Hi I’m Karly Wood and like many mothers, I never thought one day I would be a dance mom (Abby Lee Miller definitely scared me off). But now that I’ve arrived, I can’t imagine a better way to spend my spring weekends than at a dance competition, cheering on my dancer. Taking the leap from academy dance to competition was a big step, however, and I wasn’t fully financially prepared.
The cost of Competitive dance in the USA easily starts with prices in the $1,500 range and can far exceed $10,000 annually. This amount is strictly for competition expenses, which include entry fees, conventions, choreography, costumes, and more.
The biggest thing to know about being financially prepared for competitive dance is that, if your dancer comes to love the sport, be prepared for your expenses to go up every year as they take on more dances.
It’s important to know what other fees you’ll be responsible for when taking up competitive dance as a family.
Academy/Technique Dance and Ballet Classes are Paid for Separately!
It’s important to understand that the fee sheet you get when signing up for competitive dance does not include your dancers’ monthly academy or technique classes.
As your dancer prepares for the competition season, they will still be required to take weekly ballet, jazz, lyrical and other classes like leaps and turns, tech, and more and those are charged separately.
Typically, these are billed as monthly tuition and are usually based on how many hours your dancer spends in the studio.
At our Southern California studio, we pay $280 for 7 classes per week from September through June. Our summer session runs for about 7 weeks and we pay $380 for 5 classes per week, a steal in our opinion!
For more information on the cost of dance classes check out the article How much do dance classes cost? We compare 50+ schools across the US! UPDATED 2022!
Master Classes & Private Lessons
Throughout the year our studio offers amazing master class opportunities from skilled professionals. While my nine-year-old dancer is still on the young side to participate, these classes usually run about $20 for a 60-90 minute class––well worth the cash.
Our teachers also offer private lessons to brush up on skills on an as-needed basis.
Truthfully, we don’t take too many privates but do tend to use them during the holidays when the studio is closed.
They are $45 for 30 minutes, and can be split into a semi-private with one other dancer for half the cost.
Attending Dance Conventions
Like most studios, we attend one dance convention as a team every year. A dance convention is a series of master classes that are held alongside competitions sometimes taught by the judges who adjudicate the competitions and sometimes by other professional or experienced dance teachers.
This runs usually $200-$275 and generally includes two-days worth of classes.
Because we live in So. Cal. and are close to large metropolitan areas, we usually do not have to budget any travel costs other than gas as we are able to drive home after each day.
If you live in a more rural area, be sure to budget other travel costs like a hotel, food, and activities that may dramatically increase the cost of attending a dance convention.
Budget for Choreography & Competition Entry Fees
For our competition year, the bulk of our budget comes from choreography and competition entry fees.
Choreography fees pay for the teacher or choreographer to create and develop a dance routine and for the time they then spend teaching it to the dancers. Entry fees need to be paid for each dance and competition your studio is entering your dancer into.
Our studio examines all the costs and rolls them into one lump charge per dance so we are not paying monthly choreo and cleaning fees, nor are we shelling out entry fees every other weekend come April. (Cleaning fees mean a dance teacher spending class time cleaning up the dance from mistakes, correcting stage positioning, adjusting synchronicity in troupes and technical errors for example.)
A small group number with nine or fewer dancers can cost $1,050 and this includes teacher choreography fees, music cuts, weekly practice/cleaning, comp entry fees plus costume. Not bad when your break it down!
This year, we are adding another dance for a total of five, so we already know will be spending more than last year. My dancer will participate in the studio’s production ($725), one large group ($950), one small group ($1,050), one duo/trio ($1,270- costume not included) and one solo ($2,250- costume not included).
We are also responsible for a $150 team fee. All in, we are looking at $6,295 minimum for the year just for dances. Thankfully, our studio also gives a 5% discount if we pay the entire amount up front, which saves us over $270!
While some dance parents may feel overwhelmed looking at the large financial numbers, for our family it is helpful to know just what we’re paying and have it all paid for up front. No extra dance cleaning fees or other charges related to the dances happen throughout the year.
All of our photography and video fees were included in the cost of each competition, so we didnt’t have to pay extra––a welcome relief!
For some dance moms, the costumes can be the biggest hangup when it comes to competition expenses.
It’s SO tempting to shell out the big bucks for a custom costume with Swarovski crystals but it can wreak havoc on your budget if you’re not careful.
The only costumes we pay for outright at our studio are solos, duos and trios. Those can range from $100-$500 and our teachers ask what we are willing to pay instead of hitting us with a zinger at the end of the year.
Production and group costume fees are included in the cost of the overall dance––a relief on our wallet.
Be prepared to budget at least $100 per costume and don’t be afraid to talk to your studio about what you prefer to pay.
The good news is the older your dancer gets, the less bling they want when they hit the stage (this helps the focus be on the quality of dance which your dancer has worked so hard on) ––which means much cheaper costumes are on the horizon.
Hidden Costs – Bags & Other Supplies
Not all competition dance costs are huge expenses all at once. In fact, I find the most surprising things are those that add up over time and that I did not anticipate!
This year, we did not need to purchase a large competition bag, but we did last year. Thankfully, I found a great deal on a Dream Duffel on Facebook Marketplace for just $50 and highly recommend searching here before dropping $300+ on a new one.
We did have to buy a set of garment bags which cost $73 but will be used probably until my daughter graduates because the quality is so amazing!
Our studio also updated their makeup requirements which set us back about $60, and plenty of false eyelashes that I was able to purchase at the Dollar Tree for $1.25. In all, I probably purchased 10-12 sets for a total of $15.
All this to say, I definitely use a budget tracker to forecast upcoming expenses and track what I’ve spent year to date. I highly recommend using one as it can not only help you stay on track, but also learn to budget a year in advance which saves tons of stress!
Competition Team Auditions & Audition Workshop Fees
Some studios host an audition workshop prior to auditions, where dancers are evaluated on various styles of dance and are taught an audition combo. Depending on your location, this can cost anywhere from $50-$200 and might be a mandatory class for your studio.
Additionally, auditions usually require a fee in addition to paperwork and a headshot. Our studio charges just $20 but other studios near us charge upwards of $150-$200 just to audition.
Don’t Forget Competition team ‘Spirit Wear’
Our So. Cal studio embraces a laid back dress code so we do not have required uniforms.
However, we do have a robust spirit wear shop where dancers can order their own team shirts, leggings, sweatshirts, backpacks and bags.
Competitive dancers are required to purchase one team jacket which costs $70 but we bought a large so it fits for several seasons.
Other studios may require specific leotard colors for classes, studio logo dance bags and more.
It’s important to get the required dress code and other guidelines before auditioning so you know exactly how your wallet will be impacted.
It’s one thing to shell out money once a year on costumes, but let’s not forget about all those practice outfits and shoes!
This year, we went through more pairs of shoes than ever and you can read about why shoes wear out so quickly in our article How Long Do Dance Shoes Last? Best Advice for Parents!.
You can really lose track of the money you spend on dancewear. I know I spent at least $517 at one dancewear company in particular (oops), which is where a budget tracker made specifically for the needs of competitive dance parents come in handy!
I know there was more because my 9-year-old saw that the “big girls” wear Lululemon and so we snagged a pair of shorts for $40, plus a $40 leotard we purchased for a dance photo shoot.
Whether you shop second-hand or buy all new, be sure to budget a little more than what you anticipate for dancewear for the competition year.
The Costs of Travelling to Dance Competitions
This year, the only major travel expense besides gas was travel for Nationals. Nationals are large dance competitions held in major cities and so they are generally not local for most people.
Our event was two hours away so we knew we would need to plan for an overnight stay for up to a week.
Thankfully, we tapped our network and were able to use my father-in-law’s timeshare to get the whole week for free. We had a washing machine and full kitchen at our disposal so we saved a ton on food as well.
Despite the setup, we still ate out a handful of times which costs probably $100 at least over the course of a few days.
Other families booked AirBnb’s or shared hotel rooms so they could save money.
If you travel for nationals, be prepared to shell out at least $150 per night for hotel, plus the cost of food and activities.
In addition to Nationals food expenses, we also usually purchased at least one meal every weekend we were at a competition, if not more.
Recital Costumes Can Be Different to Competition Costumes!!!
At our studio, competition dancers are required to participate in the year-end showcase recital if any of their academy or technique classes are showing a number.
Luckily, rectial numbers are normally only for pre and level 1 or 2 classes and costumes are $70 each.
This year, we had recital dances for Tap 1, Jazz 2 and Ballet 1/2 so we spent $210 on costumes on top of the competitive team costumes.
As my daughter gets older, we will have fewer requirements for recital costumes, since our studio has far too many classes to showcase every class! We get to see her onstage multiple times a year at competitions so I don’t mind this at all!
My Thoughts on The Costs of Competitive Dance…
Is competitive dance expensive? Yes.
Is it worth it? Absolutely!
With a little planning and budgeting, paying for your dancer to grow in talent and character is a small price to pay so they can embrace their passion for dance.