11 Apr
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That Time I Danced in a Competition

I collapsed under friendly peer pressure and danced in a Spotlight Dance Cup Regional competition last weekend…on a stage…with an audience and judges. Gulp.

It all started last summer when I took an adult ballet class to better understand my daughter and her passion for dance. I heard rumors that our studio director wanted to do a moms and dads dance for this season. Not happening. I enjoyed class but was not going on stage. I repeat, I was not taking part in a choreographed dance that people would watch on a stage.

Fast forward to this spring where not only did I dance on a judged stage, but also at our local mall. The mall where people were shopping.  More than once I’ve shaken my head at what I’d gotten myself into by saying yes and embracing this challenge.

I’ve been nervous. I’ve questioned my ability to remember the dance. It’s been a challenge to fit my practices in with the rest of our schedule. It’s light years out of my comfort zone. But, it’s been a wonderfully fun experience that I’m glad I said yes to.

Some of my friends are dancers and dance teachers. Some can do the splits and tumbling tricks. I danced when I was a kid, but stopped in third grade, which was not last week. I want to collect as many experiences as possible in this one life and continue to push myself out of my comfort zone. Dancing in public fits that description.

I stood with my friends backstage on Saturday hidden behind heavy black curtains suffering from a serious case of nerves. It was easy to stay busy during the day at competition before our late afternoon call time and not overthink our upcoming routine. Once we were lined up, I knew being onstage was quickly going to become a reality.

Then it was our turn. My muscles knew what to do and took over from the moment I hit the stage. It wasn’t perfect, but it was exciting. Performing on stage with a supportive crowd was exhilarating and the most fun thing I’ve done in quite a long time. I could see the judges, and they looked like they were enjoying our performance. I could hear our dance team cheering at all the places they’d been while they watched our practices. I was reassured to know they were out there somewhere in that crowded auditorium. Maybe my kids feel the same way knowing that somewhere in the stands during their game or concert someone that loves them very much is part of the cheering crowd. I hope they do because knowing you’re loved and supported no matter the outcomes gets you through one moment to the next. I learned that high kicks and dive rolls are crowd-pleasers. We earned ourselves a diamond (the top award followed by ruby, emerald and sapphire), which may have been more exciting for my daughter than for me. I bet I was more surprised by the award than her.

mom and daughter posing at Spotlight Dance Cup

Our three sons play sports, two are in band, and one acts in school productions. Those are things my husband and I have done at some point in our lives. I understand what it’s like to practice and participate in those activities, but the learning curve for dance the last two years has been steep. Year two is much easier than the first, so fingers crossed that pattern sticks. Dance competition is its own world of categories, terminology and awards.

I agreed to dance in a moms/dads dance to better understand what dance is like for my daughter. Dance is hard work people. You have to remember to point your toes and stand a certain way with your hands placed just so in sync with other dancers all while smiling. It’s no easy feat. We parents only practice 30 minutes once a week. Our kids put in more than that. By the end of 30 minutes I’m starting to sweat and am in need of water. I’m not even doing leaps or tumbling tricks like my daughter. I’m convinced she is not drinking enough water while she practices. That girl needs to hydrate more.

Our competition team performs at our local mall a couple times per year and at various assisted living centers in our community. Those days of multiple performances are long, and there’s a little dread on my part and lack of understanding for why my daughter enjoys it.

As soon as our song ended at competition and we stepped off stage, I understood what draws her to the stage. It’s thrilling. Before the routine I thought I would vomit, but after I could have conquered the world thanks to the adrenaline rushing through my system. My daughter loves to dance. She does it all the time: at home, on vacation standing for photos in first or fifth position, in the aisle at a store. She loves the applause after a performance and that feeling of knowing you just did something you’ve been practicing and working to perfect. She’s at home on stage. I understand that part of her passion now and will look at performance day in a new light.

I’ve talked with our kids about pushing out of their comfort zones and given pep talks and words of wisdom about doing hard things ad nauseam. This dance season I showed them I’m more than the words I say. I’ve lived the lectures I give in a way that’s tangible for them to understand. The roles were reversed. I wasn’t playing the role of cheerleader. I was being cheered for by my children.

I feel empowered by competing on that stage. Something I didn’t want to do and couldn’t imagine taking part in became something enjoyable. Changing my thinking from “no way” to “why not” had a ripple effect in life. I can do hard things. I can move outside the box I’ve built around myself. I no longer have room for fear of failure, fear of judgement, fear in any of its restraining forms, in this one life.

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