McGrath Academy of Irish Dance
Performance in Purcellville, VA
Note: 3 of my 4 Irish dance kiddos are in this group shot!
We all have those certain television shows we watch that are like junk food.  You know which shows I'm talking about: the drama-filled episodes that have little to no value beyond making the viewers feel better about their own lives.   These real-life, although staged for the camera, dramas give us an inner-window to lifestyles that we find shocking at most and entertaining at least.  Sometimes, the shows will be touted as "reality-based" television, but truthfully they are just sensational enough to draw an audience that keeps coming back week after week to see how the next drama unfolds.

I have one friend who watches "Toddlers and Tiaras".  She loves to talk about it and exclaims about the insane pageant world.  She watches and exclaims, and all the while, you can see her mind working her secret dreams of putting one of her girls in pageants. Another friend loves to watch "Hoarders".  She sits with her chin on her chest amazed at the disgusting conditions some people create in order to feel safe in their world of stuff.  I know it helps my friend feel saner in her world of kids running around her house, smudges and crayon on the walls, and a sink full of dishes.

Yet another friend, who lives the most suburban of lives, has a daytime schedule that includes putting her three dear little girlies to bed and sitting down to watch taped episodes of "The Real Housewives of..." (insert whatever city.)  She calls this her mental Big Mac.

I can relate.

For me, my junk food show is "Dance Moms".  Yes.  There.  I said it.  It's out.  I LOVE "Dance Moms".  I thought I'd gotten to a point where nothing on that show could shocked me anymore. And then, I heard a monetary figure for tuition at the dance school - $30,000.

I was so shocked I wish I could make that number about an inch tall in this post so you readers would get just how shocked I was.  Now, this number was in reference to the cost of two kids taking lessons, and I did find a website where someone mentioned it is about $16,000 a year tuition for that dance school. But, all I could do was think of those numbers and say, "Wow!"

Okay, so that's a whole lot of money.  At least, for me and my family it's a whole lot of money.  But then, I got to thinking.   How much money do I spend on four kids being in Irish dance?  I was pretty sure it was nowhere near $16,000 even for all four of them combined, but having never done the math, I felt a bit anxious adding it all up.

Did I even want to know what the high cost of our family's Irish dancing was?  Probably not.  Sometimes, it's safer to go through life with blinders on. 
Read more:

How far is too far to travel for an Irish dancing competition?

Irish dance is expensive - Ways to save money

Cross-Training for Irish Dance

At the same time that I was adding up Irish dance tuition, there was an inquiry on the Moms to Reel Boys Facebook page asking how much, on average, would be realistic to spend for one child studying Irish dance.  The mom who was asking needed the number for a fundraising project she was doing to provide financial aid and Irish dance scholarships to students at her children's Irish dance school. 

This nice coincidence in timing turned into an outpouring of numbers and monetary amounts and variables such as potential travel costs, Irish dance competition fees, shoes, dresses, wigs, boys' costumes, workshops and on and on came the numbers. 

After everyone had their say, here's what we came up with as far as an average of what yearly Irish dance tuition can be expected to run:

Beginners and Advanced Beginners - single one-hour class a week =  $650-$720
Novice and Open Prizewinner - two one-hour classes a week = $1300-$1440
Preliminary Champion and Open Champion Dancers - two ninety-minute classes a week = $1600-$1800

The Irish dance yearly tuition runs the same months as the U.S. academic school year. 
Many Irish dance schools run summer camps, weekend workshops, private lessons, and team or performance classes that also cost money--- those numbers were not included as they are variables and difficult to calculate an average on. 

Also, as a very nice bonus, most Irish dance schools have discounts for siblings or for dancers who take more than two classes a week. 

This is not remotely close to $16,000, but it is still a big chunk of change.  I decided to exclude the variables: yes, as an upper-level dancer, there are opportunities to travel internationally for major competitions; yes, those dresses, shoes, wigs, extras, and boys' costumes can be expensive. 

Is Irish dance the most expensive sport out there?  I decided to ask my friends: "How much on average do you spend on your children's sports?"  I was not surprised to find that people, even my close friends, were reluctant to say what they spend.  They did not want to admit the total spent on their children's sports.  I think as parents, we try not to think of the end total as far as what we spend on kids; activities and sports.  We deal with one payment or one class or one season at a time. 

So here's what I found, and just to make everything pretty even as far as what was being compared, I went with lessons, classes and practices for yearly tuition only.  No equipment, costumes, uniforms, shoes, etc. have been added.  Also, these were prices based on privately-run programs-- not through a school system. 

Swim Team ~ Anywhere from $1200 - $2800/yr
Horseback/Equestrian Eventing/ Show ~ $2100 - $3000/yr
Martial Arts ~ Anywhere from $720 - $1450/yr
Ice Hockey ~ $1000 - $1800/yr
Ballet ~ $1200 - $1800/yr
Travel Soccer ~ $1300 - $1600/yr
Gymnastics ~ $1200 - $1600/yr

When I saw what that my friends are likely paying for their own children's sports, I realized that the reputed high cost of Irish dance isn't so high after all.  Yes, I get that I could add on the cost of a bunch of trips to major competitions and Irish dance costumes and jack that price-tag way up, but I have friends who keep and show horses.  Those fees are astronomical compared to Irish dance.  I have friends who buy hockey equipment and travel with their kids' sports.  I have friends who need to buy many dance costumes a year that can never be used for anything other than dress-up afterwards, where the Irish dance costumes I buy can be sold and worn by other dancers when my dancers outgrow them. 

I can't buy my kids everything they want, nor do I feel that I'd do so even if I had the funds.  However, my husband and I made a commitment years ago that what money we had would go towards helping our kids have experiences, find and grow their talents, and learn new things while having adventures.  For us and our family, Irish dance does that. 
Sandi Asazawa hugging her son, Brandon at
2011 North American National Irish Dance Championships
I LOVE this photo.  You can just feel the love. 
Irish dance is a big part of our family's lives, so the money is an investment in time together and being able to cheer each other on.  My kids have met amazing people from all around this great world through Irish dance, and they have some wonderful experiences and life-changing memories.   They've learned to how to work hard with goals in mind and how to practice good sportsmanship, to say the least.

For us, the high cost of Irish dance doesn't seem so very high when we think of it as part of who we are as a family.  I have friends who are soccer moms, hockey moms, ballet moms, and horsey moms.  It becomes a part of who we are.  I'm proud to say that I'm an Irish dance mom. 

Do you have ways to budget and save money in Irish dance?  Do your kids have sports or activities that cost as much as Irish dance or more?

Check back here for news, results, photos, interviews and more! Help us celebrate Irish dancing by sharing this story with your friends, like us on Facebook, Tweet the link or start a conversation with a comment in the message box below. THANK YOU!