Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind (5 page)

BOOK: Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind
6.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

That’s two votes for
Therabands if you’re counting.

Since our experts all highly recommended daily exercise outside of studio time, we recommend helping your dancer set up a fitness routine outside of class. That could include enrolling them in a Pilates or Yoga class or doing that at home (even with you!) or other fitness activities such as walking or biking. Ask your dance instructor about any activities your dancers should avoid. Some studios, especially ballet, do not want the dancers to run due to the change in muscle tone as well as the hardship on the joints, especially the knees.


Advice for Ankle/Foot Injuries

As Dr. Russell said, ankle and foot injuries are the most common injuries for dancers.

As with all injuries, it’s important to get it looked at by a professional to see if anything was fractured or broken and the right course of treatment is followed to encourage speedier recovery and prevent a worse injury. The following is NOT medical advice, just general information about treatment options.

According to several medical resources, the most common method for treatment for ankle injuries from twisting to spraining is RICE.

The first 24-48 hours are critical so putting as little weight on the injured ankle as possible is important.

  Using an ice pack for twenty minutes every few hours for the first 48 hours is the general advice.

. Using an ankle wrap or brace is recommended to keep the ankle stable. These are available at local drugstores. Keep it snug, but not so tight it cuts off circulation.

Keep the foot elevated above the heart (such as on a pillow on the couch or in the bed).

If symptoms don’t improve steadily over the next week or so, you may have a tear or fracture that may need an X-ray or boot or crutches.




Chapter 5

First L
eap - From Dancer to Team or Company Dancer


Dancers may take multiple classes a week at a studio and only perform in the end-of-year showcase or recital, which will be on stage in front of weepy parents and proud grandparents. However, if a recreational dancer wants to be more involved in dance, they may audition for Company, which is the group that travels and competes in regional and then a national competition.

The other option is the dancer may try out for a competitive dance team at their middle school or high school. The latter example could be jazz dancers,
Highsteppers or pom pom dancers.  Some schools may choose not to compete and only be a performance squad that entertains the crowds at games or at half-time performances and may perform in the community.

While team try-outs are typically held in late spring before school is out, Company auditions are generally held at the end of the summer before the fall session begins. Your dancer would learn a routine and audition with other dancers so that the instructors could see how dancers mesh and so they could ascertain skill level. Company auditions may feel daunting the first time, but it’s the only way studios can determine where the dancer is in his/her journey.
Dancers progress at their pace, which can be quickly or much more slowly. That’s how you see 8-year-olds on YouTube who are more skilled than many 18-year-old dancers. Age is not as much of a predictor of skill as experience and time devoted to dance.

Two biggies when it comes to Company:

Financial Investment – Brace Yourself

Time Investment – Warm Your


More specific?


Checklist for Team or Company Readiness

Your dancer loves it and wants to dance all the time and continues to improve.

Your dancer and your family is committed to the time requirements of Company or a Dance Team, which can include many afternoon and evenings of dance and many weekends devoted to conventions and competitions, especially in the spring and summer. This could mean dropping other activities because there could be time conflicts.

Your dancer understands he/she would need to dance year around, including the summer to stay flexible, work on technique, and continue to improve.

Your family is willing to make the financial commitment necessary to compete. (See our Dance Budget Sheet in the next chapter.)

At least one parent or responsible party has the time to drive the dancer to and from class or practice, and depending on their age, sit and wait on them.

On the emotional readiness level, your dancer would need to be able to take critiques for improvement and work on technique to keep up with the rest of the team.


How old does my dancer need to be to try out for Company?

Though different studios have varying names for it, Company can start as young as 5-years-old, with petite or mini-company dancers, and typically goes up to senior dancers. After that, dancers may decide to major in dance in college or move on to perform with a professional dance company. Many competitions include an adult category, too.


How are Company groups determined?

The studio will match skill sets and whom they believe will dance best together. If you live in a big city and have a big studio, you could have multiple company groups all within the same age range. For competitions, studios enter the dancers in categories based on the level of dance and how many hours they take in classes each week. Some competitions may have beginner, intermediate and advanced dancer categories and others may only have two, or even combine them if they have low entries.

Dance Mom Lauren, whose son has been dancing seriously for four years, had a lot of great advice about studios and helping steer your child into the right place.

“Once your child is about 10 or 11, you need to help your child decide on his/her focus.  If that focus is lyrical/contemporary/hip hop, then a competition studio with lots of trophies is a great place to be!  However, if the focus is on ballet, then it's time to leave that competition studio and get to a classical ballet training center.  By this age, kids who want to become ballet dancers need at least four 1.5 hour ballet technique classes a week plus twice a week pre-Pointe or Pointe.  These classes should be used for only technique-- not rehearsals or learning tricks.  Competition studios very rarely offer this type of ballet training.  If you wait until 12 or 13 to make the switch from competition dance to ballet, then your child will be very behind!  Here is a link to ballet training expectations:

“How can you tell if you're getting good ballet training?
 First, look at the hour expectations in the above link.  Second, ask about a syllabus.  If there isn't a set syllabus (e.g., RAD, Cecchetti, Vaganova, ABT), then ask about the method/syllabus that most influences the teacher.  Third, look at the Summer Intensives (SIs) the teenage students attend and how frequently they receive scholarships to the SIs.  A studio with excellent ballet training should have students receiving scholarship to SI's associated with large ballet companies.  Fourth, look at the competitions.  Ballet studios generally don't participate in a lot of dance competitions other than ballet-only competitions such as YAGP.  If they do compete in mainstream dance competitions, it's usually just their 8-12 year olds, as the older students are putting their focus on preparing for SI (Summer Intensive) auditions.”


On the male dancer

In her interview, Lauren brought up another important point that moms of male dancers can relate to and moms of female dancers witness everywhere we go: male dancer worship. I mean
, there are so few of them! And look how darling they are! How strong, how flexible! We’d love for our daughters to get to dance with more guys in routines, and what about the “boy bonus points” you hear about at competitions?  Nothing makes your dance stand out like having a male in the mix.

A heed of warning from Lauren who has seen that worship aplenty, for good and ill.

“Don't treat male dancers as commodities. Don't treat them as royalty. You do them no favors by treating them any differently than the girls. We went to five studios before we settled into one that we loved.
 The other studios oohed and ahhhed over my son, and treated him like he was made of gold. Being treated like a prince may be fun for awhile, but it quickly gets old and it's very hard to respect a studio that continues with that type of treatment.  Ultimately, the studio that we stayed at for the past four years is the one that made no big deal of his maleness and just treated him like everyone else,” says Lauren.

Got it. We will try to keep our “oohs and
aahs” in check. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Lauren. We appreciate your candor.

Dance mom Christina
Dukeman, whose tween daughter has been competing for three years, suggests, “Find another mom or two you feel comfortable with - someone you can travel with, whom you can trust to watch your daughter when you can't (or just need a break), and someone to laugh at it all with you. Also, always have tissues, bobby pins, safety pins, and extra hairspray! Keep your sense of humor - you and your daughter will need it, and let's face it: sometimes it's just funny when someone's hair feather falls off during a performance, or when you look up in the dressing room and can't see through the fog of hairspray and glitter, or when hotel security dumps a drunk, passed-out stranger in your room and you discover him after a long day of competition. (Yes, that really happened to us).”

In fact, we agree so much with the Dance Mom BFF mindset, that we’ve included an extra chapter at the end of the book with ideas on how dance moms can have a little fun on that downtime, both with their dancers, as well as with other dance moms so you don’t have to be swallowed whole by “waiting.”

Advice Christina wishes she’d been given when her daughter started competing? “Save your money – your daughter will want every studio t-shirt, bag, jacket, etc., that's offered. And it's hard to say no!”

She admits the most difficult part about dance can be the chaos of it all – and the stress on your child. “The traveling, rushing around to make costume, hair and makeup changes in ridiculously short amounts of time to make the next performance. Also, some girls are just mean. They can be so cruel to your daughter, and you just want to protect her from all the hatefulness, but you can't, and at the end of the day it's better that she finds her own way to deal with it,” says Christina.

Dance Mom Rhonda shares it can be especially tough if you have other active kids in the family. “The hardest part about dance is making the best use of time and money -- especially if there are other children in the family. Dance takes up so much of our time and financial resources that it is sometimes hard to give our two boys an equal portion. We just make sure that we attend all of their events as a family whenever possible, and when it's not possible, we split between events. There have been days when we drove back and forth between ball games or track meets and dance competitions,” Rhonda says.

Dance Mom Deanna Thompson would like new dance moms to know they will be sitting a long time. “Bring cushions for the rear end,” she advises.

More wise words from Dance Mom Regina, whose daughter has been dancing for five years with Jenks Dance Academy, shares, “Don’t stress when they don’t get something right the first time. Trust the process.”

She also advises moms to make the commitment. “It’s not just the money; it’s time, but it’s totally worth it.”

Dr. Marotta reminds us that Company or a School  Dance Team is a mini culture so it’s our job to help guide that and keep it healthy. “That includes how to know when you need to leave, when it’s not going to work and when to say when,” she says. “You don't have to drop out in a dramatic way. The parent may need guidance in how to do that well, including why we're leaving.”

What about boundary issues? Like many coach/athlete situations, it can often feel like as parents we are completely in the dark, both trying to give our child his/her independence and responsibility, but also keeping a careful watch on when those boundaries are being crossed by any party.

One example Dr. Marotta gave is when a teacher is speaking parallel with kids, often to be friends with them. “That can cause a lot of problems because the authority figure needs to feel and act like an authority,” Dr. Marotta warns.

As a whole, when considering a studio or program, Dr.
Marotta advises parents to look at the culture of the studio and the specific company, the competitions that they compete in and ask yourselves:

this promoting a healthy body image?

this a positive and encouraging and professional atmosphere?

the dancer: is this where I want to

my time outside of school and who I want to spend it with?


With a little research, you’re sure to find the right fit. Good luck!



Chapter 6

How Much is This Going to Cost?


Are kids expensive or what? We faintly remember someone telling us that before we started having them, but goshdarnit, did we listen? Our advice? Brace yourself and budget for it so you won’t have too many jaw-dropping surprises.

Hey, that’s what we’re here for. We’re your Reality Check. So, um, moms, are you sitting down?
Because dance, like competitive cheer or baseball or football leagues or ice-skating or any number of other activities, is going to cost. It seems even though studios may put out a list in your company packet, we moms may “forget” that when the fees come due, and it feels like something is due every week. Those things sneak up on us.

It can be difficult in rough economic times to devote this much of the family budget to a child’s endeavor, so seriously ask yourself if you are (happily) willing to make the investment, because if you’re not, and it will make you stressed out and have a panic attack every time a fee is due, you might want to rethink the timing. Planning and open communication is highly recommended.

What you don’t want is to mutter profanities under your breath every time a bill comes due. You also don’t want your child to feel guilty about the expense, either.

We know you don’t want to disappoint your dancer, but if you’ve filled out our budget sheet below and you simply can’t swing it, it’s better to not commit than to pull your child out later because payment is an issue.

If you have grandparents who would be willing to help out each month for a portion of it, have that talk with them upfront so that they know what goes into having a Company dancer.

Dance studios are not banks and do not provide loans so you want to stay in good standing with them by paying on time and keeping track of the schedule so the studio doesn’t have to track you down. Studios have to pay fees for competitions and conventions and order the costumes so it’s important we’re keeping the financial commitment we made when we signed the Company contract.

BOOK: Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind
6.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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