Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind (2 page)

BOOK: Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind
6.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“Find good instructors!”
Ponio recommends, “Especially for Ballet. If you have to go to a different school for Ballet training, do it.”

Our experience has been most studios recommend at least two Ballet classes a week for company dancers, in addition to 2-3 conventions per year where the dancers get additional training from choreographers who are new to them.

Ponio adds, “Teachers need support from the parent when more training is necessary, specifically referring to Ballet or technique issues.”

We second
Ponio, and that includes taking additional workshops or classes if a dancer is missing company classes. Please, please don’t let your dancer skip class, and if they are not feeling well, but not contagious, they may want to go and sit out and watch so they can keep caught up. If they miss class, they fall behind on choreography and critical practice time that will have to be made up in between so that the dancer doesn’t slow the progress of the team. The more in sync, the better.

And last but not least, from
Ponio’s experience and as a mom to a tween daughter herself, “Dancers need mom’s unconditional love and support.  (Which is what we all need no matter what we choose to do with our lives, right?)”

We also wanted to hear from someone currently in a dance program at the university level, and we got even more than we asked for. Melissa
Motte is a dance major and also a dance instructor for the last two years. Not only do we admire Melissa’s attitude, but we’re impressed by her work ethic and choreography. Dancers love her.

“As a dancer, some good things a dance mom should know to help their dancer would be to have a clear understanding of the different styles of dance and also really try to understand the difficulty of being a dancer. It is cutthroat out there in the dance world, and the only way to make it is true dedication and commitment from the dancer and the mother. Also
 knowing the styles of dance and knowing what certain dance steps are would help if the dancer asks for your advice,” advises Melissa.

“Teachers need moms to understand that we know what we are doing. (
smiles) Remember, we are the dance instructors, we are where your daughters are trying to get to, and we have been where they are now. But some dance moms feel they know more than we do. I'm different from most teachers. If a dance mom tries to argue they know more, I suggest they come try and teach my class (smiles).”

“What a dancer needs from their mom is just for them to be there. Understanding how stressful it is, understanding how competitions work,
 being there to record certain steps, and of course, to be supportive.”

Dance Mom and former champion Union Varsity
Highstepper Kari Ernest weighs in on the role of a dance mom. “As a former dancer, and now a dance mom, my best advice for moms is to be realistic and understand your boundaries. We all believe our daughters are beautiful and talented, but as we praise their strengths, we must also acknowledge their weaknesses. No dancer is perfect, there is always room for improvement, and no matter how talented the dancer, there will always be someone better. Learning to accept criticism and deal with disappointment is so important in the development of a dancer, and it is the job of teachers/coaches to turn our daughters into the best dancers they can be.”

“It's so easy to let the ‘Mama Bear’ come out when our daughters are disappointed, feeling picked on, or don't get a part they think they deserve. But, for the most part, teachers/coaches are doing what they think is best for the dancers and the team. Our job as moms is to soften the blow a bit, help our daughters to overcome the let-downs, encourage them to work harder, and use the experience to not only make them stronger dancers, but stronger people as well.”

Child and family psychologist Dr. Lisa Marotta discussed the importance of parents being healthy role models when it comes to dance and teaching important life skills that the child will carry with them throughout adulthood.

“It’s the mom’s role to provide guidance,” said Dr.
Marotta. “Sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow. In any competitive sport, nothing happens without a supporting person. Kids don't have the maturity to be goal-focused, so parents can provide the encouragement and look at the bigger picture.”

Marotta says our role is helping our dancers evaluate and revaluate what they are expecting to get from dance. “Sometimes we get sidetracked because boundaries get blurred. Perhaps we’re leading too far ahead or we lack the objectivity that we need to have.”

Getting too caught up in the drama could include, “trashing the mentor or taking down the other competition, which isn't good role-modeling,” says Dr.
Marotta. Being a good role model also means the mom being able to handle stress well and having good life skills of her own. She warns moms not to undermine the authority of the teacher or disrupt the camaraderie and unity in the dancers. 

Which is the main emphasis on reality shows, isn’t it? Pitting moms against the teacher, moms trash-talking other moms, and dancers against each other, provides the conflict necessary for a reality show, but it’s not the way things should work in the real world.

When asked about the "reality" television program Dance Moms, Dr. Russell mentioned that it is important to ensure that the attitudes toward emotional and physical health portrayed on the show are rejected by those who are serious about developing young dancers. “Even allowing for the fact that the program is supposed to be entertainment rather than a true depiction of dance training, parents must not blindly relegate authority for their children's teaching to those who do not respect the children or the parents, or who teach unsafe technique and exercises. I do not advocate hovering or meddling parents (because typically they become very annoying and counterproductive when they interfere with the well-intended, proper instruction of their children). But, it is important for parents to be aware of the environment where their children are taught and for teachers and parents to work together for the wholesome benefit of the children.”

Dance Instructor Melissa
Motte sees some reality in reality TV. “Some teachers believe that all of Dance Moms is fake, or they are so mean. I disagree. Some of it is for TV of course. Sometimes people forget that, but not all of it is fake. Abby (the owner and star of the show) may be mean sometimes, and I disagree with some of her ways, but strict teachers make great disciplined dancers! In the real world, which I'm currently trying to make it in as a dancer, they don't pat you on your back! They are blunt, and if you don't make the cut, you’re out! At some studios I've been to it was black leotard and pink tights to ballet, sports bra and spanks to jazz. If the teachers couldn't see your lines, you were told to change clothes or go home. If you didn't have the correct outfit for ballet, you were sent home. If you even talked in Ballet or rehearsal, there wasn't a ‘Everyone listen up!’, you were sent home! It is like that in college classes now. If I walk in right when ballet class starts, I'm not allowed in the classroom. You are to be stretching 5 minutes before class starts. In professional companies, they are stretching 30 minutes before class! You have to be DISCIPLINED. Abby does go overboard sometimes, but she is preparing them for the real world in some ways. And as you see, she makes GREAT dancers! Now, you do not have to yell at your kids and say hurtful comments, but again, people have to remember just because it says REALITY show, all of it isn't REAL! But you have to have rules. If they are broken, there are consequences. Abby does that!”

As dance moms, one of our favorite things about writing this book is hearing from all points of view to help us help our dancers.

Dr. Russell’s most important piece of advice for dance moms:

“Do not, under any circumstances, turn your son or your daughter blindly over to dance teachers, presuming they are experts and are going to know what is best for your son or daughter. There is nothing more important than that. You’ve got to know how qualified the teachers are. You’ve got to know who your kids are with because the kids aren’t their responsibility, they are your responsibility as their parent.”

He adds, “Trophies in the trophy case don’t always tell the whole story. Make sure you know what is going on with your kids…get in there and find out.”

Dance Mom Alice urges moms to control their tongues. “Moms, please don't be competitive or compare children (at least not out loud). Dance is a fun outlet for kids. They're all learning something new, about dance and their bodies. At some point it can and will become competitive, but don't start out that way,” says Alice.

Seven-year Dance Mom veteran, Rhonda Garrison, from Altus, OK offers this advice for moms. “Don't try to fulfill your dreams through your daughter or son. If they are in dance, it is because they love it -- dance is too much hard work for those who do not love it. Be supportive, be encouraging, be available to listen (be on time to pick them up after practice), but let the dance teacher do his or her job.”

Lauren echoed that sentiment in her caution of using “we.” “When I write or talk about his dance (on Facebook, talking to friends, etc.) I strive to keep my pronouns in check.
  It's not ‘WE went to an audition’, it's ‘He went’.  It's not ‘Our dance teacher said...’, it's ‘HIS dance teacher said...’.  The pronouns may seem trivial, but it helps me remember that his dancing belongs to HIM.”

Are you a crafty mom? Rhonda thinks it’s a good idea to “Learn to sew, always keep supplies on hand, and develop a talent for thinking on your feet -- once in a while that skill will save a routine. Though it's hard sometimes with so many personalities, try to stay out of drama. There may be someone (or several
someones) annoying to you; still, try to avoid conflict. The dressing room is no place for temper tantrums or hurt feelings. Most of all, learn to go with the flow. I learned very quickly that creative people are not always the most organized, and sometimes they make last-minute changes when inspiration hits. It's okay. These things happen. Just go with it,” says Rhonda.

Whew. Thanks, Rhonda. Go with the flow. We’re on it!

Dance Mom Lauren adds, “Help your child learn to be his/her own advocate.  If he/she has a problem with a teacher, coach your child in how to approach the teacher to discuss it.  If you always go to the teacher for your child, then the teacher will start to see you as a "problem parent", and you've really done your child a disservice in not teaching him/her to tackle the problem himself/herself!”

Dance Mom Kari wishes someone would’ve told her just how much parental involvement is necessary nowadays. “My daughter is on the same dance team as I was in high school, and my parents weren't nearly as involved. They were supportive and did whatever they needed to do, but the coach didn't rely on parents as much back then. Now it seems that parents run almost the entire program, and it can be extremely time-consuming.
 Dance team has taken over my family's life, and while we enjoy it and wouldn't change a thing, it was a bit of a surprise,” says Kari.

It’s that kind of fair warning we aim to give parents with this book.

Dance Mom Jennifer regrets that she let her daughter quit dance for awhile and encourages giving your dancer extra support. “If your daughter becomes self-conscious during adolescence, spend the money on private lessons. Don't let her quit unless she just hates it. Find a studio that doesn't force your girl to wear skimpy clothes, etc. Consult privately with the studio about your unique challenges. I didn't press hard enough, and my daughter quit for two years. She was an amazing dancer. I'm glad she's picking it back up.”

The most difficult part of dance for Dance Mom Lauren?
“Waiting,  and waiting,  and waiting.  We wait outside the studio.  We wait in the audience until they are on stage.  We wait until the results come in.  We wait (often impatiently!) until they finally learn that elusive skill, but the moment they do there is suddenly some new skill we are waiting for them to learn.”

Dancer Olivia Jones, 10, who has been dancing since she was 3, had this advice for dance moms: “Moms, don't get stressed out with your kids because that just gets the kids worried and more stressed than they already may be.”

Great advice, Olivia.




Chapter 3

Dressing a Dancer


Booty shorts and bling.
Tights and tutus. Bobby pins, bobby pins and more bobby pins. Dance is beautiful in its own right, but a performance comes alive with costumes that help tell the story. And dance classes alone require perfunctory apparel that helps the dancer move. We’ll also touch on the moral debate on costumes – how little is too much? Are we dressing little girls too provocatively?

One of the first things we learned as new dance moms is that different styles of dance require different clothing and that quality and fit matter.

Carolyn Windsor, Owner of Show Biz Dancewear Boutique, in Oklahoma City, took us through her recommendations and insight for dancewear.

“Most of what a dancer needs to wear is determined by the studio they attend. They often have specific brands, colors, and styles they want their dancers to wear. The top brands in basic tap, ballet, and jazz shoes are Bloch and
Capezio,” says Windsor.

She cautions against discount stores. “One big mistake moms make is trying to find dance shoes at discount stores. They are just not as good quality and usually the knock-off shoes cost the same as the better quality brands,” Windsor explains. 

BOOK: Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind
6.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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