I get people asking me all the time about how they should go about taking dance classes when they/their parents can’t afford to pay for classes. And luckily, there are ways, and I’ve done most of them, having taken classes as a poor college student. So here’s information on finding classes when you don’t have much/any disposable income. (This is not going to include ways to raise money for classes, such as baby-sitting, selling things, etc. This is studio-focused.)
Many dance studios will offer scholarships, though these are normally reserved for children and young teens. These may be need-based (where poorer students get scholarships) or merit-based (where talented students get scholarships) and may require only paperwork or an audition as well. Contact local studios for information on scholarships.
More ideas after the cut!
Work-study programs are a great opportunity for teens and young adults. Basically, you work around the studio and get paid in classes. When I did a work-study at a studio, I was spending an hour and a half each week disinfecting yoga mats, sweeping and mopping the studios, emptying trash and recycling bins, cleaning the bathrooms, wiping down mirrors, disinfecting ballet barres, and various other tasks. Occasionally the staff members would ask me to help them with a special task, and once I got to fill in for a sick teacher’s aide and help teach some children the basics of tap-dancing. At my work-study, the amount of free class you got was the same as the time you spent working; I was allowed to take one hour-and-a-half class free each week. If you have some consistent time to spare each week, contact studios to see if they have these opportunities!
Maybe your parents don’t want to shell out $20+ for a class they’re worried you won’t like. Or maybe you’re worried the same thing about your own wallet. Well, many studios have introductory offers to allow you to try a class. One studio I went to gave new students their first class free. Another studio has a “2 for $20” deal where you can pick any two classes that month for only $20. Feel free to “shop around” and try out the deals to save some money and find a studio you like.
Alright, so this is a pretty particular one. But dance studios need workers. And though, if you’re reading this, you’re likely not a dance teacher, they also need people to do administrative tasks like signing people into classes, handling money, answering phones, etc. So if you’re of the age where you can hold down a part-time job, try applying to local studios. Employees normally get free classes!
Used Dance Sales
If you’ve got a way to pay for your class, but can’t find the extra money to buy the needed shoes and other supplies, some studios have sales of used dance supplies. The items sold are gently-used and donated by community members, many of whom are also students at the studio. This is a great way to find dance shoes for cheap if you can find them in the right size. Contact the studio and ask if they have a used shoe sale or donation program.
This one’s a two-parter. First, if you want to see some dance shows (or if you need to see them for a class), look into volunteering. Many small studios take on volunteers to help set up for a show, seat guests, sell refreshments, and clean up afterwards. And the volunteers get to stand off on the side and watch the show for free. Secondly, sometimes smaller studios include a ticket for a free class in with your playbill, so seeing shows for a birthday or holiday with your family can sometimes “win” you a free class as well!
Free Dance Days
If your local studio has days like this, they’re going to be few and far between, so it’s not a viable way to take dance classes. It is, however, an easy way to supplement your dancing. Some studios will have a day or two each year where they offer free classes to the public. They may be asking for donations for a charity or simply trying to raise awareness of what they’re working on. Whatever the reason, this is a good chance to take an extra class for free. For events like this and other day-only specials (like “wear green to the studio on St. Patrick’s Day and get a free modern class that day!”), be sure to follow the studio’s Facebook page, if they have one. That’s where they normally post special deals and offers, rather than cluttering up their main site.
A final note:
These are all ways to take dance classes when you’re interested in dance but can’t afford the high price of dance classes. But they also rely on people to make them happen. Without donations, studios can’t offer scholarships. Without students taking a bit of cost off their shoulders by cleaning, the studios can’t afford to take on poorer students. So remember, if in the future you have the money to spare, however little it is, consider donating to your local dance studios or to an organization that supports the performing arts.