January 15, 2017

I like I think I could have been a good dancer. I think if I’d been given an opportunity I could have.

As I watched my daughter in her studio showcase today I couldn’t help but wonder. What if?

What if my mom had put me in dance classes? What if I had been able to express myself through dance and music? I was pretty good at gymnastics so what if I could have been good at dance too?

My daughter clearly loves to dance. She would rather dance than do just about anything. She dances while she watches tv. She dances while she brushed her teeth. She dances when nobody is watching and when every body is watching. She is pretty good too.

What if I had had the chance to dance?

And then I remember that a week ago I fell walking down a two foot snow bank and landed on my face. The Best Thing in Life is wondering what if…….

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A Magic Kingdom?

I’m not a huge Disney fan and I’ve just spent a week in Disneyland.  I’ve got some thoughts.  I know, shocking isn’t it?

I don’t dislike all things Disney, but I’m not squealing with joy every time I see Mickey, if you know what I mean.

My daughter was involved in a dance program that included a couple of days of dance camps and then the opportunity to dance in two parades.  One in Disneyland and the other in California Adventure.  It was something that she will probably never forget and my husband and I will never forget the smile on her face as she danced her way down Main Street with her friends.

parade

(On a side note I now know that I can do a high curly ponytail and full stage makeup at 6:30 am and then sprint for the monorail all without breaking a sweat.)

elevator

Putting that aside…..there were a few things to dislike about our time in the magic kingdom.

We’ll start with the whopper of a visa bill we will get in a few weeks.  The US dollar is not our friend right now.  And Disney is not a cheap day out.  Tickets, food and “stuff” can add up very quickly.  And if you think you can do it without the “stuff” by all means message me with your ideas.

Then there are the people.  Thousands of people.  No, hundreds of thousand of people.  Lineups everywhere you look.  For security, for food, for rides.  Seriously people,  have you not heard of the fast pass?

crowds

Add in sore feet and a mild sunburn and a “staycation” in Vancouver is looking very appealing.

But there were also some positive moments that I will never forget and hopefully my daughter will remember too.

Just as we arrived at Big Thunder Mountain with our fast passes the ride closed due to mechanical problems.  It’s sucks, but it does happen and really, when you are hurtling along at lightning speed in a tiny open cart you are grateful for checks and measures in the safety department.  But it did leave us with three very hot, very disappointed kids and a limited amount of time.  We headed to the Matterhorn with fingers crossed.  Forty minute wait.  Crap.  Disney, however, showed its true colors and the line attendant honored our Big Thunder Mountain fast passes.  I almost kissed him.  But that wouldn’t have been appropriate.  Right?

On my list of things to get down during the week was to get my daughters silhouette done.  I had mine done when I was a bit older than her.  There’s a tiny store on Main Street where a man named Stephen cuts them.  With a pair of razor sharp surgical scissors he cut a perfect silhouette of my daughter in less than two minutes.  Not only that, he gave us a history lesson.  The term silhouette originated in France from Etienne de Silhouette.  Look it up.  We were the only ones in the store and it just felt like a few moments of time away from the crowds to reconnect and create a unique momento.

silhouette

And lastly, the poolside margaritas at the Grand Californian Resort.  Best enjoyed with friends on a hot afternoon while the kids play in the pool.  I would highly recommend this for anybody planning an evening visit to the parks.  It seems to make everything just a bit more magical.

pool

I would have to say that Best Thing in Life at Disneyland is taking the good with the bad and making your own magic.

When I Was Your Age

snow

We all know that times have changed.  It is no longer normal, or sometimes even possible,  for kids to walk 10 miles to school, in the snow, uphill, both ways.  Yet we’ve all done it.  When our kids are whining about some insignificant first world problem that could mean the end of their world we’ve pulled out the “when I was your age” story.

Say perhaps the Japanese restaurant that we are ordering dinner from online is *gasp* out of ahi tuna.  We might say….when I was your age we ate whatever grandma put on the table and we liked it.

Or…..when we wanted to talk to our friends we went into the kitchen and called them on the phone.  That was attached to the wall.  And if they weren’t home we called back.  Because nobody had voice mail. And no, we couldn’t just text them.

Or….when we wanted to see a movie we took the bus to the theatre.  If the movie we wanted to see was no longer playing?  We were out of luck.  Yes, there was only one theatre, not eight.  No, Netflix was not a thing back then.

Or….when we had a research paper to write we had three options.  Got to the library and look up the book on the little cards in the file drawers.  Use the Encyclopedia Britannica that lined the walls of our dad’s study.  Find a Time magazine in the magazine rack that had something relevant in it.  Yes, that’s right.  Books.  Made of paper.

But then last weekend my daughter had the opportunity to dance in the West Vancouver Days celebration.  As we drove down the hill towards Ambleside I remembered when I was nine and had participated in the May Day Parade.  (The 1973 equivalent of West Van Days.). I found myself saying….. “when  I was your age”.  But this time it was different.

When I danced at Ambleside I wore a dress my mom had made for me.  Apparently in 1973 pink eyelet, high collars and long sleeves leg-o-mutton sleeves were all the rage.  I loved it!

may day dress
Olivia in my May Day dress

When we performed our special May Day for the May Queen and her court we did it on the grass and not on a stage.  The West Van Marching Band played our music and we had ribbons and everybody stopped and watched.

When the festivities were over we went for ice cream at Dairy Queen.  (Yes, they had Dairy Queen back then). Granny let me have a root beer float.

froyo
Olivia getting froyo after her dance

Yes, thing are different and sometime the “when I was your age” story gives our kids some perspective.  But it doesn’t have to be a “my life was harder than yours” kind of thing.  It can be a “we are both so lucky” kind of thing.

Sometimes the Best Thing in Life is watching your kids have the same amazing experiences you had.  Only different.

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.

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.