Tuesday, June 20, 2006
How is it possible that I haven't complained about this?
I'm shocked and appalled at my utter and complete lack of complaint about Emily's dance studio. How could I have let this go so long without making it public? I am ashamed.

Emily decided she wanted to take dance lessons last fall, and we'd only been living in the new house for a few weeks at the time so I didn't know anything about reputations, fun-ness, steroid use, etc. So we chose a dance studio based entirely on that all-important criterion, price. This place was $35 a month while other places were $40 a month. I know, I know, cheapest is not always best... but it's a dance studio, not a pediatrician or a car dealer. I know that I do not have the next Anna Pavlova living in my house (okay, maybe Willem... but not Emily), so for lack of any other decision rules, cheap won.

It was fine through the fall and winter, though as the year progressed I did notice an alarming habit of classes starting 5, 6, 7, 10 minutes late, and letting out 5 minutes early... which is a pretty significant percentage of a 45-minute class. I let it slide. That won't happen again.

Then the year-end nonsense rolls in... to the tune of nickels and dimes and hundred-dollar bills falling at their feet. First it was a $57 costume, which she will wear onstage for a grand total of 3 minutes. That costume could be costing us $1140 an hour... but I plan on having her wear it for the entire month of July, so that'll be fine. Plus it's FUGLY. A couple years ago, my mother-in-law made a comment about how when Emily plays dress-up, she looks like a five-dollar hooker. Well, won't she be thrilled to see photos of this costume - 'cause in this thing, with stage makeup, she really DOES. Ugh.

Next came the t-shirt fee. I had to buy a $22 t-shirt if I wanted Emily to be able to join in the whole-school finale routine. "Oh, you don't have to buy it... but, if you don't, she can't join the rest of the school in the finale." Great. Nothing like a little emotional extortion to go with the no-measurable-increase-in-coordination that we've gotten from eight months of dance lessons. (Note: I am fine with Emily's non-groovin' heritage. She dances for the fun of it, and I would rather have a goofy-looking happy kid than a graceful automaton.)

Then came the recital fee. What's that, you ask? Oh, yes. On top of a monthly fee, I have to pay $18 just for the privilege of allowing Emily to dance on stage with the rest of her class. Which seems a tad ridiculous, somehow. Except, I am reassured: "But you get a free ticket to the recital with the recital fee!" Yes. That makes it ALL better.

Plus - $18 per ticket for a kindergarten dance recital? Really?

Along came the news that we could, for a limited time in May, purchase advance recital tickets at the significant discount of $15 each. BUT. I can only purchase these advance tickets if I have paid in full for both May and June, even though tuition isn't due until the 7th of the month. Now, for us, this wasn't an issue - we paid a semester at a time because it made more sense to just pay when we had the money instead of gathering cans at the side of the road and then sending the kids to Maine to redeem them for nickels because NH doesn't do refunds. But lots of the other moms weren't bubbling over with ecstasy at the demand for more money now in order to save a little. Does it seem possible that maybe if someone is interested in saving $3 on an overpriced ticket, then maybe asking them for more money now might not be met with enthusiasm and gratitude?

Then came a $4.50 prop fee so that Emily can dance in the opening routine. And the information that we couldn't POSSIBLY allow Emily to appear onstage in her regular tights, she needed to buy two new pairs for the show. $10. Isn't this FUN?

Have I forgotten to mention the $16 I had to pay for a photographer to take a group shot and an individual photo? Which I might ordinarily have forgone, but by this point I'm pretty sure that she should have a photo now just so she can remember way back when she once took dance lessons. 'Cause it's not likely to be a repeat experience.

We finally reached a point where they couldn't come up with any new excuses to charge us. Bear in mind, through all of this, the owners of the studio - that is, the kindhearted and generous despots who are coming up with these policies - are not coming in to actually discuss any of this. Instead, they're leaving it up to the 57-pound 16-year-old who answers the phones and looks cute and does not eat hamburgers to deliver the tidings of joy to the parents/check-writers of the world. So I don't even get the chance to have a good tantrum when I learn about each week's new fee.

I do plan on writing the owners a letter but I'll wait until after the recital. I don't want them Supergluing Emily's tap shoes to her face in retaliation.

Then, this past week, we got the $22 t-shirts. I unfolded Emily's, and started to explain to her how she could wear this in the finale and dance with all her -- "No, no. That's just for her to have. She's not dancing in the finale." [Blank look.] I'm sorry, apparently I've been hallucinating again. Was this not a whole-school finale? "Oh, yes. But only for the older girls, not for the youngest classes." I got some attitude about not having her routines memorized - "Didn't you realize she only learned two songs this year?" "No, see, the routine part, that's your job. My job is to prevent my son from systematically deconstructing your waiting area. Which I am now disappointed that I bothered to do." - and then a very grudging, "Well, I guess you can return it." Sure, because 6-year-olds part with new things SO easily.

We're keeping the froggin' thing, but I don't have to be happy about it.