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Last year I sat in the audience for six hours to watch my friend’s little girl perform in her dance recital. This year I sneaked backstage to see what goes on behind the curtain, which conveniently gave me opportunities to get up and move around. Despite what you may have seen on television, these ‘dance moms’ created an environment that I would characterize as organized chaos with a healthy dose of cooperation, encouragement and smiles.
I asked a few backstage why they are willing to invest the time and money in dance. Christi Zumwalt, mother of Charity (11), says, “I see dance increase Charity’s confidence, and she learns rhythm, and coordination.” Charity says, “I like dance because I get to dance with my friends.”
Besides getting to dress up for the recital, with full makeup and hair styles, what do kids get out of dance? Abby Furr, 10, who has been dancing for five years, says, “Whenever I am sad I like to dance because it makes me feel better.” Her mom, Shawn Dale says, “She’s naturally good at dance and she truly enjoys it.” Susan says, “Dance is my daughter’s stress relief, she even dances at home when she needs to blow off steam. We just love Ms. Angie (the dance instructor), she’s wonderful.”
There was so much going on backstage. It appeared the moms were tasked not only with helping the girls with costume changes, hair and makeup, but also for making sure the girls were in place at the appropriate time. While I tried to ask a few questions and snap a few pictures, everyone backstage was busy. So I did a little eavesdropping, and there were some funny moments. Several times I heard, “This is itchy,” and “Please sit down, you’re going to undo all the work we did on your hair if you keep running around.” “Don’t drink out of the water fountain we spent too long on your makeup for you to wash it all off.” But best of all “Can you smile for momma? Well, can you smile for Jesus? Put your skirt down, Jesus don’t want to see your panties.”
Some people may have the impression that dance moms are all pushing their kids to take dance. That wasn’t the atmosphere I observed. I asked a couple of moms ‘why dance’? The recurring theme was that the girls love it. As long as they love it the moms would make sure they could participate. But I didn’t get the impression it was compulsory. Susan Butler says, “There was a time my daughter wanted a break from dance. But after about a year she decided she wanted to start back. And we’ve done it ever since.”
The recital this year had 65 different performances. There were friends and family members there for the entire recital encouraging all the dancers for four hours. That’s a high level of commitment on the part of the dancers, their families, and their beloved dance instructor, ‘Ms. Angie’. Although I have seen boys at dance recitals in the past, this year the show was all girls. They were encouraging and supportive of one another saying “You look so pretty” and “You did great.”
I really hope their experience will help them to maintain this level of positivity and encouragement toward one another. Wouldn’t it be nice if middle school were like a dance recital? Girls can be so mean to one another, but they can be nice as well. I’m rooting for nice and it appears to me that dance can foster this quality in kids.
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