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The Disaster Dance Mom

This is the post excerpt.

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From a mom who is always ten steps behind the other dance moms, trying to keep up with her daughter.

 

 

What You Can Expect at a Dance Competition, and some Competition Etiquette

We’ve all seen the television show. First, everyone arrives together on a luxurious bus where dancers and parents are greeted with cheers and fanfare before they get their own private room. The girls sit down before their lighted make up mirror suitcases and doll themselves up with a little help from mom and discuss a bit of drama. Then, they go behind the curtain to put on their costumes and they walk out to seated moms adoring their costumes and then the instructor runs their dance in the large space left in the room. There’s a little more dramatic dialog between the mothers and the studio owner, and they all appear again, seated in the prime seats for viewing their teams number and then head back to their private room to get ready for the next number. Lastly, everyone gets in a big tiff and goes home.

The truth is, the real world of competitive dance is nothing like that. Other than the girls dancing on stage with parents watching, none of the show portrays what a real dance competition is like.

So, if you’re just getting started and heading to your first dance competition with your child, let me give you an idea of what it’s really like, at least in my experience anyway.

If you’re lucky, you’re within driving distance of the venue. Most of the competitions I personally have attended are a pretty long drive and hotel stays are necessary. Sometimes there’s a pool and that’s a great place for the girls to unwind the night before or even afterwards. Just make sure nobody gets hurt. The last thing you want is an injury. You can share a room with another mom to save money, but I’d advise you to stay with someone who knows sleep is important and is not too frazzled on the big day, or days. I can’t stress this enough, do not stay with a mom who gets overly frazzled, because even if she’s not fussing over your child she will set the tone with pessimism and your nerves will be shot before you even get there. Speaking of getting there, you’ll want to know exactly where the venue is. Don’t get lost. That’s never good. Be two hours early, or as soon as the venue opens. Some competitions do run early and they will not wait for you.

When you get to the venue you have to look for your group’s dressing area. Usually there is a table set up where you can ask questions. Just head to your area and be prepared to squeeze in to set up and get organized before you start with makeup and hair (if it wasn’t done beforehand.)

It’s crowded. You don’t get a room specifically for your team, you share with about ten or more different teams in a cafeteria, gym, band room, or even a hallway. These rooms are filled with dream duffels and pack 2 racks, wall to wall and everywhere in between. The teams find their own space within that room and everyone just makes do with the space they have. You get used to it and it all works out well. Yes, there will be moms that will complain about it and say it’s ridiculous, which is more annoying than the crowd, but it’s not so bad if your expecting it. Just be prepared to fight a bit of traffic getting to and from your teams area and the auditorium. If the venue is a hotel, get a room in that hotel. It makes your life a lot more simple. It’s important to be patient and kind even if you’re getting stressed over it. You’re actions as a parent do reflect on your child’s team, so don’t embarrass yourself or your team by complaining too much or being too pushy. Besides, the dancers tend to feel anxious about performing and a calm attitude tends to help them feel less stressed. So just go with the flow and embrace the excitement of the day, or days.

Hopefully the instructor can find enough space to run the dance. There will be other teams doing the same thing, so it’s important to be respectful of their space. It’s usually a quick run through and it won’t kill you to move out of their way or wait for them to finish to move past. It’s easy to get frustrated at these events and you want to stay above it. Otherwise you’re looking at a miserable day.

Your child will go backstage about four or five numbers before her number and you head to your seat in the auditorium. Many parents have poor etiquette in the auditorium. Don’t be one of them. You don’t find a seat until there’s a break between numbers. People are watching their kids in there and they don’t appreciate the family of ten squeezing past them while their child is dancing. Typically you’re not allowed to enter or leave during a number but people will do it anyway, because there are always a few people who just can’t help but be rude. Speaking of rude, you do not make negative comments about other dancers. Remember that each dancer is someone’s baby. Even if they can’t hear you, it’s never cool to say anything negative about a child. It just makes you look jealous and petty, and it’s downright horrifying. Don’t do it.

It is absolutely okay to compliment other teams and dancers. They are all amazing and have worked just as hard as your child. Their costumes are gorgeous. I love hearing my daughter praise another dancer. It makes my heart swell for her. When someone compliments your child, teach her to smile and say “Thank you”, and maybe throw a compliment back. Having good sportsmanship will not hurt your child’s performance, and it will enhance his or her experience. Just get into the excitement of it. You just might make someone’s day.

There are usually several award ceremonies throughout the day. It helps break up the day before the finals scores at the end of the competition. Often you will not agree with the scores, because dance is subjective. There is no need to announce to everyone around you that you disagree with the judges decisions. Again, you will look petty and jealous. Do not do it in the auditorium, the hallway outside the auditorium, back in the dressing room, or on your way out the door. Whatever it is you feel you have to say, say it in the car on the way home. It’s not worth hurting any feelings. Besides, unless you’re a judge your opinions won’t change the results. You would think this goes without saying, but you would be surprised.

In a nutshell, take your child to a dance competition knowing it will be challenging and stressful. But I urge you to embrace the craziness and just have fun without worrying about scores or getting too upset with the crowd of people. Let your child’s instructor do the worrying. Help your child’s teammates with hair and makeup, lend out Bobby pins and blush, just enjoy the day. It really is exciting and seeing your dancer onstage is an incredible feeling.

I’m sure I will be adding more as the competition season progresses. Is there anything you would add? Please drop it in the comments and let me know your personal experiences.

Inappropriate Dance Costumes?

Nearly every time I talk about my daughter being a competitive dancer, I get the same shaming comments and questions.

I would never allow my my child to wear those revealing costumes. You never know what pervert might be in the audience.

Kids should dress like kids.

Why are parents letting their kids wear booty shorts? It’s unnecessary and shameful.

They use words like “sexy” and “twerking”, words I have never heard used in the world of competitive dance.
I even had one man describe how his elementary school age nieces look while leaving the house for dance class, using a word that should never be used when talking about a child.

These commentators and chiders claim to be concerned for dancers, and call for dance teachers and parents to stop objectifying young girls, when in reality, they are guilty of objectifying my daughter and every other young girl by making those comments.

So, what is my typical answer when being shamed with the comment “I would never allow my daughter..blah blah blah “?

Then don’t.
If you feel that booty shorts and tights are inappropriate and sports bras are too revealing, then simply don’t put your child in competitive dance, or find a school that meets your personal views on modesty. There are many alternatives. You have every right to have an opinion and raise your child how you see fit. You are clearly doing what you feel is best and that is exactly what your child needs from you.

But I don’t feel the way you do. I have a completely different opinion on the subject and I don’t deserve to be shamed for wanting my daughter to be proud and unashamed to be a beautiful young dancer. I think she looks perfect. I think her dance friends are equally stunning, in all different, perfect shapes , sizes, skin tones, and personalities. I believe her dance instructors are picking music and costumes in the best interest of my child and her success as a dancer.  It’s okay if you don’t agree. But if I did not ask for your opinion, I have to assume that you shared yours  merely to make you feel better about you, even if you think you found a clever way to chastise without me noticing.  This includes sharing your “Inappropriate dance costumes ” article on Facebook. I read it. I still feel the same.
Can anyone tell me why my daughters belly button is more shameful than their son’s? Why a bathing suit is appropriate at the beach but a leotard and pink tights in ballet class make people blush? And the ever dreaded booty shorts? Sometimes I wonder if people would better accept them if they had just called them “dance shorts”, because that’s exactly what they are. They are designed for the comfort, safety and instruction of a dancer. Do they cause people to look at them sexually? I’ll answer that question with another question.

When you see the middle school football players leaving practice in their football pants without a shirt on, might someone look at them sexually? It’s very possible. But I haven’t seen any articles on the subject. It’s always about the girls, and it begs the question. Why?

The responsibility of creepy gawkers doesn’t lie with children and their clothes, it lies with creepy gawkers. And as scary as it may seem, they are gawking whether it’s dance, soccer, basketball, or just swinging in the park. Clothes, uniforms, and costumes do not encourage nor do they deter predators. Circumstances and opportunities,  do. Again, if you feel differently, then dress your daughter in the clothes in which you feel are appropriate. But please,  do not lecture me, chastise me, inadvertently “educate” me with articles on the biblical principles of women and modesty. I respectfully disagree.

 

The Dance Competition Meltdown

Seven tips to help ward off uncontrollable tears in the midst of the stress during competitions

We’ve all been there. Your child gets off the stage after her first performance of the day and has five numbers before her next performance. She has to change costumes, lipstick, hair, shoes and accessories, and you have about 15 minutes to get it done. Tensions are high, but you packed and checked everything twice. You promised yourself this time everything would run smoothly, and you have dedicated the last week to organizing everything to ward off any potential catastrophe. You’ve got this! You are such a good dance mom!

Then,  things start to fall apart. The tights rip, an earring is missing,  the ballet bun begins to unravel and so does your child.  You now have five minutes before her next performance begins. You are frantic. You see the tears welling up. Your daughter starts speaking in a voice only dogs can hear, and then begins to hyperventilate.

This was the scenario at the first three of five competitive events my daughter and I attended last year. After the third time I began to reconsider whether competing was healthy for my child and our relationship. I was watching my normally sweet, mild mannered, preteen daughter morph into someone I didn’t recognize every few weeks. This didn’t feel right to me. My thoughts were, if she’s not having fun, this is not worth the money, time and effort we are putting into it. 

And it wasn’t just my child. It was half of our team over the course of three competitions, and countless others from other schools experiencing meltdowns off stage and in the dressing rooms. Do I really want this for my child?

And so, I did what any lost parent does these days. I took to social media for advice. The best advice I received that day? Talk to your daughter. 

So I did. Our half hour drive to the dance studio the following day was eye opening to say the least. Nobody likes to hear that they made a bad situation worse. But the words coming from my daughter, said politely and sincerely, were not so much about what we needed to change, but how needed to react to her stress. Or, said better, how she needed me to support her when she feels like she’s losing control.

See, my response to her getting upset seemed more angry than what I was feeling. I’m dealing with what I know, and what I know is that we have extra tights, someone has an extra earring, and we can fix anything in a matter of seconds if we have to. She can’t walk onstage all red faced, we don’t have time to cry it out and fix make up. I needed her to settle down, immediately.  Turns out, demanding she settle down was not helpful. Go figure.

My daughter kissed me before she got out of the car that day and walked into the studio, while I stayed in the car absorbing her heartfelt words. I feel like you’re mad at me for getting upset, but I can’t help but be upset, and you’re just making me more upset. Then I can’t calm down because I feel pressured to calm down and we just keep getting more agitated with each other and I don’t know what to do. 

So, on the ride home we discussed a few things that solved a lot of problems during the two remaining competitions, and I’m happy to share with you what I’ve learned.

1. Food is important. Hangry is a real emotion. We all take candy and bags of chips, but real nutrition is necessary to get through 2 to 3 days of competitive dance. Nuts, fruit, sunflower seeds and dried fruit (without added sugar) are some great alternatives to snacks with empty calories.

2. Be prepared!!  Most meltdowns seem to be the result of forgotten and misplaced items. Check that dance case, have the same list for every competition and check it off every time. Bring extras of everything possible, and find a way to organize it! Then check again at the hotel before you leave, then again in the car.

3. Be positive and soften your tone. You’re stressed, you’re panicking, your child’s performance is important to you, and you know that if the bun is too high or a hat falls off, the blame is on you if the number doesn’t do well. But as stressed as you are you are not the one walking on stage to dance in front of judges and parents. Understand what your child is feeling and build their confidence up. Soften your frustration a bit, be understanding and patient.

4. Your dancer also needs to know that your understanding and patience has a limit. You want your dancer to be calm and collected, so you respond to them in kind. But with some, you give an inch and they take a mile. Don’t allow a little venting to turn into disrespect, or you’re not helping your dancer as much as you’re creating  a bigger problem. Stress is no excuse to mistreat anyone, and it’s important for them to understand that. You a not a doormat for your child.

5. If a fellow dance mom steps in and takes over, allow her to do exactly that.  This takes some pride swallowing, and it does sting a little when your child responds better to an outsider. But in reality, this is helping your relationship with your child because they are not taking their anxiety out on you. It’s not about the person stepping  in being better at dealing with your child, it’s about your child being helped by someone they will not easily use to take out their anxiety. Of course, there are a few parents who aren’t as much help as they think, and if the person tends to be toxic in a dance environment then you must politely intercede. But if the situation seems more under control if another parent steps in, allow them to take over for a few minutes and see if another dancer is in need of help. Instead of being upset with you, they are responding and calming down, and when they have come down a little you step back in and ask if she’s okay, give her a little hug and send her to the stage on a positive note.

6. Have a talk before the competition season even starts, really listen to your child and be open to criticism.  We know more, but that does not mean we are always right. If you want competitive dance to be a positive experience for both of you, then listen to your child tell you what she needs from you. From here you can develop creative ways to deal with anxiety and the occasional catastrophe. My daughter and I came up with a color code to tell me her level of anxiety.  It was actually my nieces idea, and it’s working beautifully so far.

7. Let her dance instructor give the corrections.  When your dancer walks off the stage after a lackluster performance, she needs a hug from you. Don’t give a list of what she did wrong. The judges will give her a score and her instructor will go over the score with her soon enough.  Let them do their job, and when they do, you get to build her up and ask her how you can help her improve. For now, just let her know you’re proud of her, and that she looked beautiful.

Dance season is just beginning, and competition season is on its way. Hopefully this helps your season go a bit more smoothly.