Tracey (formerly known as sahmto4ormore) asked the following question about our foray into dance and competitive dancing:
I’d love to know more about why you all choose dance? What benefits are there for your children? Are you hoping for scholarships? Were either of you dancers? Inquiring minds want to know…sincerely 🙂
As I thought about my response, I quickly realized that to convey my thoughts fully would take far more than a quick response, either in comment form on her blog, or in response to her comment on mine. The more I let the quest ion marinate, the more of a blog post it became. Consequently, I’ll answer her here and also settle my own cathartic desires in this area through penning my thoughts.
I’d love to begin with some artful eloquence like, “We didn’t choose dance; dance chose us.” That statement would lend far more credit to our bumbling around for children’s activities than is deserved. In a nutshell, here are the steps, in the natural at least, that got us here:
1) We moved to an unfamiliar suburb with few extra-curricular outlets for our children (then 4 and 1—the youngest wasn’t even a twinkle in Dad’s eye)
2) The gymnastics program we originally enrolled our oldest in was closing
3) The dance center opened up right around the corner from our home
Simple as that, we enrolled our oldest in dance. I should probably take a step further back and explain that, between growing up without a lot of money for these types of activities and struggling with weight gain since high school, I make it my business to keep the children physically active and engaged in some type of extracurricular activity.
Our daughter, like most of the children here, came to dance, to meet friends, and to have fun. But then, something changed. Our son, who sat in the stands (actually, he sat in an auditorium chair) for two years watching her, caught the bug and wanted to join the fun. We deliberated this all summer, subscribing to every stereotype about what boys should do. At the end of the day, though, we didn’t have the heart to tell him no.
He took off like lightening, quickly excelling above his classmates and advancing into classes with children who were at least two years ahead of himself. For a quiet, though not shy, kid, he came alive on stage. When he was asked to be a part of the competition team, it meant a different level of commitment for all of us—to extra classes, additional practices, to additional costumes, and performances outside of the year-end recital. Separate from his commitment, the oldest had also casually asked the teacher/ owner if she needed help with the 3-yr-old class. With her little sister attending the class, helping was better than sitting for 45 minutes, right? So she began to help the smallest children, and quickly showed skill in an area that most people struggle to master (even parents!)—managing groups of small children.
So she began helping one class, then two, and now three.
Our son started competing with the team, and then as ½ of a duet, and then as a soloist.
I list this journey as a natural progression; of course, nothing happens in the life of a Christian by accident. I look at the children and believe that the Lord has anointed them for this season in our lives, which is a great segue into the other thoughts I had about where we are and why.
Whether or not this was Tracey’s actual question, what I also read into her comment was, why would you allow your children to be in an environment where you struggle with some of the practices? And indeed, there are some things I don’t like about dance, and competitive dance, specifically. I don’t like the HUGE amounts of make-up that the girls allegedly “have to” wear. I know by watching our son that the lights do wash out their faces, but I still think there has to be a middle ground. I can’t help but think that it sends the wrong message about what makes a woman beautiful. I meet women who never leave their homes, indeed their bedrooms (!!) without their “faces” on. I also know plenty of women like my MIL, who think that make-up is a rite of passage, and a necessary transition to womanhood. To each his own. As for me and my house, I don’t want our girls to ever think that they need cosmetics to be attractive. Most importantly, I want them to know that the loveliness of their character will enhance, and far exceed, any bit of powder or glitter. No amount of outward “fluff” will hide or in any way fix an unGodly spirit.
What bothers me even more than the make-up is what gets rewarded—little girls who parade around and express themselves as grown-ups. These dancers often get the highest scores and the loudest applause. I absolutely hate to see girls that young learning to gyrate and shimmy as a means of pleasing judges. I could go on and on, but I won’t.
Could we have enrolled the children in a Christian dance program? Yes, although it’d be a farther drive. Besides, I’ve lost my naivete in thinking that just because you’re in a Christian environment doesn’t mean that you won’t encounter people’s demons. Our dance instructors are Christians, which is a level of protection from some things, but not all.
So, why are we here? Initially because dancing gave the kids a healthy respect for their bodies, their physical temples, and for the value of exercise as a critical element of good health. Dance instilled a confidence and self- assuredness about who they are–beautiful creatures created uniquely and divinely by a loving, caring God. But then again, any extracurricular activity might have done that. Because the Lord is here with them. Because I know without doubt that they are salt and light. Because He is sitting them high upon a rock, in a place where their classmates will prayerfully see them and cry out, “What must I do to be saved?” This may or may not be the venue for the Lord to use our youngest daughter, but we’ll cross that bridge as He leads us. In the meantime, this is why we chose dance, and after thinking about it a bit, yes, I guess in some way dancing did choose us.