Dance Mom

by Lindsay Gallagher on 01/17/2013



For some reason, since the start of the spring semester at ballet, Tess has been down on herself.  It’s a bummer.  She had a great Nutcracker, got a good part, had the time of her life, now she comes out of class saying her teacher doesn’t like her.

“She wants you to work hard, but I know she likes you,” I said.

“Not anymore,” Tess said.

I don’t want to sit outside of class, on the floor, peeking through a half-closed door.  It hurts my neck and makes me feel seasick.  There isn’t an observation room like at Abby Lee’s. (Thankfully our moms are not insane or even catty — I really enjoy them — but if we’re going to hang out and sew pointe shoes and gossip, I’d prefer to do it at the bar down the block).  Anyway, I was curious to see what Tess was talking about, so I went.  She was working hard and even got a couple “goods,” which are like gold nuggets to ballet students, zero-calorie chocolate bars.

“You looked great,” I said when she lugged her enormous bag through the jammed door.

“No, my ribs are too big.  I have a swayed back.  I look fat.”

Oh no!    

“You’re not fat.  That’s ridiculous.  You’re just standing wrong.”

“What?” she said, eyes spewing tears.

“You can fix your ribs.  That’s easy .”

“No I can’t.  It’s nature.”

I think what I’m supposed to do is tell her that she’s perfect and wonderful and that the teacher loves her because she’s so perfect and wonderful.  She is perfect and wonderful and I love her, but she was standing wrong.

“You need to squeeze your butt.  Tuck it under.  You lock your knees which makes your butt sick out which makes your ribs look big.”

Tess was appalled.  Mortified.  “Why are you being so mean?”

“I’m not being mean – I’m helping.  I can help.  Let me help.”

Joe can do this with Ronan at the batting cages:  turn in your front leg, don’t choke up on the bat, use your legs – apparently ballet is different.  We can tell Ronan to play catch every day, but it feels creepy to force my daughter to say, stretch, even though, honestly, she should stretch.

“You need to make me stretch,” she said the other day in the car.

“I tell you you should stretch all the time.”

“You tell me I should stretch, but you don’t make me do it.”  She was mad.  And we were listening to the Disney channel.

“I don’t want to be one of those crazy dance moms.”

“But I want you to be one of those crazy dance moms.”

Be careful what you wish for.



There are 7 comments in this article:

  1. 01/17/2013Cecily says:

    Interesting. I recently put down my [ballet] foot to put my daughter in a more conventional setting. She was in a place that was tremendous fun and gave her a fantastic base for dancing, but once we auditioned at the real-deal school, the teacher said there were things she needed “to fix.” My daughter was crestfallen. “What about the solos? What about the duets?” She’s been a star, now, she’s back to basics. Reluctant at first, new outfits and shoes motivated. We’re off to an experience that will give her a base for whatever (I discovered modern and dance and goodbye, ballet!). But I’m really interested in having ballet as a base.

    I adhere to the adage that it’s only as good as it lasts and parents should always check that they’re intro’ing their kids to things for every other reason than they never got a chance to do those things.

  2. 01/17/2013Cecily says:

    modern and jazz, I meant

  3. 01/17/2013Lindsay Gallagher says:

    Thankfully her teacher and I are on the same page. Now my daughter is holding her tush properly and her posture is tremendously improved. It’s one thing to whine about it and another to do something about it.

  4. 01/17/2013Walter Jamieson Jr says:

    I found this truly insightful. The amount a psychology at play here, as in many sports, is often more than the casual observer realizes. And sometimes, apparently, a truly ballet-savvy mom will learn something from a child. It’s amazing how well it can work out if there’s sympathy and communication.

  5. 01/18/2013Courtney says:

    Funny thing, Nina got in the car last night after class and before the door was shut announced that her “butt is too big” and that’s why the teacher keeps “correcting” her. I had the immediate sick-pit feeling in my stomach. Funnier is that her next comment was how “perfect” Tess is and how she wishes she could look as good as Tess at barre!

  6. 01/18/2013Lindsay Gallagher says:

    Courtney, please tell Nina that her butt is not fat! and that getting corrections is a good thing! It means the teacher cares. I remember being her age — older in the class — and wishing my teacher would stop correcting me. I worked so hard to do everything he said so he would for once, not embarrass me. One day one of the other girls told me she was so jealous of all the attention I was getting. Love it or not, ballet does a number on your perception. She gave Tess a big compliment in the car the other night — it was very sweet. Nina looks great in there, btw. It’s hard to get used to a new level!

  7. 01/18/2013jesi davis says:

    Wow, such goings on in the studio! The part that got me was the distinction between telling Tess she “should” do something and making her do it.

    I’ve come across this a lot with my 9 year old and there’s something about “making” her do things that, counter-intuitively, works. It’s as if it takes the burden off of her for having to know everything and make all her own choices and gives her the comfort that I am actually in charge. She gets to still be a kid that way and she actually develops good habits.

    You don’t have to be a horrible ballet mom, and you certainly do have a tremendous amount to offer. I love reading about your life as a ballet mom! Keep it up.

Write a comment: