Tiny Dancer: my fall sports lineup

It’s hard to deny how great this week generally is. Last weekend kicked off the College Football season, last night kicked off the NFL with the Giants and Cowboys, and for me, yesterday kicked off my daughter’s first ever dance class. Yes, amid the greatness that is the college football and basketball seasons, our family has added one more sport to our line-up, ballet.

I’m sure many of you both know how to prepare, and have already, for the football season, but just in case any of you are like me and have children in their first years of dance, here’s a primer on how to prepare.

Be prepared to spend a lot of money, or a lot of time in second-hand stores: And I’m not just talking about the class itself. Did you know that tap shoes are $40? My daughter is three. She won’t be doing a tap routine in this year’s recital, only ballet. She will outgrow her current shoe size in no more than 5 months. But she learns “tap” for twenty minutes of her weekly hour-long class. Thus, for twenty minutes a week, she must wear tap shoes. And a leotard (I laugh every time my 3 year old says that word), tights, ballet flats, tutu/skirt, etc. Luckily we found a few great deals, like a pair of “taps” for $7 and a dance skirt for $2, at second hand stores. Unfortunately, my Labor Day weekend was spent almost entirely in second-hand stores.

Be prepared to know how to fix your daughter’s hair. Tight bun or sleek, low-hanging, ponytail only. No exceptions.

Be prepared for a long process. Last night when I dropped took my daughter to her first class, I had envisioned her being in a quiet room with 6 other children, in a straight line, following closely the directions of their instructor who was teaching them all kinds of technical dance moves, beginning the process of putting together a routine for this years recital. In my daughter’s first class, she learned how to skip and walk on her tip-toes (with her hands over her head). The reality is she’s three, and she’s in class with 12 other three year olds. When the instructor tells them to go take a seat in the corner so she can show them something, 3 of them sit in the corner while 4 of them run in circles around the room, 3 of them try climbing the walls by hanging from that bar(re) that much taller dancers use for warm-ups, and 2 of them are running to the bathroom. And while I might think for a second, “Why the ____ did I just pay all that money to teach you how to skip and stand on your toes?!” the reality is, true ballet is much harder than I realize, and learning how to do it properly is a process, a long process, and you have to start with the basics.

Be prepared to be in over your head. When we began our quest for dance gear, we called an Aunt who had spent several years in the dance world with her own daughter, to ask where we should go. Her words, “you have know idea what you’ve just gotten yourself into.” Dance. A black leotard, pink tights, and one hour a week, right? No. Classes, costumes, rehearsals, recitals, competitions, fundraisers, trips . . . of course, some of these aren’t for quite some time, but you will be in over your head. You have know idea what you’re getting into.

Be prepared to be the only dad in the room if you have to take your child to their class. I’m not saying it’s fair, but the reality is the waiting room is filled with moms, and maybe one other dad. Odds are he is not happy to be there, he really didn’t want another guy to see him there, and subsequently doesn’t want to talk to you.

Be prepared for catty conversations. Okay, this one really isn’t fair. The reality is, my wife and I took my daughter to dance together, but I didn’t hang around longer than five minutes. “I think I’m going to run next door for a minute (read: hour).” I have no idea what the moms and dad talked about. It may have been the most pleasant conversation I could have been part of all week. But I have seen the TV show, Dance Moms.

Be prepared to be overwhelmed with cuteness. Yeah, I said it, cuteness. I can’t tell you how excited my daughter has been to start her dance class. Ever since she saw her cousin’s first dance recital last winter, she has been dying to do it herself. To dance on a stage. She talks about it incessantly. And this Labor Day weekend, while we were shopping for her dance shoes and leotard, she smiled from ear to ear. On the way to her class she talked non-stop, just filled with excitement. Seeing her for a few minutes (before I bolted next door) was awesome, and watching her show me all she learned by skipping up and down the hall, and walking around the house on her tip toes with her hands in the air saying over and over, “Watch this daddy!” is just nothing by cuteness. Be prepared. You will wilt.

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