Real Life Dance Moms

Many people who are not in the dance world, have a misguided idea that Dance Moms sit around fighting with each other about who has the better dancer. People think there is non-stop drama, and yelling. They think our world revolves around glitter and rhinestones, sewing costumes, having our kids wear skimpy outfits, drinking wine, and dressing to the nines.

Once, I was talking to a friend about a role I was playing in a local musical. He told me I wasn’t playing my character “bitchy”enough. He said to me, “I know you’re a dance mom, and you wear jeans with bling on the pocket, that means you have more bitch potential.” I know he was joking around, but that has stuck with me for a couple years. He’s not the only one that has made comments to me about what it’s like to be a dance mom. People ask me all the time, “Is it really like it is on the show?”

I’m here to tell you once and for all, that the answer is “Not usually, but sometimes it is.” We are fortunate enough to be a part of a studio that’s not like that. Any time you have a bunch of women together, there will occasionally be drama. Sometimes, feelings are hurt when some dancers move up a group and others don’t. Occasionally, there may be parents who feel their children should be featured in dances, but aren’t. Sometimes, parents are struggling with personal issues, and end up taking it out on others, because their dance family is who they are most comfortable with.  What I usually find, though, is the parents who have the most talented dancers, are very sweet, social, and very supportive of all the dancers in their studio. Many are quite humble. They are not bragging about how their child is the best, like what people see on TV.

Side note: I’m not saying that there aren’t dads involved in their daughters’ dance lives – we have an amazing group of dads that are very involved in their daughters’ dance activities. They volunteer countless hours to help build props, set up and take down props during competitions, etc. The moms though, are the ones that are usually sitting at the studio, making sure schedules are figured out, making sure all the costumes pieces are there, and going backstage to help with quick costume or hair changes, etc. The moms are the ones that have the stigma, and that’s what I want to dispel…

My daughter’s first year in competition, I really had no idea what I was doing. Other moms in the studio had some good advice for me, and helped me get my dancer through the year. The next year, we moved to the Twin Cities. Expectations were higher, and we felt as though we were muddling our way through at first. As I started talking to other dance moms, they gave me great advice, such as getting a Dream Duffel to transport all of our costumes and other necessities. We also had a great studio owner who gave us detailed instructions for applying makeup, how to do the expected hairstyles, and what to expect competition days to be like. You can never be truly ready for that first year, but when everyone works together, great things happen.

As the years went on, I saw more and more collaborations between dance moms. I have seen (and have been involved in) carpooling to and from competitions and Nationals, parents helping each other’s dancers with makeup, hairstyles, quick costume changes, etc. We willingly share bobby pins, butt glue or dress tape, hairspray, band-aids, etc. On more than one occasion, I have seen dancers that forgot earrings or shoes, and borrowed from each other. Parents have hosted group sleepovers, other gatherings, team craft projects, etc. Those of us who have been around for a while are there to answer questions for families new to the competition world. We help each other out, and we support each other’s dancers.

On facebook, there are pages for competition moms from all over the country. Sometimes, moms are bragging about the fantastic things their dancers have done (because they are proud); sometimes, they are asking for advice from other dance moms. I have never seen a “my dancer is better than your dancer” post, or anything even close.

At competitions, you will occasionally find parents talking down about another studio. Luckily, that is less often than you would think if you only went with what you know from the show. I often hear dance moms encouraging each other, or even complimenting each others’ studios or dances. They typically tend to be focused on their own studio or dancers, and don’t have time to worry about putting each other down. As I previously mentioned, there is, occasionally, a bit of drama. The biggest issue often has to do with the amount of space one dancer or group is taking up in a dressing room. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone yelling at each other, so there’s that. Or, parents are super stressed, because their dancer forgot something, they are running late, they are dealing with an emotional or moody dancer, etc, and they snap at someone unintentionally.

At the beginning of this post, I said that some people seem to think our world of dance competitions revolves around glitter and rhinestones, sewing costumes, having our kids wear skimpy outfits, drinking wine, and dressing to the nines. They are only partly right. Yes, we are usually surrounded by glitter and rhinestones galore. Many of us really enjoy rhinestoning costumes, team jackets, or recital shirts…Our studio usually has minimal sewing for the parents to do. Kids’ costumes are chosen (at least at our studio) by the instructors. They are usually very tasteful. That said, you do have to be comfortable with bare midriffs, and sometimes, nothing but leotards, when at a competition. Sometimes, moves that are done in certain types of  costumes, are less than flattering. Oh well.  Typically, dance moms don’t dress up as if we are going to some awards show, and we don’t typically sit around drinking all the time. I think those aspects are exaggerated for the sake of the TV show. Overall, the atmosphere of dance moms is more helpful than what many people think of based on what they think they know.

I didn’t write this to bash the show I referred to earlier. In it’s early seasons, I enjoyed watching it, because I enjoyed the dancing. As  the focus seemed to shift to the drama between the dance moms and the instructor, I stopped watching. I fully acknowledge the entertainment value of the show, and realize that many people enjoy watching “reality” shows such as that. It certainly had its place in launching Maddie Ziegler’s career! I hope I made the case to show that real life dance moms are not like that.

I love being a dance mom, even if it means hours volunteering at the studio and rhinestoning at home, financial stress, and crazy schedules. I’m a little sad knowing that we only have two competition seasons left, and my daughter will graduate. I know I will still dance at our studio with many of the other moms and friends I have made, but I will miss the chaos of being a Dance Mom!

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