When I got the email, I shouted in the office — so loudly that I had to clap my hand over my mouth. Then I cried.
Bronwyn has been accepted into the Associates Program at Canada’s National Ballet School — an opportunity that only a very few children get.
O…. M….. G…! Now we have to figure out how to pay for it.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, some background:
My eldest has been dancing since she could walk, and we’ve enrolled her in ballet lessons at our local studio — which has a very easygoing atmosphere — just once a week for the past four years. Ballet is something she enjoys, and I’ve always said that I’d love to see her stick with it long enough to have some proficiency, but I don’t imagine my girl becoming a professional dancer.
And I’d noticed all through the past year that she seemed… well, bored in class. Yawning, chatting with friends, dancing around while her teacher was talking. Matt and I discussed the matter. “Maybe she needs to take a break next year,” I suggested. “She can always pick it up again.”
In reality, the problem wasn’t that Bronwyn had become bored with ballet — she was simply bored that she wasn’t learning more. She first asked to learn pirouettes nearly two years ago. Now, I’m no expert (I took adult lessons for several years before having my babies, and signed up for a session of classes again just before we moved); maybe teaching seven-year-olds to spin on the ball of one foot isn’t a good idea, developmentally speaking, for sort of the same reason why dancers aren’t allowed to go en pointe until their early teens. But it turns out that Bronwyn simply wanted to be busier during her weekly hour of ballet.
We had discussed the possibility of trying out for the National Ballet School’s Associates Program before. Basically it’s a community dance program, similar to what we were used to, but at a higher level. Kids who are accepted in to the Associates aren’t necessarily aiming to become professional dancers, although some will go on to audition for the National Ballet School’s professional program, which starts in grade six. However, they do have the opportunity to try out for roles in The Nutcracker, which is what I’m thinking rekindled Bronwyn’s interest last winter.
“Bronwyn, if you want to audition for this program, you have to be serious. It costs money just to try out,” I explained.
“How much?” she asked. I told her that you have to pay $45 just to fill out the audition application.
My seven-year-old ran upstairs to her bedroom, then reappeared a few minutes later. “Here,” she said, plunking $45 from her piggy bank on the kitchen counter.
So we filled out the online forms and waited for audition day, a Sunday. I had no idea what to expect; we were to arrive for around noon, so I packed a substantial snack, including some protein, in case Bronwyn got hungry, but figured we’d be out of there and eating lunch by 1:30.
Bronwyn was keyed up but calm the entire time, and was tickled that she had to wear a number so the judges could easily identify her:
We didn’t leave the ballet school until after 2 pm. There were a lot, a LOT more polished- and experienced-looking girls in her age group, and I quietly told Matt that I didn’t think our girl — who said she had fun during the gruelling hour-and-a-half process, but didn’t seem to have a fire in her belly — was going to make it in.
Hence my surprise and great pride when she did make it into the program! It’s going to be a change, for both Bronwyn and me: Two mandatory classes a week instead of the one she’s been accustomed to, each 25 minutes longer than her former hour-long classes.
The first hurdle to clear, though, is the cost. Two classes mean twice the cost we were expecting — it’ll be $1,980 for the year.
I’ll be keeping you up-to-date about how we fit this new expense into our family budget. In the meantime, I’d appreciate any advice from elite-activity veterans out there. So to all you rep hockey and competitive gymnastics parents: How do you fit in the higher cost and time commitment of your kids’ activities?
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