The Reluctant Dance Mom

As a child I was extremely awkward and clumsy from the moment I started walking. My mother claims she was concerned I would seriously hurt myself since I was constantly falling, tripping, walking into things, and dropping things. I had no interest in any sports so, desperate to give me some “grace” (as she called it), she enrolled me in dance classes when I was six. One class led to many classes and by the time I was thirteen I was dropped off at the studio (with my homework and food) almost every afternoon for at least 2-3 hours of classes. I joined the company and competed and I participated in countless recitals. My mother eventually added my younger sister to the mix and we were a “dance family”. My mother was a “dance mom”.

I didn’t hate everything about being a dancer but I hated most of it. I despised the headaches I would get, every night, after my thick long hair had been confined to a bun all afternoon. I resented spending almost every day at the studio with no down time. I loathed the competition among my dance friends for prime roles in performances or front row spots in recital numbers. As I got older, I hated the focus on my body. Most of all, however, I disliked feeling uncomfortable. Remember, I was (and still am) awkward and clumsy. Dancing well was extremely difficult for me.

I survived, however, and I have to admit I’m much more graceful than I was as a kid and I hide my innate clumsiness pretty efficiently. I attribute that skill to my many, many years of dance. Fast forward several years and I found myself a mother to two little girls, ages three and five, begging me for dance classes. I resisted, telling them they wanted to play a sport, not dance. I felt as if I missed a vital part of high school not belonging to a team. I, as any angsty teenager would do, blamed my mother for this telling her she should have signed me up for a sport at six, not dance. I did not want to have a similar argument with my own teens and was determined to get them into something OTHER than dance. Just the thought of being a “dance mom” made me shiver in fear. Dance gear, costumes, buns, point shoes, dress rehearsals, recitals…I couldn’t even fathom it. Not to mention, my memories of the competition, body image issues, and my general level of unease as a dancer came to the surface again and I simply did not want my girls to be part of that world. So I appeased them by signing them up for dance classes through the local community center. I only had to commit to six sessions at a time and there was no real requirements except to show up and have fun. I also signed them up for soccer.

After about a year or so both girls began to complain about dance classes and resisted attending. Before either could change their minds, I dumped dance from our schedule and focused on soccer. I became a proud “soccer mom”, shivering out on those fields for both fall and spring seasons, all the time thanking my lucky stars that my girls and I had not been sucked into the dance world.

Then came baby girl number three…..

From the moment she started focusing on the world, it was clear she was a music lover. Once she could move purposefully she started wiggling, jumping, and spinning whenever music was played. My mother would say to me, “I think you have a dancer on your hands” and I would shut her down. No way. She’s going to play soccer like the big girls. Once she turned four my mother reminded me, in her “I’m always right” way, that I should at least sign the baby up for some informal dance classes since I had offered the opportunity to dance to the older girls. “I mean it’s only fair”, she said. The community center was no longer offering informal classes but a dance mom friend of mine mentioned that her daughter’s dance school offered classes over the summer. These classes were meant to be informal and fun and a great way for kids to see if they, in fact, wanted to dance. After being nagged encouraged by my mother, I dragged myself down there with my credit card and signed her up. I also signed her up for soccer. Here she is, day one:

DOOMED. Photo Credit S. Orris
Photo Credit S. Orris

So guess what? I’m a dance mom. And it’s not so bad. The studio we chose has a casual, fun feel to it and everyone I know with children there is extremely happy. The cost is…high…but not excessive and honestly no more than the cost of my older daughter’s travel soccer league. My daughter is happy and my middle daughter just joined a hip hop class at the studio. She of course blames me for taking her OUT of dance years ago so I did not manage to escape an argument with my almost teenager after all. I’ve also discovered I can be a soccer mom and a dance mom without imploding–just like the girls can wear both ballet slippers and cleats.

Here’s the baby, fierce on the field.

#princesseswearcleats Photo Credit S. Orris
Photo Credit S. Orris

And here she is, the cutest tiny dancer around.

#tinydancer Photo Credit S. Orris
Photo Credit S. Orris

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