I can’t dance. Never have never will.
But dance is a huge part of my life.
Since my sister was three years old I’ve spent countless evenings and weekends taking her to and from dance classes, hours sitting in uncomfortable theatre seats with over priced tickets that they say help the funding for the competition team. But when the next September rolls around I still hear my parents complain and budget for the ever-rising prices.
You’d think I’d hate it after eleven years, but I love it.
I love watching my sister dance. It’s the only reason I tolerate the problematic atmosphere.
My sister entered the competitive world when she was seven years old. I’m assuming most of you know the Lifetime show Dance Moms?
It’s the same.
Whiny, wealthy, white, moms fighting over who’s child is better, or who’s daughter deserves to win. Except they don’t actually fight.
It’s through the cut-eye shared in an over crammed dressing room filled with exhausted eight-year old’s wearing way too much make-up. It’s the snickers in the dark theatre when someone’s child falls out of a turn or comes in a beat early.
It’s in the silence. The lack of conversation within a broken team.
Do you know when that silence gets worse? When a child wins.
A child like my sister.
Now my mom isn’t like those moms, which I think in a way makes the whole thing worse. My sister was raised humble, and the longer she stays humble the more hatred builds up in the parents wheeling their children’s suitcases out of a competition theatre with no hardware to show for the weekend.
When she first started winning people would congratulate her with a light in their eyes that made it genuine, because they still held onto the hope that they’re child would “get her next time”. But they never did and that light in their eyes eventually dimmed until all she started getting was monotone, obligatory, words and more…silence.
I understand where they’re coming from, we all understand jealousy, it’s frustrating, but maybe if they shifted they’re passion for hating the winners, into passion for their child’s dance needs they’d have a much better time.
I mean can you imagine spending every weekend envying a ten-year old?
When you try to research these problems in the dance world, a bunch of positive articles come up like , Reasons Why We Dance, or 5 Reasons Why Your Kids Should Dance. It took be quite a while to find this article by Bree Hafen, 5 Reasons You Should Be A Competition Dancer (and a few reasons you maybe shouldn’t!). She writes about all the obvious benefits of experience and connections when it comes to the dance world but she also writes this,
“Do not base your worth on a piece of plastic. Notice how nowhere in the reasons listed above did I mention the “trophy” being a benefit. Dance is SUBJECTIVE, and yes – even political at times. Any given day with a different set of judges, a different result could be met. Placements should not mean much. Remember that (aside from actual technical flaws/weaknesses) it is often opinion, not fact, that says one dancer is better than the other. Do not decide that because you didn’t place in the top 5 that you are worthless. Take those worth-their-weight-in-gold judges critiques and find out what you can work on to get a better score and -more importantly- become a better dancer. Then go back to the studio and do it!” – Bree Hafen
And I think it’s this that needs to also be passed down to the parents as well. A situation where these dance moms can look around and say,
“My child isn’t upset. Why am I?”
But that’s living in a perfect world and the dance world is far from perfect.
I don’t know how my sister does it. I wouldn’t be able to. She takes the glares in stride, the petty comments as motivation to keep winning. She has this pressure on top of her shoulders now. I see it in the way her chin lifts when she walks into the competition building, in the way she comes home from dance class and rushes to the basement to fit in an extra half-hour of stretching, her disappointment when she misses even the slightest of steps in one of her solo’s.
None of the teacher’s ever say anything, they pretend like they don’t know what goes on behind their perfected choreography.
But then again no one ever says anything.
There’s only silence.
Silence filled with over one-hundred kids all fighting for what the adults call perfection. No one ever thinks about how this silence affects the actual dancers, because the dance world isn’t about the children.