Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dance Moms - It’s Not Real

And all I have to say about that is “Thank God!”

This post isn't necessarily for those of us who are already dance moms and dads.  It’s for everyone else.  Grandmas, uncles, cousins, friends...and most importantly, for those people who are on the fence about enrolling their child in dance classes.

Dance Moms doesn't represent anything that’s real about the dance world - any of it.  It certainly doesn't represent pre-pro dancing, which is what Abby tries to claim. (She frequently claims that many of her students are big professional stars. And maybe they are, but they didn't get there by participating in the hysterics that that show offers up.)

What irritates me the most is the way the competition world is portrayed. I've been a competition mom for a very long time and as my oldest and youngest are many years apart, I don’t see myself leaving this arena any time soon. I've seen a lot.  But I've never seen anything like they portray on that show.

I won’t say that everything is always sunshine and roses.  You’ll encounter people who aren't very nice.  You’ll experience people who cheat, who think their dancer is the next Anna Pavlova, who you worry might try to break the leg of any dancer who gets in their way. There will be people who are only in it for the “glory” - the trophies and whose lives hinge on where their child’s solo places that weekend.  People involved in dance at every level step on people to get what they want, they name drop, they trash other dancers or studios. (I promise I’m getting to the point.)  They can be downright nasty.  But... replace the word dance with the word football and tell me it’s any different? Maybe less glitter.  I think.

They way this “reality show” depicts life inside a competitive dance studio is ridiculous.  The thing is - those of us who live it KNOW that. (And if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see me ranting and raving about just these things each time it’s on.)  The reason I’m angry is because of those of you who watch who aren’t dance parents. This is the picture you’re given of what dance teachers and parents are like.  It isn’t real.  If it were real, my kids wouldn't be doing it.

I know that everyone’s experiences and everyone’s studios are different.  There are great teachers and owners just like there are bad ones.  I can only speak to my experience and say that dance has done far more for my children than it has ever been negative. Dance teaches poise, responsibility, encourages physical fitness, and builds lifelong relationships - not just for your kids, but for parents too.

Still not convinced? Here are some things I've seen recently on Dance Moms that do not happen in the real world.

  • Competing every weekend - again every studio is different, but I can’t say I know anyone that competes every single weekend.  Competitive dance is expensive. Unless you have a cable station footing the bill, you won’t be boarding chartered buses or airplanes to get to weekend competitions.
  • Learning new numbers every week - most studios learn their competition dances and then spend weeks or months cleaning them, getting them ready for competition. And I do not believe for one second that those kids don’t know those dances before they “learn” them on the show.
  • Physical fights in the dressing rooms.  Snotty comments made under your breath, yes. All out fights...never seen one.
  • Teachers demeaning students (and parents) - I know it may happen. Like I said, there are some pretty rotten owners out there.  I can’t say I personally know a single parent who would put up with the made-for-tv abuse that the girls and their mothers endure on that show. If you find a good studio, it just doesn't happen.
  • Pitting kids against each other - Competitive teams don’t just have one 13 year old and one 8 year old.  Your kid might have a solo or a group dance against her friend.  It’s a good opportunity to learn about sportsmanship and losing AND WINNING gracefully.
  • Pulling a kid out of a number because you don’t like the mom.  It just doesn't happen. People that aren't on t.v. have businesses to run.  That’s not really an income generating activity.

It breaks my heart to know that so many of you are steering away from dance because of the made-for-tv drama in what is decidedly not a reality show at all. I hope you’ll let your child experience the joy of dance and performing.  The feeling you’ll get when watching them will not be equaled. I promise you that.


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