First and foremost let me tell you that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the show Dance Moms that reflects my reality as a dance mom. I guess you could say that I have being a mom in common with those moms and our we all have daughters who dance, but that is where the similarities end. When I decided to write a blog post about the lessons I have learned as a dance mom I reached to other dance moms. In real life dance moms are all friends. No one is catty. Everyone cheers for each others kids, even if we have never met them or the mom, or are even on the same dance company. A child is on stage dancing their heart out so all the dance moms clap and cheer. That is the bigger tribe of dance moms. At Ann Carroll School of Dance I consider all the moms my tribe, we have a shared experience whether our daughters dance on the same company or not.
What does being a dance mom mean in a practical sense? It means I don’t take speaking invitations until the dance schedule comes out each year and I have to say “no” to a lot of them. It means we owe the dance studio a whole lot of money in tuition and fees including ones for competition, costumes, trips, accessories and more. It means huge investment in pointe shoes, ballet, tap, jazz (and who knew there were so many types of jazz shoes,) and hip hop shoes. It means Mother’s Day celebrated from the audience as I cheer the girls on as well as countless miles and hours in the pursuit of being their biggest cheerleader.
What does it mean in the intangibles? My girls have gained confidence, amazing grace, strength of character and body, and a stick-to-it-ive-ness that is impressive. We have inherited a dance family. My girls have been encouraged, built-up, corrected, taught by and supported by amazing teachers. At a young age they have had their passion ignited and dreams fanned.
Misty Woodford is a dance mom at Ann Carroll School of Dance and she wrote, “What did I think I was signing up for? When I first signed LK up for dance at 3, I thought I was signing up for just dance- ballet, tap, jazz. It was also important to me since she wasn’t in daycare for her to learn to take instruction from other adults in preparing her to go to school where she would need to understand structure and following instructions from others. What did LK actually gain? I think that can be divided into what she gained from “just dance” and what she learned from competition team. From dance, she gained skills related to her physical activity. Coordination, balance, dance technique. She also learned to listen to other adults, and follow direction. From competition, she has learned what it is like to be part of a team. How to love others through their weakness, support them. How to accept her own weaknesses, the need to practice to perfect her skills. How to cheer on others when the succeed and not be jealous of that success. How to deal with different personalities and love people that you wouldn’t necessarily choose to be friends with in a normal situation, but because they are on your team they are your best friends. She’s learned there are sacrifices in life. Because she dances 4 days a week, she can’t do all the other things she may like to do. She’s also learned a budget. We require her to pay for her own choreography fee, costumes, and entry fee for her trio. As a dance mom, what have I sacrificed- thousands of dollars, hours of time, family trips and weekends. LK has danced for 6 years, dances about 10 hours a week.” Misty Woodford also writes an amazing blog called Two Kids, A Dog, and Along Came Grandma.
Dawn Miller’s daughter dances on the same company as Caiden. Dawn wrote, “Abby has danced since she was 4 years old. She is now 16. I have watched a quiet, shy and insecure little girl blossom into a confident young woman who dances with her whole heart and soul. She has transformed into a completely different person because of dance and because of the amazing teachers that showed her the way. Her teachers believed in her, which gave her the confidence she needed to push her self to a whole new level. This shy little girl was actually at one time too shy to walk into a dance studio! I watch her on that stage now and can’t believe it’s Abby up there! What did she gain? Confidence, inner strength and courage! What did I gain? Joy, happiness and a feeling of satisfaction that Abby has finally found something that makes her feel so good about herself.”
Rana Hornby is also an Ann Carroll School of Dance mom and she wrote, “I danced growing up and loved that she blocked the door when I was leaving the house to take my niece to dance—because she wanted to go—that was before she could walk! I was not expecting her to compete as a 5 year old though! And what did they actually gain from becoming a dancer? I believe that it has helped her gain confidence, she’s not as shy and she is discipline, that carries over into school work as well. And as a dance mom what have you sacrificed, gained and learned in the process? I left a job that I loved to have a better schedule so that I can get her from school to dance but it is all worth it because as she says, “Dance is my life!” If you can add how long they have danced and how much they dance now. She started dancing at the age of 2 in 2008. She is now at the studio 6 days per week and loving every minute of it!”
Cathy Todd’s daughter dances at Rhythmic Sky Studio in Big Rapids Michigan. She wrote, “My daughter Tori has been dancing for 8 years…..the last 4 have been on a competitive team. When we started the competitive adventure she was 5 going on 6yrs old – this year she will be turning 11 and dance has become a fixture in our lives. When she is not dancing at the studio she’s at home dancing through the hallway and insisting we attend her ‘dance shows’ in the basement. Tori craves learning new things and is never afraid to try something new. I feel beyond lucky to be the one who gets to take her home each time she leaves the stage and I pray she never looses the confidence she has at 10yrs…….because she walks with her chin up and can shake anything off when it comes to dance.
The things I (Cathy Todd) have learned:
1)Dancing = routine & this creates structure kids crave…….the studio has become a comfort zone where expectations are high but outcome is priceless.
2)Watching her forget the next move is NOT the end of the world and the coach that can make her shake this off and laugh about it is priceless.
3)Knowing she’s dancing in the same category with a friend she adores and genuinely cheering them on and congratulating them for a flawless routine is priceless.
4)Listening to her explain to non-Dance friends why she can’t come to something ‘because she has dance’ while still wearing a smile is priceless.
5)Having a mile wide smile on her face and mouthing ‘nailed it’ as she walks by me leaving the stage is priceless.
6)Seeing her spend an afternoon collecting and returning cans to raise $ for her own solo payment is priceless.
7)Being able to send a YouTube clip of her solo to an old friend I haven’t seen in 25+ years is priceless.
8)Spending a rainy Sunday afternoon on the couch together watching old dance videos from when she was 3 is priceless.
9)The fact that she WANTS me to wear the outrageous dance mom t-shirts I’ve had made (I’m up to 7) is priceless.
Dance has shaped her into the kid we adore…….it has helped create memories but more importantly it has added to her self confidence and ‘girl power’ we want her to take into her future. Dance On little one!!”
Yes! Dance on little ones. When we blink they will be all grown up.