Our “Balletgirl” Alison Shames is back and plans to appear regularly here at Dance Advantage. Last time she wrote about her first-time YAGP experience. This time she has some great ideas for fellow students about how you can help yourself and help your parents and earn money to defray the cost of pricey (but oh, so valuable) summer intensive tuition or travel expenses.
Where there is a will there is a way!
I began dancing at 8 years of age. My parents split up that year, and my mom could no longer afford dance lessons for my sisters or me.
My older sisters had previously taken classes at a local school. My teenaged sister loved to dance and missed it terribly. So, having heard about a man who taught dance in the inner city for free, she began taking classes again. My mom would take me to watch but I would stand up and dance along with these older kids.
Once day the teacher asked if I wanted to join in and I was thrilled! Even though I was about ten years younger, I began studying contemporary, African, liturgical, and hip hop.
My teacher was the reason I fell in love with dance. He gave me the chance and freedom to dance from my heart. But except the love and joy of moving to music, nothing else came easy.
We met in an old abandoned church. The floors were tile and wood. Often you would get splinters from dancing. Our costumes came from Goodwill. Our performance opportunities came only where my teacher convinced others to let us dance…sometimes it would be at a church, sometimes at an outdoor festival, sometimes for political rallies or charitable events. We were not just a group of dancers, though, we were a family.
My teacher taught us that where there was a will to dance, there would be a way. We worked to earn money for needed equipment or supplies. Because all we had was an old “boombox” at first, we raised funds to get a sound system. Once, we sold bottled water at a long, hot, outdoor event to buy wood and built a stage that we could dance on. We learned, with the guidance of my teacher, to be creative and innovative so that we could continue to dance and perform.
More Lessons Moving Forward
I loved dancing with this group but, when I turned twelve, my teacher approached my mom about putting me in ballet classes. He explained that while he taught choreography, he did not teach basic technique and thought that I might have more chances to take my dancing forward, if I had additional ballet training.
That year I began my foray into the ballet world. My mom and I were both shocked how expensive it was! And over the past two-and-a-half years, the expenses have only gotten greater. Now my mom has to buy a pair of pointe shoes every week. There are fees for joining certain competitions and coaching fees for amazing teachers, travel expenses, and summer intensives. I can see how invaluable this training is to me now that I am striving toward my dream of dancing professionally. It is not recreation to me, but a necessity.
It has been a truly loving sacrifice that my mom and my sisters make daily so that I can continue to dance. Even with a scholarship, my family had to work together to get me to my summer intensive last summer! On top of tuition and housing is clothing, pointe shoes, bed and bath supplies, extra money for incidentals, cleaning supplies, traveling expenses, and the list goes on.
Remembering my dear first teacher, who I am still in contact with, I know if there is a will to dance, there is a way. So I continue to be creative in thinking of ways to fund projects and do the best that I can to help contribute to my dancing expenses whenever possible.
Funding Your SI
I know my family is not the only one who has to carefully plan and budget to make these things happen. So here are some ways to get yourself to a summer intensive by taking an active role in earning the necessary funds. While I have not yet tried making or selling art or old shoes, I have done the others and found a lot of success.
Remember, if it means enough to you, you will gladly work hard toward a goal!
- Fix boxed dinners on a busy holiday so that families do not have to cook. Take orders before hand so you do not have a lot of leftovers.
- Decorate and sell old pointe shoes. I got this idea from a dear Twitter friend!
- Become a “slave for a day”. Let people sign you up for babysitting, raking leaves, housecleaning, or other pesty chores. My family and friends were more than willing to donate if they got their closet cleaned or yard mowed.
- Have an outdoor movie night, or dance, or both. Show a great movie on the side of a building, have music for dancing and yummy snacks. You can sell concessions or take a donation at the door. A fun night for everyone!
- Speak at a local rotary or Kiwanis club. You can find other local sponsors that are interested in the arts and aspiring artists, too. Be willing to speak about your dreams, dedication and offer to keep a journal, send them updates, or videography of your experiences there.
- Have a mini talent showcase. Perform a piece. Find other local performers who would like to donate to your cause with an entry/registration fee. Take donations at the door. It is an evening of enjoyment for all and a chance for other local artists to be seen and showcased, as well.
- Sell bottled water or sports drinks at a really hot outdoor event that will allow independent vendors. It is a win/win situation.
- Hold a silent auction. Present a bio on yourself and your goals to local businesses and vendors that will donate to your cause. Give back a percentage of what you earn to organizations or charities.
- Sell donated artwork to fund your SI. I read via Twitter about a teen in England who had a sculptor sculpt a bronze of her dancing. He donated it and the proceeds from the sale went to fund her ballet training. Click here for the full story.
- Come up with a list of promises from friends and relatives and auction them off. For instance, if your uncle is a chef, maybe he will donate a dinner for four. If your grandparent works for an airline maybe he/she can provide two free tickets. If you have an artist in your family, maybe they would do a small painting.
You’ve got the idea!
I know time is limited when you are a dancer, but if there is a will to dance, you will find a way!
Beyond Dollars and Cents
A way to fuel, if not fund, your training is remembering to say thank you.
The greatest way to do this is to work very hard in your classes both at home and away. Learn to give 100% in your training. And have a heart of gratitude to those who are helping you take the next step toward your dream. It does “take a village” to raise a dancer. I know for me the list of those to thank is endless!
Have a great summer at your intensives! I cannot wait for all that is in store for me this summer!
Let me know how any of these ideas work for you.
Or share your own ideas and let us know how you’ve worked to make your dreams come true!
Alison Shames is just an ordinary 14-year-old girl who loves ballet and hopes to be a professional one day. She began her ballet training at 12 years old and trains 6 days per week for 4-6 hours each day with some amazing teachers from Norway, Dominican Republic and Cuba. Alison studies Vaganova technique, modern, contemporary, character, classical variations, African movement, and loves flamenco, Bollywood, Chinese fan, and other cultural dances. She attended her first ballet intensive last summer at Boston Ballet School and is looking forward this year to the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet summer intensives. She has difficulty naming only a few of her ballet inspirations but includes Tamara Rojo, Adiarys Almeida, Carlos Acosta, Maria Kotchekova, Natalia Osipova, Vladimir Malakhov, Alina Cojocaru, Li Cunxin, Sokvannara Sar, Joseph Gatti and Svetlana Zacharova among them. A resident of the southern United States, Alison loves that dance is a universal language and brings the world together. You can find her Tweeting @Balletgirl96.