Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Got To Be Real"

With one week to go until my first competition of the year, and the same amount of time before the second season is about to get underway in Canada, it is definitely time that I weighed in on a very hot topic... as I know some people have been waiting on edge to hear what I really have to say about 'Dance Moms'. Well hold onto your tutus, cause here it comes!

I have read and heard countless complaints from fellow dance teachers and dance competition directors about how they find this show to be a disgrace to our industry and they will never allow their business to partake in any thing related to the show... but seriously, give me a break! You're probably the same people who watch 'Toddlers & Tiaras' or 'Big Brother' and think that's all legit. Just because it's classified as Reality TV, does not make it all "real!"

I personally think the show is very entertaining and I will continue to watch it. Sure, it makes all of us dance teachers look crazy, but it's time to face the facts that we all have even the slightest bit of Abby Lee Miller in us. I definitely wish I got paid to have tv cameras follow me around my studio, and I know some of my parents would definitely appreciate the pay cheque from a tv network to help fund their child's dance training. It comes with the price of following a script and over dramatizing issues, but that's your choice to make. I'm not saying I would sign up for it, but a 6 figure contract might spark my interest.

Sure, there are downfalls with the show and everyone can approach those from their own perspective in the industry. The main one for me is that it would be a bit of a circus and distraction for other studios at competitions with film crews and their staff there. I personally will never take my kids to a competition where this is being filmed, and you have the right to make that decision for your own studio. I don't say that because I think it's rigged for them to win, I say that because I don't think we need to be bothered by the drama that comes with filming a tv show. You have the right to ask a competition if their studio will be there and then make the choice that's best for your students.

I don't think this show for dance moms is any different than any other reality tv show that showcases a specific industry. Why should beauty pageant moms have all the fun? And let's be honest with the fact that we all have a Maddie at our studio, and a Chloe and a mom just like Nia does. There is no point of judging them for doing this show based on what you see on television alone. If you don't like the show, then don't watch it, and then stop complaining about it! If the girls didn't like Abby or dancing at her studio, those parents could take their daughters to another studio... clearly they don't want to!

So, in honor of Abby Lee Miller, I wanted to put together a little list, or 'pyramid' of sorts!

The Top 5 Abby Lee Miller Quotes I Wish I Could Say To A Parent!

#5 - "Drop your kids off at the studio, go get a job and come back at the end of the night!"
Fairly self explanatory. Stop sitting around my studio lobby and gossiping about other kids or judging every kid in a class with yours. I actually don't mind parents hanging around for a bit and socializing, as long as it's a healthy discussion and they keep their comments and concerns about their kids dancing to themselves. Your child is safe in class with us and thus you have free time to go and make good use of. And if you don't feel safe leaving your child at my studio for a few hours to train, then it's time to find another studio!

#4 - "If you don't like it, then go open your own studio!"
I am happy and yet saddened to say that I have used this line before! If you don't like something then go do it better yourself. If you don't like a company then don't buy from them any more. If you don't like the way you are treated somewhere then don't go back. So simple, yet so difficult to comprehend! If you don't like the way I run my studio, how much my costumes cost or the solo your daughter received then go open up your own studio and do it all yourself. Please don't walk around complaining about it for months or even years, what a waste of your energy. I run my business and my life based on my experiences and ideologies and those might not be the same as yours. If you'd like to have a civilized discussion about it then I am completely open to it, but do not approach me with a new business model... not interested!

#3 - "It's not my job to make your child feel special... that's your job. It's my job to teach them how to dance!"
Dance is one of the best outlets I know of to allow kids to grow and develop so many wonderful characteristics they will have for life, including creativity, commitment, self-discipline, self-respect, team work and confidence... but those are just bonus rewards points that come from what you actually pay me to do! Part of helping a child grow as a dancer comes with correcting them. When kids are learning and improving their dance skills, they're also learning and improving on life skills. Children cannot always win, they cannot always do everything correctly the first time or the one hundredth time, and they need to be pushed sometimes. Some might call it tough love and not agree, but I call it life. And then, parents should be the people that are there to take their child out for ice cream and talk every time they had a rough performance or a bad day in class.

#2 - "Every time a parent opens their mouth, they're ruining their child!"
So this one is a bit more touchy, but still true. Every time a parent says something ridiculous or rude to me in front of their child I want to shake them. Did you really just complain about your daughter not having as good of a solo as her friend does? Maybe your child loves their solo, and you totally just stole that excitement from them. Let your kid relish in what they're doing and if you have issues as an adult about something than come and speak to me without them there. This is especially true when it comes to specifics about the dance industry that you might not understand. This is what I do for a living, and thus you should show a level of respect for that when it comes to talking to me about things relating to dance. You respecting me makes your child respect me, and thus your child becomes much more enjoyable to work with and eager to learn from me.

...and finally, my #1 favorite Abby Lee Miller quote - "I don't understand how parents don't get that we want every chid to win!?!?!?"
Seriously! I never want any kid at my studio to go on stage and not look good or do well. I want every kid at my studio to win every category. Is that realistic? No, but I can still hope for it! I've learned that it doesn't matter who won from my studio, a win is a win! But the flip side to that, which parents don't always understand, is that some kids are going to win more often than others. Dance competitions do not award favouritism... they award talent, hard work and strong performances.
I choreograph every routine at my studio to best showcase each dancer. Not every kid can do that wicked quirky tap solo, especially if they can't tap. I don't save my best choreography for the best dancer... maybe two kids even have the same choreography and that other kid performed it better! Why do I want my kids to win 2nd place? They represent my studio and my name... and I personally like those Ultimate Triple Platinum Titanium Diamond Awards and the cheques that go with them!

The truth is when I watch this show I actually can see a level of love and respect between Abby and the kids that they just can't edit out. The kids flock to her for approval and they run towards her for hugs after award ceremonies. She genuinely does care for them, and part of that from her comes out in her form of tough love in regards to their training. Abby states many times in the show that she makes 'stars', and let's be honest, she trains incredibly talented dancers who can have careers in this industry. I do get that they're exploiting these kids and they're trying to sell this over the top 'stage mom' deal for our viewing pleasure, but those types of parents and situations do exist. However, at my studio any parent who spoke to me in a dance competition setting the way those moms do would not make it to the next day in one of my studio jackets. But that also might be why I don't have my own weekly 10pm slot on LifeTime.

I have read many reviews of the show, some of which have been written by people who know very little to nothing about the dance industry. So here's the truth coming from a life long dancer, dance teacher, choreographer, former competition owner and competition adjudicator... enjoy a small glimpse of my life! I eat, sleep and breathe this dance industry and I am personally not offended by the show. In fact, I've seen worse out there! Then again, maybe I've learned through my years in this crazy business that I can't take too many things personally!

Now that I've pirouetted around that issue, I'm off to watch some 'real' tv programming, Survivor! I wonder what would happen if they threw a bunch of dance teachers and parents on an island together? My money would be on Abby Lee Miller to last the longest!

***I've sat on this blog for a long time now so I could edit it many times over before I posted it. My objective here is not to offend any one or prove that this show represents our industry truthfully. I am stating my opinions about it, as I don't think it is fair to only hear from those people who can't stand the show. However, I do not condone the types of behaviours in the show or think it sheds the most positive light on our industry, but it is what it is. If you don't like what I have to say (and if you don't know me than you clearly don't understand my wonderfully sarcastic sense of humor!) then having a discussion about it is totally acceptable. Comments are always welcome but please don't post comments bashing people on this show regarding things I've said in my blog. Go write your own!