2020- We Didn’t See That Coming!…Confessions of a Dance Mom

This year was my daughters second one dancing at the Performing Arts Centre (PAC). When COVID-19 closed the studio in March, the Davenport sisters immediately turned to virtual classes and a week later…PAC danced! When our county began to open up in May, the Davenport sisters strategically worked out a plan to keep everyone safe, re-opened the studio and…PAC danced! After weeks and weeks in isolation, dance class was the first place we returned and our hearts filled with joy and…we danced!

As June approached and the dates of the annual recital inched closer, it seemed next to impossible to hold an event of such magnitude, let alone one that loved ones could safely attend. Would PAC even have a recital this year? How will they ever orchestrate such a production when auditoriums and theaters across the country are closed and there are social distancing protocols in place? Without fail, the Davenport sisters got to work and with a bit of creativity and tons of grit, PAC held their forty-sixth dance recital on June 20, 2020 and…PAC danced! Nothing can stop PAC from dancing, not even COVID-19!

Our sweet little dancer posing after her recital.
My daughter with her multi-talented teacher, Ms. Tracy Davenport.

How Did They Do It?– They constructed a stage in PAC’s parking lot, laid out a detailed seating diagram, to ensure safe social distancing, and held nine separate showtimes throughout the day that consisted of eleven numbers each. Each show was live-streamed on-line for those who couldn’t come in person.

The detailed seating chart.
Fans were handed out to keep everyone cool during the outdoor performance.

From the Noteworthy Dance Mom- As a second year dance mom I wasn’t alone in feeling nervous about the recital this year. COVID-19 made the recital challenging for everyone, even the experts! My daughter and her adorable class did a sweet tap routine to, “If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake.” My daughter was fantastic and I’m so very proud of her. Having Ms. Tracy Davenport, PAC owner and artistic director extraordinaire, made for an amazing PS4 dance year! As a second year dance mom, I was faced with new costume challenges like attaching shoe bows and a hair piece. My prayers were answered when my mom and dad appeared at our doorstep, unannounced, just minutes before it was time to leave. Pops helped me style my daughter’s hair and successfully attached the head piece in just the right position. I am proud to say we survived our second dance recital, although it will go down in history as the one we didn’t see coming!

Pops styling my daughter’s hair for the recital.

Pulling the Curtain on the Summer of 2020

As our city begins to open back up, a huge announcement came from The Muny, the largest outdoor musical theatre in America, located in Forest Park in St. Louis. MO. For the first time in 102 years, The Muny stage will be empty.

The Muny had previously announced a shortened season due to COVID-19 but were optimistic they would be able to put on a few shows this year. Sadly, The Muny joins the rest of the theatre world as theaters have turned off their lights across our country. Broadway abruptly shut down on March 12 and announced an anticipated September 6 return. All of the touring productions have been canceled and who knows when or if all of those shows will be rescheduled? And community theatre and summer stock have been cancelled leaving us with a summer void of live shows.

image

My daughter standing on The Muny stage in May 2018.

Although I was sad to hear about The Muny pulling the curtain on the entire 2020 season, I know they did not make the decision lightly and they are doing what is best for their patrons, performers and employees. Keeping everyone safe has to be first and foremost!

My heart goes out to the entire Muny organization who will suffer revenue loss after recently undergoing a major face lift project that included updates to the stage and backstage areas. I feel for the young performers, some from my daughters dance studio, who were going to be in shows this year. And most of all, I am sad for all of the patrons, including my family of three, who have a history of escaping to The Muny during the summer and making memories that span over multiple generations. As a child my parents took me to The Muny every summer and that is where I fell in love with musical theater! My parents were engaged at The Muny, my husband and I took our engagement photos at The Muny and our daughter attended her first show last summer. A summer without The Muny, with evenings spent under the stars in Forest Park, just won’t feel like …summer!

img_9427
My daughter sitting in front of a Muny brick commemorating her grandparents 50th wedding anniversary.

 

 

 

 

To Dance or Not to Dance? Integrating Into the World After Quarantine…Day 71

My daughter’s dance studio opened up last week. Following CDC guidelines, the owners worked long and hard creating new procedures to keep everyone safe. They even released a video with step by step directions on how to enter the building, move about the building and what exit procedures would look like. From using antibacterial gel, wiping down surfaces and walking on green tape placed 6 feet a part, to creating socially distanced “parking spots” for dancers to place their gear and assigning dancers a spot to dance that is 6 feet a part, they carefully thought about everything. CLICK HERE to watch the video.

After months spent in quarantine I thought it would be easy to return to our beloved activities, but it wasn’t. My husband and I thought long and hard on whether we would send our little one to dance. After calculating the risks and reviewing the well thought out procedures, we determined we would send her. Then the time came to hop in the car and go and I couldn’t bring myself to grab the keys. Knowing we would see Nana in a few days made my mind race at the thought of putting my mother at risk. Why does this have to be so hard?

Another week has come and gone and I am faced with the same dilemma…to dance or not to dance? I reviewed the procedures once more and after two months of isolation, my daughter went to dance class. She happily walked inside, looking forward to something “normal” being brought back into her life. I was a mess the entire time. It was the first time in over two months I have been separated from my mini me and I experienced separation anxiety. Something I never expected.

An hour later my daughter emerged from the studio with a huge smile on her face, something that had been missing for months! The video prepared her for the new expectations and allowed me to help her process the changes, making my daughter’s return to dance class a success! As we continued our day she explained, “Today was the best day ever!” Fully unaware of the difficult decision her parents had to make, she was filled with joy and the innocence of childhood. Although some won’t agree with our decision, please know we did what we felt was right for our family of three.

This is the first of many decisions our family will make over the coming weeks and months. As states begin to open up and we find ourselves integrating back into society, like me, you might feel uneasy. COVID-19 has changed our world and even the familiar will feel unfamiliar. During this difficult time please be responsible, follow recommended guidelines and show kindness and compassion to your neighbors as they make decisions they feel are right for their families. And remember, you are not alone, everyone is in this together.

Confessions of a First Time Dance Mom…Surviving the Inaugural Recital

Unlike a majority of American women I never took dance lessons as a child. My parents offered up the opportunity but I was an extremely shy little girl and unless I had a BFF to go with me I refused to try anything new. So when my little one was three I asked her if she wanted to take dance lessons at a real dance studio. My daughter is brave and outgoing and only a wee bit shy, so unlike her mommy, she enthusiastically said “YES” and I became a “dance mom.”

The Studio- Fully unaware of the local dance scene I enrolled my daughter at the nearest studio, a mere two miles from our house! Little did I know that the Performing Arts Centre is a premiere dance studio in the Saint Louis area and has produced internationally known performers. My daughter was blessed to have Ms. Debbie Davenport (one of the owners) as her teacher and we had a drama free year of dance until the big recital edged near. That’s when I faced a wave of uncertainty as I navigated my new role as “dance mom.”

The Make Up- The thought of applying eye shadow and lipstick to a four year old scared the begeevees out of me! So I turned to my mommy mentor for make-up advice. She told me what she used for her daughter’s recent recital and explained in great detail how she applied it. I took copious notes and traveled to three different stores to get what we needed! But then my daughter flat out declared that she had no plans on wearing make-up. She would only wear strawberry flavored lip stick! So I decided to do a trial run with my dad by my side (he is an artist who is skilled at applying make-up) Simply suggesting that she put on make-up led my little one to a giant meltdown so I said, “Why don’t you watch while Pops applies make-up to mommy?” After the transformation I emerged with big red lips and dark purple eyelids. She still refused and I went to bed praying for a miracle.

img_9232-1
Pops applying make-up to our little dancer on the night of the recital.

 The Dress Rehearsal- On the morning of the dress rehearsal I had everything laid out (make-up, ponytail holder, hairspray) prior to greeting my little dancer. She awoke with snot dripping from her nose and I just didn’t know how we were going to make it through the morning! But to my surprise my daughter was cooperative and while she played a game on my phone I successfully applied foundation and eye shadow to her precious little face. Then came the lipstick and a bit of resistance but after bribing her with a stuffed pup she had her eye on at our local supermarket, the lips were done! Another $15.99 to unlock hidden ponies on the “My Little Pony” game she was playing on my phone and her hair was beautifully styled and sprayed with hairspray. I became “that mom” and made promises through sheer desperation, but learned if I was brave enough to become a dance mom I had to go all in and never look back!

The Dressing Room- My daughter’s Godmother came into town for the recital and she accompanied us behind stage. I was immediately overwhelmed as we navigated through a maze of mother’s doing hair, applying make-up and fixing costumes. While little girls, giddy with excitement, ran through a sea of sequins and hairspray in search of their instructors. “Jennifer, I think I’ll go out and sit with your family,” said my daughter’s Godmother. The thought of being left alone with all of the chaos and commotion made me nervous. As the blood drained from my face she saw the horror in her proposal. She gently laid a reassuring hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t prepare you for this. It’s ok, I’ll stay.” It was, perhaps, one of the greatest gifts she could have given me. As she applied red nail polish to my little hula baby’s toes, I was overcome with emotion. For at that moment I realized Aunt Kay Kay (what my daughter affectionately calls her Godmother) had traveled from Ohio to Missouri not only for my daughter but for me! My daughter’s Godmother applying polish to my daughter’s little toes backstage.

 The Performance- My daughter danced on the second recital night. Since the studio is bursting with talent the owners split the recital into five three-hour performances on various nights. The competition teams and dance company perform every night, giving the audience a nice sampling of dance styles and abilities through a variety of age groups. My daughter’s class were the “babies of the night” and when working with three and four year olds you never know what will happen! I was surprised how confident my daughter was on stage. She wasn’t born a dancer but she knew the routine and did every step without missing a beat! Her headpiece came off during the end of the dance (an epic beginner dance mom fail) but like a pro she didn’t stop and pick it up, instead she continued on as if nothing happened. She was one of the only girls who remembered to blow a kiss at the end and when I picked her up backstage I could tell she was proud of herself and her accomplishments!

Our little Hula Baby!

Let’s Hear it For the Boys and the Girls and the Adults!– If you’re reading this thinking “I’m a boy mom so I’ll never be a dance mom,” then Shame on You! Three of the seven graduating seniors at my daughter’s dance studio are boys! Dance doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t require prerequisites or prior experience. Everyone is welcome! Boys, girls, even adults! A quality studio will have an appropriate class for everyone! In fact, there was an adult only number that highlighted an introductory tap class. Although far from professional, these men and women were filled with joy and radiated confidence, reminding me that life is filled with taking risks and we should all be open to new adventures!

Dancing Through Life!– I don’t know how long my daughter will continue dancing. She may never make the competitive team or dance professionally but in one short year dance has taught her lessons to last a lifetime. Dance has improved her focus, discipline, gross motor abilities and cooperation skills. She has learned to follow directions, watch her peers, wait her turn and most importantly, what it takes to be part of a team! She took her responsibility on stage seriously and was genuinely upset when one of her peers chose to “do her own thing” during the dance instead of following the practiced routine. Although not unusual at this age, my daughter called it “disappointing” and asked me, “Momma did you see the friend in my class who was not cooperating!” It was an important life lesson. But whether they followed the routine or not the girls all accomplished something many adults have never achieved. They fearlessly got up on a huge stage, faced the blinding lights and joyfully danced in front of a packed audience. And at that moment I was proud to call myself a “dance mom!”