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Confessions of a dance mom 1

I spent 13 years in the competitive dance world. Man I have got a lot to say after 13 years. I watched so many things evolve, change, become better, and always become worse. I will break this into several small sessions to hit many topics without writing a book each blog.

So session 1? What else besides the dance, duh.

When we started dance 13 years ago, my daughter was 4 years old.  She is now 19 years old and a student at AMDA college in Los Angels getting a Dance Theater Bachelor of Arts Degree. I remember running to my computer at home and watching numerous YouTube videos for the next amazing dance move, costume idea, or song choice.  Back then it was like a guarded secret which YouTube channels had the good stuff.  You see the really competitive parents back then in dance didn't like to share information. Fast forward to today and the information is at everyone's finger tips and easily accessible. It has been quite amazing to watch the world change before my eyes. 

Dance Quality:

I watch my daughter's videos from the start of her dance career and compare them to what you find scoring as top dances at competitions now and it is amazing what these young dancers are capable of today. With time has come knowledge in training.  The dancers now are able to perform much more difficult tricks with ease.  Not a trick person, it's okay because the dance quality has also gotten extremely better.  The substance of dances is far more entertaining to watch now.   

Everyone realized that ballet and core training was necessary to be successful in the competitive world. Even for teachers who didn't have the tools to teach these things previously were able to find resources and clinics to help.  All these outlets allowed teachers the ability to choregraph much better dances.  Even if that meant everyone was stealing everyone's ideas.  It helped dancers feel more in the moment of what was evolving.  Since we live in the Midwest, we were always doing trends and movements the coasts were doing the previous year.  In present times, there is no time lapse.  What is hot on the coasts is also hot in the Midwest.  Social media helped close that time difference, allowing everyone the right now in the moment access. 

Social media has provided endless sources for dancers to train and get information they might not have been receiving in their home studios.  Social Media also opened the door for dancers to be able to train outside their home studios.  When we started it was forbidden to train outside your home studio.  You were treated like a traitor and sometimes shunned.  Today's time, you can find an online clinic any day of the week.  


The downside to all of the easily accessible information is that everyone is now on the same playing field.  We are all watching the best dancers perform on shows like World of Dance and So You Think You Can Dance and able to immediately take what we saw and apply it to our training and competitive dances.  

So what does this do for the competitive dancers? What is popular on the shows or social media becomes what is expected.  It becomes what every dancer performs and I watched as every dance became to look the same.  One right after another on stage.  Guess what the judges usually scored as top winning dances, you guessed it, what was hot in the moment. Though we were trained better and able to execute more difficult tricks than previous years, we had also lost originality. I plan to hit deeper into this topic in a later blog. 


Big one here, I understand that the cost of things goes up over time but the rising cost of dance of the last 13 years has been a joke.  When we started a solo at a dance competition cost $75 to enter. Today some competitions want to charge up to $150. So the price has double but the quality of the competitions has not or in some cases declined.  I have watched as time requirements used to be three minutes and now they want to charge an extra fee to solos over two minutes thirty seconds. You used to like if you did win, it made the cost of the competition worth the cost.  Now most competitions have done away with cash prizes and instead substitute a prize voucher for the next season.  They always work great for seniors in their last year of competitive dancing. 

Need something choregraphed? Plan on paying an arm and a leg. I watched as choreography fees went through the roof.  Everyone thought they had the next best idea and wanted to charge at minimum $350 for a solo.  That was to come in throw a piece at your kid within a few hours and never work with them again.  If they won great, make sure you tell them who choreographed it but if you lost, too bad that's on you.  Cleaning, oh no, you had to find someone else to do that for you.  And another fee! The problem became that parents lost their voices in the matter. I remember telling someone we were unhappy with the piece someone gave my daughter and asked for a refund or a new piece.  This teacher was like, I would never have worked with your kid again at that point. I responded, well I probably would have never hired you, but you need to remember I am paying for a service just like my trash company and if I don't get the agreed upon service, I can and will ask for it to be fixed or a refund. You want to do business then you need to do good business.  The reaction really got me thinking and watching the dance world my daughter's last few years.  It was everywhere! Every teacher thought they were something special and us parents owed them.  Because of this mentality it caused many dances by these teachers and choreographers to look all the same.  Why, because now there was no accountability for crappy work.  


I remember my daughter calling me from college and telling me what happened in her college dance class.  They were slating before class and a dancer said "I used to be a comp kid." The teacher with the most disgusted tone and face replied "what does that even mean." She informed the class though she could tell who was comp over company kids, she didn't understand what a "comp kid" was. My daughter had to help explain to the teacher that it means quantity was taught over quality. The more of something you could do was far more impressive than if it was correct. If you go to a dance college after being a competitive dancer, no one cares. Plain and simple, no one cares.  No one cares if you won a thousand times or never even placed. No one cares, who you used to be. No one cares about yesterday but rather what training you have to offer now.  If you were taught incorrectly, you will spend months and semesters fixing all the incorrect things you learned over the years.  Because there are correct ways of doing things and if your childhood teachers didn't get the knowledge to teach correctly, you were probably taught wrong. 

Closing thoughts:

I will go dive more deeply into some of these thoughts in this blog and many more in later blogs.  I'm not saying don't be a competitive dancer by no means. We have endless great memories from doing it but educate yourselves.  Know what you are paying for and demand to get your monies worth.

Happy dancing and talk to you in the next blog. 


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