If you have followed my blog much, you know that Caroline started competitively dancing last year. We only did one dance, so our commitment level was as minimal as possible, but we had a front row seat to the competitive dance life.
We felt like Caroline had proven she loved the activity and was a responsible student and team member, so we allowed her to try out for the competitive team again this year and she will be performing 4 dances. I have been surprised (sort of) at the assumptions that people make and the strong opinions some have about the sport, (and after a year of watching them practice and perform, trust me, it is SO a sport!), so I thought I would take a minute and address some questions and misconceptions people have about competitive dance.
First off, let me assure you that we are not like the people you see on Toddlers and Tiaras or Dance Moms. It's good television, to be sure, but it's a shame that Dance Mom is the way TLC chooses to represent dancing companies. Yes, our girls wear stage makeup and costumes, but I am hard pressed to think of a sport that does not have a uniform of some sort. And if our directors, teachers, or staff ever got wind that our parents or girls were acting like little divas, being rude or disrespectful or poor sports, it would be addressed faster than you can say pirouette! Rock City was founded on 4 character traits, one of them being RESPECT, and they are serious about it. They respect our dancers and families and expect it from us as well.
The second thing that I am often asked about is the time commitment. Like any sport, there are practices and performances. The more dances you choose, the more time you spend rehearsing. Each family can make that decision for themselves. Last year, since Caroline was only in one dance, she only spent 1.5 hours each week at practice. Competitions did not start for her until the 2nd semester and there were 4 weekends of them, 3 of which were in Arkansas and we could drive up, dance, and go home the same day if we wanted to. The 4th was in Dallas and she and I enjoyed a night in a hotel and some quality mother/daughter time (where I may or may not have shared the facts of life with her). Over the summer, they had a week of rehearsals for the National Competition (which was in Branson). I think she had to practice a couple of hours each day and then we drove in the morning of her dance and ended up spending the night because they were chosen to perform the last day for Battle of the Allstars. This year, she will dance a little over 5 hours each week and will go to the same 4 competitions 2nd semester. We may have to spend the night for a couple of them depending on how spread out her 4 dances are, but the weekend commitment is not much more.
If you compare that to the soccer teams for girls her age, you will find that they are practicing and conditioning a comparable amount of time and traveling as much or more. Same thing for swimmers in our area. Obviously, there is always the option of NOT participating in a sport that requires more than an hour or so a week and there are recreational options for dance that are great, but we felt like our schedule and her interest could handle the time requirements.
People also assume that it is super expensive. Don't get me wrong--it's not free--but we sat down with the director ahead of time and knew our monthly cost, costume expense, and approximate competition fee before we signed our commitment form. One of the things that I LOVE about our company is that our directors don't pretend that we all have unlimited funds from which to pay for dance. We have had carwashes and fundraisers and have the option of selling our costumes back and applying that money towards the next year's costumes (like books in college). Brilliant.
What has us hooked, however, is the way dance has built her confidence and character. Not all of it comes easy. She hadn't danced since she was 4 and a lot of these girls are on their 6th year of dancing. Caroline has had to take risks and catch up and it has paid off in so many ways. She's got potential. She's got personality. She's got drive. And she has people I trust pushing her enough but not to much; encouraging her without blowing smoke; requiring things of her that aren't easy but are good. There are going to be things she won't be able to do or be able to do well, but she's getting a "thing"--you know, something that when she struggles in another area can give her confidence to keep trying and can encourage her that while you can't be good at everything, you are good at something. I personally believe that everyone needs a "thing".
It's a year to year commitment for us. She has to want it and work for it. She's in charge of a family yard sale to earn some money so she can help contribute towards the cost of dance. Not because we have gotten in over our heads, but because we want her to own it a bit . . . to value this opportunity. Next year, we will sit down and discuss if she wants to do more or less or none at all and what we are willing to sacrifice, but I will tell you that I have watched friends with boys her age spend as much time on baseball and football and tennis and we are all ok. Every child is different, every family has to make their own choices, but if you are getting your info about competitive dance from Miss Abby on TLC, you need to spend some time with Mrs. Kristen at Rock City to get the real picture.
We are proud to support Caroline and RCDC!
2 days ago