Sunday, June 14, 2009

What Ever Happened to the Low Key Dance Recital?

I loved to dance as a little girl. My mother says that I would refuse to buy dresses unless they first passed the twirl test. The better the twirl and the movement of the dress the better.

I took Ballet classes in the basement of one of my mother's oldest friends' house. They had converted the basement into a Dance Studio with a large wall of mirrors, a Ballet Barre, and wooden floors.

Recitals were in that very same basement. Costumes were a leotard, a tutu, and tights. Nothing fancy.

I remember when I was in 2nd grade and the lead dancer in my Saturday morning class got the chicken pox during the week of the recital. Lead dancer in my mind only. She was the girl I watched so I could remember the steps. She was not going to be in the recital. Too sick.

My stomach was sick thinking that I would actually have to know the dance myself. It all worked out fine and I later learned everyone else was watching me for the steps. By the time we had cookies and lemonade after the recital in that very same basement, my butterflies had gone away and I was having fun.

Dance was fun. The girls were fun to be with. Recitals were a chance to show our parents what we'd been learning. We were thrilled to perform for our small group of parents. No stress. Low cost. I still remember all the Ballet Positions.

M has been taking dance for 7 years. She does not know what first position is today. Dance no longer stresses the classical ballet movements.

I'm struggling with what to do about Dance and M in the years ahead.

Our studio's recital was this weekend. It was at a Big Theater Downtown. A huge stage that normally has productions from Broadway, the local Opera etc. I saw "Wicked" just weeks ago in this very theater. This weekend's recital was a big production.

We had to be at Dress Rehearsal Friday at 3:00. Little A, who was in only one number besides the Finale, was in dance #38. She didn't go on stage until 6:45. Yep. Parents were not even allowed out in the front of the house to watch the Dress Rehearsal. We had to stay backstage the entire time unless our girls were on stage performing and then we could quickly run out front watch and then run backstage once again. Very little time for photos.

M was in a total of 8 dances, 8 costume changes, and 8 hairstyle changes. Plus the Finale. That's a lot of costumes people. Yes, she'd already performed 3 of the dances year round at dance competitions and knew them by heart, but she still had to perform a jazz, tap, ballet and all competition opening number.

We had to be back at the Theater Saturday at 2:45 for a 4:00 Recital that ended at 6:30. ( I won't even talk about the softball game at 9 a.m. or the end of VBS on Friday at 12:00.

Where has that "little basement with the cookies and lemonade recital" gone? It seems like everything has to be big and flashy. Are we no longer satisfied with the things on a small scale?

A few of the little girls I saw had been to get their hair done for the recital. Girls had on more makeup and glitter than I've worn in my entire life. They were done up. Not just so they wouldn't look pale under the stage lights, but for the glamor effect.

A few of the dances and the costumes made me happy that C was still at his baseball game and didn't have to watch girls dressed like that or dancing in ways that made me blush a little.

We go to a pretty conservative studio I thought. M and A's costumes were cute and the dances very appropriate, but I noticed that some of the hip hop and older girls are doing things that I'm not sure I feel comfortable with.

Tomorrow are the try outs for the next year's competition teams. M of course wants to go. I'm really struggling. Not only is competition dance a huge commitment of time, money and resources; I'm really wondering what message I'm sending to M with all this dance.

Will her body image be impacted by how the other girls look? Will she want to loose weight, dress in a certain way or listen to music I might not approve because the other girls are? She's perfect the way she is, but she'll never have that tiny ballet body. She's a good dancer, but she's not a superstar.

What about standing up for our values/our faith/ our standards? Can I claim one thing at home and then turn the other way when it comes to costumes, recitals, dance moves? Am I able to impact that a woman is more than her body when she sees all those competition dances moving and shaking and grooving their booties on stages?

Tell me again what happened to that basement dance studio with the strict teacher, first position, stretching, pointing toes and plies?

For the opening number of the Recital all levels of Competition Girls were dancing with halter top tank tops and black shorts. M was the only girl wearing long Justice Shorts. Everyone else wore "booty shorts." I had first sent her in softball/soccer shorts and the teacher said no they had to be all black/ no Adidas name on the back etc. So we got M a pair of shorts that she can wear whenever she wants. Black Shorts that are walking short length . While she's allowed to wear short shorts for sleeping and wearing over swimsuits, she can't wear booty shorts for anything.

My theory is that if they don't cover your entire "," they are underwear not shorts!

So how do I balance all of this? Do we quit dance all together? Do we cut back to just a ballet and tap class and opt out of the recital? Do we again look for a new studio?

M loves to dance. She's danced her whole life, all the time. To music, no music. She dances to the credits of a movie when they play a long song. She and A are always putting on little dances for us.

A wants to try Soccer in the fall. She's not a dancer. Really she's not a performer like M. She liked the dance class because she could see some friends and have some fun. She liked the Recital, but she didn't love it!

Stay tuned for more discussion on this and feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts.


Kim said...

Great questions and all ones that we have struggled with and weighed ourselves. Emma & Hannah both danced when they were little but then quit before kindergarten to pursue other interests (Emma-gymnastics, Hannah- softball & field hockey).

Now that Em is back into dance we ask ourselves some of these same questions. We are fortunate to have a very conservative studio near us that does not allow bare midriff costumes, booty shorts (we call them the same thing!), inappropriate music (lyrics) or movements. The downside is that the teaching is not that great.

We have a very conservative ballet studio in town that has great teaching, but Em really wants to do jazz. We will probably stay where we are because the alternative is similar to what you have described ... fine for younger ages but things get questionable as they get older and the cost is OUTRAGEOUS.

We only pay $30 a month for two classes at the studio we are at now. It is more than twice that much for the other studio and could easily be in the hundreds per month. Gymnastics is very costly and with meets can be upwards of $200 per month. The trade off was that she was truly skilled and improving in that sport but in all honesty wasn't headed towards a college career or anything ;)

Sorry to ramble. Just thought I would share that you are not alone in weighing the options. A friend told me that at the "other" studio you could alter costumes to appear more appropriate but I still ask myself if that is enough. Dancing alongside with girls who are scantily dressed seems just as immodest.

We are also entering the world of theater. Maybe your daughter loves the stage and would enjoy being in productions that involved acting, singing & dancing.

Blessings and prayers!

***OH! I danced like you did as a girl and those are my fondest memories :) I walked to a studio in town that was upstairs from a laundry-mat. Our dance teacher (Miss Sue) was strict and had a tight redheaded bun. She was all business and we loved it! It was a fairly decent size studio considering how tiny our town was (one stop-light) but she did such a good job of keeping things on the level. I think things have run out of control on every level (sports camps, dancing, etc.)

Anonymous said...

We had the same challenges with our girls. Keep looking-there may be other options out there. Where to draw the line is something every good parent struggles with-especially as our children get older. blessings for even thinking about it! Cindy