Why My Daughter Quit Dance
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Ever since she was three, Miss Sarah has had weekly dance classes. Like all young students, she started with ballet. Later came jazz, and then tap dance. I watched her joy at recital time and secretly loved her stamina, flexibility, and the lessons that dancing taught her. Dance helped her with her focus on thought, relaxed her, and challenged her too. That is why I was surprised at not only the fact she wanted to quit, but why my daughter quit dance.
Why My Daughter Quit Dance
For over ten years Miss Sarah was with the same studio in our town and even danced in it’s professional productions like The Nutcracker and Alice in Wonderland. She was known by name with all the instructors and looked up to the owner as a mentor. Those rare words of praise were like gold to Sarah and she, like any tween, soaked them up by an adult role model.
Then came this spring’s recital. Having had 15 credits in college that year, a pretty bad bully problem at school, and a brand new body – thanks to puberty, it was a tough year. She was on the school volleyball team for the fall and had to miss a few dance classes for games. NO big deal – she went to their other location on the off day and did make up classes. We were told that since the classes there were ninety minutes instead of the normal sixty at our studio that two make up classes would equal three missed classes. She put in the time and actually did one class more than she needed to by mistake (my fault for not keeping better track!)
Dress rehearsal night arrives. As we enter and figure out where the dressing room is for the older gals, the head of the studio sees us and says “Oh my God, is that Sarah? She’s huge!” as my kiddo is walking away. I cringed inside and hoped that the craziness of the disorganized chaos was enough to drown that out and keep it from Miss Sarah’s ears. I would learn later that I was wrong and it was heard. While part of her died inside, she put on her “happy face”, got dressed, and went through the rehearsal and picture taking. We learned that during the rehearsal, the shirt needed to be pinned down, her new bust kept popping it up.
Then came recital day. At the end of the show they always have the awards. Knowing she would get perfect attendance from all the make up classes, she was surprised to hear special recognition for students who have been there over ten years. Quickly doing the math in her head, she was just waiting for her name to be called.
It never was.
Perplexed and figuring to ask about it later, she knew she would be called up for her attendance certificate.
She never was.
So, not only was she feeling fat shamed but a mentor, but now totally forgotten. She didn’t even want to take family photos, she just wanted to get dressed and go home. She certainly didn’t want to order any of the statuettes that we have collected every year from the professional photographers either. I knew something was wrong, but had no idea.
I tried to make her feel better by letting her know I was “missed” too when sitting with the other moms at the main studio when she was in class. The office lady passed out thank you notes to the moms for the Nutcracker help and I had custom made nutcracker journals for their silent auction gift baskets. Everyone at the table got an envelope but me. It had the opposite effect: she gave me a look with the eyes of a much older soul and said “Well, I guess it was all about the paycheck, either that or their bookwork really sucks“.
The following month was a one week workshop through the studio on musical theater. As she loves being on stage and has done professional acting in TV commercials, we signed up for their workshop, knowing her favorite teacher, would be one of the instructors. Miss Sabra is a professional dancer and actress herself and helped Sarah with tips for her Annie audition for the Fireside Dinner Theater. (We were to learn later that there was a snafu and Sabra wasn’t able to be there) Nervous, but looking forward to it, Miss Sarah arrived the first day. One small panic, she learned there would be tap dancing and she hadn’t taken tap classes for a few years. She looked around at the other students and instantly felt uncomfortable, her size 14 in a room full of 4-6 sized gals and the head of the studio leading the class.
After half an hour, she tried to call home and ask me to come get her.
The office lady found out what she was trying to do and wouldn’t let her call me. They “folded her back” into that activities and kept her there all day. At this point, Miss Sarah felt like it was just the fact that they wanted to keep the five hundred dollars that the workshop cost and put on her “happy face” to get through the day. She even faked the tapping.
I now call her “happy face” her “brave face”…
The hubster picked her up after work and she cried the entire way home, to just go into her room when they got home. There was no way she was going back the next day.
I called the studio the next morning and was told by the head of the studio how she was “doing so well” and “fit in just fine” the day before and then got a mini lesson on how “everything has come easy for Sarah and this is something that she has to work for…”
She didn’t ever want to go back to that studio, in fact, she decided that her new non-dancer body was obviously not a fit for dance and it was time to move on.
This just crushed me because I could see how it was eating at her. Sarah is not fat, but went from a AA to a D bust, with matching hips in about three months. She actually has the same measurements that Marilyn Monroe did at that height of her career, but with a slightly larger waist. HOW is that “huge” ?? She has strong thighs and arms from volleyball too… she will never have a traditional “dancer body” unless she starves herself.
But let’s move past that – she is one of the brightest young minds in our country right now, and I don’t say that lightly or as a “bragging parent”. She started college at the age of nine and is now a thirteen-year-old Junior in college who is mastering in Astrophysics. The reason we have her on the University of Iowa campus each June is for the Belin Blank Center’s Junior Scholar Institute where can connect with other like minded young adults from across this country. She has earned her Silver Award in Girl Scouts and will be working on her Gold this year and the next. She talks to students from Kindergarten to High School and encourages them to write as well as enjoy learning as she has penned over twenty books. She is auditioning for the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra this year with her violin.
She loved dance but hung up her dancing shoes
As I write this, I beg all adults to remember that words have power. When an adult remembers a child’s name and uses it, it has the ability to empower that young soul, making them feel special enough to be noticed. It helps create role models and you become someone they want to emulate. On the other side of the fence, when you fuck up – that is why it hurts them so much. Words are why my daughter quit dance, words and the feelings that they created.
I invite you to check out Miss Sarah’s website – she uses it to provide free ideas to help make learning fun and encourage kids in the world of STEM. You will see things like what she did when a friend of hers tried to kill themself, lots of free printables, and more… she is now looking at creating an app for encouraging others. She has come up with one thousand, eight hundred and twenty self esteem quotes, enough to create a five year loop at one a day to be sent to people’s phones. So they remember how awesome they are if someone that they loop up to fucks up. (My words, not hers.)
I didn’t know the “rest of the story” until Miss Sarah and I were alone on a hike recently. She has been my camping and kayaking buddy over the last two months and she finally opened up to me. My heart bled as she told me that she did hear that comment in June and why she really thought it was time to move on from dance lessons. Parents? I encourage you to create those one on one moments that give them a chance to open up to you.