It’s that time of year, when the smell of stale hairspray and sweaty ballet shoes fills your nostrils, rather than the sweet smells of spring. When I enrolled my daughter in ballet last fall, I knew the inevitable dance recital would be a new challenge for me, now being on the other side of the equation. I’m the one hauling the gear now, sewing the sequins and making that shit happen. And while the overall experience hasn’t changed much, being the dance mom is a lot more work than I thought. But like all things in motherhood, it’s totally worth it. So if you’re considering enrolling your kid in dance lessons in the fall, keep these tidbits in mind when it comes time for the dance recital.
- Tickets: You’ll probably have to pay for your own ticket to see your kid, and they cost more than they did when you were tip-toeing through the tulips. Depending on the hall, it could be upwards of $20 per person. That cash goes to pay for the hall rental and supports the studio overall, so as well as class fees, costumes, dance pictures and the video, make room in the budget to buy tickets for the recital. Hey, no one said dance lessons were cheap.
- Timing: Recitals start earlier nowadays, and so your kid will have to be at the theatre earlier. In my world, this was a challenge. B had to be at the theatre for 5pm. I work half an hour away from home and it takes twenty minutes on top of that to get to the theatre. And so, when am I supposed to feed this kid? Ya. So, I brought all the gear with me to work in the morning, got off a half an hour early, picked up McDonald’s for both of us on the way and picked B up from daycare. She ate happily in the backseat as we drove to the theatre. We got there in plenty of time to get ready. Conclusion: plan ahead…don’t do it live…you’ll only stress yourself and your kid out, and neither one of you will enjoy yourselves.
- Recitals are a lot longer than they used to be: I’m talking like 50-60 numbers, depending on the size of your studio and whether they compete during the year. Luckily for parents, most studios will put most of the little ones on in the first half, and will definitely allow you to take them home at intermission. However, if your number happens to be at the end of the first half, come prepared. In addition to all the dance gear you’ll be hauling, you’re going to want to bring some colouring books, crayons, puzzles or books to keep your booger-filled ballerina occupied until it’s time to go on stage.
- Snacks: It honestly NEVER occurred to me to bring snacks to this thing, or even cash to buy them at the concession counter. Luckily, there were plenty to go around, and I had brought a bottle of water (pat on the back) which I re-filled a dozen times, it was so humid in the dressing rooms. Most tantrums, according to the all-knowing guru known as Pinterest, happen because the kid is hungry or tired, so bring outside snacks if the theatre permits it and a bottle to refill with water. You and your kid will have a better experience if you bring sustenance.
- Hair: Most numbers will have hair requirements, dictated by the teacher. Just be aware of this if your wannabe-ballerina hates wearing her hair up. There won’t be a way around it, especially if there’s a bun involved *cringe*, so start simple at the beginning of the year and make it a rule to wear at least a pony tail to class. When it’s time to introduce the weirdness that is the bun, it’ll make your life a lot easier. If you’re not a hair girl, don’t fret, most of the other moms are happy to help pin or braid or sew or whatever. Like all things motherhood, you’re all in it together. Bring all the hair crap with you, even if you complete the style at home. Bobby pins and hairspray are the dance mom’s duct tape, so don’t forget that shit.
- Makeup: Yup, your kid will have to wear make-up, and it’ll have to be bright. Thankfully, the blue eyeshadow staple of old is no more, and all that was specified for us was that it had to be dark. So I let B pick out her favourite garish colours from my stash, broke out my trusty red lipstick and went to town. I’ll admit it was weird turning my kid into “Lil’ Miss Make-Up”, but it worked fine. I did not, however, fight the eyeliner/mascara battle…I opted out, but hey if you can get your kid to hold still for that shit, have at it.
- Bathroom before costume: Need I say more? Don’t wrestle your kid in and out of those tights more than you have to! Are you insane?!
- Showtime: If you’re not one of them, there’ll usually be volunteers for the routines to make sure they stay together and take them backstage when it’s their turn. If the show’s already started, wait until between numbers to enter quietly into the theatre and grab a seat as fast as you can. No one wants to see your ass stumbling around in the dark while their kid’s onstage trying not to pay attention to you.
- Watch your little one tap, twirl or jazz-hand their little heart out! Fingers crossed that they don’t lose their shit completely on stage.
- Aftermath: Again, don’t freak out. Your kid won’t be wandering aimlessly around the building. The volunteers will keep them together until you come to get them. Again, if it’s allowed, get up in between numbers, and leave quietly to go meet up with your kid. Out of the costume, into street clothes, and maybe sneak back in to see a few more numbers before home time. They really are great to watch.
Once again, the mysterious and insane ways my parents pulled this crap off is revealed to me like a punch in the face. But again, it was totally worth all the planning, the rushing, the stress and energy, just to sit there in the audience, watching a smaller version of myself turn and skip and pose all by herself, and with my own mom by my side! And damn if that wasn’t the most wonderful part of the show.
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