Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind (7 page)

BOOK: Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind
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A drink or food caddy is advised, but even if you try to keep things contained, we have seen a lot of spilled drinks on the floor, which means some ruined/stained costumes. Moms should look out for this, because often the dancers are so busy changing, they may not see that they are about to tip over a drink or that one has already spilled on a costume.

Goes without saying, but no males in the dressing room so if mom can’t be there, she’ll need to ask another dance mom or responsible adult to help keep an eye out or else a female relative.

Depending on your dancer’s age and disposition, he/she may not want you in the dressing room with them because either you make them nervous or they feel responsible enough to handle things themselves.

If you’re great with hair and makeup, you’ll be a huge asset.

The dancers often help each other with hair and makeup, too and may have to do some last minute costume pinning or borrowing. It happens.



Chapter 8

Communication is Key


How to Communicate with the Studio or Dance Team

Tips on Communicating with your Dancer

Keeping You All Organized


Where would we be without smart phones and computers? In this day and age, we’re more connected than ever, and it’s still possible to miscommunicate and get our lines crossed. As more and more people are shedding landlines and using only mobile phones, it’s no wonder that’s how moms stay up to date on what’s going on in their child’s schedules. Every day we get updates from schoolteachers on what’s due when. We are definitely communicating at a much different level than our parents did with our teachers and organizations.

Our advice? Stay connected, keep your phone and wi-fi on and keep your calendar handy. Dancers not only can have practice several times a week, but often as competition time draws nearer, more and longer practices are called, and it’s imperative to be available when you’re at camps and competitions to know when and where your dancer is and what may be needed from you.


On Communicating with the Studio/Team Instructor

Make sure the studio/school has your contact information – email, cell phone, secondary phone number.

Make sure you understand the studio’s expectations upfront so you don’t get surprised throughout the year.

When the studio hands out paperwork with dates and obligations, go ahead and put those in your calendar and on your dancer’s calendar so you can avoid any conflicts, and remember, if you are on the competition team, dancing takes priority over the other activities you may be involved in so likely you’ll need to reschedule the conflicting event.

If you aren’t sure about something, ask for clarification. We believe most dance studios strive for transparency. Everyone “on the same page” benefits all.

If you aren’t getting communication (or it’s going only to your dancer), ask that you be added to the call or email list.

Special occasions such as competitions, camps and recitals can be stressful on the studios, so ask how you can help. The older dancers may be asked to step up and mentor or assist the younger dancers, and help from moms is always appreciated.

Dance Moms may be asked to carpool. If you aren’t up for that, say so, but often it’s standard for moms to take the dancers whose parents are unable to go.

When it comes to communicating with our dancers, we like the adage, “everything in its place.” Nothing causes Pull-Out-Your-Hairitis like a dancer screaming she can’t find her shoes or dance bag or leotard as you’re supposed to be out the door to class, or worse, to competition. So a few keys for smoothing out the schedule:

Pick a laundry day where your dancer (or you) will clean all the dance clothes so you’ll know when those items are being washed, folded and put away.

Create a special drawer or closet organizer just for dance clothes including those for class and those for weekends and competitions.

Keep dance shoes separate from regular shoes. Unless your child is a Type-A blessing, shoes tend to wander under beds and under piles of other shoes, toys and clothes, so having a place just for dance shoes is wise.

Keep a family calendar where your dancer can see the week’s time commitments and if she/he has a smart phone, have them load the schedule on the phone. A family app like Cozi can keep the family informed and ready.

Set a timer so your dancer knows how much time he/she has to be ready for dance.
Freak outs can be avoided with enough planning and preparation.

Create a list and get all items for competition weekends (local or for traveling) ready two nights before in case you have to run to the store to get another pair of tights.

Buy two when you can. Of everything. Trust us on this.

Listen twice as much as you talk. Dancers may like to mentally unload after they come home from dance class or rehearsal. They may be frustrated, tired or grumpy. That’s perfectly natural. You don’t need to do anything other than nod that you hear them and offer to buy them a milkshake. Seriously.



Chapter 9

Dance Ma
nners - The Golden Rule and Then Some

List reprinted with permission. Lisa
Motsenbocker, studio owner, Dance Phase, Edmond, OK


Dancers show respect for themselves by:

Being prompt for class.

Being dressed properly for class in the assigned attire, without underwear under leotards, without jewelry other than small earrings, and with shoe strings either tucked in or tied in a knot and cut off.

For older dancers hair pulled back in the proper manner.


Dancers show respect for others by:

Keeping their hands to themselves during class.

Waiting quietly for others to have a turn and for instructions from the teacher.

Waiting until the music is finished before entering the classroom if they are late to class.

Talking with one another only during Share Time.


Dancers show respect for their teachers and the art form they are learning by:

Being properly dressed and ready for class on time.

Listening when the teacher speaks.

Always standing in the “proper dance stance” while listening to the teacher give combinations or corrections.

Being prepared for their turn.

Always asking before leaving the room for any reason and upon returning enters quietly, never through the dancers who are dancing.


Dancers show respect for the studio by:

Leaving gum, food, or drink outside.

Never hanging or leaning on the barres.

Never running or doing gymnastics in the studio or lobby.

Putting trash in the proper place.

Always keeping all belongings zipped in their dance bag.


Parents show respect for the dance class, teacher, and studio by:

Knocking before entering the classroom if class is in progress.

Making every effort to attend viewing week.

Making sure child has had the opportunity to go to the restroom before entering class.

Having students ready for class before entering the classroom.

Having students at class on time and picking them up promptly after class.

Letting teacher know in advance, if possible, if a student will be absent.

Clearly marking all of their child’s items with the child’s name and leaving toys at home.

Teaching children to sit quietly while waiting, remembering that the lobby is also a homework area for many dancers.

Teaching children to never run or scream in the studio, waiting areas, or parking lot.

Keeping siblings quietly entertained while waiting in the lobby.


Manners at Competition

Dance Mom Christina adds the importance of not walking in during a performance. You may think you’re being quiet and invisible, but you could be blocking a mom or other family member from seeing their dancer dance.

Speak softly in the audience.

Consider covering your glowing screen or turning it off. Yes, you. We see you with your iPad and iPhone out. It’s distracting.

Don’t keep others waiting, whether that’s the studio or other dance moms. Pad extra time in for travel so you’re never the one people are waiting for.

Take directions so you don’t get lost. We see that happen everywhere we go. Make sure you know which location, because often there are several with similar sounding names.

Don’t trust your map. Check with a second source just to be sure your map isn’t sending you to the wrong side of town.




Chapter 10

Emotional Roller Coaster Ride – Mistakes & More


How to Deal with Emotions in Dance

Stage Fright and Performance Anxiety

Friendships (or not)

Mean Girls, Backstabbing and Bragging Moms


On Making Mistakes by Dance Instructor Gretchen Ponio

“I don’t know where this phrase came from, but it’s a good one.
  “There are no mistakes, only unexpected solos!” 

When dancers forget their choreography whether in a solo or other routine, they need to always practice continuing on.
  To stop and start over in practice isn’t helping their memory.  Repetition does that. 

Making mistakes will happen to all dancers.
  Recognizing what they need to fix and learning how to correct it is the key.  This applies when there are errors in technique or timing.  Then again, repetition of the proper technique, choreography, and timing will decrease the number of mistakes made. 

Onstage Mistakes – “The show must go on!”
  Improvise until you remember what you were supposed to be doing if you are doing a solo.  For a group number, look to someone who is doing your part and catch up!  Don’t let your face show you’ve blundered!  Judges may never catch it if you pull it off.  Wearing it on your face is a dead give away!


On Performance Anxiety with Dr. Marotta

Marotta, a child and family psychologist, discusses performance anxiety and dealing with stressors:

“Performance anxiety is something they have to work on way before it’s time to compete. What are they saying to themselves? How are they critiquing themselves? Help them evaluate their feelings and say, ‘How am I going to be different next time?’”

“Some believe in order to be excellent that they have to be anxious, and some really high achieving people use anxiety motivationally; then somewhere it goes wrong.” Here’s what she suggests we can say to our dancers. “Look at the self-talk. Talk about making the movie in your head. As you’re getting ready to perform, say something really kind to yourself and experience liking that feedback and focus on being relaxed. There is an energy that goes into breathing and makes focusing a lot easier. Then let's play it out that you are giving a wonderful performance.”

We discussed how dancers naturally critique their own performances as well as teammates and other dance teams, which she said is understandable and beneficial if done in a constructive and not hurtful way.

She said simply being able to get ready for a performance and then evaluate that performance is a life skill that will come in handy for job interviews or wherever performance is being evaluated, not just with dance.

But back to dance and that automatic “judging” the dancers and moms do.

Dr. Marotta explains, “There's good and bad about it. Tearing another performance down is never okay, but looking for certain things to evaluate is beneficial.” 

She also wants moms to keep in mind that struggle is not bad and that sometimes parents lose sight of that. “Why can't it be fun and smooth sailing? Life is a struggle and we learn from that. That doesn't mean it's devastating to experience struggle. The other thing to think about is that we’re being evaluated at that point in time, but this is the one being measured. YOU are not being measured. If self-worth is tied to how you are evaluated, that can lead to performance anxiety.”

At this point in the conversation, I shared with Dr. Marotta the oddly wonderful experience at nationals in St. Louis the year before where our dance team had seemed to struggle with energy for the hip hop routine all season long and yet at nationals gave their best performance all year.

Marotta says that’s a great example of why we shouldn’t pre-judge things. The dance is a snapshot in time. One performance can be dismal, another mediocre, another extraordinary. What the dancers bring to it each time is what matters.

Dance instructor Melissa says, “The best way to deal with stress as a dancer, is to just breathe. I always tell my dancers when they get frustrated, ‘Take a deep breath, and try again. A frustrated mind cannot control a body.’ When we psych ourselves out, we have to learn how to breathe and let it go. We make mistakes. If you mess up, learn from it and try again. Getting frustrated doesn't solve anything. Sometimes for me, turning off the lights and just dancing freely calms my nerves.

Dance instructor Gretchen reminds moms that, “There will always be drama of some kind everywhere you go – every sport, every school, every studio.  How you handle it is the whole key.  Handle things with grace and forgiveness?  Or handle things with spite and malice?  How people – dancers, parents, teachers, and owners alike – respond to the circumstances around them will determine the reputation of the studio.”

Friendships created because of dance can be some of the closest because they spend so much time together. They also share the common bond of their love of dance and won’t mind as much when
all your dancer wants to do is spend the sleepover practicing routines or stretching “for fun.” The downside of dance friendships could be that jealousy can occur if one friend advances beyond the other or gets more recognition. It’s important that we discuss these issues with our child if we notice it’s happening as that may impact their feelings about themselves or dance. It’s natural that some dancers have strengths in one area where others bring it in another. This is another life lesson that our dancers get to experience at an earlier age. It’s also important to welcome new dancers into the fold. It can be a scary time for a new dancer to join a group that has already been dancing together. Making them feel welcome can improve chemistry on stage and off. Some teams hold bonding events like pizza and movie nights for the dancers to get together outside of the studio.

Dance Mom friendships can and should be a special time for moms to enjoy time together, without any judgment or bragging or being critical of others. It’s natural for moms to want to gossip and critique, but be careful of what is said so it doesn’t hurt your reputation, the studio’s, or your

What about those Mean Dancers (and for that matter Mean Moms)? Best to steer clear and, as my grandma used to say, “Don’t get in the mud with the pigs.” Sure, the moms do it on reality TV, but this is our own reality, and we don’t want our studios or the world of dance to smell like a pigsty, do we?



Chapter 11

Down the Road - College and Dancing Professionally


So your dancer thinks this might be a life gig? That’s cool. What does that look like exactly? College? Dance schools? Moving to New York City or L.A.? Unlike children who might want to be police officers or lawyers or doctors someday, dancing is something they can do professionally while they’re young. Though that isn’t the focus of this book, we wanted to throw that out there. Some dancers are home-schooled simply so they can have time to go to auditions or be on a TV show and get the extra hours needed to perfect technique, learn new routines and travel for either auditions or with a performance team.

But for the sake of this chapter, we’re not going to focus on those “outliers” but on the general dancers who go to school and compete and may want to pursue an advanced education and dance professionally when they are adults.

According to government census data in the field, there are approximately 665 postsecondary institutions that offer dance minor and major programs in the United States.

The National Directory of Dance Schools (compiled by Dance Studios USA) lists over 6,000 private dance studios.

According to the report, dance teachers can hold positions in the following ways:

renting studio space as a private contractor

employment through a private studio or arts foundation

a position in public or private elementary or secondary school. (Which would likely require a teaching license.)


Statistical Estimates on Dance Careers in the United States

In 2006, self-enrichment educators (including those who teach dance) held 261,000 jobs in America.

National averages show they earn between $8.53/hr to over $32.02/hr.

Note, some private studios offer their teachers $45.00/
hr and higher for advanced curriculum, or company classes, while K-12 dance teachers may be offered salaried positions.


Dancers and Choreographers

According to the findings, most dancers begin their professional career by the age of 18.

In 2006, professional dancers and choreographers made up 40,000 jobs in our country. Of those, 17% were self-employed.

“National averages show that dancers may earn anywhere between $6.62/
hr to over $25.75/hr depending on their skill level and type of production. This rate includes rehearsal time, choreography lab time, performance time, and often required time spent in class for company performers. Salary may also depend on location, cost of living, and extent of touring.”

Median income of a choreographer in 2009 is approximately $33,000 a year.

Top choreographers directing their own companies may have an annual company operating budget of $5.6 million. However, with operating costs for large companies totaling over $5.2 million, the choreographer may net just over $400,000 each year.



Advice for Going Pro

From Dance Instructor Gretchen Ponio

Get trained or have experience in a variety of dance styles.

Ballet, ballet, ballet!  Dancers can’t possibly get enough.

Travel to different conventions, schools,
experience different teachers.

Difficulty of getting in programs?
  Depends upon the program.


From Dance Professor Kathleen Redwine

Get the best training possible.
Keep working, keep learning.  Learn other styles of dance – if you’re a ballet dancer, try some tap or jazz or modern dance. Don’t be shy about trying a style of dance that’s outside your comfort zone like flamenco, hula or belly dance. Stay passionate about your art. Learn other body disciplines like pilates and yoga. Learn to be an artist in dance, not just a technician.

At the college level, dancers need to look at their personal goals in dance and what the school’s programs can do to support that. Then other factors can come into play such as scholarships, affordability, etc. By the time a dancer is considering a college degree in dance, he/she should have a pretty good idea of what their individual strengths and weaknesses are, what styles of dance they like, and what they might like to do after they graduate.

A college degree does so many things. In a top-level program, dancers learn from professional level faculty, learn repertoire that will help them get jobs, and often have the opportunity to dance internationally. They also make professional connections. In general, a dance degree helps students get that “polish” and technical improvement necessary to dance professionally. They also usually learn dance pedagogy, or the art of teaching dance, which will both help them get jobs and ensure that the next generation of young dancers has excellent training. A professional dancer’s career is short, like a professional athlete’s. Having a degree in dance from a major university helps dancers become more well-rounded, educated human beings, and helps them find their second career. Many of our dance majors have a strong minor in another field, or even double major. We’ve had dance majors study finance, marketing, public relations, art, pre-med and many other areas.


A few more questions for Professor Redwine

Do all schools of dance at the collegiate level require auditions?

KR: All the programs that I’m aware of require an audition.


What are dance instructors looking for in dancers 18+?

KR: Each college dance program has their own focus, but in general, we’re all looking for wonderful dancers who can also be successful in a university environment.


What tips do you have on dancers taking care of themselves?

KR: Mind/body/wellness


From Instructor/Dance Major Melissa Motte

The third-year dance major says sticking with it is key.

“Getting into a college dance program isn't too hard depending on your training background, but staying in it is. College dance programs accept you based off of if they are able to TRAIN YOU. If your technique is way off, you might not get in. But if they see you have some technique and you’re trainable, they will accept you. You don't have to be perfect. But if you DO get accepted, staying in is the hard part. It is HARD WORK and takes a lot of TIME and DEDICATION!! 

Class attendance and improvement are the two biggest things. If they see you are not improving, they will tell you, "Hey, we need to start seeing improvements soon."
If they don't, they may suggest a different major maybe, or remove you from the program. Being a dance major is a blast, but hard. Your body needs rest, and you have to be able to balance normal school work, too.

BOOK: Dance Mom Survival Guide: Growing a Great Dancer Without Losing Your Mind
2.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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