Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind (3 page)

BOOK: Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind
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Windsor’s Dance Shoes 101

Dance shoes are made to be a covering for the foot and fit as close as possible so it shows off the foot. Obviously, little girls who are still growing will need a little growing room, but as they get older you want shoes to fit tightly.

 

Pointe – Find the brand and style that fits the dancer’s foot best. There are many styles of Pointe shoes within each brand. When you fit for Pointe, you are fitting the shape of the toes, length, and the strength of the shank. Dancers with more of an arch in their foot need a stronger shank. Allow plenty of time for fitting Pointe shoes because you may have to try several shoes on before you find the one for your foot.

 

Tap – Most tap shoes fit like a standard shoe. Younger, less experienced tappers can start with the riveted or nailed tap shoes (up to about 7-or-8-years-old). The best sound, however, comes from tap shoes with screws. Some like the single screw Capezio. Traditional tappers often prefer the 3-screw tap shoes. Intermediate tappers should move to the screwed tap shoes. Cloggers have completely different shoes that jingle.

 

Jazz – One of the best sellers is Bloch slip-on jazz shoe. It comes in two styles: elastic V and microfiber around the arch. Which style you prefer will depend on the shape of the dancer’s foot.

 

Lyrical – In Lyrical and Contemporary dance, dancers may either go barefoot or wear Footundeez or a similar brand, which enable them to spin and leap without the risk of slipping.

 

Tights and leotards are dancewear standards because they are fitting to the body and have stretch that allows the dancer to move. Another a-ha for us was the different types of tights available (and we don’t just mean color). Windsor recommends, “Usually you just go with what your studio tells you to get. Top selling tights are Bloch, Capezio, and Danskin.”

 

Windsor’s Tips on Leotards

Each leotard differs in size by brand/style.

Torso length determines the size you need. You need to try on a leotard before you buy because there is such a difference in each leotard.

Don’t be concerned about the size you have to get. Most people can fit into any size
leotard, it just depends on how high you want the legs cut. You need to make sure the bottom doesn’t sag!

Bottom line (pun intended): “Forget about size – go with what looks and feels best.”

Some instructors may allow the dancers to wear t-shirts and sweatpants to class, as well as booty shorts without tights underneath. In hip hop, dancers can typically wear whatever they can move in and it purposely has a more “street” feel to it. Hip hop shoes are often high-tops.

Underwear. We’re kidding. You don’t wear underwear under leotards during competition. The instructors will not let them go on stage with underwear underneath their costume for practical reasons. Not only can you see lines,
but often we can see the peek-a-boo of the underwear, which is distracting and unnecessary since leotards and tights are meant to be worn without. However, many dancers still wear underwear during leotards during class, so just ask the instructor what the rules are regarding undergarments.

Bras. Dancers need special bras to be worn under leotards and costumes. You may be able to find sports bras with the correct straps, but often you’ll need bras for performance, too, which may include clear straps. We feel for the big-chested dancers because support is important so our eyes are on the dance and not on the chest.
Definitely worth the investment to get something that works for your dancer while she’s in motion.

Toiletries. We recommend packing your dancer’s bag with the appropriate toiletries for class as well as competitions. Deodorant, body spray, body wipes –
all important so your child doesn’t feel self-conscious about all that sweating and body odor.

Periods. We haven’t been to a competition yet where one of our dancers didn’t start her period unexpectedly. Since most dancers have smart phones, ask them to download an app such as Monthly Cycles or
iPeriod Free so they’ll have a better idea of when Aunt Flo will be visiting. If your daughter has irregular periods, that won’t be foolproof, but keeping track helps. Nonetheless, always pack tampons in case you get a surprise (this would go for tweens who haven’t started their first period, either).

Also, your daughter may want to learn how to use tampons before performance season and consider using the “super” to ensure no leaks happen if it’s tough to get to the bathroom each hour if it’s a heavy flow day.

Ah,
costumes,
the stuff of shine, bling and tulle.

Dancers require a costume for each performance, and expect that it will be new. Fit is extremely important for costumes because with all the moving and positions they do on stage, wardrobe malfunctions are a big issue. Clasps have a funny way of unclasping. (And last year, two of our dancers’ clasps came undone during the exact same move and it was tough for the lyrical costume to stay on and not roll off the shoulder during the rest of the performance. Solution: Always safety pin around clasps or snaps.)

Instructors and studio owners select the costumes way ahead of time. Dancers have to be measured and fitted, and the costumes may have to be altered. Nothing adds to stress like not getting costumes in on time. Ill-fitting costumes draw the eye away from the performance, so it’s important to make adjustments to ensure it fits all the dancers the way it should.

Do moms get input on costumes? No. The studios have to make sure no two instructors pick the same costume for dances (and yes, there have been battles), and for recital that could mean forty or fifty costumes plus however many costumes are necessary for competitions. That’s a lot of tulle.  See below for advice on revealing costumes.

How much do costumes cost? It depends, but can vary from $100 to $200 on average. Most studios will ask for half-up front and then the second half during the second semester for recital costumes. Company costumes are typically billed during the month it was ordered or received, depending on how the studio manages it. Hip hop costumes might cost less because you can get elements at discount stores, such as T-shirts and sweatpants, but accessories can add up.

 

Elements of a costume could include:

Special tights

Hair pieces (and bobby pins!)

Wrist or arm pieces

Special earrings

Special shoes (though often if you have beige or black jazz shoes you may be covered.
Hip hop will normally all buy one type of street shoe so they match).

You can see how it adds up. Remember to put it on your budget sheet.

 

Other Gear (You Just Thought You Were Done)

Dance bag (The more classes they take, the more specific bag you may need.)

Cosmetics kit if in Company or Dance Team (Caboodle)

Water bottles

Healthy snacks

Cosmetics (The instructor will have brands and colors they prefer so the dancers match on stage.)

 

Dance Instructor Melissa emphasizes the importance of having a back-up plan. “I was always taught to have a Plan A: The costume you ordered and a Plan B: One your mom made for back-up. Ha. That helps a lot. If something spills on a costume, you'll have a back up! Also, hair pieces: pinned in the head! I cannot stress that enough! Also practice in the costumes once or twice just to make sure there aren't any problems,” advises Melissa.

She also recommends a foam roller for muscles and tennis balls for cramps in backs or legs. “Icy Hot. Also, a
Theraband to stretch out hips and feet!”

 

On Revealing/Provocative Costumes

Two things incite the biggest reactions and debate for dance moms.

The first is provocative dancing. The next is provocative/revealing costumes. We touched on the first in the chapters on finding a studio and in our competitions chapter. When it comes to costumes, interestingly, the dance itself may not be sexually provocative in terms of the lyrics or dance moves (come hither or even lustful expressions), yet the costume can be. But some of that may be in the eye of the beholder and based on how conservative one’s views are when it comes to costumes.

For example, some moms don’t want their dancers in two-pieces whatsoever, so it would be important for them to know what type of costumes the studio puts the girls in. In some cases the studio may have a leotard on some girls and a bra or halter version for those who either look good in it or feel comfortable in it. Body type plays a big role in that. A dancer who is either
big-chested or heavier on top wouldn’t want to dance around in a bra and booty shorts anymore than the instructor would want them to.

Or would they? If you look at what kids and teens wear in everyday life, it’s surprising what they’ll wear, even when it doesn’t fit them or flatter them. So our dancers are not the best
judge on that. If you are uncomfortable with what your dancer will be wearing, speak to the instructor upfront so that something can be done about it (before there is no time to order something different.)

A costume might have complete coverage and still be provocative. At every competition, you will likely see things on stage that you feel are better left for the bedroom or adulthood, but to some extent, it comes with the territory.

A dance instructor who prefers to remain anonymous, has this to say about it:

“I’m a rather conservative teacher and mother of a tween who loves to dance and cheer.
  The world of competitive dance lends itself to a rather provocative style of dance and costuming.  I will not allow my daughter to compete with our studio because of the costume choices and style of dance they are being taught.  Today’s dance competitions have young dancers clad in not much more than bra tops and tiny skirts.  I’m not an advocate for skimpy clothing, so I don’t approve of the costuming in general these days.  Many dances that I have watched at competitions look like they are more appropriate for a strip club than a dance competition.  It’s really sad to me that this has become a norm. For those reasons, I have opted to stay out of the competition part of our studio. I’m trying to teach my daughter to honor God with her body, not objectify herself. I wish our studio would hold itself to higher standards, but they just seem to follow the trends.  Like I said, this is a norm.”

At a recent competition, we talked with another anonymous dance mom on her view of costumes and we discussed the Dance Mom episode where the girls (as young as 8 years old) wore nude-colored leotards, so from the audience they appeared naked on stage. The perception the viewer gets on the show is that Abby Miller, the star of the show and studio owner/choreographer, does those things to get attention. And reality shows, in particular, love for their “star” to do anything that will create more buzz, which in turn creates more viewers, happy advertisers, and so on.

If you have a problem with your dancer of any age shaking her booty, shimmying her shoulders or gyrating her hips, you may not be comfortable with dance no matter where your child dances. You will not be the choreographer or get approval of any routine, which is why picking the studio you feel is the best fit for you is important, but beyond that, it’s out of your control. Sure, you can pull your dancer from a routine (or studio) but to some extent you may always be out of your comfort zone.

Jazz and musical theater can be very sassy, lyrical and contemporary can be extremely romantic or sensual and hip-hop is booty-full. Dancing requires us to separate our child from the dancer. Just like an actress, the “person” should disappear, replaced by the character he/she is playing. That’s hard for parents because we see our child. Dance is supposed to be an art.

Our role as dance moms may be to monitor and make sure our dancers are safe, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be cringe-worthy choreography, bad performances and drama that’s out of our control. In addition to some dancing we may find provocative, there is also awkward choreography, outlandish props and just plain boring dancers. At a certain point (it won’t take long) – you’ll have seen it all.

Dance as an art can be in the eye of the beholder. One person may love performances to worship songs where props are Bibles. Another might find that preachy or even silly. Sometimes something works on one level and fails on another. And before we judge too harshly, have we tried to choreograph? It’s not easy. (And as Dance Instructor Melissa said earlier, just go try to choreograph her class!)

At the end of the day, the dancers are there to show off their skills and prove to the judges they get it. You are not going to like everything you see that your dancer is in or what you see other studios do.

As Dance Mom Cheryl says, “The studios that promote more ‘provocative’ dances aren’t your problem. Just get used to the shock and focus on your dancer.”

You may only like a small percentage of what you see, but the good news is, you do not have to watch the other performances if you don’t want to. Make the decision that’s right for your family, but that might mean having to stretch your comfort zone, too.

But if you don’t watch, what will you talk about with the other moms in the lobby?

BOOK: Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind
4.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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