A letter to Competitive Dance Parents
Dear Dance Parents,
Being a dance parent is hard. It is hard to really trust someone else with your child’s growth. It is hard to trust that another person has your child’s best interest in mind and at heart. It is especially hard to keep that in mind when, maybe, your child is not placed on a team or in a position in a dance that you expected or wanted.
I want you to know that we, your teachers, are invested in each one of these kids. When we go through placement, level placement, team placement, line or formation placement, we think about your child and where she/he would be best suited. We then balance what is best for the dancer and what is best for the group and come up the best solution. We know your child’s strengths and weaknesses; we know what frustrates them, what fuels their passion and what drives them crazy. We may make decisions that you don’t always agree with, but I will promise that everything we do is for your child.
I have learned a lot over the years from many parents, but there were a couple of conversations that really stuck with me. One parent who has been with me a long time said with a laugh “man how things have changed… I remember when we started competing and you always said just go out their and have fun. The award doesn’t matter as long as you did your best. And now you are telling them you expect top ten placements and platinum awards.”
At first the conversation worried me, have I really changed that much, am I pushing too much, have I lost site of what is important? And after much thought I realized that yes things do change, not only have I changed but the dancers have changed too. There is no way that our first, second or even third year competing did we expect or were the dancers able to earn a top placing. Now they can and they do! Yes my expectations have changed, so have the dancers. Our program has evolved, so have the dancers. So yes things are different, in a good way. If we don’t continue to grow and evolve we become stagnant and boring. A rolling stone gathers no moss.
But no matter what we win there is a deeper meaning to what we are doing. At some point your children are going to pack up or even toss those trophies and all these competitions will seem like on big blur. Maybe, when they grow up they will use their skills as a dancer, maybe not. So what is the point of all this? I’ll tell you…
Another conversation I had with a mom, who has always and I believe will always be a great supporter of me and the program, upset me at first. It was at one of our final competitions, after a particularly trying season for her dancers and she told me that they may not dance next year, this may be it. They are frustrated, disappointed and tired of feeling overlooked (by the judges) and inadequate.
I started to cry.
Not because I was worried about losing these kids (I knew they were not going to quit), I cried because I could not understand why frustration and disappointment would be cause to quit.
And then it hit me… some of you don’t get it. Please know I mean no disrespect by that statement.
What I mean is, not everyone grows up with a passion, so not everyone understands it.
When parents come to me and say: she is so frustrated, she is not getting the scores she wants, she’s working so hard, but it still is not enough, she is emotional, stressed out, tired all the time, her feet bleed, her body hurts, the judges said mean things, she didn’t make that audition, she was overlooked for a scholarship AGAIN… a lot of times my gut reaction is: so what? That’s ok… she’ll be fine! None of those things are reasons to quit! Those are all things that come with passion, they are expected, they are natural, they are inevitable.
As their teachers we get it, we get it because we went through the exact same thing. And we know the only thing that got us through those hard times is our passion.
There are a couple of things you need to know about me. I never had a solo, I never got a scholarship at a convention (most of the time I was too chicken to even audition), I had roles taken away from me after they were already awarded, I was kicked out of more Ballet classes then I care to admit and I wanted to quit dance every year.
I didn’t want to quit because I didn’t love it, I wanted to quit because it’s hard.
Being a dancer is not easy; it takes character, courage, ambition, strength of mind and body, dedication and heart. These are all very grand traits for a child to even understand but they are traits that I hope my own children grow up with and I’ll bet they are traits you want your children to grow up with too.
So, my point is, when the going gets tough (and it will) be stronger than your child. Remind them why they love this, encourage them to be brave and strong. Support them in their struggles and raise them to not be quitters or victims.
I have a saying that I try to model my life around: Nothing is worse than just being average. Except nothing less than extraordinary.
I hope your children grow up with the same high standards I have for them, I expect them to be extraordinary… you should to.