I rush out of the auditorium and into a room waiting for them to roll in. We only have a short period of time, maybe 5 minutes to get them changed and out on their way again. As they come in a flurry of activity commences. Lightening fast changes in the midst of chaos with one goal, “get them back out there as stress free and perfect as possible.” At this point you might think that I am moonlighting as a pit crew for the Indy 500. But, in reality, it is far less glamorous than this. I am a dance mom. That’s right, and no, it isn’t like the TV show.
For those of you that don’t know – let me introduce you to the world of competitive dancing. The kids are in any number of dances: tap, ballet, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, etc. They may also be in a number of duet, trios, or solos as well. You go to these dance competitions with other dance studios and you perform those dances in front of a row of judges. The judges critique your dance and you are awarded prizes based on your points and performance. Each dance number generally has it’s own costume, accessories, shoes, possibly even a different hair style that you, as the dance mom, are responsible for getting your child in. Sometimes your dances are sandwiched close together which makes for rapid chaos. At other times you may have a few hours between each dance – perhaps your dances are on different days even – which can quickly take over the whole weekend.
Have closet: can travel
The key here is to be organized and keep that organization under pressure. Otherwise, you will likely be missing a tiny arm cuff 5 min before they need to be on the stage. After trial and error, even my unorganized self has this down. We basically have a closet on wheels full of labeled hangers that goes anywhere. Accessories all have their place. Tights have their place. Shoes have their place. Earrings did not have their place and got forgotten two weeks ago. Earrings now have their place.
This year, my daughter completely took over the organization of this closet/bag. She packs it up and takes it back down when we get home. It is the one aspect of her life she is willing to keep clean and organized, no nagging necessary. She is proud of her organized always ready to go closet on wheels. I like the fact that I don’t have to think about sequins and tutus anymore.
I am not perfect, nor am I always the best
You hear all of these warnings about how we are building a generation of kids with over bloated egos that think the world revolves around them. There are all of these warnings about how you should not over praise your kids nor let them know you think they are perfect. The nice thing about competition, of any sort, is that they learn this – in a more authentic setting.
I can still absolutely hold onto my mother’s love that says, “You are perfect!” I can let a judge tell her otherwise. She doesn’t need to hear that from me. Her team doesn’t always win. Sometimes mistakes happen. And, my daughter doesn’t cry or get dramatic over this. She is learning how to walk away from disappointment, how to say, “That’s what I will work on next time.” And sometimes, the only appropriate response is to laugh it off and she has learned to do that too.
Problem solving under pressure: Learning to cope with stress
Stress happens and the competitive dance world is no stranger to it. It is easy to buckle under pressure and say things you don’t mean or basically loose it – and I am talking about the moms, not the girls. But, the girls, they feel it too. It is important to maintain your cool under pressure and to put things into perspective as you can quickly blow things out of proportion. Together my daughter and I have worked to try and keep positive attitude in the face of stress.
Just this weekend we arrived “on time” to the dance competition only to find an empty parking lot. I had read an email wrong and had gone to an entirely different venue. So, back into the car we rolled. She dressed and I applied makeup to her while dad fought Denver traffic. Through a lot of joking and bumpy eyeliner errors we were able to keep our composure and the dance competition allowed us a later slot. She walked in and they were on stage in about 5 minutes. Somehow, she still walked out there with a smile.
My daughter has been dancing since she was three. She has been involved in competitive dance since she was five. She is now ten and still loves it. She is actually a quiet, sweet little girl who does not have a “diva” bone in her body. When I asked my daughter what she liked best about the dance competitions, she gave me a strange look and said, “I belong here.” I am used to her prophetic one-liners and knew exactly what she meant by that.
Her dance studio is like her extended family. Sometimes it is fun. Sometimes it is hard work. But she always feels like she has a place there. She has a personal commitment to her studio, her dance team, and to herself. That commitment takes time and work to maintain but she absolutely values that aspect of her life. And I, as the dance mom do this for her because I value those character traits of hers that get cultivated through this crazy thing called competitive dance.