I admit it: When it comes to dance recitals, I am Scrooge. My daughter recently participated in her fourth recital, which left me wondering, once again, why do we need dance recitals?
Perhaps for the photo ops? I grant you, the four-year-olds in sixty-five dollar tutus are darling, especially when they are balancing on one pink-slippered foot, wobbling and staring at the audience like drugged flamingos. And, I admire like heck the blond cherub who discovered that she could multi-task by picking her nose at the same time.
I’ve got a sense of humor. Until it’s about my kid.
This fall, I took Mommy ‘N Me Tap with my eight-year-old. There were four of us until the word “recital” was uttered, whereupon our ranks dwindled to two. Since this was to be a kids-only recital (the instructor being wise enough not to even broach the idea of mothers squeezing into sequined leotards), my daughter was faced with the option of performing a solo or forgoing the performance altogether and simply dancing in class for the love of it. She chose to perform.
“Really?!” exclaimed the thrilled dance teacher. “Great! You’ll be the only solo.”
“Really?” worried I, the disbelieving mother who remembered that one year ago my daughter was so shy she could barely walk into this dance studio. “A solo. Honey, are you sure? You don’t have to. You know, this semester you could dance just for the love of it.”
My child looked at me as if I were reading aloud from The Iliad. “Huh?”
In one year, she had been fully indoctrinated in the recital culture. If you dance, you perform. You, the child, spend weeks on one routine while the parents spend more on your costume, tights, shoes, hair ornaments, flowers, group photo and DVD than they will spend on holiday presents for the entire family. Bah humbug.
Okay, she wanted to do it ,so we did it. I checked in with her a few times during rehearsals:
“Are you sure? A solo. I know it’ll be fun, but it’s also okay to dance just for the joy—“
“Mom, stop. I want to do the recital.”
Despite our rotten finances, I shelled out the costume money. And, I must admit that as we drew closer and closer to D-day I began to marvel that my once excruciatingly shy daughter had blossomed so beautifully. And then, three days before the big day, she asked this innocent question:
“Mom, what’s a solo?”
“Sweetie, a solo is a reeeaaally fun dance that you do by yourself.” Because by now the programs were printed, I had paid for everything, she’d been rehearsing for weeks and was pretty darn good, and her father and I had been teaching her the value of following through on commitments.
Operating on the theory that distraction is worth its weight in gold, I immediately had her phone a friend to sleep over the night before the rehearsal, plus I phoned Carolyn, who loaned me her sons as well. I bought junk food and movies, smiled at the laughter and shrieks of fun and patted myself on the back right up until an hour before the recital.
“Mom, I don’t want to do a solo. I’m going to throw up. ”
“Darling, you are so ready for this. We’ll sit with you before you go on, and your teacher will be standing in the wings so you can see her the whole time you’re onstage. Your dad (an actor) feels this same way before he gets onstage.”
I piled everyone into the car, actor-dad included, and off we went. At the venue, my daughter met a school friend who was also in the recital, and everything seemed fine until I handed my husband a program. He opened it.
“SHE’S DOING A SOLO?!!!!”
“Shhh!” I kicked him, not gently. “What’s the matter with you? Of course she’s doing a solo, what have I been telling you?”
“I didn’t hear you say, ‘solo.'”
I’m not going to comment on that, not even on this blog.
My husband looked like he was going to cry. “Does she know what a solo means?”
“Oh, God in heaven.” I glanced at our daughter, who, yes, had heard her father, whose nickname is Whispering Tim. Because he doesn’t whisper. “She does now, sweetheart.”
“Mom? I’m gonna throw up.”
I turned to Carolyn’s boys. “Start praying.”
Her youngest instantly bowed his head and got to work. Then he glanced up. “I’m going to throw up, too, just thinking about it.”
“Okay, never mind.”
I took my daughter to the front of the auditorium, where we sat with the other dancers until it was her turn to perform. And she did. She did it well. So well. Never missed a step. Looked the entire time like she was at the dentist prepping for a root canal, but never missed a step.
“I’m so proud of you!!!!” I exclaimed above the applause as we resumed our seats beside the tiny Rudolph The Red-Nose Reindeer dancers, who were up next. “Are you proud of you, sweetie?”
“No,” said my daughter. “I almost cried. I’m still gonna throw up. I. Am. Never. Doing. That. Again.”
A little dancer with felt antlers heard her. The sweet child’s eyes got huge. She looked around. “Mommy?!!!!!”
Rehearsals for the big spring recital begin in January. My daughter wants to try ballet this time. Apparently she’s recovered. I haven’t.
Recitals. Perhaps they should be left to younger mothers with the resilience to bounce back from stress. As for me, I am going to introduce my daughter to knitting.