Friday, April 4, 2014

Re-defining Dance Moms

The Headlines:


My daughter dances.

Where do you draw the line?

Wherever you feel it should go.


This weekend my 7 year old daughter has yet another dance competition in her quest to reach the end of her first year of "competitive" dance.  The road, for me, has been a rocky one.  I took one ballet class when I was 4 years old.  Oh and a year of cheering when I was maybe 8.  I did become a "competitive" cheerleader in high school and college and I loved it.  It gave me confidence, helped me form leadership qualities (I was captain several years), kept me organized, it even led me to BP (husband).  No joke, I met him while on the court cheering my junior year in college.  But I never fully entered into the world of what dance has become today.

What a world it is!  I know this picture may be hard to look at, due to a 7 year old looking like a 17 year old… but this is what dance competitions expect these days!  A little shocking.  Lots of glitter, bellies showing and MAKE-UP!

Dance Savannah

Normal Savannah




















There, I'm told, is a show called "Dance Moms"… I think it's about a bunch of crazy moms who live through their daughters feet.  I have yet to see it.  Perhaps I don't want to… it might scare me too much.  What I do know, is that I'm already a bit frightened.  Here's why:

It's crazy how much money goes into a sport.  We had no idea it would cost a small fortune to be a part of a competitive team.  You not only have to pay for lessons but matching team jackets, costumes, MAKE-UP, practice clothes and shoes, competition shoes, competition fees… travel, if necessary.  I mean, it's thousands of dollars… all for a 2nd grader to dance.  Which begs the question, what if you don't have the dough?  Some may say it's life.  Others may say it's ridiculous.

Why do our kids need to pick their sport by age 3?  I enrolled my daughter in 1 dance class when she was 3 and 4.  Two when she was 5 and 6.  But now, to stay competitive, she's up to 5!  It goes from fun to freakish overnight!  But it's what seems to be expected these days.  Boys pick golf or t-ball or football at 3 and girls pick soccer or gymnastics or fill in the blank.  Not that she's going pro, but I want to arm her with the skills, seemingly necessary, to do the simple stuff.  If she wants to be a cheerleader when she's in high school there's no way she can be like me: take virtually no dance and end up captain!  It's impossible because the standards have gotten so high.

Each time I go to these competitions it is controlled chaos at best.  There are moms who have like 9 costumes lined up on a rolling "closet," they trail after their children and sort of verbally "pet" them through the hallways after performances.  "That was an awesome leg extension hon!"  or "Did you see their formations?  They were so on!"  I was aghast my first time.  And when another mom yelled at me to "get out of the way"  as I was standing in a doorway with a dazed and confused look on my face - because I was dazed and confused - I was sickened a little bit.

When I was an 8 year old cheerleading for my team, "The Seawolves" life was so much more simple.

8 year old Cheerleader Nicole
Today, as with many things:  the internet, education, food, I could go on but you get the picture… nothing is simple for our children anymore.  In turn, nothing, is simple for us.

Reality check.  I have a close, childhood friend of mine who made dance her profession.  She once danced more like Michael Jackson than Jackson himself!  Today, she teaches in New York City.  But she is one of the very few who made dance her profession.   It's hard to sustain because bodies get old.  Not to mention, there are thousands of talented dancers out there who want to "make it..." only a few who really do.  So I feel confident in saying, most likely, dance will not become my daughter's profession.  It can accompany her through her formative years and add many layers to who she becomes.  But certainly now - this early, I don't want dance to become her life.  For that matter, I don't want it to become mine.  Because, looking beyond the studio, there is so much more - for any age.

Now, with all of that said, there is so much good coming from her dance.  Including the skills I listed above when I cheered… confidence, leadership, organization.  I just want to be careful the bad doesn't follow.  I stand by the fact that dancing, especially for a 7 year old, should be affordable, fun and a little less chaotic.  I may stand alone but I don't think so.  We are only "Dance Moms" if we act like crazy women who live through our children's feet.  Parental involvement is vital for any after school activity but it can either help or hurt your child.

I am watching closely to make sure it only helps.  As I keep one eye on her, I keep the other on myself.  I will not become a typical "Dance Mom".  I am not going to say her team was awesome when they weren't.   I won't force dance solos down her throat.   We will watch The Brady Bunch instead of "So you think you can dance?"  I will, in fact, stay as neutral as I possibly can.  It is her thing, no longer mine.  My time came and went.  It was great while it lasted but it is sooo over now.   Instead, I can now be a dance mom, but on my own terms.