Ask the Girl Episode 6 – Competition Budgeting

A fellow ballroom student, thinking about getting back into competing after several years, asked me for a refresher on what expenses she needed to account for as she budgeted for a comeback. It’s great timing as the new year brings a whole new cycle of ballroom competitions to enter. So for any other pro-am ballroom dancers gearing up for a competitive 2016, here is a quick breakdown of what you’ll need to include in your budget. Note this list is based on my experience with NDCA competitions.

For yourself:

  • Entry fees – usually $40 per single dance when not on package
  • Ticket to the session you’re competing in – $20-30
  • Hair/makeup (for women not doing their own) – $150-200
    • Guys, FYI, you’re expected to slick back your hair too.
  • Dress rental (for women again, if you don’t already own a gown) – $250-300
  • Suit (for men) – Prices can vary widely depending on what style you’re dancing and how elaborate you want to get, but provides a great breakdown.
  • Shoes – $150-250ish (You’ll want to have a pair of dance shoes reserved just for competitions, so they stay nice.)
  • Accessories – Earrings, necklaces, bracelets, arm bands, hair pieces, cufflinks, ties, etc. Plenty of possibilities to bling out your outfit!
  • Food, travel and hotel expenses
  • Tanning, manicure, pedicure (I consider these items option. Personally, I just brush on a bronzer the day of the comp and make sure my nails look neat and clean.)

For your teacher:

  • Pro fee
  • Ticket to the session you’re competing in
  • Food, travel and hotel expenses

Different teachers charge in different ways for competing with you. Some will charge a flat rate per style or day. So if you’re competing in smooth, whether you dance 10 entries or 50, you’ll pay the same fee. Other teachers charge a per entry dance, so the more you dance, the more you pay. If you’re getting ready to compete for the first time, make sure you understand how your teacher charges for competition.

An important thing to remember is the cost of your teacher’s ticket and his expenses should be split among all of the students competing. So the more students entering the competition, the less you’ll need to pay. Food and travel costs may be covered under a preset per diem or calculated; talk with your teacher to find out how he determines his expenses.

If you’re competing through a studio, they will likely take care of your registration with the competition. Payment will go to the studio, and the costs for your teacher will be included. But I always think you should know what you’re paying for, so don’t be shy about asking for a breakdown of the price they’re asking you to pay! Note that a studio may also charge you a processing fee for handling all of the paperwork.

For tips on how to save on competitions, see the second book of the Dance Diaries series: Ballroom Budgeting.

Happy dancing!


6 thoughts on “Ask the Girl Episode 6 – Competition Budgeting

  1. Natalie says:

    It always amazes me how expensive ballroom can be… you’d think I’d be used to it by now! I compete in collegiate competitions (amateur only); it costs about $40 per partner (depending on how early you register) plus gas/food/accommodations. Some universities have loaner costumes, but mine didn’t, so I embellished my own dresses. The bonus to collegiate comps is that you don’t need to be a student to compete! While I love competing in full amateur comps, I’ve always wanted to try a pro-am. I think I need to save up a bit more money first 😉

    I applaud your budgeting skills! 😀


  2. Barbara says:

    Thanks for re-posting this. For those considering it, there are other smaller competitions in some places, like Natalie referenced above. In Wisconsin we have the big DanceSport competition (which some day I may have the courage to enter), but other studios hold events which are much less expensive than this. Usually it’s about $15 per dance ($30 when it’s you and your pro) or a bit less per event for a “multi-dance”, which is 3, 4 or 5 dances in Smooth or Rhythm. There’s also a different fee of $30/60 for a solo.There may also be an admission fee and a fee for the meal(s).

    I’ve bought my two dresses used, one on-line, one through a studio. You’ll already have you dance shoes, which can run $110-250 and you’ll need at least several pair. Oops! Did you forget to mention jewelry? I’m lucky and have a gorgeous, high quality rhinestone set my mother used to wear (I guess it’s antique by now). You’ll want some type of glitz.

    At this level, the nerves are the same, but the level of skill is a bit lower, the dresses may look as glamorous, but will not be the $6,000 ones. However, even used, you’re generally talking about at least $200. When you star out, you may only dance 3 or 4 dances (the absolute minimum, and what i did for my first comp) you’re still talking about $100.00 just to dance for 3-4 minutes, total. There may be placement or just judges feedback, but generally not monetary prizes.

    If you get hooked, you’ll want to do a lot more dances which obviously increases the cost. But the more you can afford, the better your experience, as it gives you a chance for “do-overs”. I held off for a while, as for me, the cost of the dress and fees seemed daunting. But it’s worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

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