How To Be A (Final Year) Dance Parent

Pictured above (from left to right): Ballet BC apprentices Justin Calvadores (AUDC alumnus) and Parker Finley, AUDC’s Maddy Gilbert, Sylvain Senez, and AUDC’s Jordan Pelliteri performing in Romeo + Juliet. Photo: Chris Wong.

At the annual AUDC parent meeting last September, I mentioned an idea for a blog post to Artemis Gordon, AUDC’s intrepid Artistic Director. The post I had in mind was going to be light and (hopefully) funny. I thought I might call it, “How to Be a Dance Parent”.

Knowing my dancer was starting her final year of the grad program, Arty turned serious:

Arty: Are you writing this because you think you know something about being a dance parent?

Me (sheepishly): Well, sort of, I guess.

Arty: Second year parents always go crazy. Everyone does. I call it second-year parent psychosis.

Arty then described how even the most level-headed parent gets a little frantic when it comes to final year; thinking about the end of the program and what it will mean for their child.

Well, I could have denied ever feeling that way, but …

I had just experienced a (way too intense) bout of this. Fortunately at the time, my dancer had stopped me mid-crazy (she’s been well-trained by Arty, obviously). We decided that this year we were not going to go there.

Ha! That lasted all of No. Time. At. All.

I blame Arty and the amazing program she and the Arts Umbrella faculty and staff have developed over the years. We’ve had years of nothing-but-the-best. Sure, every summer, our dancer has spread her wings a bit, and Arty and the Arts Umbrella faculty are amazing at bringing the world to AUDC. The European tour also hinted at the big wide world out there, as did the recent amazing opportunity to work with Ballet BC on Romeo + Juliet.

But when there are years to look forward to, there is always the familiar home base — ISDI every summer, and a new full year of the program. Come final year, though, and suddenly it feels like you’re about to run off a cliff.

What’s out there in the real world? How does someone make that leap from student to professional? Is there a roadmap? (Please give us a roadmap!)

I’m so grateful to Arty for bringing this up. It gave me a chance to think about how to avoid getting frantic, and put me on the lookout for coping strategies and inspiring words. Here’s what I’ve found:

Wise words: Here is some wisdom from the great dancer/choreographer, Martha Graham. Her words are so grounding, and a wonderful antidote to insecurities:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”

Lists: Reading these can help. They are lists of all the things a person learns from dance (aside from dance). Our kids are so lucky to have had dance in their lives. It’s going to help them, no matter what.

Inspiration: If you don’t have enough proof that wherever your dancer chooses to go, dance will be their super power, read Am I A Dancer Who Gave Up? It eloquently describes how dance can shape a beautiful life, on a pathway that isn’t celebrated nearly enough.

It’s a journey: Auditioning. Stress. Rejection. Here are a couple really good articles to help parents understand and support their launching dancer:

Be open to the unexpected: We can all learn a thing or two from dance, like how to fill the space we are meant to fill in this world.  This article — How Generous Are You Willing To Be? A Dance Teaching Story — is a tribute to resilience, to wise teachers, and to those unexpected moments in life when everything can pivot. (Warning: have a box of tissues handy when you read this one.)

A final note to my fellow final year parents: Over the years, I’ve had a chance to meet most of your children. They are amazing. They’ve had years and years of practicing how to land on their feet. And they do it so well.

Maybe we all just have to get out of their way.  I’ll keep breathing, if you will.

One thought on “How To Be A (Final Year) Dance Parent”

  1. Thank you for sharing. It is a journey for them … and for us. We have and will continue to learn and grow along with them. There are difficult moments for each of us along the way. I can only hope that someday I will have as much courage and gratitude as my daughter … everyday. She consistently inspires me to be better and to look beyond the face of things in a way that I never believed possible. Whatever the future brings I know in my heart that she has the skills, the drive and the unending work ethic to find her way forward. Thank you Arts Umbrella for helping bring that to her … and ultimately, to me, her mom.

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