Have we gone totally mad?
Bejewelled tiaras glitter, a group of lithe young tweens in head to toe black lycra slink past with tall silver torches in their hands. A lion walks past, a pair of brilliant flamingoes and a group of jittery teeny-tiny ballerinas, three in tears because they wanted to be at the front of the line.
Welcome to the end of year concert season.
It’s a brave new world I have entered this year with my preschooler starting ballet and my eight-year old son deciding he wants to be a famous actor (on YouTube of course) and joining drama classes.
I’ve learnt how to sweep a mop of tangled curls into a ballet bun, how to stitch those little elastic straps onto a pair of miniature leather ballet shoes and that if you don’t set an alarm to remind you to buy tickets for the end of season concert you will miss out.
End of year concerts are a far cry from when I was growing up, back then the local ballet school – a converted room above the garage of a frustrated prima ballerina’s suburban home – was transformed for one afternoon into a theatre by a large sheet strung from the ceiling as a backdrop.
Our mums stuck their heads in and watched us prance around in our stockings and leotards while our older brothers hung about the driveway throwing rocks and picking passionfruits off Miss Angelique’s vine.
There was no booking tickets online through a hard to navigate website that makes Ticketek look old fashioned. There was no assigned seats or endless days of dress rehearsals.
And there was no $200 outlay.
Now, as I have learnt the end of year concert is a big thing. It’s a carefully choreographed event with venues booked out years in advance. It has costume fittings and make up artists and with every child at the ballet or drama school participating its not a situation you can refuse.
Some larger ballet school use venues like the Sydney Seymour Centre where 788 excited parents, family and friends cram themselves in for an hour or two of The Nutcracker as performed by four and five-year olds.
For my two children, in order to cater for my immediate family as well as two grandmothers and a grandpa I have forked out over $400 for this years end of season concerts – that’s on tickets alone.
If you add in the cost of costumes – between $30 and $60 – and the optional DVD of the concert at $50 each it all adds up to be one big expensive money grabber.
It’s not a reflection of the schools my kids attend. My daughter’s ballet classes, held in a local scout hall are low key and friendly, the atmosphere is relaxed, the teacher warm and welcoming. My son’s drama school too is similar a laid back local business.
From what I can see, in both cases, the end of year concert turned Eurovision-esq is a product ballooned up to gigantic proportions through the expectations of the parents.
Those who don’t go all out to the larger venues have to limit each family to just two or three tickets creating a pre-Christmas Sophie’s Choice and the inevitable dramas even before the whose-family-do-we-go-to-on-Christmas-day dilemma raises its controversial head.