Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind

BOOK: Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind
2.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



Dance Mom Survival Guide

Growing a Great Dancer

Without Losing Your Mind



Malena Lott and Jill Martin




Buzz Books USA

Celebrating stories.


Copyright 2013
Malena Lott and Jill Martin

Published by Buzz Books USA, an imprint of Athena Institute, LLC.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced by any mechanical, photographic or electronic process or in the form of a phonographic recording; nor may it be stored in a retrieval system, transmitted, or otherwise be copied for public or private use except for “fair use” as attributed quotations in reviews of the stories or the book.

All characters in this book are fictional. Any likeness to persons or situations in the stories is entirely coincidental.

Kindle Edition


Dedicated to our dancing daughters, Audrey and
Hallie. If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t have written this book in the first place.

Table of Contents

1. First Steps in the Dance World

2. The Role of a Dance Mom

3. Dressing a Dancer

4. The Healthy Dancer

5. First Leap – From Dancer to Team or Company

6. How Much is This Going to Cost?

7. Away We Go! Camps, Conventions, Competitions

8. Communication is Key

9. Dance Manners – The Golden Rule and Then Some

10. Emotional Roller Coaster Ride – Mistakes & More

11. Down the Road – College and Dancing Professionally

12. Dance Moms Just
Wanna Have Fun             



Introduction by the Authors


Why a dance mom advice book? Why us?

Jill and I decided to write an advice book because we were constantly asking each other – and dance moms who are way more experienced than us – these issues posed in the book. Our first years with company dance daughters were a bit overwhelming. Imagine two dance moms fish-flopping our way through competition season (okay, not that fish-flop that our dancers can do! The kind where we’re out of our element.) We don’t think you have to be a fish out of water so we’re passing along the advice we’ve gathered from experts in the field including dance instructors, a dance professor, a psychologist, other dance moms and even dancers themselves.

We’ve gathered research on dance and also have included some fun lists we think you can relate to, or will relate to someday. The sub-title of the book says it all: growing a great dancer without losing your mind. Kids do that to us already. Let’s keep what we have left.

We welcome you to the sisterhood of dance moms. We’re sitting on our hineys right along with you, and proudly chauffeuring and cheering our dancers on. We swear it’s not as dramatic as the reality TV shows, but the emotions are real and the time is intensive. The book is meant to be both humorous and helpful. We hope you’ll agree. Bling. It. On.



Chapter 1

First Steps in the Dance World


So your child wants to dance; now what?

There’s dancing when they are little and they just want to wear tutus and go to class with their friends and they’re adorable and we swear we could watch their chubby little legs spin all day in our living room.

And then there’s dancing all the time, everywhere, because our daughters have become possessed by dance and the tutus now reside in a closet rack next to ballet, jazz, lyrical, modern and tap costumes, right above the mountain of dance shoes. We still love to watch them dance, but if we hear, “Mom, look at my middle leap!” one more time while we’re making dinner, we might burst.

This book is about that journey from scenario one to scenario two and beyond. It’s a leap, and it’s a big one, and it does take lots of time, patience and money. Let’s begin at the beginning: why dance?

When they are (were) little, dance may have been our choice for them. After all, parents feel they should pick activities for their children to try and eventually the child will declare whether that activity is right for him/her or not. Dancers may begin in “prince/princess” class or combo classes and if they continue to want to take classes each year and are showing progression in technique and passion, they may have a desire to audition for company or a school dance team. Going from a recreational dancer to a performer is where the shift begins. Dance becomes a part of the dancer’s life and therefore a part of the family’s life. It happens to all of us.


Top Benefits of Dance




Endurance (Exercise, good for your heart)


Sense of well being (Improves confidence while reducing stress)

Artistic pursuit


Boosts Memory


In addition to studies that show the health and social benefits of dance, there are also studies that say children who are involved in team activities make better grades and are less likely to get in to trouble.
Makes sense. If your dancer is at the studio or spending weekends at dance competitions, they are busy and making a positive contribution to their well being and to others’.

Dr. Russell, a Ph.D. who founded
Choreohealth, lists several benefits of dance. One benefit he suggests is the social aspect. Dance also provides physical activity, which can be enjoyed across a lifetime. In addition, dance (particularly ballet) is very prescriptive and trains dancers in discipline, which in turn provides a foundation for good time management. Dance teaches the principles of diligence and working hard.


More Cool Benefits of Dance

Teaches responsibility.

Teaches teamwork.

Gives children a competitive spirit that comes in handy in the real world.

Never-ending learning. Unlike some sports where the rules are what they are, in dance, participants are constantly learning new moves and choreography and pairing with different dancers so dancing grows with the dancer.

Fosters creativity and entrepreneurship. Watch your dancer’s mind expand with possibilities for choreography, finding music that inspires a feeling, which inspires a dance, and raising money for competitions.

Teaches empathy. Many dances also have a story behind them. We’ve seen stories on bullying, suicide, drunk driving, friendship and more. Dancers are storytellers.

Experience for a career. As you’ll see in our last chapter, dance could become a career for them. So far our own dancers (young teens) both aspire to be professional dancers and own
their own studios. Whether or not that happens, it’s great that what was a hobby has become a bigger dream and gives them a goal.


The Big Picture of Dance in America

Statistics on dance education and careers in dance by National Dance Association, 2010

Schools that Offer Dance as Part of Curriculum: 6,000

Number of private dance studios in the U.S.: 6,000

Students Taught by Qualified part-time and full-time Dance Specialists: 6% (that’s 3.5 million out of the 55 million total students)

American Children who
Receive Dance Training in School: 43% (36% by physical education teachers, coaches, general educators, volunteers or parents and only 7% by full or part-time specialists)


What should I look for when researching a dance studio?

First, ask yourself what you and your dancer want out of the studio. Is it so your dancer and his/her
bestie can hang out dancing for one hour a week? Is it because your dancer now wants to get “serious” about dancing?

Due to your schedule, does it need to be in close proximity to your home? (Remember some classes begin during rush hour so that might impact your decision based on the route.)

Are you new to town? Ask area moms and do some research online. A good studio should at minimum have a website these days, and if it looks like they do a good job communicating and keeping things updated, that’s a good sign before you visit.

The studio shouldn’t be keeping the staff a secret. The more transparency, the better, including which competitions they go to, awards they have received and the qualifications and photos of their instructors.

How much experience do the instructors have? Do they have dance degrees? Have they – or are they currently – dancing professionally?

Visit the studio and ask for a tour. Typically studios have open houses in the late summer, so try to visit several. Ask questions.

Take our budget sheet with you and don’t be afraid to ask the costs upfront. It may appear the class rates are low but costumes or recital fees are very high.

Some studios are recreational only and don’t have company/competition classes, so if your dancer wants to compete, that could rule some out.

Ask about age ranges. Some studios focus on young dancers only (say up to 12) so if your child is serious about dance, you might want a studio that includes seniors/advanced dancers.

Ask to see pictures and video of the dance groups so you can see a) what type of costumes the studios pick out and b) styles of choreography. A studio may or may not have that on the website, but it’s important to get a glimpse of what “real life” would be for your dancer if they were a part of the studio.

Ask for studio rules and policies. Some studios are stricter than others, including getting there early to warm up and not letting a dancer dance if they don’t arrive on time.


What do dance moms and young dancers love about dance?

“I love that it gives my daughter confidence, discipline and stage presence (especially since it's competitive dance - they heavily preach "sassiness"), and it keeps her exercising regularly doing something she loves. I also love that she's getting experience traveling and learning how to positively represent herself and her studio at workshops and competitions. I also love that my daughter is making some fantastic memories and friendships that will last a long time. And of course, I love (most) of the costumes, the makeup and the accessories!”– Christina
Dukeman, dance mom, Edmond, OK, Kim Massay Dance Productions


“That my daughter has the opportunity to learn grace, discipline and structure while still enjoying herself. That she gets to wear dress-up clothes for a purpose. That she can express herself through movement and feel good in her body.” – Alice Andress, dance mom, Wichita, KS, MGM


“It helps my son focus on specific goals and then provides ways for him to work hard and achieve those goals.  Ultimately, although he goes to competitions, he's not competing against other people-- he's really just competing against himself.  When he is working to master a skill, at first his body won't cooperate.  He has to spend hours refining his technique, until finally he's able to accomplish what he set his mind to doing.  Later, when that skill is performed in front of a judge, if he wins a prize or high score, then he has "won" regardless of how that prize/score compares to the other dancers around him.  I also like that he is accountable to other people besides just me and his schoolteachers.  His dance teacher will hold him accountable for not getting enough sleep, slacking off, not eating right, not staying organized, being lazy, etc.  His studio-mates also hold him responsible.  When he's part of a group piece, they all rely on each other to achieve their goals.  That's a life lesson that isn't easily learned! – Laura Hogan, dance mom, Allegro West Academy of Dance, Katy, TX


“I love that dance gives my daughter a group of girls to identify with outside of her school environment. When “girl drama” happens at school, dance is a safe alternative.” – Cheryl Husmann, dance mom, Edmond, OK, Studio J


“I started my oldest in dance to give her exposure to culture via ballet and classical music, things absent from my own childhood. So, what I loved most about those years at Ballet Oklahoma was the live piano during ballet lessons; her exposure to professional ballerinas and her early exposure to a large stage.” – Jennifer James, dance mom, Oklahoma City, OK, McGuinness H.S.


“Getting to learn new dances and performing on stage. I enjoy being on stage because a lot of people see me dance.” -Olivia, 10, Dubuque, Iowa, Xtreme Dance


“I love the emotional escape it gives me. It allows me to escape the outside world, leave all my problems behind me and just dance. I love that dance is something that can make people feel. Not just the dancers themselves, but the audience as well are sucked in to the emotions of the dance and the beauty of the music.” – Morgan, 17, Altus, OK, Studio One School of Dance



Chapter 2

The Role of a Dance Mom


What does it mean to be a dance mom? The role of “mom” is tough enough, but throw in additional authority figures (instructors, choreographers, studio owners), an expanded peer circle (other dancers on your team and competitors) and additional stress brought on by time, money and competitions, and you’ve got yourself a whole new (
blingy) bag of mama skills.

We asked our diverse DMSG network to help us define it – and master it.

Gretchen Ponio, a dance instructor of eight years in Tulsa, OK and former Miss Dance Oklahoma in 1988 who has been dancing since she was 5, said the number one thing is to, “Encourage your child; don’t push or force them to dance if it is not their desire to do so.”

She also emphasized the importance of ballet, ballet,
ballet. “Ballet technique is the foundation of all dance. Too many teachers are having to train or re-train older dancers on how to properly hold or use their bodies. If students would start with good Ballet training before introducing Jazz, Lyrical, or Contemporary/Modern styles of dance, their dance technique and quality would already be there when those styles were introduced.  Dancers would be stronger with less injuries.  Proper technique and stretching is key to all dancers. Ballet is the best way to get that!,” says Ponio. She recommends Ballet 2-3 times a week for younger, serious dancers and 3-4 times per week for older ones.

BOOK: Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind
2.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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