Spend $50 to watch your child’s dance recital? Definitely.

December 21, 2022

Excited for your child’s dance recital? It isn’t just the pirouettes that will leave you spinning, reports The Wall Street Journal.

December is prime time for recitals, as children across the country perform in elaborate shows like The Nutcracker or simple holiday concerts. In the process, parents already spending money on dance lessons and sequined costumes are now being asked to spend even more to see their little ones take the stage.

In fact, the Journal reports, the costs of these amateur performances has skyrocketed in recent years: Some parents are spending $80 or more to see their kid for a few minutes in the spotlight.

Diana Alvear planned to invite a gaggle of neighbors and friends to her toddler’s recital. Then she caught the fine print. Each ticket cost $27, including fees. Rather than asking others to foot the bill or buy tickets herself, she didn’t mention it.

“I didn’t want anyone to feel like they have to pay $50 to see a 2½-year-old dance at a recital,” says Alvear, a communications professional in Bridgewater, New Jersey. 

She says she has no regrets attending the 90-minute concert with just her son and husband. Her daughter’s diaper was full during her few minutes on-stage, but seeing her in a purple rhinestone leotard and tulle skirt that cost $95 was worth it. 

“Everybody just melted,” Alvear says. “You’re just like: Here, take my wallet.”

Parental demand is driving these ticket hikes. They want better theatrical value, says Susan McGreevy-Nichols, executive director of the National Dance Education Organization, a Silver Spring, Maryland-based nonprofit. And schools face more competition. “They really feel like they need to be bigger and better,” she says.

Recitals average $19 per ticket—up from $16 in 2017—with roughly five tickets purchased per child, according to data from Dance Recital Ticketing. The specialized software company has sold 2.4 million tickets throughout the United States and Canada this year.

Recitals can be performed several times over the course of a weekend; parents often attend each time, Dance Recital Ticketing Chief Executive Joshua Olson says. Studio recitals that include the youngest classes tend to be most profitable.

“They attract more family. Grandma and Grandpa will fly in,” he says. “By the time the kids get older, they’ve seen it all.”

Jason Wooten, co-founder of the Broadway Arts & Dance Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida, started offering VIP seating for the school’s recitals last year. This month, parents in the first two rows who purchase an $80 ticket receive a stuffed unicorn dressed in the dance company’s T-shirt.

“Some of our very high-end clientele were the first to tell me, ‘I’ll pay for very good seats,’ ” Wooten says. “I wanted to make it worth their while.”

Along with VIP tickets, the academy sells $50 floor seats and $20 for others. The tickets help offset the $15,000 theater rental, Wooten says. The school’s roughly 300 students, with classes including Twinkle Two’s and Peewee MTV, fill up about 1,000 seats between two shows. In the past, he sold general-admission tickets, which caused parents to scuffle over the best seats.

Research contact: @WSJ