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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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!

 

 

 

Creativity in Costuming and Props

Over the past couple years, I have become increasingly amazed at the creativity that comes with costuming and prop creation for shows.

Dance

The other night, I was working at the front desk at the dance studio. My task for that shift was to assemble some headbands for one of the competitive dance groups. The flowers I was gluing to the headbands, I had pulled off a garland a week before that. At that time, they were pink. Since then, they had been spray painted white, purple, and two shades of blue. I did not come up with the idea, I was just doing the tasks I was given… I was amazed at the creativity behind the creation of those headpieces! To look at flowers on a garland, and think, “I could just paint those these 4 colors, glue them to a headband, and get exactly the accent piece I am looking for.” WOW! That is not a talent I have!

Over the past several years, I have had the privilege of helping assemble/prepare many of the props, so I know how much hard work goes into them. Props and costume pieces for our dancers are often pieces that come from something completely different than what they are turned into. In many cases, I have found myself saying, “I would have never thought to make this out of that!”

Shows

Currently, I am participating in the White Bear Lake Lion’s Club Show. This is my third year participating in this huge fundraiser for the Lion’s Club! This year, we have an amazing number of props, sets, costumes, etc. While many of us are putting together our own costumes, and bringing in some of our own props, there are MANY pieces being created by a fantastic crew of people. They are working very hard to try and find or create authentic-looking costumes and costume pieces. They are able to come up with ideas that I would have never thought of. Even if I had the creativity to come up with the ideas, I do not have the talent to create such pieces! I appreciate the people who spend many hours pulling together pieces, doing alterations, etc. to make us all look the parts.

Last year, my daughter was in the musical at her high school. The women who worked tirelessly to put together 20’s era costumes were amazing! Many items came from Goodwill or other thrift stores, but were then altered significantly to turn it into something from the right time period. One of my daughter’s Chorus Girl dresses, was created from a figure skating costume. By the time the show took place, the costume fit the show perfectly!

I am in awe of people who can look at something, and just know how to create something completely different out of it! The performing arts world is a better place, because of the creative people who are able to make costumes, props, and sets with limited budgets, pieces that were intended for other uses, and even from raw materials. Thank you all for your hard work, and creative ideas!

 

My New Favorite Work Out

I wrote many years ago about how much I enjoy exercise, and movement. Dancing has always been my favorite way to “work out.” To me, it’s not just about the movement, it’s about the full connection of my mind, body, and spirit. I love the way dancing makes me feel. Over the past several years since we have been back in MN, I have been taking tap classes at Lake Area Dance Center. It has been great! I plan to continue as long as I am able to (hopefully, that’s a LONG time). I have made some great friends along the way, and, as an added bonus, reconnected with old ones.

Recently, Jason and I have been working out at Lifetime Fitness a lot more. We are trying to get back in shape, and we’ve been working hard. We’ve been members of this gym for 5+ years, but haven’t gone nearly as often as we should (until recently). Nowadays, we are there 3-5 days/week. I have tried a few different group classes (they tend to be very motivating for me), but I found a new favorite – zumba! It’s basically dancing… zumba mixes classic aerobics with latin, hip hop, and bollywood moves. You basically dance for 45 minutes to an hour (depending on the class/instructor). You are moving your whole body for the entire time. It’s exhausting, but so much fun!

I have been going for about a month or so at the White Bear Lake club on Friday mornings. I’ve really enjoyed it, but wanted more. I tried the weekend classes at the Fridley club a few times. WOW! Zumba at Fridley is faster, and has more hip hop and bollywood incorporated. There’s a lots of booty shaking, but it’s not just that. It’s a great workout overall. If you haven’t tried zumba, I highly encourage you to try it, no matter where!

 

Spotlight Dance Cup 2016

This year, Lake Area Dance Center decided to try a new competition. We went to Spotlight Dance Cup. It was held at the Rivercentre in St. Paul.

20160522_182201At first, I was not impressed. The backdrop was tiny, and when I went to buy a program, they were sold out. They sold me a paper copy of the day’s schedule for $5. Because I have some sort of weird love (obsession?) for programs, I bought one anyway, so I could follow along. The downside, is there was nowhere to write awards, placements, etc. This competition proved the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

The schedule was nice, from the standpoint that all of Grace’s dances were in one day. For the dancers though, it was a bit intense – 6 dances, in the matter of about 3 hours.

A couple of things were different about this competition. The biggest thing to get used to, was the difference in adjudication. At this competition, what we know as Gold was Emerald, High Gold was called Ruby, and Platinum was called Diamond. There were many “other” awards as well: Showmanship, Entertainment, Costume, Choreography, and Cut Above. It appeared there were two levels dancers could compete at: Novice Gems (recreational and intermediate), and Future Gems (Advanced). When I was reading the rules on their website, it appeared there was also a Competitive Division, which was divided into age categories as we know them: Petite, Junior, Teen, Senior, and Adult. Looking through the portion of the program I bought, it looks as though our Teens and Seniors were in this division, while the other age groups were all in the 11 and under, Novice Gems division. I’m not completely sure though…

Placements were done similarly. 1st place overall was diamond, 2nd place was ruby, 3rd was emerald, 4th was sapphire. This was confusing to the dancers. They might have gotten a diamond score, but not placed at all, or gotten ruby or something like that. I wish they’d just stick with 1st,2nd,3rd…

Grace, Daphne, Katelynn, Sage, and Claire M. all participated in the Dance Down. What a great experience!

Grace, Daphne, Katelynn, Sage, and Claire M. all participated in the Dance Down. What a great experience!

Something really cool that this competition offered, was called the Dance Down. Dancers who  entered, all went on stage, learned a short routine, and performed it. They did 3 rounds. In the Teen Division, we had 5 dancers from our studio. Two made it to the second round, and our Superstar, Sage, won! I believe she won a gift certificate to Discount Dance Supply, and a scholarship of some sort. It was a great new experience for those dancers that entered, including Grace. Thank you, Miss Maria, for encouraging her to try it!

Overall, LADC did very well. The hip hop group “Spice Up Your Life,” got a Showmanship award. “Bellhop Boogie” got a Costume award. In the under 11 large groups, “Cadence” (pom) took 10th place, “One That I Want” (Sugarplums’ jazz) took 9th, “Bellhop Boogie” (Sugerplums’ tap) got 6th, and “Ghetto Superstar” (hip hop) took 5th place. In the 11 and under small groups, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (jazz) took 3rd place, and “Spice Up Your Life” (hip hop) took 2nd. In the Teen large group category, “This is a Remix” (tap) took 10th, and “Egypt” (open category) took 3rd. In the Senior Large Group Division, “Wobble” (tap) took 7th place. Many Diamond and Ruby adjudications were given. LADC got the ADCC Studio of Excellence Award for our success and having dancers across all age groups, and levels of dance. Basically, this award recognizes a studio for having a well rounded program.

The Teens represented LADC a few times in the awards.

The Teens represented LADC a few times in the awards.

I wrote some other notes during the day, and afterwards, when I asked Grace what she did and didn’t like about this new competition:

  • I’m not sure if there were microphones on the floor, or if it had something to do with the floor itself, but the tap sounds were nice and loud.
  • The music in between songs was not too loud (something I really appreciated, since the other competitions this year, seemed to be the opposite).
  • I liked that they did pictures with each of the winners.
  • There was a screen at the side of the stage that also showed the dances. This was helpful for those who have a hard time seeing from far away, or had heads in the way.
  • Grace felt as though the stage was “sticky”, which made turns more difficult. She also felt as though the stage was smaller than normal. She said there were only 4 lines, instead of 5, and she said she bumped the screen at least a couple times. Her final critique of the stage was that the wings were very small, which made it tough when they were going on and off stage during and after dances.
  • They had super cute apparel, and all their tank tops, were buy 1, get one. At $20 for two tank tops, that’s a deal I can get behind! I got one for me, and one for Grace. Of course, she picked the one I wanted for myself. Oh well. I like mine too.

20160612_120155The final difference that my daughter really liked, was that instead of pins, they gave each of the dancers a lanyard. Instead of pins, dancers got a charm to represent their adjudication scores. Grace said she wishes more competitions would do something like this. The lanyards and charms are super cute!

I don’t know if we’ll return to this competition or not. There were definitely things I liked, and things I wasn’t so impressed about. It may be a great one for solos, duets, and small groups to attend, as there were difficulties for the larger groups at our studio, and larger studios. Either way, I support the studio’s decision, and would be just fine going back!

 

 

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