To dance, to dream

A little while back my son announced that he wanted to be a ballerina. He wanted to dance with other ballerinas he said. Can I “PEASE PEASE PEASE DEAR MAMA” let him dance with other ballerinas?

I googled ballet classes and began calling around. After half an hour of this I was pretty gutted.

At the moment like many families we are on one income. When I return to work we will be able to do more but at the moment we are on an extremely tight budget.

Most ballet classes I found were around $120 a term. Plus admin fees. Plus uniforms. Yes, uniforms. For a two year old. I know. I know.

Some didn’t seem to have any boys in the classes and looked Very Serious by the photos. The people on the phone sounded Very Serious. There was grading. And performances – where you had to pay extra for costumes. Hidden costs you’re unable to budget for.

I googled ballet shoes.

I felt like I needed a wine after doing that.

I went on Twitter and complained about ballet classes being out of reach. Because $100 a term is out of reach for many parents. $150+ and a uniform (when ballet shoes can cost upward of $40 and that’s just the shoes) – well that is beyond out of reach.

Even if you can scrape together enough for a term fee, the way classes are set up can be really challenging when you’re on a low or no income. Being at class every single week is tough – if you don’t have enough for the extra bus fare because you had to pay a $5 script fee, there goes the ability to get to your ballet class that week. And you’ve lost that money for the class. Very few places have make-up classes. And I get that – I mean, businesses have to make money. I’m just trying to explain how these things quickly become out of reach for many whānau.

If you can *just* afford a uniform – do you buy shoes a size bigger so they fit? My son has changed shoe sizes twice this year and it’s only June.

Also – he’s two. What if he doesn’t like the class? I couldn’t find one place that did a tester class.

So, as I usually do when something upsets me: I went on Twitter and moaned. And soon I was inundated with messages from other parents. They told me about crying late at night over a budget trying to pay for classes for their children. And let’s be clear – it’s not just ballet. Most activities for kids that run on a term basis are expensive. I guess ballet is just at the extreme end.

I just don’t think it’s fair that kids miss out because their parents don’t earn enough money, or are between jobs, or are in caregiver roles and therefore without a regular wage. Dinner on the table is a priority for many families – not ballet.  It isn’t the fault of these parents, it isn’t the fault of these kids. But I thought it wasn’t fair that some kids missed out. A friend who is a dancer agreed.

So we concocted a plan. Ballet for everyone. Free.

I began asking around to see how much interest there was and we began deciding what the classes should look like. Here’s where we got to:

  • Free or koha.
  • All ages, all genders.
  • As accessible as possible.
  • No uniforms or extra hidden charges.
  • Tutus for any kids who want them – but no pressure to wear them.
  • No grading, no strict rules, no competitiveness.
  • No need to commit to an entire term – classes would be “drop in” if possible.
  • Kids wouldn’t be forced to participate.
  • Emphasis would be on fun and letting the children lead.
  • Children wouldn’t be separated based on skill – it would just be basic ballet with a focus on joy.

We set up a GiveALittle page to ask for donations to cover the cost of booking a studio once a week. Then, suddenly – the donations started rolling in and word spread.

Now we have a heap of demand and we are trying to meet it. And we’re both really overwhelmed by how much of a desire there is to let kids dance and dream and have fun regardless of what their parents can afford.

Also, we are seeing there is a real need for “classes” that support kids whose needs are a little bit different. The mixed ages and genders and non-competitive aspect really seems to appeal. And that’s so awesome. So hopefully, we will be able to run some classes that are koha and those classes will be able to support the free classes.

Right now I am trying not to get teary every five minutes from the lovely support we’re getting for our Ballet is for Everyone kaupapa. The donations! So much has been given! We have had two more teachers offer to run classes. We have had brand new leotards donated. We have a wonderful person who is making tutus for us – for free! Another person is dropping off second hand dance gear. We’re beaming and sending messages to each other that are just hearts for eyes emojis.

I love this about our online community – we support, share, create, and promote kindness every day. This is just one example of it. But it’s wonderful, and joyful, and awesome, and inspiring.

And we are very grateful.

So this post is just a thank you. A “look at how amazing this is!!?!” A watch-this-space.

Thank you to everyone who has supported this wee venture. I’m excited about what we can achieve. But most of all – I’m just chuffed that a little studio in Wellington is going to full of excited children who have been given a chance to do something that was previously out of reach.

Arohanui.


 

How you can help:

  • Give a little to give a lot!
  • Like our Facebook page
  • Follow us on Twitter.
  • Contact us on the form below to let us know if you help. We need dancers to volunteer to teach classes. We need dance gear – tutus, leotards, skirts, shoes,  costumes, those pretty ribbon things…

You can also contact us if you would like to attend the classes or you would like more information.


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One Comment on “To dance, to dream

  1. What a wonderful idea! And what a wonderful community you have who’ve seen the value in your idea and jumped on board. You are going to make a lot of budding ballerinas and boy dancers (don’t know the male version of ballerina) very, very happy.