Real Talk: Dance parenting and the cost/benefit analysis
Biological parents, step-, foster, and adoptive parents, grandparents and guardians are all successful dance parents
When considering the realities of having a child studying dance, I can’t help but think of another quote by Vince Lombardi:
“Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial,
hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.”
It is obvious that the successful student will have these traits – or develop them over time – but dance parents show the same attributes.
To see a child through the demands of becoming the best dancer they can be, dance parents have to have perseverance, self-denial, a strong work ethic, a willingness to sacrifice, real dedication to their children, and a respect for authority. More precisely, they have to trust authority.
It is not easy to give so much of our children’s time and attention over to another adult. To say, “Here is my very best thing in the world. Take this child of mine and teach them, push them, make them grow.” You first have to admit that you might not know how to get them to the place they want to be, then you have to accept that someone else might be able to. It’s not easy. That alone is sacrifice.
But, get your seatbelt snugged up: It’s not the only sacrifice that will be demanded.
You will drive to rehearsals. A lot of rehearsals. And you will sit in the car and wait for them, over and over. You will give up that toy you really want because you are paying for classes or costumes or stage makeup, or shoes.
So many pairs of shoes, in so many configurations: jazz, tap, soft ballet, those half-foot things that let them turn while “barefoot,” and then one day, if you’ve done all this right, pointe shoes.
Pointe shoes. They are nothing more than a piece of equipment, but they are the stuff of dreams. They are a symbol. They mean something.
Here’s how I know: Instead of waiting in the car while my daughter got new shoes, I went inside.
There was my little girl, 5 years old, sitting on the floor, staring wide-eyed in wonder at some “real dancer” as she tried out new shoes. Up to pointe, back down, up again. “How does that feel?” “I’m not sure. Let’s try the first pair again.”
There was no music, no lighting, no choreography, no costumes. There was only the unshakable symbol of pointe shoes on a dancer who knew how to use them, a tool in the right hand, a shoe on the right foot.
And I was wrong. Any time I complained about the many rehearsals, I was wrong. Whenever I protested at expense, I was wrong. Every time I had questioned how hard she was pushed, I was wrong.
Because when I saw my little girl lost in the magic of the dancer, I was wrong: She was the dancer. It just took me a moment to realize that time and hard work and self-denial and sacrifice had raised my dance-daughter into the young woman moving to pointe and back, again and again, effortlessly. This is what happened because we said it: "Take this child of mine and teach them, push them, make them grow."
It was someone else’s little girl watching in wonder, bundled up in a big pink coat, just like mine might have been years before. She sat there silently, seeing it all, storing it in a place that turns dreams into realities if we – as dance parents – water the ground where she plants that dream, if we are dedicated to her success, if we sacrifice for her vision.
It is a vision that grows in little steps, sometimes so subtly that it’s hard to see. Under the guidance of dance pros who are also teaching pros and pushing pros and great people who love these kids, you might not always see the results. You might question the method or reason.
I get it. I understand. But you’d be wrong. And when that blink-of-an-eye happens for you and all the expense and time and worry disappears into the bright light of “wow,” and your dancer turns the symbol into the reality, you’ll be glad you were.