August 2013 | EditorSpeak

Micromanaging Moms

I was internet stalking for studio news when I came across a dance mom and her irate, two-part blog. Apparently she thought her young daughter was being forced to wear a revealing, sexualized outfit and (to further tarnish the child) perform to a song inappropriate in the extreme.

The offense? An “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” costume and corresponding song. This mom—along with what she claimed to be a classroom’s-worth of offended moms—planned to withdraw her 3-year-old daughter before any more damage was done and find the closest gymnastic gym.

In reading this post, I came to a startling revelation about costumes and the dance studio world. No matter how carefully a teacher considers all her students’ sizes and shapes, picking long skirts to hide perpetually bent knees or perky colors for a lethargic troupe, some mum will turn up her nose. Why? Because she didn’t pick it herself.

Selecting just the right clothing for a precious daughter is a mom’s sacred duty. Yet once in the dance studio, moms must fork over $50, $60, $75 for what is basically a grab bag. And, like in the army or Catholic school, there’s no opting out. Put it on, soldier, and get in line.

How else to explain all those angry mom grunts over choices we’re so excited about: costumes that match the song like a glove. Costumes that will make every kid—no matter how scrawny or plump—look like a star. Costumes guaranteed to make an audience go, “Awww!”

I once proudly presented a class with elegant white platter tutus and bodices kissed with silver sparkles and marabou, only to have a mom sniff, “My Mackenzie doesn’t look good in white.”

Mackenzie and her discriminating mom did not return to the studio. It’s a shame, because my plan for the next season was to hand the catalog to the mom, escort her to the crowded lobby, and shout, “Your choice—good luck!” And then sit back in my teeny bikini and watch the fur fly. —Karen White, Associate Editor


Step Aside, Sophia

In March, Sophia Lucia—that little girl in the one tap shoe—broke the Guinness World Record by doing 55 pirouettes. A couple of months later, I broke my own record by turning 53.

OK, so Sophia’s feat was a miracle of physics, or physical talent, or shoe surface. Probably physical talent. But seriously. The girl is like, 10. When you’re 10, specialness is just waiting for you, around every corner, in every new step you do better than anyone else, in every new acquaintance who begs you to be her BFF.

I’ll tell you what’s special about me, and every other old dancer who can still find her ballet shoes despite creeping memory loss. What’s special is conquering our age-related balance issues by not falling over when we put on our leotards. Special is finding the exact place to stand so we can’t see our neck wrinkles in the mirror. Special is never having to turn in or out from the barre, because our legs are never going to go high enough to hit anyone else.

Actually, miraculous things do happen as we age. Not miraculous like 55 pirouettes or willowy little legs that stick up like fresh green shoots. But it is a miracle to discover that the tendonitis pain we’re feeling in our hip can be alleviated by using the psoas muscles to lift and turn out in ronde de jambs en l’air instead of cranking the turnout we previously came by via sheer youthful will. It’s miraculous to still get so much pleasure eating up space in a grand allegro. And to know how to take a correction with the openness that many decades at this game affords.

The most miraculous miracle is dancing itself—how satisfying, and pleasurable, and still wonderful it is after all these years. It’s lovely to watch young dancers discovering how to shape music, how to frame an attack, all the fantastic things their bodies can do.

Me, I’m happy with my single pirouette. At this ripe moment in my life, I honestly don’t need those extra 54. —Lisa Okuhn, Associate Editor