The true cost of being an Illawarra dance mum

Belinda Kinnear still has every dance costume her daughter Isobel has ever worn in a special room in their Avondale home. Picture: Sylvia Liber
Belinda Kinnear still has every dance costume her daughter Isobel has ever worn in a special room in their Avondale home. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Belinda Kinnear of Avondale may have easily spent above and beyond $200,000 over the past decade on her daughter’s dance career, but she’d do it all again.

Teenager Isobel, 15, has been dancing since she was three and is now competing in world competitions. Overseas trips are the norm while each costume can cost up to $600 – or more – depending on how many feathers, beading an diamontes are used.

“I’ll miss it when it’s over, she’ll grow up and she’ll want to do other things but it won’t be exactly what we’re doing now,” Mrs Kinnear said.

Isobel Kinnear has been dancing since she was three and won hundreds of trophies for her sport. Picture: Adam McLean

Isobel Kinnear has been dancing since she was three and won hundreds of trophies for her sport. Picture: Adam McLean

“It will be something you look back on and think ‘wow I loved every bit of it’ – even the early mornings, dragging bag loads of stuff and a car full of props.”

Mrs Kinnear and her husband run a business specialising in interior architecture which keeps them busy, but said dance was her fun away from the books.

“The dance was always like an escape and fun and no pressure,” she said. 

“Thinking about a costume is so much more fun than doing tax.”

Next week the pair will fly to Spain, France, Italy and the US so Isobel can perform in world competitions and festivals, a trip which has been turned into a family holiday.

Thankfully airfares, accommodation and the entry costs for overseas competitions are sometimes provided as part of Isobel’s winnings but there is still so much time and money spent to support her ambitions.

Mrs Kinnear said it “started off small” in the beginning with just one dance class per week, now her daughter trains around 17 hours each week at VPA Studios in Wollongong.

As for rivalry between dancers and especially their mothers (as seen on television), Mrs Kinnear said the majority of mothers were beautiful and friendly but like any sport there were always a few who were “a bit funny”.

“I know mums who have bribed their kids to dance (in competitions, not so much going to class),” she said.

“I don’t get that, it defeats the purpose really. They’ve got to be the drivers and pull you along with them, you’ve just got to pay for it all.”

She said Isobel has never been one to push to attend lessons or practice, rather she’s the one waking her mum up at 5am and telling her they need to leave for the studio.

“It’s a pleasure to go and share that with your daughter when they love it and you can enjoy it with them,” she said.

“It will all come to an end sooner rather than later. 

“She’s 15 now and probably won’t compete that much longer because you move to a different phase of dance life.”