This year my daughter entered the world of competitive dance. I am a competitive person having grown up in the music world doing both competitions and exams. Because of this, I feel I am the complete opposite of the Moms seen on Toddlers and Tiaras or Dance Moms. I do not live vicariously through my daughter, I absolutely hate going back stage and can hardly wait until A is old enough for me to completely back out of her world so I can just be the proud mummy hiding in the shadows of the theatre seats smiling, telling the stranger next to me that’s MY daughter up on stage. This is now her world, and it is important she have a piece of something without us always hanging over her shoulder. I firmly believe in that little word “independence”.
I started her in ballet at the age of 4 as what little girl doesn’t have the dream of being a ballerina? She is now in her 5th year of dance and while all along she has studied ballet, we have slowly added Tap, Hip-Hop, Musical Theatre, conditioning and stretch classes and Jazz. It was always intended as an extracurricular activity, purely for fun and my husband and I never pressure her. Our form of support is ensuring she arrives at the studio on time (or a bit early) and never allowing her to quit before the end of the season. Every year at registration time, A is raring to go back, try something new and have more fun. Competition was always in the background as all the studios had competition teams, but we honestly never even mentioned it to A as I didn’t want her to lose that element of fun.
Over the last few years A has attended 4 different studios. The first was left behind because the times offered for her specific classes were next to impossible for parents that work full-time and a student in elementary school, the other was because we received a letter in the mail one July stating the studio was closing for unspecified reasons and would not open again… ever, and the last was because no 8-year-old should EVER come out of her first class of the year crying and begging to quit dancing forever. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and through the hassle of changing studios, A is completely at home and loving where she is now. Enter the world of competition.
I admittedly was hesitant at the thought of my little girl being a competitive dancer, especially at a studio we really knew little about. Shamefully it was because I had a vision in my head of what goes on back stage. I did not want my daughter to be an eccentric, sometimes rude and disrespectful dancer who felt she was better than those outside her world. (defending myself here a teeny bit, I admit this is a complete stereo-type and thankfully, a very dear friend of mine is an amazing dancer and set me straight on her world of dance 😉 ) I am an open-minded person so thought, hey, I’ll allow her the experience and as a parent have the option to pull her if she loses the morals her dad and I have worked so hard to teach her. I was happily VERY wrong. There was no audition to be part of the competition team (invite only based on the discretion of the dance teachers), respect, integrity and having fun are much more important than winning, and most importantly, A shines with the mere thought of dance. That “oh so important” element of having fun is not lost – it has become something more for A. She is more confident, less shy and much more independent as I hear her say to me, “Can you just drop me off at the studio? You really don’t need to come in with me.” Awe… I couldn’t be more proud.
Tonight is her final curtain call on the season. She’s accomplished a lot over the past ten months and tonight, as she attempts four very fast costume changes, I will not be backstage fretting and telling her to hurry up. I will be that annoying mother in the audience poking the person beside me saying, “Look! That’s MY daughter up there!”