My oldest has danced for many years. Almost seven. She loves it and has made great friends and had great experiences. But I am beginning to wonder if it’s time for a change. Time for doing things differently. She loves to dance and she loves to perform, but I also know she’d love to do more.
For years, it’s been easy to balance dance and school, as school was – well – easy. But after moving into a radically accelerated program this school year, the homework load has increased significantly. It’s tolerable and do-able, but a challenge when you spend so much time at a dance studio, and leaves almost no time to do anything else. Education rules supreme in our home, and the program she is in has been wonderful for her on every level, she is the happiest I have ever seen her when it comes to school, but it simply demands more than traditional classes do. It is a non-negotiable constant, so finding more time means examining what we do outside of school.
Like many gifted kids, she has quite a few interests and is talented in many areas. She adores anything related to art. She loves to sing and wants to take part in chorus. She is an amazing swimmer who is incredibly fast, is built for the sport and given her dance background, I think she’d be a great diver. She spent some time fencing last year, and took to it like a natural. She wants to play soccer. She wants to be in school plays and maybe try an instrument. There are so many things she enjoys doing, that devoting all of her time to dance makes less and less sense with each passing day.
Kids devote extraordinary amounts of time to a single sport all of the time, but there is also the practical matter that very few (if any?) kids go to college on a dance scholarship. No, I don’t think that the incredibly remote chance of a scholarship is a reason to take part in any sport, but if one is going to devote so much time to a single sport, shouldn’t it be one where that option at least exists?
I am a believer that every moment in a child’s life counts and goes by fast. I struggle with this when it comes to dance. Not every moment is well spent. The pace can sometimes be a bit too relaxed. Relaxing is great, and I’d love my child to be able to do more of it, but not while at dance. Get in, get to work, get something accomplished and get out. I think a number of people would be happy spending their life inside the walls of a studio, but there is a big beautiful world out there. There is sunshine and fresh air. There are pictures to be painted, songs to be sung, puddles to be jumped in, books to be read and mysteries to be explored. I want my child to look back and see a colorful and well rounded childhood, not a shelf of dance awards that hold little meaning outside of the microcosm that is dance. There has to be more than just dance and school. At least for us.
I also struggle with the fact that the vision of where she dances seems to be changing. Art, creativity and athletic ability should be king in dance, at least in my opinion, and a shifted focus placing more emphasis on winning and judging and scores is bothersome to me. The right things are still there, but a greater awareness and concern for scores, top spots and titles seems to be creeping in. Dance is a subjective sport when it comes to judging, and hearing parents place so much emphasis on scoring disappoints me. Praise the effort not the outcome. Value the effort, especially when the outcome is truly outside of the child’s control. Seeing so much weight given to the outcome drives the former therapist in my c-r-a-z-y.
My daughter has had golds (the bottom) and platinums (the top). I can say some of her best dancing received some of the lowest scores. She has a solo one year that bombed at every competition from a scoring standpoint, but made me well up with tears every time she danced it because I found it so touching. One of her most creative dances this year doesn’t seem to be connecting with judges, but who the hell cares, it’s creative and different and the girls love it. Enjoying what they are doing and growing through it is what matters most. Trying new things, going outside the box, pushing themselves and each other – those are so valuable, but can not be measured on a score sheet. Doing your personal best is something that can’t be judged by someone who does not know you.
And then there is the even more bothersome new found focus on the pageantry aspect of it. No offense to those who love a tiara, but when one of those, or the mention of a “photogenic” category enters the picture, the value of the artistic expression and athletic ability was just diminished in my mind. The dance world we signed up for steered clear of those and acknowledged that those are for the most part nothing more than a recognition you buy. Yet I find myself looking around and seeing those exact things working their way in somehow and realize that where we are maybe isn’t where we once were. The close knit, team focused, family atmosphere that was once there is slowly crumbling to internal competition. It feels as if it’s at a turning point, a fork in the road, and I’m not sure what direction it will go.
So I think it’s time to stop, look around, take stock and re-evaluate the course. I have no doubt she will continue to dance, but maybe it’s time for it to become one of the things she does, not the only thing she has time to do. I’m not sure what the future holds, but it holds change. It most likely holds less dance and more something else. I never want my girls to look back in life and feel they missed opportunities to try the things that they were interested in. At nine, my oldest is half way to adulthood. Time is precious an fleeting. Make the most of it.