Grace Under Fire

Today was Miss 12’s mid year dance concert. To be honest it has been a train wreck. The studio was so disorganised that, among other things, it wasn’t until yesterday that we got the full costume list and were not able to purchase the required studio t-shirt for the finale as the studio was closed by the time we got the email. An email. Less than 18 hours before the big production.

Miss 12 has anxiety issues. She is a perfectionist. She can also be quite reserved at times. Yet she was born to perform…when she is on the stage the anxiety disappears and she just glows.

My mother and I were both pushed into performing. My grandmother was an actress, a singer, a comedian, a former contortionist in the circus (and trapeze), a dancer (jazz, tap, ballet…anything) and she was great at them all. My mum was pushed into it and absolutely hated it, and yet when I came along and LOATHED performing (having the same anxieties as my daughter, without any desire or inclination to perform) my mum allowed her to shove me into it kicking and screaming. So when my first born daughter came home from prep, at just five years old, with a flyer for acting classes I said no. I knew how fragile her little ego was. I knew how much she wanted to be liked and in the spotlight, but I was just so afraid for her. Six months later the flyer came home again. This time she wasn’t taking no for an answer. I tried for a week to talk her out of it. Then, out of sheer stubbornness (she also inherited that) I told her she could only go if she organised her own audition. I turned around and she was on the phone. At that point I decided that she wanted it and I was only holding her back.

To get a place in this particular acting/singing/dancing company she had to audition. The whole way there on the train I kept telling her it wasn’t too late to cancel. We could go get ice cream instead … but she was stubborn determined. When we arrived we discovered that she had been misplaced. Instead of auditioning with other 5-8 year olds she was going to be auditioning with teenagers. The first part of the audition was the acting side. They selected two kids at a time to get up and then they were given a scenario and told to improvise. When I heard that I wanted to grab her and make a run for it. But she jumped up the second she got her chance and she just shone. Yes she was adorable playing mum to a teenage girl…but she glowed.

Since then she has been performing. She stopped singing because of her enlarged adenoids that make it hard to breath (we have been on the surgery waiting list for over a year now) but has moved in and out of various performing arts – acting, singing, ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, gymnastics ect. EVERY SINGLE ONE has come naturally to her. At one point her three sisters were in the same studio as her, doing the same classes and while I love them all dearly, I can truly say that it wasn’t for them. They would agree. So I would like to think I am not terribly biased….just a little.

After a year without dancing she asked to go back to it. But she decided she wanted to focus on ballet only. All but one studio in a 25km radius had dance classes on a Saturday morning and at the time we just couldn’t do Saturdays. Not surprisingly (to me anyway) it has all come back to her. She is a natural. I can look over at her almost any time through the day and she will be practising one move or another. Often she doesn’t even seem aware of it.

Things have been stressful at home with me going in and out of hospital and everyone of the girls being very unwell on and off for the last 2 months. So she missed two classes in a row leaving her with just two classes before the performance. In my opinion they never adequately prepared the students for today’s performance. Wednesdays lesson saw their dance still being changed (even more so when one of the girls called to say she broke her shoulder at school and was out), tickets had only just gone on sale, there were no hair/make up instructions. I had no idea when she needed to be at the theatre. Music was still being organised. It was a total shambles.

It was worse because the studio director insisted on booking a (very expensive) local theatre putting tickets at $26pp for adults and $20pp for children. Meaning we had to pay over $120 just to see her perform. That is on top of the $56 we paid for her “costume” (a basic white dress that she won’t get to keep), the $150 per term for the lessons and her uniform. I don’t mind paying fees for the girls activities but sometimes it just feels like they are constantly putting their hands out and it gets ridiculous. Because of the cost involved she couldn’t afford to pay for the space to also have a dress rehearsal. Because of the relatively small space they had to do two shows so all the parents could see it. So the kids were totally lost.

Now just to be clear…I have been watching my girls perform at various concerts since my eldest was five. I don’t expect perfection. They are kids. I love to see them enjoying performing. It doesn’t bother me one bit if they “mess it up”. But I do take issue with adults deciding they can push through a mid year concert to make money at the expense of the kids. I am not the only daughter with anxiety issues. It was completely unfair on the kids.

I spent half my morning reapplying Miss 12’s make up as she kept bursting into tears because she wasn’t quite sure about the ending…they only decided on it in the last 10 minutes of her last class. She was horrified she might mess it up on stage. To make matters worse two of the girls in Miss 12’s class froze on stage. They had no idea what to do. Poor darlings. Apparently when they got off stage their teacher screamed at them. Told them they were a disappointment and made one girl cry. My daughter scraped through because she remembered the performance. To say I am mad would be a colossal understatement. If it had been her that had been yelled at she might decide to never dance again.

Which would be a shame as she is just a delightful dancer. I was completely moved to tears by her grace on stage. I think I always saw her as more of a pop star….I never realised how incredibly beautifully she danced. I just keep saying the word “graceful” because that’s what it was. It was just so beautiful. I honestly thought my heart would burst I was so proud and moved. As well as being incredibly graceful, she also just beams when she is on stage. Her whole face lights up and she has the most amazingly lovely smile. I can’t help but think she was born to perform.

At the moment she is sitting backstage, in her pink fluffy bathrobe, waiting to go on for her second performance. Her dad and his best friend are in the audience watching 3yo’s dance to “I’m too Sexy” and I hope she is enjoying herself.

I also want to add how lucky we are to have friends who love our kids so much that they are willing to come over to this side of the city on the train, in the rain and then paying for the privilege (sarcasm) of sitting through 2.5 hours of other kids performing so that they can be there to support our daughter for the three minutes she was on stage. We aren’t close to our family so we rely on them so much to be in our girls lives.

Here she is looking a little too orange…god I hate stage makeup…but beaming

And in case your wondering…the search for a non psychotic dance studio starts tomorrow.



4 thoughts on “Grace Under Fire

  1. I did dancing as a child, and I hated it. My mum forced me to do it and I was so unco-ordinated and hopeless that I could never keep up with the class. Every mistake I made, and every time I was put on the side at the very back of the stage for a whole performance, it further eroded my self esteem. I used to cry before lessons, begging not to have to go. As a mother, I won’t force my kids to do any activities if they don’t want to.

    It’s lovely that your Miss 12 enjoys dancing (and that you don’t force your kids to dance…). I hope you find the right school. Unfortunately over this way they all seem to be super expensive, the prices that you quote don’t surprise me (I have heard of $100+ for custom made costumes, multiple pairs of shoes if costume changes require different colours, wigs etc)

    • It is insane to try to force your kids to do something (more than try…I am big on pushing the girls to try new things) they hate. Especially when everyone has their own likes and dislikes and their are classes for everyone. There are a million sports, art classes, a million dance classes, ice skating, rock climbing, archery, pottery, manga drawing, chess clubs…why would you focus on one thing unless your child loves it? I just don’t get it and unfortunately I saw a lot of those kids on stage yesterday…including one teenage boy in jazz class who shuffled from side while giving his parents death stares. While the other boy in his class was in about 7 different performances and clearly loved it. I think some parents get so hung up on their own ideas about either what a certain gender should do or push kids into something they really wish they had been able to do. It really is a shame.

    • Unfortunately dancing hasn’t seemed to have changed since I was pushed into it, or since my mum was pushed into it. Unfortunately even with two friends leaving the studio (with the same concerns we have) and the teacher in question also leaving the studio we have been unable to convince Miss 12 she might be happier somewhere else.

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