Finding Community: A Letter from a Dance Mom

IMG_9900If you've been reading this site for a while, you have probably read about my longing for community as a parent. Where is this village we have all heard of? Where is that sense of all parents pitching in and helping out and looking out for each other? Well, I have to tell you guys a secret, I've found it.

Last week my 7 year old daughter and I drove down and back to Schenectady probably about eight or ten times for rehearsals. She was overjoyed (understatement of the century) at getting a part as a "party girl" in Act One of the annual Nutcracker performance by the Northeast Ballet Company, and having done it for the past two years (when she was a little "Gingerbread" in the production) we were used to it. But this year was a little different. It was a bigger role, it meant more time in rehearsals, more costume requirements, a whole new set of things to learn about like what kind of hairpiece to get and what kind of makeup to wear, how to get the bun right under the hairpiece and all these little details that I had no idea about.

The thing is, I have to admit I was a little worried about the other "dance moms". I've never watched the show of the same name, but the general idea of a dance mom or a "stage mom" is not a good one. There's a fairly negative connotation of back stabbing and jealousy, even sabotage. So I was a little guarded, nervous even.


The reality of how these parents are though couldn't be more different. Everyone helps out, from spending long hours in the sewing rooms creating the beautiful costumes the kids will wear on stage, to helping schlep everything needed from studio to theater, to volunteering long hours as a room parent, basically making sure every dancer is ready to go and where they need to be. This means there can be no jealously, no back stabbing. You want all the dancers to do well because they are all working together, they are all in this together. Moms trade the info happily, letting the newbies like me know where to buy the right stuff for the costume, how to get the flattest bun, how to pin the curls to the side the way the company director wants it. All of this little information is a lifesaver, it helps my daughter, it helps me, and it helps the entire group as a whole, and I am always so grateful and excitedly pass the info on to the other newbies when it is my turn.

In our "Party Girl" room, everyone helps out, even the kids. Need a hairnet to cover a bun? Someone gives you one of theirs. Need help pinning a costume? Someone jumps in to do it in time. Someone gets sick and can't be there for their room parent shift? Someone covers it. They do this so that everything will run smoothly not just for their child, but for all these kids that worked so hard.

The biggest sense of community came though when I had to just drop her off at the room and leave so I could watch the performance. I was way more nervous than she was, would the sash on her costume stay pinned? Would she accidentally smear her lipstick before she went on stage? Would her hairpiece come undone? Would she suddenly get nervous and want her mom, and I wouldn't be there to give her a pep talk? There's nothing to do but put your faith in the fellow room parent that she will make sure that all of the girls, her daughter and your daughter included, make it down backstage in time ready to go. You linger in the doorway, nervously mumbling about whether or not you put enough bobby pins in and letting the room mom know for the millionth time where the lip liner is, and then you go and wait in the audience with a giant sized lump in your throat holding your breath until their part is over.

The performance was successful because of the hard work of the ballet company director and the staff, the incredibly hard working dancers (some as young as 5!) but also because of the underpinning community of these parents who bust their butts to get these kids there on time, to help do their part so that ALL of the parts come together beautifully. I can't say enough how happy I am to be part of the Northeast Ballet Company community, and a big thank you to all of the dancers and parents and Myers Dance Center teachers and staff. xoxo