Doing Life Together

The title of the TV show, Dance Moms, intrigued me because I am a dance mom. So I decided to watch a few episodes back to back the other night.

I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was like watching people in desperate need of group therapy.

The owner of the dance studio acted like she was untreated for bipolar disorder. One minute she would tell the dancers they were doing great, and the next she was screaming at them. The dancers were young girls in elementary school and at an impressionable age. The negative comments the owner/teacher made about parents, competition and even other children were terrible. She shamed people, impulsively yelled, and threatened to yank girls out of numbers. She pitted one girl against another and allowed their moms to weigh in with their opinions. The girls looked depressed!

Then there were the moms – a take off of The Housewives of….you name which one. They were brutal, screaming at the owner when their daughters didn’t get solos, threatening to pull them out of dances they didn’t like and regularly left the studio angry, while dragging their crying children. Most of the show is listening to the moms be caddy about each other and the owner. The moms give new meaning to the term helicopter parents–they hover over their children like vultures ready to swoop down at any moment their children have been unfairly treated (in their opinion). I was embarrassed watching them. Clearly, their identities are wrapped up in the success of their daughters.

The ones who suffer all this psycho “entertainment” are the dancers. They regularly witness a lack of conflict management and civility.  And this is very sad because the girls are pushed to perfection and have to please the erratic adults around them. If those girls don’t develop some major issues in a few years, I will be surprised.

My daughter danced for nationally known teacher Denise Wall (Yes, Travis Wall is her son and that is her in the picture) and Denise always treated her with respect. When my daughter would leave the dance studio, she felt empowered and confident that she could continue to improve and be who she was intended to be. Denise has a way of bringing out the inner person and connecting her to movement. And while Denise has churned out many national champions and dancers who have made it on Broadway and in LA, Denise doesn’t allow moms to run her studio. In fact, there are no viewing rooms for moms. We do not watch their every move and comment. We trust that Denise is the professional and we are not.  And while families bring drama to the studio at times, Denise is kindhearted and loves her dancers. My daughter adores her, not from some sick twisted need to please her, but out of a genuine love for a teacher who knows the dance world and helps her students become the best they can be.

So first, thank you Denise Wall for being such a phenomenal teacher and human being. Thanks for being professional and teaching the kids the business without shaming them and driving them to develop eating disorders. Most of all, thanks for empowering them to be all they can be and not allowing parents to distract you from your job!

In my opinion, Dance Moms, gives dance a big black eye!

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