Sunday, June 15, 2008

Some more thoughts on dance

13 years ago, I could never have foreseen myself sitting through two 3 hour long dance recitals, loving every minute of it! I was a tomboy myself, although my parents tried to civilize me with dance lessons and piano, etc. I always escaped to the football game with the boys, the rougher the better. I was initially blessed as a mother with 2 wonderful boys, who were all boy and we happily played in the mud and wrestled and climbed trees. We camped and hiked and were fascinated by spiders and snakes and I taught them how to throw and catch and all of it. I figured I had this mother thing down pretty pat and wasn't doing so bad on some of the more traditional father things either (DH is not much of one for the playing).

The we adopted and got 2 girls as part of the sibling group so I was introduced to dresses and such, but neither of my 2 girls were very girly. Given some of their early trauma, things like dance and frilly princess stuff just didn't come up.

And then Kendra was born, our joyful gift from God. Right from the get go she was a different person. She was not a rowdy baby, she was mostly happy and content. Then at 18 months old she started to insist on being who she was, A GIRLY GIRL. She refused to wear anything but dresses and had to have her hair up in curls and bows. Heck we didn't even own bows, I had to make some. She insisted on wearing dressy shoes, no practical sneakers for her. And at 18 months she announced she wanted to be a dancer. I was floored, I don't even know where she got the idea. We were never around girls who took dance class, but she was insistent. My mother got her a VCR tape of little girls doing a ballet class and that is all the child wanted to watch. She would watch and imitate and soon had the moves memorized.

But she wanted to go to a real class she kept insisting. We bought tutus and ballet shoes and when she was toilet trained I found a great little dance studio on the recommendation of a friend. Thus began Kendra's obsession with dance. When all the other 2 year olds clung to their mothers and cried about going out on stage, Kendra marched right out, found her mark and waited in opening pose. She has never looked back.

And how my life has changed. I learned to sew and design costumes (because dance is expensive!) I learned about makeup, something I had never used my whole life. I learned about competitions and auditions and shows. And every step of the way Kendra has blossomed and grown.

The studio where she dances is fabulous. I don't really know about the quality of dance but it must be good enough as each year several of the dancers are accepted to the Youth Performing Arts high school and they only take 20 dancers for each freshman class from across the whole city/county. The reason I say her studio is fabulous is because of everything she has learned there. The values of the director and her teaching staff are awesome. They do not push the girls just to get awards, they push them to be their best in every area of their life. The role models of sober, hardworking, family loving adults is one that is awesome.

Kendra considers the studio her second home and it is one that I feel comfortable leaving her at. The friends she has developed are the right kind of girls and boys. They are focused on dance and school and giving back to the community (a big part of this studio's philosophy). The parents are involved and know what their children are doing and with whom. There is a level of trust there that is pretty awesome.

Kendra has been able to explore who she is in a welcoming and accepting and forgiving environment. There is always plenty of drama, get 100 teens together anywhere and you will have drama, but the teachers keep a lid on it and model how to live life better.

Every so often my DH or I question the monetary commitment we have made to Kendra's dance but then something will come along to remind us of how lucky we are that our teenage daughter has a circle of peers and adults who are going the right way. Her path to adulthood has been smoothed in many ways by her participation in dance. She is never bored, she never has nothing to do, she has tremendous self-confidence, and she is developing great teaching skills as she is now an assistant teacher.

Solos have taught Kendra how to focus and improve herself, being part of a dance group has taught her loyalty and responsibility. Being a teacher has taught her empathy and patience.

Being a dance Mom has taught me to respect each of my children as unique individuals, and has taught me to a friend myself to the other dance moms.

I can't remember the last time I played touch football but just yesterday I was at dance and I'll be there tomorrow too.

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