One Year to Go

This past weekend, LADC had their annual dance recitals. I will write about those later. While watching the afternoon recital, I started to reflect on the fact that Grace only has one year of competitive dance to go.

tweeted the following, as a summary of how I was feeling. “Watching all the Seniors at the dance recital today got me feeling emotional. Mostly I was thinking about how hard it’s going to be next year, but also, I adore those girls that are graduating!”

This year, Grace has really found a love of performing. I have never seen bigger smiles on her face as she danced. My mom commented at the recital about how much joy she was oozing while she danced. It has been fun watching her improve so much each year! After next year, I will miss the competition scene, even though they tend to get stressful at times. There’s something about being at dance competitions that I just love. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I really enjoy sitting in the audience, watching the dances from all the different studios. I love watching Grace perform, but also all the other dancers from our studio. I have watched so many dancers grow up over the past 7 seasons. When I watch the littles on stage, it’s like watching nieces and nephews dancing. I feel as proud of them when they win, as if they were my own family members.

As I was thinking about my feelings, I realized I shouldn’t be sad. I will still be around the studio as an Adult Tap student. That said, I won’t have those extended amounts of time there, where I will be able to get to know the other dance families. I will miss working at the front desk, and being able to help Maria wherever I can. I will miss being that obnoxious parent that is around every corner with a camera (especially at competitions). I am currently the studio “stalkerazzi”… I enjoy taking pictures not only of Grace and her dance friends, but also of other kids. I enjoy being able to share them with other parents, and our studio owner.

I was thinking about all of this as Miss Maria was honoring the Seniors. Every year, she pulls each of the Seniors and their families to the stage. She honors each one with some thoughts on her experiences with each of them. When she was talking to them, she said she wished she had enjoyed the moments she had with them just a little bit more. She talked about trying to enjoy each of their lasts with them through the year… I’m going to try to remember that next year, as we go through one last after another… last first day of dance (after 14 years), last solo, last competition, last recital, last Nationals… I’m going to try to enjoy each of those “in the moment”, and try not to be sad about them. I’m going to enjoy each conversation I have with each of the dance families, knowing that it won’t be the last time I see many of them…. Most of all, I’m going to try to enjoy every second I get to watch Grace on stage, performing her heart out!

It’s going to be a tough year, but will also be amazing, because it will signal the beginning of many new firsts…

 

 

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Masquerade Regionals – 2018

Grace and her fan club – Kennedy and Maddy

Our studio recently attended Masquerade Dance Competition, traditionally, our favorite competition of the year. It was held at the Ames Center in Burnsville. It ended up being a 3-day long weekend for us (some were there even more than that).

Grace started the competition weekend by going to school for half a day, then we went down to Burnsville for her solo. She was really nervous, as Masquerade tends to bring some of the Best of the Best dancers in the Twin Cities. She REALLY wanted to wow the judges so she would be selected for Parade of Stars (being invited back to participate in the Opening Number at Nationals). She was hungry, but wouldn’t eat beforehand. She was too nervous. Just as she started her solo, her leg started spasming. She danced well in spite of this. I only knew something was wrong because I saw a quick flash of pain go across her face for a split second. I was worried she had re-sprained her ankle. Unfortunately, this was not her year for Parade of Stars. She scored a High Gold on her solo.

Miss Maria did Grace’s hair for her solo. So cute!

Saturday, we were back for Production. It looked so good! I wrote a note that said that I thought it was much better than the last competition! They got a platinum score, and 3rd overall. This was the day all the minis-juniors did all their large and small groups. By the time it got to production in the afternoon, you could tell they were all tired! This was true across pretty much all the studios. It was a long day for those little kids, without much time to rest.  The judges must have been pretty tired too, because the music was so loud! I think they were trying to make sure everyone stayed awake. The down side, was that they kept it fairly loud during awards too, so it was a bit hard to hear how some dances did. Usually, we do not have this issue at this particular competition. Luckily, we could still hear the tap sounds, though, I did not see microphones on the stage.

Studio 54 – a disco themed Line featuring our Preteens-Seniors. (photo creds to Miss Maria)

Sunday, Grace had the rest of her dances. It was a 12-or-so hour day for our preeteens-seniors. In true Masquerade style, the day started out with tap for our large and small groups. I’m glad they got to do their tap dances while they still had full energy. By the end of the day, they were all pretty worn out! Despite their exhaustion, all of the Seniors’ dances scored a platinum. Blue Moon, their musical theater dance got Audience Choice, and a “Class Act” Judges Award. YaYa, the Teen/Senior Hip Hop group, got a “Passive Aggressive” award. The judge commented on how their look (hair down, hats on), their hard hitting dance, etc was so different that what Lake Area Dance usually does. Their Line dance, Studio 54, got called back to do an encore. It was so much fun! Encore is one of the things we love about Masquerade! Another, is the ability of the audience to vote for their favorite dance in each category. When you download the Masquerade app, you can vote with the free version. If you want to pay for it, you can get live updates of what dance is on stage, how long until the next awards session, etc.

I heard a lot of parents at this competition asking about the color levels. At Masquerade, dances either compete at the green, gold, or purple level. Green is the equivalent of a novice or recreational level. Gold would be intermediate, while purple is the advanced level. If you’ve never been to Masquerade before, this can be confusing. The dances are scored similarly as most competitions. Judges score each routine, and then dances are given an adjudication based on their score. The highest “score” a dance can receive is Platinum. Next is High Gold, then Gold, then Silver, and finally, bronze. Most dances we have seen score somewhere in the gold – platinum range.

Hanging out with dance moms and friends who came to support our dancers.

Overall, this competition was fun as always. It has become very comfortable for us, as we almost feel it is an extension of our dance family. We look forward to our next competition, which will be a new one for us.

 

 

Legacy Dance Championships – 2018

A couple weeks ago, our studio had its first studio-wide dance competition of the season, Legacy Dance Championships. It was a great weekend. We were lucky in that we only had to be there 2 days.

This competition was held at the Ames Center in Burnsville. This is always our favorite venue. It’s nice to be in a place that feels so familiar!

My daughter’s day started with her tap small group. She loves this dance, as it was choreographed by one of her tap idols, Kaleena Miller. The dance is in a style of tap that is different than what Grace is used to, but is also a great challenge. I really enjoy this dance too, so it was a fun way to start the day! She then had her large group dances – tap, contemporary, Line (a disco themed jazz dance including all competitive dancers preteen-seniors),  and musical theater. That evening, she competed her solo. I love her dances this year!! Her tap dance is so much fun (and funny). It was choreographed by Lake Area Dance Center‘s owner, Maria Pomerleau (as were the musical theater, and Line). Her solo is a tap solo to “Cheek to Cheek”. I LOVE it soooo much! Instructor Madelyn Lee choreographed the perfect dance for her! It makes me smile when I watch her. Due to her platinum score, she also got invited to be part of their Nationals Opening Number. Unfortunately, I think all of their Nationals are at times that we can’t go, but it was a huge honor for her to be invited.

Grace and Madelyn. I wish these two could do a tap duet!

Sunday, she had her hip hop dance, which was choreographed by Anthony Gabriel and Cory Booker. It’s a hard-hitting routine that provides a good challenge for our girls. Grace also had to fill in for a dancer in the Teen Hip Hop group she assists with. One of the girls sprained her ankle really bad a couple days before the competition, so Grace was asked to fill in. Finally, our studio had their Production dance, which is Lady Gaga themed. It took first overall of the production dances. Very exciting!

Some notes about Legacy this year:

  • For the first year that I can remember, the volume was not too loud. In fact, they turned the music down during tap dances in order to help the judges hear the tap sounds. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect. When Grace’s small group went, the very beginning was a little off. When I was talking to her later, she said they had turned it down so far, it was very hard to hear the music. Luckily, they recovered very quickly.
  • YaYa – Senior Hip Hop

    The judges each gave out 3 Special Awards. The interesting thing, was they didn’t present their own awards. Grace’s tap dance, “Stronger”, got a Judge’s Award for being clean, and accurate.

  • I don’t remember them offering scholarships in past years, but this year, they did. One of our Petite Small Groups, “Take Off With Us”, got a Choreography Award and a scholarship to Dance Dreams (what sounds like a convention, from what I could tell).
  • DanceXcel had impressive sportsmanship. Whenever the first place overall dance was called, the entire studio stood up to clap for them (whether it was from their studio or not). What a great ethic to instill in those dancers!
  • This had nothing to do with the competition, but the venue ran out of food by mid-day on Sunday. When people are there all day, and can’t leave, it really stinks for them! I left to go get food for us and our studio owner. This was the one and only time they actually let people bring food in.

Despite the busy scheduled, we still had a lot of fun. Her dances were great, and they scored well. We couldn’t ask for anything else. 🙂

 

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!

LADC Recital 2017

Now that Nationals are over, I guess it’s time to finish my posts about the rest of the dance season. They were previously started, but never finished…

This year’s recital title, was “Perfect 10,” to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of Lake Area Dance Center. There were 4 shows. The two I saw were great!!

 

SET UP 

I was part of the small crew that helped set up for the recitals. I have done this for a few years in the past. This year, we got the floors unrolled, taped down, and everything ready to rock and roll in record time!

DRESS REHEARSALS

This year, I volunteered to take pictures during dress rehearsals. We got a new camera this year, and I’ve enjoyed experimenting with the different lenses. I finally got some decent pictures!! I enjoyed going from the balcony, to the line up area, to the floor level to get various shots. The appreciation I got from the studio owner made the bruises on my hip/leg (from bumping into the arm rests of the seats) all worth it!

RECITALS

There were 4 shows – two that included both Recreational and Competitive level dances, one Competitive Gala, and a Solo/Duet/ Trio Showcase. Both my kids were in the 1st show. I decided not to volunteer for this show, and just watch. I’m so glad I did! I really enjoyed the almost 3 hour show. Watching my kids shine on stage was awesome!

Show 2, I volunteered for. I have always been with preschoolers, but was assigned to 1st/2nd graders instead. I wasn’t even sure what to bring for this group, but I came armed with a handful of books, and Uno. This proved to be enough to mostly entertain them (well, those and the coloring books provided for the volunteers by the studio). I also had a high school student from one of our sister studios, Woodbury Dance Center, with my group. While I taught a group of the girls to play Uno, Emily colored with the other ones. We had a great time with these girls. 

Show 3 was the Competitive Gala. I got to watch this one too. It was beyond worth the price of admission, as the best dances at the studio were featured here. I love watching the dances get more and more polished as the season goes on. I can’t wait for Nationals in a couple weeks! 

We did not stay for show 4, the Solo Showcase. I’m sure it was a very entertaining show, as many of the solos are Musical Theater, Tap – my favorite styles to watch. There were also solos in the styles of jazz, ballet, lyrical, and contemporary.

 

The shows all seemed to run quite smoothly. Aside from one poor preschool peeing herself on stage, and the cleanup that required, there were no delays that I noticed.

It amazes me what a well-oiled machine the recital has become. I know there are many pieces that go on back stage to make sure this happens. The team that works together to make sure things run well is incredible!

Kudos to LADC for a successful 10th season… here’s to many more!

 

Masquerade Dance Competition 2017

Two weeks ago, our studio, Lake Area Dance Center, attended our favorite competition of the year, Masquerade. It was held at the Ames Center in Burnsville, MN.

The competition was quite large this year, and was spread out to 6 days! This was the longest competition I think we’ve ever been to (at least on the regional level). Even without Grace doing a solo, her schedule was crazy this year! She had to dance 4 different days. The amount of time we spent there was worth it – we got to see some incredible dances!

Thursday night, Senior Company danced their three large group dances. They got a high gold on their jazz and tap dances, and platinum on their lyrical dance. Their jazz dance, “You Don’t Know My Name”, got the audience choice award for Musical Theater/Jazz. Friday, our Company Hip Hop group danced their routine, “Starving”. They got a platinum score. They also received a Judge’s Award for having a cool style, and for being a happy, chill hip hop dance with a story. Starving also got an Audience Choice Award. Our Teens’ lyrical/contemporary dance got an Audience Choice award as well.

Grace accepting the Judges Award for their Hip Hop Dance.

Saturday, Our Teen/Senior Line performed their jazz dance, “Welcome to Miami.” They got a platinum score, and were called back to do an encore. My favorite dances of the day were all asked to perform encores. Our dancers did an amazing job! They were highly energetic, very together… it was quite fun to watch! They ended up taking 2nd place in the Teen Purple Line Division. The dances that took 3rd, 4th, and 5th were the three dances that would have taken 1st, 2nd and 3rd in my mind. It was a very exciting night!!! I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen our studio owner, Miss Maria, that excited once before!

Sunday morning, bright and early, our dancers performed their Production number, Ultimate Fighters. It just might be my favorite dance of all time! It’s a high energy dance, with lots of great music!! They got called back to perform an encore. I didn’t get to see it, because I had to head back to work at the dance studio for a few hours. I heard they did well. They got a platinum score, and 2nd place overall.

Photo creds to Miss Maria for this shot of the entire Production Group!

A few additional notes (or more like random thoughts) from this competition:

*The Ames Center seemed to be colder than usual this year.

*Once again, the food did not disappoint. I’m very happy with the changes they’ve made to their menu offerings!

*A totally random note I wrote was that the lines between jazz and hip hop seem to be increasingly blurred…. I can’t help but wonder just where that line is?!? When it looks like hip hop, but is in the jazz category, how do the judges score that? It seems like jazz has become more of a catch-all category for the things that don’t quite fit in hip hop, or don’t quite fit in contemporary… as there are more and more styles of dance at the competitions, the lines between them move closer and closer together…

*This competition brings together some of the best of the best in the Twin Cities. With that, there were more platinum scores than I remember ever hearing at competitions in the past.

The picture only gives a slight idea of how much less space they had to practice in.

*The Ames Center Maui Wowie stand was moved during this competition. It was on the second floor where groups typically rehearse their  dances – this was a terrible spot! If there wasn’t constantly a line, it might not be quite such a problem. Even when they tried to direct the line differently so it didn’t block the rehearsal area, it was still in the way.

*Usually Masquerade does a pretty good job at volume control, but this week, portions were over the top loud. Especially the bass. I had a note on another page that said “turn down the bass!”

*The programs were not too expensive at $10 each. My only complaint, is that in the back, where they had the place  to write awards, some categories were missing (such as Junior Purple Large Groups). I would also add areas to write down Audience Choice awards, and even Judges’ Awards. During awards, they didn’t talk to the 1st place winners  in each division, like they usually do. They were over an hour ahead, pretty much the whole weekend. It would have been nice if they’d have spent a little bit of that time talking to the winners in different categories (they only did on some).

*The internet at the Ames Center more spotty than usual.

*One of the things that makes Masquerade so fun, is that during the breaks, they typically throw out lots of bead necklaces, and other fun things. This year, in the four days I was there, I think I only saw them do it once. It could be that when the younger kids were there, they did it more, but I didn’t see it very often. Even though my own daughter has outgrown the desire to get as many beads as she can, it is one of the things that is fun about this competition, traditionally.

*For a favorite competition that was a lot of fun, I sure had a lot of negative sounding critiques of different things. Sorry about that. I don’t typically like to be negative. Overall, the competition was great! Our dancers did well, and we got to see TONS of amazing dances from all over the Twin Cities!!

I look forward to our upcoming competition, the last Regional of the season. Then, it’s recitals, and Nationals!!!

 

Legacy Dance Championships – 2017

Our first competition of the season was Legacy Dance Championships. We have attended this competition for several years.

Our studio, Lake Area Dance Center, did very well this year. The top recognition we received, was the Legacy Award for ages 12 and over. My understanding, is that this is the award for the highest overall score average for the top 3 dances from each studio. It felt really good for our studio to be recognized this way, because there was a lot of tough competition! Some of the studios we saw included Arabesque School of Dance, DelMonico Dance, Dance Express, and more!

We also received several Best of _______ awards, in several different categories. Several groups and solos placed in the Top 10 in their categories. Our production number got 1st place. It’s so amazing! Our Senior Company Dancers (the group Grace is in this year), were slightly too large to be a large group this year. Instead, they danced as a Senior Line. Unfortunately, they did not have any competition in their division. That means they got 1st, 2nd and 3rd place with their lyrical, tap, and jazz dances. The biggest compliment came when they gave our dancers their 1st place award. They complimented the girls on their “Great use of their props” (rocking chairs), and said that they “Nailed it!”

The first couple of days of the competition, I saw complaints online from parents and teachers about how loud the competition was playing their music. By Sunday, the only day we were there, they seem to have gotten the message.  While it was still louder than it needed to be, it was not horrible.

The competition was held at the Ames Center, in Burnsville, MN. I know I say it every year, but this is our favorite venue for competitions. The free parking, park right outside, nearby Caribou … all great benefits of this location! Our biggest complaint about this venue in the past, has been in regards to the food available. They seem to have upgraded this year. They are now offering hot dogs (which they were out of when Grace wanted to order one, much to her dismay), they also have some new sandwich options, which are fresh made, and no longer soggy. I ordered an Ames Club with avocado. It was delicious! Grace ended up ordering nachos with taco meat. She wasn’t impressed. She felt it didn’t have enough flavor. Overall though, there are better food option, which I was glad about.

A highlight for me, besides getting to watch all my daughter’s dances, was being able to watch them all with my mom. All of her dances were within a couple hours of each other, so she had many family members there to support her. Another highlight was running into a family, even for a brief moment, from our Wisconsin days. The sister of a girl that Grace used to play baseball and softball with was dancing at Legacy with Diamond School of Dance. The last time I saw her, she was about 6, now, she’s a middle schooler, and she dances beautifully!

The competition was fun, as always. I’m looking forward to our next one!

 

 

 

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