Dance Moms Beware :: Lessons in Recital Etiquette


Visions of bobby pins and tangled hair nets scattered about; an aroma of hairspray so thick in the air one can barely breathe; feathers drifting into piles from the always molting costumes . . . . It can only mean one thing: it’s recital time.

Recitals are like the Super Bowl of studios around the world. There are months of hard work and hours of painstaking dedication leading up to the big show. As a professional in the dance industry, I’ve been on the artistic staff of many dance schools, all of which held an end-of-the-year show. While studios are run differently and recital styles vary, they all have one thing in common . . . CRAZY DANCE MOMS.

As a mother, I can totally understand wanting the best for your child. Heck, I’d do just about anything so my three littles can fulfill their dreams. I suppose we all have a little “(fill in the blank) ____ mom” in us. However, this term is not simply a supportive mother whose child dances. Coined by the popular t.v. show Dance Moms, this expression is loosely used to describe an overwhelming presence, certain to make any dance instructor’s job a nightmare. 

Dance Moms Beware :: Performing

Disclaimer:  Cue the sappy music. I have been truly blessed and fortunate to work with some amazing dance mamas who encourage and inspire me to be a better mother. You ladies are the real MVPs. But, for every good dance mom, there are the not-so-great ones. With recital season upon us, I felt it was the perfect time to bring awareness to my fellow moms on how to not be a crazy dance mom.

I have collaborated with my dance colleagues and friends to narrow down the five most common types of crazy dance moms we run into at recital.

5. Unpaid Staff

Studios have mothers volunteer to work in various areas during a performance. These jobs will range from chaperoning the dressing room to selling merchandise in the front lobby; these ladies play an important role in successfully running a show. The Unpaid Staff, however, are the dance moms who believe that their presence is most needed in the worst places.

One time we had a mother screaming at her daughter from the wings, during rehearsals. When she was confronted with the staff-only policy and asked to take a seat, her response was, “Oh, it’s okay–I’m her mom”. The next day she showed up, backstage, with a shirt that read “DANCE STAFF”.

Mamas, go sit down and watch the show! These kids have worked so hard and you need to sit back, relax, and enjoy. Keeping the backstage area clear is an absolute MUST. Your 16-year-old daughter doesn’t need that much help changing her costume.

4. The Show-stopper

Ever heard the phrase, The show must go on? Well, the show-stopper moms can bring a performance to a screeching halt. Whether they’re running late, missing shoes or maybe the bottom half of a costume, these moms can hold up a show. Contrary to what a showstopper mom believes, we don’t have a sweat shop in the back where we whip up headpieces and costumes you’ve misplaced. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been asked, “Don’t you have extras?” Always assume the answer is going to be no. These moms typically never receive never read e-mails or handouts with important information.

Be on time and be prepared. No, we don’t commonly have extra costumes or headpieces on hand. And please, read your info packet. Read, re-read, and then read it again. No sense in “stopping the show” to ask a question that has already been answered via handout.

3. One-in-a-Million 

Children are the apples of every mother’s eye; her babies are precious, perfect, and amazing at anything they do. Although, I wonder, at what point does this mindset turn from motherly to slightly delusional? The “one-in-a-million” mom thinks her dancer is the best and deserves more attention than the rest. This mom typically resorts to nasty e-mails and insists her child needs to be promoted or placed front and center.

Yes, your dancer is special, but so are the other 20 students. Any good teacher will give his or her attention equally. Trust the creative process and the professional knowledge of your dancer’s instructor.

 2. Vicarious Living

Does this really need much explanation? Nothing is worse than teaching a student who has absolutely no desire to dance. When mom is living vicariously through her dancer, we teachers get the raw end of the deal. Through bad attitudes and lazy efforts, these mamas will shove screaming children in a dance room and slam the door. One studio I worked for had such a problem with one mother dropping off crying kids, a policy was put into place where crying children were no longer allowed into the dance room.

I always tell my students: if you don’t want to dance, then don’t! Life is too short to fill it with things that don’t bring you joy. Moms, listen to your kids. Let them have their own dreams and aspirations.

1. Best in Show

It’s only natural to save the best for last, right? 

I believe that dance is for everyone, and it should come as no surprise that not everyone can actually dance. It hurts my heart to say it, but I’ve taught so many students who just flat out cannot dance. I always gladly teach them, so long as they put forth an effort. 

Rolling hand in hand with the “one-in-a-million,” this mom assumes her dancer is literally the best. The “best in show” mama will arrive to a performance with all the bells and whistles . . . like one mother who brought fog horns to a show. Emerging from either end of the crazy spectrum, they are one extreme to the next. These dancers will have so much makeup on, they look like baby drag queens; or these moms are barging down the teacher lounge door for someone else to fix hair and makeup.  

Unfortunately, “best in show” dancers, are not typically the best, despite a cheering mama. Rooting for your child to fulfill a dream is wonderful, and I am certainly on board, but after a certain age, we as mothers have to be honest. Help your children discover areas they can succeed in.

At the end of the day, crazy dance mom or not, we are all simply cray for our kiddos. I’ve said it before — embrace the inner crazy, because it is inevitable. Just maybe, rein it in a bit . . . for the sake of us teachers.

Dance Moms Beware :: Ballerinas balancing with toes pointed

This post was originally published on May 1, 2018.
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Lindsay D
A native to the Birmingham area, Lindsay is a retired professional ballerina. She spent her time training and performing with prestigious dance companies around the country. Now, she is holding down the fort in Alabama, Lindsay lives with her loving husband, Ian and three children Nixson, Lily and Amelia. You’ll find Lindsay sharing her love for dance, as a ballet instructor; and in between the delicate in’s and out’s of being a wife and mother, she manages to squeeze in some time to sweat it out on her yoga mat. An active member of her church, Lindsay lives her life with unwavering faith and love for the Lord. Hoping to spread a little joy and laughter, Lindsay likes to share her life journey and stories from a comical point of view. Striving to live life fully by finding laughter in the chaos.