How Do We Pay For Ballet?

How do we pay for ballet class?
Not like how do we make the money or how do we budget it, (entertainment? health? beauty? foldin’ money?) but how do we physically hand over the money.
The Adult Beginner is kind of squeamish about the money part of it.
I know, it’s dumb and immature and kind of embarrasingly bourgeois of me, but, like, I would prefer to imagine that the teacher and I are meeting in some altruistic world that exists outside of money. My fanstasy-in-the-clouds is totally brought down to grubby reality in those ballet classes where we students are required to hand money directly to the teacher.
I’ve been to a bunch of different studios in the past year, so I’ve been able to experience different ways of paying, and I thought I’d list them here:
1) The Flat Fee Per Month, Unlimited Classes.
This is the method most gyms use. I’ve encountered it with a few dance studios, especially ones that also run fitness classes.
I like this method because it encourages you to take as many classes as possible. The more classes you take, the less each individual class costs.
It’s a mental trick, of course, as the actual cost is the same whether you go once or one hundred times, but if you are motivated by getting a good deal, as is the Adult Beginner, it’s a super effective motivator.
2) The Flat Fee Per Month, Limited Classes.
My least favorite. I encountered this one at the studio where my boy was taking ballet. In this method of payment, you are automatically charged every month for, let’s say, the four classes per month in which you are enrolled.
I am not a fan of this method as I often found myself thinking, “Well….he has a little bit of a cold….but it’s not that bad…” Basically, I feel like it encourages people to bring sick-ish kids to class for fear of wasting money on a skipped class.
To be fair to them, this particular studio had a make-up class available on another day, and I think the policy said unused classes would be credited toward the next month although I was never super clear on that, but to be fair to me, I didn’t see the sense in having a two-year old locked into any kind of automatic monthly enrollment situation when it’s likely he’ll miss two out of every four classes due to vague illnesses. I mean, so far in my experience, when this kid is sick, it’s a two-week affair, making the likelihood of catching that make-up class pretty much unlikely.
So, although I liked the teacher at that studio, I un-enrolled the kid and now instead of ballet we go to a yoga place that uses:
3) The Bulk Discount
Most dance studios use this method, in which you can buy a class card or package or series that gives a discount for buying a big chunk of classes up front. These are usually time-limited, like you have three months to use up the card, or a year, or whatever.
The place where I take my kid for yoga has no time limit, which I love, because see previous missing two classes out of every four. I’m guessing this no-time-limit method is harder financially on the business, but it is so much easier on the parental peace-of-mind.
I also like this method because each purchase is a one-time exchange, as opposed to an open-ended enrollment that you have to remember to cancel if you want to change studios.
All of the above methods are studio run, and involve handing a card over to be swiped by the receptionist at the front desk, leaving you free to skip off to your fantasy land where everyone is in class for fun.
Below we have:
4) The Independent Teacher
In this method, you pay the teacher. Personally. Per class. There’s no bulk discount, class always costs the same, and you hand your money directly to the teacher.
Generally with this set-up the teacher only takes cash or a check, because they are human, so you have to make sure you actually have cash or a check, and then they have to put your money somewhere, and make some kind of record of payment, etc etc, while everyone else waits at the barre or after class while the studio owner comes to hustle you all outta there.
This method makes me feel uncomfortable because it involves a direct exchange of money for instruction, like, a cash amount is assigned to the worth of the class.
On top of that, this method makes me feel dumb and unsophisticated for feeling uncomfortable in the first place. Money is a fact of life and there’s nothing wrong that and I shouldn’t feel weird about putting money into my teacher’s hand, but I totally do.
Also, I think this method has the reverse effect of Method 2, in that it subtly encourages one to take fewer classes, because unlike so many exchanges in our modern day, you are actually seeing the money leave your wallet.
I usually do a work-around for this method by writing a check for a few classes in a row, so at least I’m only standing in front of my teacher, awkwardly holding out payment, once every few weeks.
So there you have it.
I’m guessing Method 3 is the most common in the dance world, but I am often wrong. Holler at me and tell me how you pay!

About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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54 Responses to How Do We Pay For Ballet?

  1. BK says:

    Mostly #2 or #3, but this reminded me of an uncomfortable experience I once had attempting to pay for a class…

    A couple years back, had just moved to a new city, and decided I’d do a one-off class at a studio that seemed pretty adult-friendly. Class was billed as a beginner, but was definitely closer to intermediate. Having had a long layoff from ballet, I was pretty lost. Teacher (dude) wasn’t the type to take time and explain things to the slow student, so I stayed lost. Anyway, class ended, and I had already made the decision that it wasn’t for me. Figured I’d pay and be on my way.

    Went up to the teacher and asked how I should pay, card or check. Teacher got a visible pained expression and said he didn’t take credit cards and preferred cash. Since I was used to the “pay once for an entire month” model, I wasn’t carrying much cash. But I had brought my checkbook. So I apologized and asked again if a check would be okay.

    Teacher proceeded to, over the next five seconds, I swear, gave me every disgusted expression in the entire human emotional repertoire, along with a few exasperated huffs. Finally, after making me double-down on my decision to not return to his studio ever again, he told me to write the check to him. I handed it over, and was on my way.

    To this day it hasn’t been cashed. Which leads me to believe he didn’t have a checking account, thus the reaction toward having to accept a check (I mean, yeah, he could have lost it, I know). I only do classes sporadically anymore, and even though the class on the whole was a negative experience, I learned to have cash on hand, just in case.

    (Odd totally unrelated aside…he might not have had a checking account, but he did own a pair of pink pointe shoes, which he was wearing when I first walked into the studio; had obviously just finished doing some stretching. I thought that was kind of cool, but things went downhill from there…)

  2. Holly says:

    How about a combination of #2 and #4? One thing I’ve done in the past is pay X amount to the teacher upfront for an X-week session. It limits the number of times you have to hand the teacher money, but there’s still the issue of missing classes. Usually, sessions were 8-10 weeks, so since I was handing over money so infrequently missing a class didn’t hit me as hard as it might have if I were handing over a check every few weeks. The teacher also made paying a really casual, pain-free process, so there was minimal bourgeois disilusionment.

    • Well thank goodness for that. There’s only so much disillusionment of any sort that a person can be expected to handle right before spending an hour and fifteen minutes in front of a wall of mirrors.

  3. The studio I recently tried out does #3 with the addition of an optional online payment system. I thought this was nice, as you can choose to pay before you go and just sign in when you get there, no exchange of money in person. But they also take payment/accept flex cards at the front desk, so if you can’t decide whether you’ll make it to class until the last minute you don’t have to worry about being out the money.

  4. At my studio, we make payment by per term basis. Meaning you pay once every 3 months (equivalent to 12 lessons), which is a norm, here in Singapore. Payment is also done at the reception, so there’s no awkward exchange of money in front of the class. No member cards involved, so I really admire the memory of the receptionist, since she can remember everyone’s name by heart.

  5. diane says:

    From a teacher’s point of view, having a steady income is preferable, making it imperative that the students pay regularly, and not just when they are actually there. Where I live, that is the norm (continental Europe), so that is all right. There are of course times when a student cannot attend for whatever reason, and if that reason is legit (wanted to attend a birthday party instead of coming to class is not really legitimate, I feel), then it is possible to make up the class. There are also university students who are out of town for the semester “holidays” (which seldom correspond with any “school holidays”), and they are able to take more classes per week when they are in town again.

    • It’s interesting to think about what makes a legitimate reason for missing class, and how that is relative to type of student.
      For example, a teenager on a professional track —a party is probably not a legit excuse. I imagine this would create mixed feelings in the student: sadness at missing the party, but pride in oneself for being disciplined enough to place higher importance on training and future.
      But for an adult recreational student, as birthday parties become less frequent and more centered around the big numbers: turning 30, 40, and so on, they take on greater legitimacy.
      On the other hand, I have totally used ballet class to get out of social events, as in, “Oh, I’d love to but I have ballet that night, you guys have fun!!!(phew!)”
      Fortunately, most birthday parties don’t happen on Saturday mornings or weekday evenings, so that particular conflict isn’t even an issue most of the time, for this adult beginner at least.

  6. JustScott says:

    Method #2 is most common at our studio, although it has begun offering #3. They also allow the option of paying by the class if you’ve paid the registration fee.

  7. Ricob says:

    I’ve had all but method #2. the class card is my hands-down fave since my schedule is all over the place. I don’t mind handing over cash to the teacher either, as there’s an implied contract with the transaction – “You be a good teacher and I’ll be a good paying student. Capice?” More accountability for all involved is not a bad thing.

    What really grinds my gears are the yearly maintenance or administrative fees. But quality costs, right? And if I’m ever gonna pull off moves like Sergei in my own Hozier video, I need all the help I can get.

  8. Candice says:

    I take classes with the dance program InStudio by National Ballet of Canada. It’s legit and all so no direct money handling to the teacher or anything like that. We sign up for classes online or in person at the reception desk. Classes are offered by single drop-in or bundles of 5, 10, and 20 classes. They do have an expiration date of 5-12 weeks depending on the bundle but the more class it has the cheaper it is. Some classes are workshop based (Intro to Ballet/Pointe/Jazz), those are paid upfront by terms. I definitely prefer bigger bundles since those basically last a whole term and the most affordable.

    A few other studios also offer option #1 but I don’t think those are worth the money for someone who only wants to do a certain type of dance—in my case, ballet—because usually there aren’t enough classes offered for it to make the monthly fee break even with the drop-in rate.

    • True, Option 1 really works best in the gym type situation, where if the classes aren’t your world that day you can just run the treadmill while reading teenVOGUE instead.

  9. jenerators says:

    Where i used to dance you could pay by the class or if you paid for 10 classes at a time you’d get a discount. Either you or the teacher could keep your card and mark it off each class you attended until you were due to pay for another card. Payment was usually by direct deposit to her bank account.
    Where my daughter works (reception at a dance studio) they have a card system if you want a discount or pay by the class. You get your card punched by the reception staff in trade for a plastic token that you drop in the teacher’s basket in the studio usually before the class. I assume the teacher gets paid based on the number of tokens they turn in after class.
    At the Australian Ballet adult classes are quite expensive and you have to pay for a 6-week term in advance. There’s a small discount if you sign up for two classes a week. But you can’t get a refund if you miss a class and you can’t “give” your class ticket to someone else if you know you won’t be able to make it. They usually sell out within a day of being advertised too. That’s where I’m dancing now.

    • That sounds intense. How exciting!
      That plastic token basket method is really interesting, it sounds almost like some kind of magic ritual, although I’ve taken spin classes where they give a ticket at the front desk which we then carry into the spin room and stack up by the instructor’s bike, which is definitely not magical in reality.

  10. Rebecca says:

    The children (and the more devoted adults) get a #2-style invoice termly in advance – making up missed lessons is entirely by informal arrangement ie how sorry you are and how kind Madame is feeling. That’s how most kids’ classes – swimming, gymnastics, tennis, whatever – work here, so it feels right.

    Most adults pay-as-we-go – there’s a table in the corner with a register where you tick the date box by your name (or write your name in if you’re a first-timer) and leave your cash in the tin next to it. Very old-school. Madame certainly never handles the money herself (goodness, no!), and we queue up and chat as people are stretching, adjusting legwarmers etc. This is also how many village-hall yoga classes, art groups, piano lessons etc work – one-person freelancers teaching in whatever space they can find.

  11. Alice C. says:

    Most of the schools in my city that teach adult classes are drop-in classes, so options are either #3 or pay-per-class-but-not-to-the-teacher-directly. I opt for #3 whenever it’s available, so that I can save a bit per class, but I have to watch out for when the cards are expiring.

  12. Rori roars says:

    The studio I attend treats the adults pretty much the same as the kids: we pay monthly tuition based on how many hours a week we’re registered for. If it happens to go beyond a certain number of hours (I want to say it’s over 7), then there’s an “unlimited” tuition fee which makes it a bit more affordable if you’re absolutely dance-crazy. We can make up missed classes, but can’t count them towards the next month’s tuition or anything like that. They do offer a few discounts, like 10% off for paying for the entire school year at once (basically a free month) and 10% off the lower tuition(s) for multiple dancers in a family. We can pay a drop-in rate, too, if we can’t commit to attending a class regularly. The teachers take attendance, but the desk staff handles all of the shaking down of students for cash! This works great for us, but our studio is mostly made up of regulars. I’m not sure this would go so smoothly in an area where the attendance is a lot more spotty.

    I’ve been to other studios where you pay by the class (either individually or by buying a punch card). I did take attend one studio ages ago where we paid the teacher directly, and yeah, it was weird. Definitely doesn’t seem to be the norm around here, thank goodness!

    • Ten per cent off the entire school year is a great discount, but of course comes with the peril of seeing, laid out in black and white, what a year of dance class costs, whereas with most other methods you can just sing Lalalallaaa and willfully avoid figuring out that number out for yourself.

  13. Naomi says:

    At my studio in metro Chicago, the year is divided into segments; we pay per segment with a 2 class per week minimum. Make-up classes are always available at one’s level or below. There is flexibility in the way payments can be made. I make mine at the reception desk…have never seen anyone handing money to any of the teachers, but could have happened. The cost of running a full studio with several teachers and real, live pianists is high. Some students simply aren’t aware and some are not flush with cash. I do know that the director of the studio makes arrangements with those who need them. Before I came to this studio I was with one that had both tuition and the #3 discount, which was called the “punch card”. The card is popular here in Yoga and fitness studios as well. In both cases, the discount card seems like a good deal, but a student can be left holding the bag, if for whatever reason, the class becomes less than expected. That has been my experience, so if trying something new, I prefer to pay a “drop-in” fee.

    • Totally, I always pay the higher single class rate when trying a new place.
      Some places in Los Angeles offer discounts to members of SAG/AFTRA, which I think is cool as a professional courtesy within the performance world. Doesn’t help me at all since I’m not an actor, but I still think it’s a nice gesture.

  14. Trippmadam says:

    Over here (Germany), it is usually #2 or #3. However, there used to be older teachers working free-lance who expected to be paid cash before or after each single class, but as far as I know, they are retired by now. I remember an elderly lady, Dona C., who used to teach “clásico espanol” (somewhere between ballet and flamenco) and who might well be Smirnoff’s cousin from Spain.

  15. Carla Escoda says:

    I favor the pay-what-you-can model. It’s market-driven, but also realistic and sensitive to individual circumstances. Ballet class should be accessible. I use a teapot, with some change in it. Students put cash or checks in it before or after class. It’s simple, and it works. I wish dance companies would adopt the same approach to ticket pricing. It would be a nightmare for their accountants in the first season, but they would quickly get a feel for their audience’s resources and in the medium- to long-term, ticket revenues should stabilize and be as predictable, if not more so, than a fixed-price scheme. Pay-what-you-can would also generate more goodwill in the community than fixed pricing.

    • This is so interesting!
      I love the idea of ballet —class and performance— being accessible no matter income level.
      It’s like Broadway plays: I will never see one, because they are too expensive. My husband uses the comparison of a tv: we could buy two tickets to a Broadway musical, or we could buy an entire tv. Which of these would provide greater entertainment over all? Of course we work in tv and I pretty much can’t stand musicals, so maybe that’s not a perfect example, but the point is, the entire art form that is Broadway is priced out for me. An entire art form! Just plain not available!
      Sour grapes!
      Do you find that the amount students put in the teapot averages out to approximate market levels? I can definitely think of times in my life when I’d have paid less but been so happy to be able to be there, and other times when I could have paid more with the memory of those paying less times.

      • Have you heard of Ballet to the People? There’s also Yoga to the People. Check it out. It uses a sliding scale of sorts.

      • Carla Escoda says:

        The market in the San Francisco Bay Area ranges between $14-$24 per class and my average in the few years I’ve been doing this has worked out in that range. With the economy so unstable, I hate to think that some students can’t afford what for many of us counts as a basic necessity. The ancient rituals and the all-consuming mental and physical discipline of class keeps many of us sane and centered in an otherwise turbulent world. What keeps me up at nights, however, is looking around the opera house and calculating the average age of the ballet-going public, and realizing that we are all going to die soon and who will fill our seats??? The occasional student discount just doesn’t cut it: entire families need to be able to afford an evening out at the ballet in order to groom the next generation of Petipa-lovers. Instead of pestering us with endless requests for donations, ballet companies could open up ticket pricing, and I’ll bet the generosity of well-heeled patrons will more than compensate for more modest contributions, will up the audience numbers, and build a healthy base for the future.

  16. Tricia says:

    One of the studios that I go to is pay per season, so I pay in Sept and again in Jan. Classes go from Sept to beginning of June. It’s the same for all classes, adult and youth.

    My other studio offers a membership, punch card or pay per class. Right now I do pay per class, because I wasn’t sure I was going to like the class and I’m not always sure if I can make that week’s class. The membership, for me, doesn’t make sense as I’m only taking the ballet class, so I think that way would be very expensive for me. I’m thinking of doing a punch card instead of the pay per class, that way I don’t have to remember cash every week :)They offer adult fitness classes year round. I’m pretty sure for their youth dance classes, it’s pay per season.

    My daughter’s studio also does pay per season, twice a year.

    • “Not always sure if I can make it to class” is totally an Adult Recreational Anything problem. I feel like it should be on a plaque somewhere or something, preferably in the office of whoever it is that decides the payment schedules at the dance studio.

  17. Casey says:

    Drop in classes here in Chicago. Pay a flat rate per class or buy a 10 class card on a slight discount. Class cards expire at the end of the term or within so many months depending on the studio.

  18. Jane Lambert says:

    I go to classes at Northern Ballet in Leeds, the University of Huddersfield, Hype Dance in Sheffield and KNT Danceworks in Manchester. I have also attended one class at Pineapple Dance Studio in London. These are all drop in classes though you have to book in advance for classes at Northern Ballet and the University.

    At Northern Ballet, the University and Hype I pay a fee at reception rather than the teacher. If you are interested, the fee is £6.50 at Northern Ballet, £5 at the University and £6 at Hype. At KNT I pay £5 to the teacher at the end of the class. Pineapple required me to take out a day’s membership and then pay the pianist and teacher before the start of the class.

    I think it must be possible to pay for a course in advance at Northern Ballet because some students produce a card that is stamped by the receptionist.instead of money.

  19. simple girl says:

    I took ballet class for just months in Chennai, India.
    I paid cash directly to the teacher.
    There was no other option for paying through cheque or card.

  20. Kate says:

    My studio is pretty small & low-key. If you’re a kid, you pay “tuition” and sign up for a “semester”. Cash or cheque. If you’re an adult, you can sing up for a semester, do a dance card (10 class pass), or do drop in classes. The tuition is cheapest in terms of cost per class, & extra drop-in classes run about $2 less per class if you’re signed up for the semester.

  21. Michelle says:

    My studio has a variety of options, but I take advantage of a #3-type option. The best part is that I can register for class online and can cancel online as late as five minutes before class starts and not be penalized. They’re pretty flexible with adults.

    I get what you’re saying about paying an instructor straight up. I pay my skating coach cash at each session. Totally kills the “we’re-partners-training-for-Nationals” fantasy I have during my lessons.

  22. hyysterika says:

    The place I take classes at is a community college, so I pay for a whole semester. So much cheaper! But where I teach, you can either pay for the month ($48 for one class, but then after adding additional classes, it gets cheaper and cheaper). Or $15 per class.

    Sometimes there is the owner or manager there, but usually, just me, so sometimes I take the money, and sometimes I don’t.

    • Jessica says:

      This!! OMG if you are in California, especially, the community college option is so cheap and great! I did that when I lived in San Diego, and it was fantastic. An entire semester (two classes/week) even with the student fees, was like less than $150. And in 2002 or so, before the rates went up, it was $50! Insane! And we had a rad German former-ballerina teacher and an awesome pianist. *dreamy sigh*

      • hyysterika says:

        Yes!! When I first took class at the college (and yes, I’m in California), it was $12 per unit. Now I believe it’s $40 a unit, but that’s still cheaper than one month at most studios around here. And yeah…2 days a week. And technique classes are an hour and a half long, whereas studio classes are an hour long. I actually wish I could teach for an hour and a half instead of just an hour. I would love twice a week too. I have a student that takes privates with me. I teach her ballet and lyrical on Sundays. But we generally go for three to four hours because we feel like it! Lol. We get so much more done!

  23. Kiwi Ballerina says:

    We pay by term (here in NZ) which makes things easier. However on the down side my husband freaks out every three months when I ask him for hundreds of dollars. It used to be weekly or monthly but that was always awkward trying to work out how many classes you had paid for etc. Money is that horrible part of ballet that no-one wants to talk or think about. I love the pay what you can afford idea :)

  24. Jessica says:

    I pay by the month; could do by the quarter if I wanted to. It’s a fee for each class, or a 6+ classes/week rate or unlimited rate. I could pay a drop-in fee, but the monthly rate is way cheaper. It’s kind of a bummer, though, because I take all the ballet classes possible for my level (four technique and two pointe classes/week), so there’s no opportunity for makeup classes when I miss. And no discount in that situation, either. One month I was gone so much that it was cheaper to pay drop-in rate rather than tuition; with my travel this month, it’s $20 cheaper to pay tuition.

    When I was visiting family last summer, I got a four-class punch card for a studio my SIL recommended, and that was perfect. I even got to take a master class with a visiting pro!

    It’s funny, because this is actually the biggest divide (and source of friction) I feel being an adult in class with teens and kids. I can get pretty impatient with chatter between exercises and tangential discussions because I’m paying for class with my own damn money, and this is my only opportunity to learn ballet technique. I’m super grateful for it, and I don’t want to squander a minute. It’s not just another activity that my parents are paying for. I’m taking time away from work, home, all the adult admin in order to do it.

  25. ijustwannadanceman says:

    I so relate. I don’t mind paying online. Some studios have a receptionist at the front you can pay. I like this method too. I haaaate paying the teacher in person. Like you I Want To Believe the teacher and I are just two besties working on my skills together. I try to be as cavalier about it as possible. Oh this old $20? Yeah whatever. I take private lessons every other week. A few weeks ago I was injured during my private lesson (effing dislocated my knee). My teacher was kind enough drive me home. And there was still a weird moment in her car when I fucking paid her. Like LOL I have totally blown out this joint but I guess I still have to pay you. It was weird but it would have been weirder had I not paid. Being a flake is no good too.

  26. Steph says:

    Both my studio’s have pre-pay cards which is great. But one teacher also takes money at the beginning of class, which is annoying sometimes because we end up starting late if there’s lots of people paying by cash. Which is always!

  27. carri says:

    FYI for your little guy most children’s studios charge a monthly rate for an average of 4 classes per month. And usually you have 1 month for a makeup (but there is not always an appropriate class)

  28. Harrison says:

    “This method makes me feel uncomfortable because it involves a direct exchange of money for instruction, like, a cash amount is assigned to the worth of the class.”

    Are you uncomfortable because the amount is too low, or too high, or simply because it’s cash?

    The price for classes where I live is entirely reasonable, for a couple hours of enjoyment. A movie and popcorn would cost about the same, but ballet gives me personalized instruction, is better for my health, and always leaves me relaxed. Paying is my way of saying I support the arts, and keeping the studio open. (At least *one* of us won’t have to sit in an office all day to make a living!) The studio rent isn’t going to pay itself.

    I teach another art which is “monthly fee for unlimited classes”, and I feel it’s much worse for it. Payment is so far removed from practice that students forget they’re helping to keep the lights on.

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