I reluctantly watched an episode of Dance Moms with my daughter yesterday. We don't watch much TV and when we choose to do so, reality TV is not on our list of 'must sees'.
I was peripherally aware of this programme, as my daughter had danced since the age of 3 or thereabouts, so of course other Dance families watch the show and talk about it ad nauseaum.
Well, having watched it, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
I see shades of every dance teacher I've had the good fortune or misfortune, depending upon your point of view, to cross paths with, and shadows of many dance students and their parents, including myself and The Diva, in the unfortunate members of this cast.
And I've decided, that it's a bit of a disgraceful world really, this world of competitive dance. It never sat well with me, even when we were involved (we're not any more), and the deathly seriousness with which the coveted trophies of Age Champion or whatever they call the darned things, are pursued just reminds me of that movie Best in Show. In fact I've been known to refer to Dance Eisteddfods as being similar to a Dog Show, but in tutus. Naturally I do not refer to the kids, who are all beautiful, but merely to the format to which these proceedings adhere. The kids aren't named, the schools aren't named unless they win something or place, and no-one apart from the parents knows one little tutu-ed and be-sparkled child from another. And yet, each parent imagines that their child is the one who will become A STAR.
Naturally it suits the dance teachers to foster this belief and any question of whether my child should, from one year to the next, continue to dance is met with a long list of my childs glowing attributes, and promises that 'she'll get her chance to shine' dangled like a carrot in front of ones nose. I bought into it for a long time.
Then I realised that I had other children, frail and ageing parents, friends and siblings and other good folk with whom I wanted to spend my time, and who I thought were more important in my childs life than 'Dance'.
So we gracefully bowed out and my daughter now dances for the sheer love of dance. She doesn't 'compete', and she doesn't lose sleep over whether she'll get that extra two points that will push her up to a Distinction for her ballet exam result. She has an enviable poise and posture to die for, and I think she'll probably dance forever...for the love of it. Not because she's been falsely led to believe that there's a pot at the end of the rainbow in the form of a short lived career as a ballerina.
That woman who runs THAT dance school in the Dance Moms show, has the same attitude of many teachers I've met, in that she believes she is some sort of God with the power to bestow fame and fortune upon those she chooses to tutor. In my experience this is a thinly veiled excuse for Dance teachers to bully both parents and students to adhere to a punishing schedule of rehearsals and classes. In the end, it's not about the kids. It's about THEM. It's about the teachers seeking the fame and fortune that eluded them as young dance graduates and it's about them seeking to retain a shimmer of glory and mystique that oddly surrounds those even tenuously connected to the Entertainment world.
We all want that. We all want to be special. We want our children to be special and we desire a good and comfortable life for them. We want that bit of glamour too, lets be honest.
But for us, the glamour had a bit of soot around the edges, the glitter was a bit too jarringly sparkly sometimes, and frankly, my daughter is already special. The most special daughter in the world because she's ours, and we love her no matter what.
Thank the stars (no pun intended) for our new low key dance studio. The two ladies who run it are in their twilight years. Dance has been their life. They encourage students from the ages of 2 to 102. For them dance has no barriers. They have students who are vision impaired, hearing impaired and students with conditions that are terminal. They exhibit a simple passion and joy for dance that we found lacking for so long in the 'shiny' Dance studios where we were previously involved. I have no doubt that our old teachers smirk behind their hands at the news of where my daughter now dances. It's not shiny. It's not the best. It doesn't have swanky premises.