My husband raised a good point the other day as we were walking Chops.
We were talking about the girls and the topic of their dance came up and my husband made a comment about how we need to be careful about not making a big deal about the competitions. He said he could care less if they win a trophy or not, and asked “What if they danced just to dance?”
That was one of the biggest things I thought about last year at the height of the pandemic. The studio we were at was hell bent on finding ways for them to compete and get on stage. Over and over in countless emails I kept reading the likes of “we are doing this for the kids, to give them a chance to compete and show all their hard work.” So many parents fell in line with this mentality too, and all the while I was thinking to myself how not upset I was at the idea of not needing to go through what truly is a whole slew of emotions and exhaustion for the parent and kids when they compete in dance.
For three years I saw moms sometimes at their absolute worst with their kids on competition day; yelling at them because they wouldn’t sit still for makeup time, teachers that were supposed to be their mentors humiliating them when they didn’t perform as they had expected and telling them how awful they had done just minutes after getting off stage, and moms sitting there critiquing how well or bad their kid or other kids had done. I’m ashamed to admit that I fell into all of that web. There’s a reason the saying goes that you become like those you most surround yourself with, energies and habits are contagious.
And yes, I do get that when you’re the owner of a dance studio it’s a business. You have to pull in paying parents continuously in order for your business to survive, and some studios feel the way to show that is through trophies won at competitions. But as parents, why have we allowed that mentality to pass on to our children as the ONLY joy of dance is if they compete on a stage and win a trophy? Why does it become an obsession, even in the midst of a pandemic, that there must be a way for the kids to compete and to win a trophy on the pretense so they can show all their hard work. Really? Couldn’t they just do that by showing up to class and putting their best effort? By having fun? Just dancing? Their kids.
What about dancing just to dance?
We are going about it all wrong if the main objective is to get on a stage to win a trophy.
The other day Celeste made a video all on her own without any coaxing from me – not that I would do that. She decided to do one about dance. If you can look at her video through the lens of a 9 year old, you will see what made this special.
“The story of an amazing day when I was told I could dance with love.”
Because isn’t that what dance is? It took leaving and finding a different space and realigning of our objective to realize this.
When I saw this video Celeste made I thought to myself, dance is an expression of love, of colors, of every day things and collected memories and emotions. It’s not about a trophy or being on stage. It’s about Love. It’s about what you as a dancer bring to your craft. If along the way you get recognized for it, that’s awesome. But if you don’t, and your kid goes out there and gives it their best, to me they have won a greater reward.
I think too often it’s so easy to get caught up in the “show off” side and emphasize that too our kids even though we disguise it as “it’s fun! Imagine if you win X thing?! Or how awesome you got this!” And I don’t mean to diminish those rewards at all. Celeste actually recently won a scholarship for a team dance she performed in and I was so proud of her. But I think as a parent I do her a huge disservice if my main focus becomes that she won something.
When in fact, what I am most proud of is her diligence to get out there in class every day and show up and do her best. To learn about working well on a team, with other people, to include others and help them feel part of the team or class or experience. To practice love and inclusion.
I think children will put their focus on what we highlight. Let’s not be so eager to push for the trophy or reward.