I’m still learning how to be a Dance Dad. It’s a bit different than being a Dance Mom. Dance Moms have it a lot harder than Dance Dads. I don’t have to look after hair and makeup, and could never be responsible for remembering to bring costumes, hair nets, or makeup. I also don’t know the difference between a Jazz shoe and a Point shoe. Maybe it would have been better to have kids in hockey?
I was always pretty relieved neither of my kids played hockey. Before we had children, the recurring nightmare I had was waking up at 5 AM and driving one of them to morning games at an arena in another town. Every Saturday from age 5 until they were 18. Lugging 50 lbs of gear up and down stairs. Getting it out of the bag after a game or practice and disinfecting it. Hanging it up in the basement, stinking up the house. These were all the things I did growing up. My own personal Groundhog Day, doomed to play out until my kids moved away.
But, thankfully, it was not to be. My children showed no interest in hockey. For them it was soccer, baseball, karate and dance. No shelling out a few thousand to get all the gear, or pay for each season of arena fees. Soccer cost almost nothing to play, and the practices and games were all at reasonable hours.
Same for baseball. It only lasted for one season. Karate was a bit more of a commitment, but still no biggie. A couple nights a week for classes, very infrequent tournaments, and the cost of a uniform.
How To Be A Dance Dad
Dance was a different story. Who knew that when Zach was so young, I was going to have to learn how to be a Dance Dad?
Zachary got into dance when he was 4. And he stayed with it for about 5 years. He took it very seriously and appeared to have a good time doing it. Like Karate, he seemed to thrive on the structure of dance, whether it was ballet or hip hop, he liked following the steps, and was quick to provide guidance to other students in the class. And Zachary loved the music!
Beth-Rose followed in her big brother’s footsteps and took up dance when she was barely 3 years old. She was very shy in the beginning, never letting go of Heather’s hand during the classes. Heather joked that the other moms thought she was the “other” dance teacher in the class. Obviously a highly skilled Dance Mom!
The Tiny Dancers Will Make You Smile
Beth-Rose took to dance like a fish to water. As long as she could hold her mommy’s hand. Being part of the tiny kids class, she was always fun to watch. If you haven’t watched a stage performance of 3 and 4 year old children attempting a stirring rendition of Mary Had A Little Lamb, you haven’t lived. The cuteness level is over the top. The hilarious sweetness of their dance moves will leave you feeling like you’ve overdosed on sugar.
The kids were attending dance classes at an academy in Nanaimo. This was the most convenient since Zach was in the Francophone school also in Nanaimo. So Heather was spending a fair amount of time driving into Nanaimo. She was the perfect Dance Mom. At least it wasn’t for 5 AM practices! Still, it was a significant commitment. And I was still learning how to be a Dance Dad.
The Dancers Come Home
But dancing in Nanaimo was getting harder. Driving to Nanaimo was becoming a bigger headache. A new dance studio was opening up in Ladysmith, so the decision was made to relocate the kids’ dancing to the new studio. No more driving to Nanaimo! Hurray!
Zachary stayed with it for another year before losing interest. But Beth-Rose continued, taking ballet, tap, jazz, and whatever else the studio offered. Every year she took on something new, and kept advancing. She was a Dancer!
Dancing Our Money Away
The years wore on, and Beth-Rose danced. Every Summer we signed her up and paid for more and more dance classes for the year.
She wanted to do a duet with another girl. We paid for those sessions. Her dance studio was participating in a festival. We paid for that. She wanted to do a solo dance. We paid for those lessons as well. These dances all needed costumes. We paid for those. New leotards? Point shoes worn out? Yep! Physio for various dancer injuries? You bet! The cheques continued to flow out. We watched our retirement fading off in the distance…
Any hockey parents out there thinking they’ve got it so hard? You’ve no idea! Aside from the enormous amounts of money shelled out year after year, there’s the whole “Bring me my dinner, Father!” I’ve had some days where I’ve driven back and forth between the dance studio and our home 4 times! (I know, it’s only 3 minutes to the studio, but still…) I finally found my role in the world. Now I had learned how to be a Dance Dad!
I’m not sure exactly when it happened but, one year while sitting in a theatre, watching our little girl dance in some performance, it hit us; she’s really quite good!
A Dancer, An Athlete
Gone was the little ballerina scratching herself or wiping her nose in the middle of a dance, replaced by a poised, disciplined young athlete, bending and twisting and spinning and flipping in ways I couldn’t even imagine! She really is a Dancer!
Beth-Rose is a bit of a shy girl, on the surface. Get to know her and you’ll find a funny, out-going and intelligent young lady. She doesn’t get too emotional, and is the only one of our family not crying during movies. (Weirdo!) But she is a caring, feeling, compassionate person. She cares deeply for her fellow dancers, and is always there to lend them her support. Her feelings run deep and she seems to have a pretty good handle on them.
And A Writer!
Her final writing project in English last semester was an open assignment. The students could present a poem, an essay, a song or visual representation. Beth-Rose chose to do a free write, based on her experiences dancing in competition, before an audience of peers, public and judges. She gave me permission to share it with you.
Behind The Curtain Behind the curtain lies incomparable feelings of pain and anxiety. The art of dance is grueling and full of self-loathing. It can strip you down to your most raw emotions. The pain you feel inside when you just miss the landing on that one jeté. Nobody notices but you do, and that makes all the difference. The constant berating of yourself, saying that you have to be better, but you can't. Everyone telling you how good you were, but the little voice in your head says otherwise. Behind the curtain there is joy and happiness. Even though dancers go through so much, the love we have for it consumes all the feelings of self criticism and takes hold of your body. When I get onstage all the bad feelings go away, and a sense of release flows through my body. Absolute serenity.
Festival Season Begins
And now, here we are preparing for another dance festival season. Beth-Rose has about 10 dances she’s performing over four days, beginning this Thursday. (She also has a few piano performances, but that’s another story.) She’s taking time off from school, Heather has traded days off from work, and the final rehearsals are wrapping up.
Unfortunately, our dancer is performing injured. She’s dealing with tendonitis in her hip flexor, so she’s had to make some adjustments to at least one of her routines. And she’s not happy about the change. She feels it’s lessening the complexity of the dance, and as a result, it doesn’t look as good. But this is a compromise. Her choice was to forgo this dance festival, or make the adjustments to look after her injury. I mean, she’s only 14. The last thing she needs at her age is an injury severe enough to end her dancing career.
And there will be other dance competitions this year. If she needs to take it easy for the first one so she can perform at her peak for the other festivals, then so be it. I will never tell her that she can’t do it. She just needs to find a way to make it work. See? That’s how to be a good Dance Dad!
Beth-Rose’s decision to dance has been incredibly rewarding, for her and her growth, and for us as parents. Yes, the expense has been and continues to be significant, but it’s worth it. Watching her grow up to become a talented, committed, beautiful dancer is worth far more than the cost.
We’ll just have to work until we’re 75!