can’t correct you and you can’t ask it questions.

If you’re nervous about being too old/overweight/out of shape/etc., I would not. Particularly with every Middle Eastern dance class I’ve taken, most of the women are at least 40s and were not athletically inclined. I know that most dance forms offer an adult class, and from what I understand, the students range from absolute beginners to former dancers.

Once you find the teacher and commit to the class, make a point of regularly going. Also, practice outside of your class. These two older women in my veil class wanted to see my shimmy and were impressed. I have a good shimmy (the up and down hip variety), because I practiced that thing like crazy until I got it. I told them it comes with practice, but I think they were still left a little dazzled. Although there may be some people in the class with innate abilities, probably a lot of the better students practice or attend classes more frequently or have some prior background. Don’t be discouraged by them. It takes time to get good at anything.

Finally (and this is advice I am now taking), take time to enjoy the music. It’s so easy to drill technique and get stuck in that, but truly dancing to the music is more important, in my opinion. Even if you let loose only for a short song, let yourself do that at the end of every practice you have for yourself.

Good luck!