June 14, 2017

Passing the Baton

... to my daughter.  Except it wasn't a 100 meter relay or even an ice show - it was a dance recital.

When we moved to New Jersey almost three years ago, I was amazed by the abundance of dance studios.  It seemed there was one in every strip mall.  That was good for my daughter, since she is not a skater (has only been on the ice three times in her life) and she doesn't play any sports.

Dance is her movement of choice.

Luckily, all of us ex-show skaters (well, me, at least) think we know a little something about our close cousin, dance.  Hey, I can't teach the fundamentals of pirouettes, but I can tell when a toe is not pointed, an arm is drooping and ... honey, you need to do the pirouette again, this time spin faster. Good, and again.  And again.

I know, I know, not cool coming from your mom.  But I can't help it because I want her to look her best when she's on stage performing.  (Here's the dangerous part - as a show skater, not a competitor, I want her to use whatever technique she can to make the move look best.  Bad habits, bad technique, be damned.)

It was strange for me to watch her during random moments of her performance - sort of an out of body experience - because one second she looks like me or at another she looks 5 years old, not 13.  She's doing much harder turns and leaps than she did at 5, so I get a pang of pride when she whips off a difficult trick.

I also felt a huge sense of relief when it was over.  Now as a mom, not a performer, certain things are beyond my control.  But what is still in my control made me a nervous wreck ... did she have all her costume pieces because we can't drive back home now? ... is her bun going to stay in or will she be the one girl on stage with her hairdo malfunction? ... will she forget to take off her eyeglasses?  ... did she bring all of her shoes? ... will she fall out of her double pirouette? ...will she scratch her nose or ear during a performance? ...

All in all, the dance recital went well.  She did her job, I did mine.

Here's one thing I like about her having only one performance a year - it keeps the costs and time commitments down.   When I went to the Synchro Skating Eastern Sectionals in Hershey PA this winter, I sat next to a dad (a doctor) who had a son in hockey and a daughter in synchro skating and in his words, "We're going to the poor house."  This one trip encompassed new costumes, two or three hotel nights, not sure how much in coaches' fees, extra ice time and gas or airline tickets.  That adds up when you do that multiple times a year.

Right now we look at my daughter's dance as good exercise since she's not getting it to or from or in school - she needs to do something.  It's expensive as exercise already.  If you added on the cost of the competitions - yikes!

Here's one thing I don't like about having only one performance a year - the pressure.  She's got one shot to get it right.  And due to the recording policy, the only time to video the dance is during the dress rehearsal, so she's got to get it right coming out of the gate.  I understand the policy and like that during dress rehearsal, parents our free to record the child's performance and expected to leave or leave open seats to others when another group of kids is performing.  It generally works out.  And then during the performance, the audience watches the performance like the olden days.

The cruel irony these dance students face is as amateurs you rarely perform.  If you make it as a profession, you will constantly perform.

It's unlikely my daughter will ever become a professional dancer.  While she is very graceful and poised on stage (yes, I'm her mother, but she really is) she doesn't have the technique to take her to the higher levels.  Those were my strengths and weaknesses as a skater too.  The apple doesn't fall down far from the axel tree.

And because she's unlikely to dance professionally, that's where our dilemna comes in - should she keep dancing in high school, even though other younger students will pass her by making her more insecure or does she leave dancing or concentrate on things she's better at (debate, languages, acting)?

She had tears last night after coming back from the class that watches the recital together.  The teacher asked each student what he/she wanted to do next year.  My daughter is straddling that more than familiar spot where girls either dig in and commit to nothing but dance or they leave.  She knows she's not as strong as the others.  She wants to continue dancing, but she'll face the scrutiny of others wondering why she's decided to stay.

Making the decision harder is the studio's annoying policy that dictates if you want to take hip-hop, you must take jazz, if you take jazz you must take ballet, if you take ballet you must take a technique class and you must take at least four disciplines (okay, add in tap) and you get the idea.  This studio is set up to take your money.  She took five classes a week last year and that was considered barely involved because she wasn't in the studio's special performance troupe.

But wait a minute, Ice Charades, didn't you write in the beginning that there is a dance studio in every strip mall? 

Why yes I did.  Thanks for asking.  And if you're still reading this far, THANKS for reading!  Yes, there are two other studios nearby, but each of them has their quirks that make her present studio the right one.

And wouldn't you know it, her studio puts on the BEST recital as far as costumes, props, stage, and staging.  It's a slick production designed to entertain, not emphasize the dancers' skills.   So if she only gets the one recital a year, it may as well be the showy one, right?  Again I repeat, unlike kids who compete in sports who have games as well as practice all season, the dancers get one shot.

I guess I just answered my own question.  Yes, she'll continue to dance.  She'll do her best, despite what others are doing.  And I'll still be proud.


Q said...

Wow, talk about a restrictive policy. I lament sometimes the lack of available studios for adults who want to learn. But my studio doesn't require me to take another discipline just because of the one I'm in. That would be a fast way to burn me out. Why can't dance and the like just be recreational? Why does it have to be all or nothing?

Ice Charades said...

I agree Q. Thanks for commenting. I also wish there were more studios for adults too. I've been reading the Yelp reviews for some of the studios in NYC (where there are a bunch of adult classes) but the reviews sounded the alarm on how intimidating they were. For now, I've got You Tube and some space in the basement (if I move the ottoman) and I'm a dancer! (in my mind only ;-)