So, it’s not really fair of me to neglect you all for so long, and then when I give you some attention, it’s only because I need something. Sorry for that.
Really what I need is a friendly ear: it’s about H. Regular readers know she is my sixth-grade daughter, and that she has been dancing since she was 4. In fact, dance has been a regular topic for my posting here. I could link back to the many instances of recital-anxiety I’ve had, running to buy bobby pins and convertible tights at the last minute, learning how to sew ribbons and elastic into pointe shoes, and spending grocery money on tuition and gas to get her to classes.
As a non-dancer myself, but as her mom, I understand that she has a good deal of raw talent and have also watched her devote enormous time and energy to her training.
When we moved last month, she had to switch studios. She was thrilled with finding new friends and continuing to dance; we found a local dance school and signed her up (and I spent all my grocery money again) on their summer intensive program.
Which she promptly hated. She came home pretty much every day wanting out of it. Their instructional style was far different from what she was used to, and they seemed to have a strict policy on everything (mostly prohibitions: no water bottles in the studio, no underwear under their tights, no smiling–OK, they could smile, but pretty much no one did, especially the instructors).
B and I convinced her to remain in the intensive and were certain that once she got into the groove of the studio and made some friends, that she would settle down and fall in love with her pas du chas once again.
As the summer wore on, things did not get better. She told me tales of being humiliated by the instructor because she had learned and performed steps slightly differently than they taught them. If she left the studio for a drink of water (no bottles, remember), she was chastised. The biggest problem involved the instructor, a man, telling her (very publicly) that she was not allowed to wear underwear under ANY circumstances. (The seam of one’s underwear is often visible through the tights, as leotards tend to be higher-cut than most underwear). And when I consulted with the directors of the studio about this policy, they confirmed. No underwear, ever.
They expect my 12-year-old daughter to wear a tampon, or to sit out of lessons (which I would be paying for regardless)? The directors nodded. Yes, they did.
This sealed the deal for me. I felt as though this was a ridiculous– outrageous, even — policy. Plus, the public humiliation was unnecessary; couldn’t the instructor pull her aside and make her aware of the “no underwear” rule more gently?
So, because H is so like me, a bad experience with something can often turn us off for good. School started this week and she’s started playing field hockey and has informed us that she really isn’t interested in dancing anymore. I’ve talked her into taking one class a week, if only to keep her connected a little, but she refuses to attend the odious no-underwear school, so I’m going to have to shop around a little to find her another studio. Plus, I’ll have two grandmothers to deal with, both of whom will be devastated if H does not continue her pre-professional program.
I’ll be honest and say that part of me feels a little relief with this. The cost of pre-professional programs, which involve 5-day a week training, is equal to that of a decent car payment. Then there’s the driving, and the costume costs, and the constant there’s-a-run-in-my-tights-can-you-stop-and-get-me-a-new-pair. And I have a whole slew of cousins, and my youngest sister as well, who danced their entire K-12 lives and then went off to college to never don a toe-tapping shoe again (as far as I know). At the other spectrum, though, is another good friend whose daughters danced their whole lives growing up and who now pretty much own and run their own dance school, something that H often talked about doing herself.
The short of it is: what do I do as a mom? How hard to I press for her to remain the “serious athlete” that she was? And the field hockey thing could be serious, but she’s coming late to that proverbial game, whereas with dance she’d be effectively throwing away 8 years of studying and training. I think she likes field hockey because the coach is good. She is encouraging and kind — she nurtures the girls, just like H’s old dance instructors did.