Moving From Tutu to the Stage

Dance … it either strikes fear or joy in the hearts of parents of every little girl. I grew up in a hometown dance studio and followed it all the way through college. So, it was no mystery of what would lie ahead of my daughter from the very second she showed her sweet little profile on the ultrasound.

Moving from Tutu to the Stage | Houston Moms Blog

I was the mom that bribed the dance teacher to take my little Piper at 2 years old, when the studio didn’t normally start kids until age 3. As much as I say now that it’s Piper’s decision on what she does concerning dance, let’s just be honest and say that those first few years it was all me.

Fast forward to age 5.

The week of the recital, Piper’s dance teacher pulled me aside. I thought perhaps she was in trouble, but instead she said that we might want to think about having her audition for the competition team. Without even thinking about the time commitment, I asked about the cost. {Even this weekend, my husband and I got into a “discussion” about what a cheapskate I can be.}

The night of the recital, as my husband and I watched the difference in the skillset of the kids that took “regular class” versus the kids on the competition team, our mind was made up quickly that we would let Piper audition.

I’ll be honest. We had ZERO idea what we were getting into. This was before the days of Dance Moms. Although I had 20 years of dance experience, remember that I never competed. I was truly going in blind. All I knew was that my monthly bill had gone from $72 to $286. {Or so I thought.}

Moving from Tutu to the Stage | Houston Moms BlogThat first year, Piper was 6 years old and in 1st grade. She danced 4 days each week from 45 minutes to 2 hours each night. She competed in 2 group dances, but took classes in ballet, tap, and jazz classes. She was in a sweet little group of 5 girls, and in no time flat, the girls and the moms were the best of friends.

In 1st grade, this small time commitment was nothing for Piper. She rolled with the punches, and none of the nights were late this first year. What was daunting was, that unlike soccer or tee-ball, dance is a year-round commitment. And more so than your regular class, it wasn’t just once a week – plus, it also involved weekends. By the time we ended the season, Piper was hooked – she loved the classes, she loved the competition, and she couldn’t even think of anything other than dancing.

Fast forward five years later.

The hours and the commitment have gradually increased each year. Not only that — we’ve changed studios and teachers in order to have classes that would be more conducive to a professional dance training environment. With that, we’ve had an increase in hours, expectations, and training.

Piper is in the studio training for 17 hours each week, plus an average of 4 hours of rehearsals for her competition dances. It’s a grueling schedule to say the least. Piper literally gets off the bus and goes straight to the studio every day. When I say “literally” I mean it. She gets off the school bus at 4:05, and her first class begins at 4:30. She finishes most nights at 9:30. After that, it’s time for homework. Dinner 4 nights a week is at the dance studio – in between classes.

This schedule isn’t for everyone. As a mom, I get it because I’m watching it happen in real time every day. I listen carefully for the words, “I don’t want to go to class today.” {I can honestly say that not one time has Piper ever said that she didn’t want to go to class. She goes to her assigned classes and every optional one on her list.} I watch her intently for signs of fatigue. But, she has no problems getting up in the morning and has remained a wonderful gifted student. She has transformed into one of those kids that needs the activity in her schedule to thrive.

Moving from Tutu to the Stage | Houston Moms BlogPiper is the most organized 5th grader you will find, I guarantee it. She is the master of making lists and checking them off. She packs her own bag for class every day and keeps track of anything extra that she needs. These are things that she has had to do on her own, years ahead of most of her friends, because I work full-time outside the home. If an item is forgotten and I’m at work, I can’t just leave the office to play back-up.

What are the downfalls? Birthday parties, sleepovers, school clubs – count them out. The schedule doesn’t have time for those. Family vacations – they will most likely take place wherever dance nationals are. {I pray for a beach location every year!} Extra money? That’s gone too. Our cheapest year of competition dance came in just under $10k. The most expensive just over $22k.

I have people all the time tell me how crazy I am for spending this amount of money for an activity for a little girl. I totally get it. If you’re reading this and you’ve said that to me, don’t worry. I’m not offended.

But, here’s the thing…

My child lights up when her feet are on the stage. It’s truly like nothing else for me to watch her dance. When she comes home from class at night, she is still dancing. She will most likely take a few minutes to work on something that she missed in rehearsal or a part that she needs to learn for the next day, or my favorite – she wants to show us a skill that she mastered for the first time that night. I never say to her that she needs to practice before she heads off to bed; Piper does this on her own. Things like this prove to me that this dream has transferred to be her own.

I’ve made friends through the years who have kids that compete in gymnastics {like training for the Olympics gymnastics!}, ones who have kids that play select/travel baseball, you know the like. The stories we tell are all the same. Trade a bat for a pointe shoe, and it’s an identical story. We are all a tad bit crazy, but we’re also a whole lot blessed.

Moving From Tutu to the Stage | Houston Moms BlogHaving a child super training for anything before they are 18 is so out of the ordinary. It’s not for everyone. You know your child and what they can handle from a time, physical, and emotional standpoint. We’re all just trying to do our best out here, right? But, if you do go down this road in any sport, I would suggest building your village tightly. Intimately know the people that are training your kids. Trust your gut when it’s time to change paths. Find a parent mentor that has walked your road. Understand that there’s a lot of room for everyone at the top. And, above all, enjoy the ride!

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