Dance Moms: How to Set the Barre High
We’ve all binged our fair share of reality TV shows. During pregnancy? There’s no better way to distract! On a Friday night paired with a glass of red? You betcha. So when Lifetime’s Dance Moms debuted in 2011, I thought I’d found the perfect way to wind down after a long week. It’s relevant to my life and career, after all, so it’s basically work (or at least that’s what I told myself).
Over a decade later, Dance Moms is still a show I cannot seem to shake (trust me, I’ve tried). As an IRL dance mom, studio owner, and professional reality show binger, I’m here to tell you what you’re dying to know…
Do “dance moms” really exist?
Through my many years in the dance industry, you’d be surprised how often I hear people ask, “Do dance moms really exist–you know–like that show.” I’ve thought about it a lot, and while I want to say, “Of course not,” I am sorry to admit that is not true. Sure, maybe Dance Moms episodes are edited for our entertainment, or lines are added for dramatic effect. But, as with any children’s sport or activity, there are, unfortunately, some parents who have no boundaries in ensuring their child has it all.
I’ve witnessed parents and dance mentors play the game of how to get a child “in” with important coaches or directors so that they are first in line for any special privileges. And let me tell you, it never ends well. Toxic behavior like this creates a cycle that can be really challenging to break. Gossip starts, relationships break down, and then you are left with an atmosphere that makes children feel the opposite of what, to me, dancing is about.
As a dance mom, studio owner, and teacher, I think it is our shared responsibility to ask the hard questions: Does this behavior create a safe space for our children which promotes love? My vision is to work towards creating an open, safer world where confidence and self-acceptance are celebrated, not inhibited.
What is the “Pyramid”?
Firstly, I want to set the record straight. No, “the Pyramid” does not exist in the real world, and it has been confirmed that Dance Moms producers controlled the infamous scheme. Take it from me, if you want to avoid starting drama in the dance studio, do not rank your students.
I want to talk about how we, as dance teachers and studio owners, can promote inclusivity, even if a dancer doesn’t have a lead role.
Be strategic in your choreography.
Choreograph your routines which allow multiple students to play important roles. If this is not their “time to shine,” maybe next…
Try and think outside the box with your choreography. Hone in on your dancers’ strengths and try to cater to them, as opposed to excluding them for not being skilled in an area you’re looking for.
Do not have favorites.
If this means using a neutral judge or choreographer to cast, then do it.
Be transparent and honest.
When it comes to the casting process, emphasize to your dancers that they can lose out on roles for many different reasons: preparation, lack of practice with certain techniques, and inexperience in auditioning. Be sure to highlight their strengths and what they need to work on for next time.
Be a good dance mom without being a “dance mom.”
3. Help your child respect their teacher.
Make time to have your child show you what they learned in dance class. You can support your child’s teacher by reinforcing practice sessions at home. Make it fun, and have your kiddo teach you their routine. Having them teach you, will teach them patience and respect.
4. Let them choose their own outfits (within reason)
Most studios will have a dress code to some extent. Although instructors will have a certain color requirement when it comes to leotards, tights, and skirts, let your little dancer choose what feels comfortable to them. Make a girl’s day out of it! Our main goal at the Leotard Boutique is to provide high quality dancewear that helps your child feel and look their best.
5. Prep meals and snacks together.
Eating healthy and nutritious food is important to a child’s development, and that includes dance class. Set aside time to include your child in meal planning. Let them take responsibility of some meal times, but be sure to incorporate a reward in there for all of their hard work.
How dance moms and teachers can work together?
I think it’s important to point out how monumental teamwork is for a child’s learning and development. Supporting a child’s dance career can be a huge challenge, so lean on each other for help!
Set goals with your child/dancer and schedule feedback sessions where everyone is involved.
Holding a child accountable will help them to feel important and respected. Sit down and set goals with your child/dancer, led by them. Check in and decide together how you can reach their goals. As an instructor, provide and reassure them you’re in this together.
Promote a Growth Mindset
When students believe they can improve at a skill, they understand that trying hard helps aid in a stronger performance. Therefore they are willing to put in extra time and effort, which leads to higher achievement. This is known as a Growth Mindset. The feedback that teachers and parents give a dance can either encourage a child to choose a challenge and increase achievement or look for an easy way out.
Praise your little dancer, even when they make mistakes
Making mistakes is crucial to the development process. Help your child to understand that there are good days and bad days and that everyone makes mistakes.
The bottom line
There are many issues with Dance Moms, and if watching the show taught me anything, quite simply put, it’s what not to do. Dancing, to me as a mother, and teacher, is about helping children to feel and look their best.
Thanks for reading.