Picture This?

Parenting a teenager is hard. We all know about the hormones causing mood swings, attitudes, self-esteem and self-confidence issues. As adults, we’ve been there, we get it. It sucks. It sucks for the teens, and it sucks for the parents. That’s not what I’m talking about today.

Here’s what I’ve been struggling with. I’m going to take you back to earlier this week… Grace had her fitting for her first pair of pointe shoes. This was a big day for her! I think I was as excited as she was! I never got to dance en pointe when I was a younger dancer. Neither of us had a clue what to expect.

I REALLY wanted to document this big day. Anyone from our dance studio might tell you I’m a bit of a spaz when it comes to taking pictures. I joke that I’m the “Stalkarazzi” of our dance studio. I mostly take pictures of my daughter’s group and her friends, but I try to get a little of everyone. Why? Because I enjoy sharing them with the other parents and teachers at the studio. I’m not a great photographer, but I enjoy taking pictures, and I enjoy sharing them.

Guess what? I didn’t take one single picture at the pointe fitting. WHY NOT??? Because my daughter is a teenager.

This year, she is moving up to a brand new Teen Company group at Lake Area Dance Studio. She is dancing with many of the same girls from last year, plus a couple. She’s also in a mixed age tap small group (with the Senior Company group). She’s both nervous and excited about dancing with some of these older girls. I didn’t want to embarrass her by being the spaz with the camera at her first activity with the older girls.

There were a couple points (no pun intended) in the hour-long appointment that I really had to hold myself back. I tried to just enjoy the moment. As she sat there putting lamb’s wool over her toes for the first time, I wanted to document that moment with a picture.

When she went up to the barre, and went up on her toes for the first time, I was so proud! I wanted to capture that moment, that feeling, but I didn’t – at least not with my camera.

As she tried on several different pairs, as she chose the ones that were just right for her, as she went up to the counter clinging to those brand new shoes that she was both nervous and excited to own, I didn’t take one picture. There was even a very sweet moment between Grace and her teacher that I so badly wanted to put in her scrapbook, but I didn’t take the photo.

I held back, I enjoyed the moment. This is not a bad thing. So why is it so hard? Is because of social media? Is it because I just want to remember every moment always?

When the older girls left, and it was just me, Grace, Miss Maria, and another girl she danced with last year, I could have taken some pictures. But… I didn’t. Instead, I just watched…

The only pic of the pointe shoes - one that Grace took when we got home.

The only pic of the pointe shoes – one that Grace took when we got home.

When I got in the car to head home, I was a little sad I didn’t take any pictures. Truthfully, I was not just a little sad, I felt guilty. Don’t ask why, I just do that sometimes for no good reason.

I asked Grace if I could take a picture of her at home with her new shoes on. She said no. Not because she didn’t want a picture in them, but because she didn’t want to get dog hair on her precious new shoes.

Grace said that I should have taken pictures at the fitting. More Mom guilt. That wasn’t her intention. She just wondered why I hadn’t. She’s so used to me being the “Stalkarazzi”, obsessively taking pictures of everything… how do you make that switch? Should I?? Or should I keep on taking the pictures?? If I keep taking the pictures, am I potentially missing out on those moments of just feeling???

The internal struggles of the parent of a teenager…



I just wanted to send a quick “Thank you!” to the employees at Grand Jete in St. Paul. The woman who helped us (I’m sorry, I didn’t catch her name) took the time to not only fit each dancer for just the right shoes, but also took the time to explain proper care of pointe shoes. Who knew there was so much to learn? Now that I know how pointe shoes are made, I understand why you always see them hanging. Makes sense that you need to keep them dry (though gross to think about sweaty feet). ;-)

I especially appreciated how she had each dancer try on a few different types of shoes, even when they thought they had found the perfect fit. I never even knew there were so many different kinds of pointe shoes. There are harder and softer shanks (the part on the bottom), different types of toes (some are more rounded, some more square)… It was a learning process for all of us, but was also a lot of fun. The personal attention really made it special for all the dancers getting their first pair of pointe shoes!


Michael’s First Karate Tournament


These were all the competitors in form; not all in the same division.

On June 1st, Michael had his first karate tournament as part of Team Forte. He hadn’t been on the team very long, and was very nervous about competing. Luckily, this was a very small tournament – a great way to start out.

The tournament was very different from how I remember them being  20 or so years ago when I used to compete. I can’t pinpoint exactly how, but it wasn’t what I expected.

The event was held at Stillwater High School. We walked into the school into a cafeteria, it was fairly dark, and very quiet. The attached gym was nice and bright though.

Right at the start, the rules were explained to all the competitors before they divided them into groups. Two of Michael’s teachers were judges in his ring in the tournament. I thought that doing his form in front of familiar faces might help him relax a little, but it didn’t.  Master Forte was there, but was not judging. He stood ring-side to cheer Michael and Daniel (the other Team Forte competitor) on.

Before Michael’s turn to compete, teammate Daniel competed in an adjoining ring. Daniel has been on the Team for at least a year. He also competes dance (in fact, he is on Michael’s sister, Grace’s dance team). He was very comfortable in front of the judges. He took first place in his ring.


Michael’s kicks are really looking good! :-)

When it was Michael’s turn, his nerves kicked in to high gear. He introduced himself, and proceeded with his form. He did an excellent job!! I was very proud of him!

Where his nerves showed, was that his form was about twice as fast it should have been. I’m not really sure he breathed the entire time! Once he was done, he took a few deep breaths, and looked very upset. He told us he wasn’t happy with how he did.

We were very proud of him, even if he was a little fast. He had the guts to go out there, compete, and get scored.

In the end, he scored 4th place (out of 4). The first 3 places received a medal; fourth place got a trophy. Trophies are cooler, anyway!!

After some congratulations, and pictures with different people who came to cheer him on, his sister and I left. Michael and his dad stayed to watch the competitors who were sparring later in the day. Since it was Michael’s first tournament, he opted to only compete in form. He seemed to enjoy watching team mates and his teachers spar. Who knows, he just may do both in the next tournament.

Michael and Mr. Hallberg, his main teacher, and one of the ring judges.

Michael and Mr. Hallberg, his main teacher, and one of the ring judges.

Here are the people who came to cheer him on:

  • His Aunt, Uncle, and cousin Andrew
  • His Grandma and Papa
  • His buddy Mason, who also takes karate at Forte’s Karate, and was in dance class with Michael; and his Mom, Madison
  • His sister, Grace
  • Me
  • His Dad

StarQuest 2014

007 (2)Now that Nationals is over, and my posts have been written, I should probably write about the last regional competition of the year, StarQuest. It was held at the RiverCentre in St. Paul, MN. This year, they had two stages. Rather than having them back-to-back like at Hall of Fame, the second stage was downstairs (a location I had no idea was even there). Many of the solos, duets, etc. were located down there. We went down to watch a few team mates perform. It was a really nice space! There were also more food options downstairs. Wish we’d have checked it out earlier in the week!

They seemed to be having some sound issues, especially downstairs. Many songs sounded very crackly (especially from our studio). Other songs seemed quieter than they should have. I saw at least 2 dances from our studio alone that had such poor sound quality, they asked the dancers to leave the stage, then tried again. One of these times was during the evening dance off (finals). We weren’t the only studio during which they had sound issues, but it seemed worse with ours for some reason.

This competition spread out over several days. I really wish these long competitions were not at venues we have to pay for parking every day. It makes for an expensive weekend. We had to be there on 3 different days this time. Thursday for Production, Saturday for small group, and Sunday for the other 3 dances. While StarQuest is always a fun time, I don’t love the awards ceremony there. It goes so fast, that it’s hard to follow along.

20140508_182909My favorite thing about StarQuest this year, was the Finals. They consisted of the top 20 soloists in each age division competing for the top solo spot. Three dancers from Lake Area Dance Center were in the Finals! This is the first time LADC has had one, let alone 3 soloists competing for the top spot! Olivia Johnson and Sage Neal both competed in the Juniors division. Madelyn Lee competed for the top spot in the Seniors division. Sage took 2nd overall, and Olivia took 1st overall! Amazing results for two amazing dancers! :-) Someone from StarQuest caught studio owner Maria’s response to finding out our two juniors took 1st and 2nd place. Watch her awesome response here.


I’ve been working on this post since mid-May (shortly after the competition was held). I think it’s time to wrap it up with the results. My notes of placements, etc. are all over the program due to not having those spaces to write in results. It’s frustrating when they don’t give you that space. Here they are:

038Senior Hip Hop – took 5th overall

Production – 1st place overall in Production

Company Tap – Explosive Energy Award,  Platinum (I do not have the overall placements on this age group)

Company Contemporary – Platinum

Company Jazz – High Gold

Squad (Pom) – HG

Sparkles Ballet – Concept Award, Costume Award, High Gold, 5th overall

Sparkles Jazz – High Gold

Sparkles Tap – Platinum, 4th overall

Sugarplums Jazz – High Gold

Sugarplums Tap – High Gold, 5th overall

Shawty’s (Hip Hop) – Great Expressions Award, High Gold, 3rd overall

Crew (Hip Hop) – Platinum, 3rd overall

Diamonds (Lyrical) – Platinum, 1st overall

Elites (Musical Theater) – Platinum, 2nd overall

Dynamites (Tap) – Platinum, 4th overall

Angels Contemporary – Platinum, 2nd overall

Angels Jazz – Platinum, 1st overall

Angels Tap – High Gold, 4th overall

Gems (Pom) – High Gold, 1st overall

Overall Choreography awards – LADC

I know I missed several small group and did not include any of the soloists here. I either did not get those results, or could not find the overalls for those divisions in my program. Overall, our studio did very well. We are very proud to be able to represent Lake Area Dance Center. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us! :-)









Masquerade Nationals 2014 – Finals

Ice cream treats with studio friends after Finals were over.

Ice cream treats with studio friends after Finals were over.

I wrote about Masquerade Nationals already, but thought Finals deserved its own post. I also realized a few things that I forgot to mention in my previous post.


I forgot to mention the great boutique shop at Nationals. I know in the past I have talked about it, but it’s still worth bringing up again. Programs sold for $7, a great price for this thick program! It not only listed the names of each studio and dancer, but also had space in the back to write all the placement awards, and Finals lineup. For me, having space to write down results, is an important part of the program!

They also had a deal – you could purchase a program, sweat pants, and a “city t-shirt” with the names of all the dancers in the competition on the back, for $50. Grace already had the sweatpants, so I got the deal for me. ;-) Grace got a cute pair of shorts (with built in bikers) and tank top for $15 each. I always enjoy shopping in their boutique, even if I end up buying more than I had planned on.


I also failed to mention the food choices available at this venue this year. Since changing names (owners?), they have better choices of food. It’s still quite expensive, but is also a better quality. There is pizza, which is too greasy, but tastes good once you soak a few napkins with it. There is also an over-priced walking taco that is ok, but a nice change from soggy subs, and the line is shorter than walking a block away to Subway. Grace has suddenly gotten into salads, Caesar salads in particular. They had huge salads for sale. Grace got one almost every day, and really liked it.

Me? I discovered an Asian restaurant just a block away that I decided to try with another dance family. It was delicious, and I will likely go back.

Our photo booth pics.

Photo Ops

Just for fun, they had a backdrop for people to take pictures in front of. We, of course, had to take advantage! They also had a photo booth available on one day of the week. People could get their pictures taken in it, and each person got their own copy of the photos. The most awesome part? It was free! Just another reason we love Masquerade. They try to keep it fun for everyone!

Masquerade also offered studios a DVD offer. Parents could purchase a copy of a special Studio DVD for only $45. This DVD includes the opening number (which we had 5 dancers participating in) and all dances our studio participated in, including any that were in the Finals. Considering you can normally purchase one dance for $15 or so, it’s an extraordinary deal! :-)


On to the point of this whole post!! Finals day was a big day for LADC! Every group, except the Angels (Grace’s group), were in the Finals. Even though Grace wasn’t dancing, we went to cheer on our teammates.

As I mentioned, we had 5 dancers participating in the Parade of Stars (Opening Number). It was a fun dance choreographed by Sarah Jo Fazio (a favorite judge), and Marlowe Howell.

The first dance off of the day was Petite Encore Performances. Our Sparkles (ages 8-10) performed their jazz dance, Proud Mary. At the end of the night, they ended up winning the Petite Encore Award!! After their division, there were several others that contained awesome dances. Finals really is a great show to watch – best of the best, really!

195After several other divisions, it was time for the Junior Dancer of the Year Finals. LADC’s own Sage Neal was one of 5 girls who made it to the finals. Each girl had to perform a solo. Sage did her musical theater solo, which was perfectly choreographed by Kyle Gross to show off her personality and showmanship. She was amazing!! Not only did our sweet and sassy Sage win National Junior Dancer of the Year 2014, she also won the National Title of Junior Miss Masquerade!! This title was well deserved. Another amazingly talented junior, Olivia Johnson, was the 1st runner up for National Junior Miss Masquerade 2014!!

As the day went on, we watched Sage also perform her contemporary solo in the Junior Division National Champion Dance Off. We also watched one of our small groups compete The Bird in the Mini Division National Champion Dance Off , the amazing Madelyn Lee from LADC perform one of her solos in the Finals for Senior Dancer of the Year, and we participated in the Spirit Parade. Our dancers apparently got a little over-eager throwing candy out in the audience, but it was fun.

The afternoon went on with more awesome dances… in my comments in my program, I wrote “anyone’s game.” All the dancers came to win, and proved it on stage!

The only negative comment I wrote, was that when announcements are being made, they need to turn the music down. It was difficult to hear sometimes what they were saying.

Lake Area Dance - Intermediate Studio of the Year 2014!!!

Lake Area Dance – Intermediate Studio of the Year 2014!!!

We got to watch the littlest dancers from our studio perform their tap dance called Wash That Man. The oldest competitors performed their jazz dance Betty’s Wake. While they didn’t win the National Champion Large Group Dance Off, studio owner Maria Pomerleau  did receive a choreography award for it!

At the very end of the awards session, they announced the Studios of the Year. Lake Area Dance won Intermediate Studio of the Year for the 3rd year in a row!!! Very exciting, and very well deserved! :-)

Masquerade Dance Nationals 2014

080Last month was Nationals for Masquerade here in Burnsville, MN. It was a very busy week, but also, a fun one!

Master Classes

Events started for us on Saturday. Grace attended Master Classes. It was 5 hours of classes in various styles. Many of the teachers were judges for the competition. The cost for 5 hours was only $65. I think we paid this or more for 4 hours of dance in past years. It definitely felt like a good value!

This was her first year dancing with the seniors. She said it was very hard, but also that she loved it! The one class she talked about most was tap. She LOVES tap! There were a lot of new moves with names she had never heard. The older girls tended to be in the front, so the younger or shorter ones were in the back trying to keep up. Grace says she struggled, but never quit trying. She really enjoyed dancing with some of the girls who she had watched in years past (like Sylvia Borasch, last year’s Title winner, who’s tap style she wants to emulate).  The only class she was disappointed they didn’t have, was hip hop. She can’t wait until she gets to take Master Classes again next year!

Junior solos were happening at the same time as Senior Master Classes, so Michael and I got to watch many of the girls from our studio perform their solos. We didn’t often get to see those during the competition season.

Welcome Party

Photo courtesy of Masquerade's facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Masquerade’s facebook page.

Every year, there is a welcome party. We didn’t go the first year, but regretted it. Last year, it was karaoke and pizza in the courtyard. This year, it was a “MasqueRAVE party” for the kids, and Casino night for the adults.

In the upstairs lobby area, there were casino games, and a cash bar set up. When we got to Casino Night, they gave us each $2000 in fake money to play with. The dealers were able to break our money down into smaller denominations. There was Black Jack, In Between, Beat the House, and a couple other games. Most of the people there were parents from our studio, Lake Area Dance Center (LADC).  At the end, we were to add up all our money, and top earners would win reserve seating at Finals, credit in the apparel shop, and more. Though it was mostly LADC parents, we didn’t beat the odds. Another group of parents won most of the prizes. I wish everyone would have gone into a drawing for things like t-shirts, and other prizes, but that was not the way it was set up. Oh well… It was still a lot of fun!

The MasqueRAVE was fun for the kids, but since there had been pizza in years past, many of them hadn’t eaten, and were hungry. Luckily for my kids, I had fed them before we headed out there, but of course, they got hungry anyway… They were in a studio sized room, and got really hot from all the dancing. Several glowstick-clad kids came up and asked for money for snacks or food, or for us to hold their jackets. Luckily, the kids were free to go outside. Many did to cool down, but then headed back in for more dancing. They had a great time.

I hope they do next year’s welcome party a similar way, but also have some sort of food and beverages (even if just appetizers or snacks). I enjoyed hanging out with the other adults, not focused on dancing or our children. :-)  The kids got to meet people from other studios in a non-competitive, fun way.

Watching ONLINE!

I love that so many competitions are starting to get on the live streaming band wagon!! I had to work Monday, but Grace was able to watch dancers from our studio and others compete all day long! Also, I was able to keep friends and family members in the loop as to when LADC’s dances were about to perform.

Small Groups Compete

On Tuesday of Nationals week, the small groups performed. Grace’s tap small group was to perform at around 8:45 in the morning. Doors didn’t open until 7:15, so while it was an early morning, it wasn’t as early as some competitions! :-)  They did an awesome job, and received a Platinum score!

This competition was run a bit differently than some others we have been to. All the small groups competed in one day. It started with the youngest recreational group in a given division, then worked its way up through senior elites. All dances of a particular style were first, then it started over in the next style. Tap groups were first, then musical theater, then jazz, etc.

What I liked about doing it this way, was that we got to see Elite level small groups scattered throughout the day. Elite generally equals fantastic dancing. Very enjoyable, for sure!

078The downside of being scheduled this way, was that overall awards weren’t until evening. That makes for a long day. Many dancers from Grace’s group didn’t hang out for the whole day, but we wanted to cheer on team mates, and watch all the incredible dances. We were glad they were running over an hour ahead of schedule, so awards weren’t as late as they otherwise would have been.

Also, it was a gorgeous day outside. The kids spent some time playing in the fountains, while the parents soaked up the sun!

In the overall small group awards, LADC did very well! Our studio took:

  • 1st in the Petite Recreational Small Group category (also received a “Sassy Sisters” Judges Award for being both cute AND good)
  • 1st in the Petite Intermediate Small Group category
  • 1st and 2nd in the Junior Intermediate Small Group category (Grace’s tap group took 2nd, LADC’s lyrical small group took 1st)
  • 3rd in the Teen Intermediate Small Group category
  • 1st in the Senior Intermediate Small Group category.

Large Groups Compete

Wednesday’s schedule was basically the same as Tuesday’s. They started the day with Petite Elite Line Tap, then went to Petite Recreational Tap, working their way up to Senior Elite Large Group Tap. Again, there were things I liked and didn’t like about running the day this way. It was a long time between dances. This was kind of nice, as dancers had a chance to breathe, we were able to go eat, etc. The long times in between also contributed to a long day…

It was difficult for the youngest dancers at our studio. Some of them left to take naps or otherwise rest, and came back. Others stayed until they danced, but left before awards. On the upside, they were running about an hour and a half ahead of time, so they danced their afternoon/evening dances much earlier than expected. Awards were not as ahead of schedule as we would have hoped due to a parent dance off and extra time given to judges to decide who would dance in the finals. That said, they were still earlier than scheduled.

143Grace had 4 dances that day. She started with tap, then contemporary, then production, and finally, jazz. They did well on all dances, though, seemed worn out by their last dance. Their scores were Platinum, High Gold, Platinum, and High Gold in the order listed above. In the overalls, our studio took:

  • 1st(tap) and 2nd (jazz) in the Petite Recreational Large Group category
  • 2nd (tap) and 3rd (jazz) in the Petite Intermediate Large Group category
  • 1st in the Junior Intermediate Line category for the all-studio production number
  • 2nd (tap) and 5th (jazz) in the Junior Intermediate Large Group category
  • 1st (jazz), 2nd (tap) and 5th (contemporary) in the Teen Intermediate Large Group/Line category. Jazz also received a “Joyful, Joyful” Judges’ Award for dancing such a wonderful celebration of life!
  • Several dances were also nominated for Audience Choice Awards.

Several dances from our studio made it into the Finals the next day. It was a long and exciting week. We always enjoy our time at Masquerade Regionals and Nationals. They run a great competition!




My blog has been kind of quiet lately… that’s because life has been incredibly busy lately. Here’s what I’ve been up to (some of these will have upcoming blog posts written about them):

  • later than usual end of school year for me
  • started a new job at Lakeshore Learning
  • last dance competition
  • Michael’s first karate tournament
  • dance recitals
  • planting and weeding the garden + other yard work
  • bridal shower and a wedding in the same day, both in WI
  • playing Ingress on occassion
  • other things I can’t even think of right now

My house is a mess, my desk is even worse… I’m looking forward to a few days to get some things done around here. Hopefully next week, I’ll be able to get caught up on blogging.

Have a great day!

Masquerade Dance Competition 2014

039Recently, my daughter’s studio, Lake Area Dance Center (LADC), attended our favorite dance competition of the year, Masquerade.

The Venue

It was held at the Ames Center (formerly Burnsville Performing Arts Center). One of the favorite things about this particular location is the beautiful courtyard (where dozens of young men and women were lined up taking pre-prom pictures). It was a breezy day, but nice enough that the dance brothers all got to play “Minecraft” outside. They decided to continue on a game they made up and played at the previous competition that was held there. It also has a very close proximity to both a Subway and Caribou Coffee. Food and coffee, both must-haves for long days at competitions!

One thing I like about this competition, is that even though the food  is expensive, it is a relatively inexpensive competition to go to. We don’t have to pay for parking. That ends up saving a huge amount!

Programs were only $7! That’s a price I can deal with! There were spots for writing down awards, but all categories and divisions for awards are listed in the back. It was helpful to have those spaces, but I didn’t realize they were there until after the first award session I sat through… It would be nice to have those sections in the program at each award session spot, but it’s better than not at all.

They had lots of apparel and other items for sale. Some of it was reasonably priced, some, not so much. Usually they have a deal where you could buy both sweat pants and a “city shirt” at a discounted rate. The city shirts are always great, they have all the studios and dancer names on the back. This year, they did not offer that deal.

One thing I have really come to appreciate, was that there was only one stage at this location. The competition was huge; other studios were at Hopkins High School for a second Masquerade competition the same weekend. This was the only competition that we only had to be there one day. All 5 of Grace’s dances were the same day. It made for a long day, but was nice to only have go once. :-)

There was a crew backstage helping the Prop Dads get props on and off stage. This made for even the largest props to get set up and taken down in record time. Way to keep things moving!

034Dressing rooms were an issue. While they have lots of space in theory, it was packed tighter than a can of sardines. Very cliche, I know, but we were in there TIGHT (especially when virtually our entire studio was there at the same time for production). We were assigned to share a dressing room with another large studio in a room which was about the size of a dance studio. To say it was packed is an understatement!



We had an unfortunate event that happened… someone went through my daughter’s things, and $15 went missing. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone!! It’s quite possible that the $15 fell out of her pocket as she was grabbing something out of it. I don’t know. What she told me is that it was in her LADC jacket with the pockets zipped. When we returned to the dressing room, her pockets were unzipped, the money was gone, and there was a large cheese stain on the pocket of her brand new hoodie. She had not eaten anything with nacho cheese, and the spot was about the size of a fingerprint, right in the middle of the pocket. Her ipods, phone, and $5 were still in the hoodie pocket. Other dancers around us did not have anything missing, thank goodness. It just came as a good reminder that with so many people in and out of rooms, be aware of leaving valuables, credit cards, or cash laying unsupervised. We all tend to be very trusting, but things can happen anywhere!

The Judging

The judges were tough. Platinums were hard to come by. Even though it is a bummer not to hear “Platinum” after your child’s every dance routine, it makes you appreciate them even more when they do get them. I feel it is good for character-building. Our hope was that it would make them work that much harder at the next competition!

053LADC was awarded Best in Show (highest scoring routine overall in the Junior Division) for their production number, Dock of the Bay. It also received the audience choice award.  In addition to production, Grace’s jazz dance, The Bachelor received a platinum, and took 1st place overall. It was nominated for video of the week. Her Contemporary dance, Deathly Hallows, got a high gold, and took 4th overall. Her tap small group, Girls, got high gold, and 3rd overall in the small group division.

Lake Area Dance was also awarded Top Intermediate Studio!! What a great end to a great competition!




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