Dance Mom?

dance mom 2

I spent three days last week with my daughter at my first…..sorry…..her first dance competition.  She loved it more than I thought was even imaginable.  The jury is still out on if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

It was a new experience for both of us.  I’m not sure who was more nervous on the first day, her or me.  She was doing an acro routine that involved an overhead lift (in which she was the one being lifted), front limbers and a forearm stand thrown in amongst some dance moves.  With only seven girls on stage there was little room for error.  Once it was done I felt like I needed a drink.  Too bad it was only 1:00 in the afternoon.

For the uninitiated, a dance competition involves young girls and boys performing solos, duos/trios and group dance routines that are judged by three judges.  The judges are typically ex-dancers who are now studio owners, choreographers or teachers.  For the competition we attended EVERY dancer gets a medal.  Very PC.  Their score gets them a silver, high silver, gold or high gold.  Within each group the top three performances are announced as third, second or first.  Got it?

dance mom 1

The styles of dance range from classical ballet, to jazz, to tap, to Broadway and acro and hip hop.  There are more styles,but you get the idea.  Ages range from four to sixteen.  All shapes and sizes and colors.  Oh, they have a category for international too.  Saw some beautiful Chinese fan dancing.  Anyway, I digress.

The dedication of some of these girls is admirable.  No, it’s astonishing.  I can’t even imagine the amount of hours they must train a week.  My daughter dances seven hours a week and I thought that was a lot.  I’ve had other mothers gasp (yes, gasp) at how much she does.  In reality it’s only a fraction of what others do.  And I’m okay with that.

And then there’s the cost.  Ya actually I’m not going to go there.  Let’s just say that it’s more than soccer.  And hockey. Combined.

I came away from the first day with a bit of a headache.  My daughter’s ballet teacher compared it to Disneyland and she is so right.  Everywhere you turn is a new costume, headpiece or makeup look.  Gaggles of little girls run around buzzing from too many Skittles.  Moms suck back coffee trying to keep up with the gaggles of girls they are in charge of.  Each time the theatre door opens you get a blast of new music and a fresh wave of costumes dashing by.  It’s head spinning.

dance mom acro

So here’s the tricky part for me.  Dance is art and therefore it is subjective.  Obviously there are some dance teachers and parents who have a different take on what is acceptable and age appropriate for costumes, music and choreography.  Everybody makes their own choices and I’m not the judge of them.  Well…I kind of am.  In my head anyway.

I personally would not allow my six or seven year old to get up on stage wearing red sequined boy shorts, a black crop top and fake eyelashes all while twerking to a Nicki Minaj song.  But that’s just me.

The world of dance competitions, my dance teacher friend told me “needs to be taken with a grain of salt.”  I think that is very sage advice for this new dance mom.  I will try to remember it in the years to come.

The Best Thing in Life is being eight and just loving to dance.

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Miss Sam

dance-teacher

If you are very lucky in life, you get to combine two things that you are passionate about into a long term career that you can do anywhere in the world and can easily fit into an already busy family schedule.  This is my dream.  This is my friend Sam’s reality.

And the kicker is that it is such a beautiful thing that she does.  Sam is a dancer who took her love of dance and married it with a strong desire to teach and voila, she became a dance teacher.  Yup I’m going to admit this up front.  I am incredibly jealous.  If she wasn’t such a lovely person I could maybe hate her for having not one, but two, clear passions in her life.  And a supportive husband and three great kids.  Wow, maybe I should hate her.

Sam started dancing at a very young age in Scotland. She started with ballet then highland dancing then added tap and eventually jazz. She danced right through until she was 17 competing in highland dance and completing her RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) exams in ballet.  When she finished school she was thinking about becoming a teacher but she still found it hard to move away from dance and ended up doing a three year dance program in her home town of Edinburgh.

As we walked in the beautiful fall sunshine, with her sweet little dog Dougal, she told me how she trained in Edinburgh and eventually auditioned in London for a job dancing with the Princess Cruise Lines.  Although she still wanted to become a teacher, this opportunity was not one to turn down.  Being paid for doing what she loved and seeing the world at the same time.  Who wouldn’t?

FYI-none of these pictures are actually of Sam

cruise ship dancers

So this shy girl from Edinburg took a plane from London to LA and started training for work on the cruise ship line.  She worked for them for a number of years, eventually meeting her husband and making life long friends along the way.  Although she loved the work, when an opportunity came up back in Edinburgh for her to get her teaching degree she took it.  She was able to go to school during the winter and continue working on the ship in the summer.

I’m starting to think that this women may have a fairy godmother in her back pocket. And yes I’m still jealous.

For the next ten years she taught primary school, ran her own dance school and had three kids.  That would have continued had her husband’s job not brought her and her family here to Vancouver.  And that’s where we met.

Sam, or Miss Sam as the girls call her, is teaching my daughter ballet this year and I couldn’t be happier. When I asked my daughter how her first class with her was she said “Great, but Miss Sam is pretty strict”. Yes, I thought, that’s perfect.  I know that being a good dancer does not guarantee that you will be a good dance teacher but I sense that her approach will work well with my girl.

“Everybody, every child, learns differently and so the way you teach them needs to be different too”.

I came away thinking how incredibly lucky she was to have been able to take her loves and this great approach to teaching and have something she will be able to do for years.  But then, as it usually does, it came to me. Wow, she is a good teacher,because I just learnt something.  The Best Thing in Life is not to be jealous of somebody else’s life but to learn from them and admire their passion.