All that Glitters: What I Learned from Our First Experience with Dance Competition

Move over Abbey Lee…no, seriously, move to another planet.

If you think that every dance mom is a “Dance Mom” you would be mistaken, because dance moms look like this too: 

They do smile and enjoy watching their child ENJOY dancing!
It’s our first year dancing with the team at A Step Above Dance Academy and it is my oldest daughter’s fourth year dancing.  
Here’s what I learned from my first season as an official dance mom:
The Makeup is OKAY. Seeing young girls “dolled up” conjures up those creepy pageant baby doll images and I understand why it sets people on edge.  I understand why moms AND dads cringe a little as they look at their baby girls and flash forward to their teenage years with a swipe of a mascara wand.  But I also understand performance. I’ve stood on a stage in more make up than I would EVER be caught on the streets wearing.  It’s not just “part of the business.” There is a reason for it. The bright lights of the stage wash everyone out. And we perform as much with our faces as we do with our bodies. Makeup is the way that we can enhance the features of the face so that expression can be seen despite the lights–even from the back row of the auditorium. So I’ve come to terms with the Barbie-esque make up. 
I have more respect for our studio and teachers. I’ve always been happy with them. Especially the no-nonsense tumbling instructor who really means business and doesn’t take any crap from the kids. Some parents go into mama-bear-mode when their kids get some tough love from their instructors. But, I personally like that they expect more from these girls. Raise the bar, I say, and the kids will rise up to reach it!  
At competition I saw just how easy it is to push right over the line when it comes to sexualizing and forcing these girls into some grown up role…I wouldn’t even call it “grown up”–unless you are growing up to be a stripper. Song choice and choreography and costume choice go hand in hand in hand. And I thank my lucky stars that I have found a studio that wouldn’t send my nine year old on stage in a glittery barely there bikini with a plastic snake draped over her shoulders to gyrate to Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted Snake.” And if they thought about it, I would definitely have something to say. Thank you for keeping it age appropriate. I only wish I could un-see some of the shenanigans I witnessed from other studios at our competition. 
So how competitive is it? I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the teams are pretty evenly matched. They are competing in age groups and skill levels. So similar ages and skill levels are put against each other, but they may not dance back to back and depending on the size of the competition there might not be another team to compete against.  
So what is done in that case? Well, from my primitive understanding, each team starts with, let’s say, 300 points and then points are deducted for various dance infractions. And then their total score is measured against a standard that equals a silver, gold, platinum, double platinum and in some cases a crystal (the top award). So the teams are competing against each other but they also compete against themselves. At one competition their dance could receive a platinum and then at the next they could kick it up to a double platinum for instance. 
The first time I saw this quote, I fell in love. I immediately told my girls.  It would be easy to look at the other dancers and fall down a rabbit hole:  I’m not good enough, I’ll never be that good, I’m no good. I don’t want Jordan’s (or any of my girls’) joy for dance to be robbed by their constant comparison of  themselves to other dancers. Jordan has come a long way from the five year old bopping slightly out of sync to The Jackson Five’s “ABC” and I’m excited to see the dancer she will be tomorrow. 
It makes me take a step back and think about life as a writer and blogger. All too often, I tend to compare myself  and our blog to other blogs and writers and sometimes I let myself slip down that same rabbit hole: I’m not good enough, I’ll never be that good, I’m no good.  And then I have to remember where I came from and how far we have come with our blog. 
And I’m excited to see the writer and blogger I will be tomorrow. I won’t let comparison rob my joy. 

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  1. says

    I am with you with the competition. Both my girls are in dance Emma is 2nd year and Lily is 1st year. They love it, but then I see my niece at 8 years old, who is on the competition team and all that entails and not sure if that is truly for my kids or not down the road. I think I will totally have to play that one by ear. But can very much relate to it even on the blogging/writing side, too. Like how you did make that comparison.

  2. kristin watkins says

    You totally took the words out of my mouth ,, and then some!!! I have clients and friends all the time that ask me,, are you like that show??? are you like them??? and NO is the answer,, we are so different,, our studio is so different,, our teachers are soooooooooo different and so much more classy!!!!!!!!!!!! we are blessed and yes,,i love the instruction,, it has made Reid so confident and so many thinkgs that she would never be able todo and experience,, I can go on and on!!!
    We love getting to experience it with great families like yours too!!!!!!!!!!xoxox

  3. Dara says

    I was just watching Dance Moms at the gym yesterday for the first time. My daughter does dance, but it’s not competitive dance. Glad you are not a crazy dance mom!

  4. Menopausalmother says

    The picture of you with you daughter is so lovely!!! My daughter was in dance when she was little and i felt it was a great experience for her. And btw–I do the same thing with other blogs–I read these amazing posts by people and I think I will never be that good…then I get upset and wonder why i am blogging in the first place, etc. We just have to pick ourselves up and get back at it–we just can’t compare because we are all so different with our own writing styles! This was a great post–thanks for sharing it!

  5. Meg Hammil says

    I really like this. My daughter has taken ballet for 9 years, and although she has never taken up competitive dancing, we appreciate the skills and talent involved. (we also laugh at Dance Moms each week.) I agree that skimpy costumes are far more jarring than makeup, but I have done theatre and I know how vital it is to being seen under those lights.

  6. says

    You’re not a real dance mom until you have thrown your bottle of water at someone’s back, or called them filthy names in front of their children.

    My two little sisters both danced competitively as children, and I was dragged to competitions every term break for years. Then my baby sister opened up a dance school and I became her bookkeeper. Now everyone is asking me when my little girl is going to start dance lessons and the answer is never. I have had too many years of competitive dance in my life, so she will just have to put up with dancing in the living room for the family.

  7. says

    Then I won’t mind being a “fake” dance mom from here on out! I hope that our experience remains as positive as this first one was, but I don’t doubt that what you are saying is true!

    When it stops being fun for the girls we won’t do it any more that is for sure!

  8. says

    Completely Agree, Meg. I was utterly in awe of some of the dancers there and truly appreciate all the hard work and dedication that they put in to their art! Thanks for taking time to comment.

  9. says

    Thank YOU! Janene and I started this blog as a place to build community. It is so hard not to compare…but I am genuinely happy when I see other bloggers succeed. It gives me hope that it is possible to be successful in this venture. I love to write. I love to share. And that’s always in the back of my mind as I blog. I’m not the funniest writer (I probably have my moments), I’m not the most knowledgeable on any one subject, but we all have something to offer!

  10. says

    Thanks so much for taking time to comment Kristin. I knew that you would be one of the people to get it. I think we stumbled on something pretty special! Glad to be part of it with you too!

  11. says

    You really do have to play it by ear. 8 years ago if you would have asked me where I would be now…I would have been way off the mark. The thing is my daughters LOVE it. My oldest really loves everything about dance and she has been gung ho since she first learned what dancing was. I couldn’t ignore something that she seemed so passionate about. Not the path that I took–but this is her dream and I have to (and want to) support her in it!

  12. Daily Dose of Damn says

    I love it when the parents let the kids just enjoy it and don’t inject their own personal agendas on the scene. Such a great quote for your girls – they will do enough comparing on their own in life – it’s nice they’re not feeling the pressure from you. You’re doing it right!

  13. Meredith says

    First things first, that pic of the two of you together is wonderful. You are GORGEOUS. And this post speaks to so much. I am so glad you found a studio that can respect these sweet girls. I am terrified for when we get to this age, and you are so right about the rabbit hole–not just for our girls, but for us too…excellent reminder.

  14. says

    Thank you for the compliment Meredith! I feel very lucky to have stumbled across this studio when we did! I guess we all just need to take it one day at a time. This parenting gig sure is tough!

  15. says

    That’s always the best idea. My niece gave it up after a few years because their dance school got sold and the new teachers weren’t as much fun. At the end of the day, especially at this age it is important to remember it is just a hobby..


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