Thursday, February 06, 2014

Some of My Problems with "Dance Moms."

Long long ago, I was a dancer.  I started dancing in a basement studio run by a very nice lady with three of her own kids.  In one hour every week we covered, "ballet," tap, jazz and acro.  I remember we also learned some hula.  We had big grand recitals once  a year that took at least two nights to get through, and I loved it.  It was exciting.  I loved being with my dancing friends, I loved putting on the costumes and I loved performing before my family and the families of all of my friends.

At 15 though, I had to get serious and found a very proper ballet school that was very, very strict and very professional.  I loved it too, but it was not the friendly atmosphere of my basement ballet school. In fact it could be rather cut throat at times and I'm sure that  it was starting this school that helped me develop an eating disorder that I battled through high school and part of my early adult life.

That all said, I did dance there and then at another ballet school for a while and even as a semi-professional with a jazz dance company.  When I started having babies though, I left the dance world behind.

So I have some idea about what is happening on Dance Moms, and although I am amazed at the talent of the young dancers on the show, most of the rest of it causes me to grind my teeth together as I'm watching.



As a former dancer, here are my main pet peeves.
  • Ballet class- or the lack of it.  When I was training, we were told that we had to make it to ballet class almost everyday. Ballet is what gives you great posture, a strong core and beautiful feet and legs. Abby Lee (dance teacher and star of dance moms) and the mothers talk about how tight it is to get in ballet class every week!!  I find that just shocking.  And while her dancers perform well, this lack of ongoing ballet training shows up in their feet, core and turn out - the things Abby Lee complains about incessantly.  The way to fix that is to make sure they all get ballet class more than just occasionally. 
  • Turning.  They always, always, turn to the right.  I've only seen turns to the left in one or two episodes, and those were from dancers at other studios.  I really don't know if those girls could even turn to the left!! and that's not good training either.  In a proper ballet class they would always be doing dance combinations to the left and to the right equally. 
  • Traveling every weekend.  Ugh.  For kids that aren't professional dancers and full time students, I think this would be incredibly hard and fatiguing. Something eventually has to give and it's either going to be school grades, dance technique, or even injury.
  • Competition scores.  I think it's ludicrous that Abby Lee always holds the dancers totally responsible for their scores and whether or not they win first place.  You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.This week's episode was a good example of that.  The "Clash of the Chloes" pitted a beautiful lyrical routine against an odd jazz dance. There is more to a dance number than the technique and showmanship of the dancer. Choreography, costuming and music choices are all part of the package - and it never seems to occur to the choreographer on Dance Moms that just maybe lower scores are more a reflection on her than on the dancers.
  • And while we're at it, judging something like dance is very subjective.  It's not as if you can measure it against the clock or with a yard stick. Judges are human beings and even when they try to be fair, I'm sure their own personal tastes and experiences come into play. I can't understand why Abby Lee places so much stock into these weekly competition scores. 
  • Favorites.  It is my experience, whether it be in dance, music, or choir, directors find their favorites and go to them over, and over, and over again. It's easier than trying someone new- I get it.  It is nice when they aren't so blatant about it though.
  • Abuse. One of the reasons my girls are not dancing is because of some of the negative feelings I have from my high school ballet teacher. Her abuse wasn't as obvious as Abby Lee Miller's. In fact her abuse was more one omission - as if I weren't even in the room.  On some levels that really messed with my confidence as a dancer and a person. Abby Lee's verbal abuse is even worse. I can't fathom what's going through the heads of these young dancers that she screams at them with regularity. And since their moms won't remove them from the situation, knowing that there is verbal abuse, I consider them to be enablers.


2 comments:

RAnn said...

I've never seen the show but there are a lot of kids' activities that I wonder whether they are more for the kids or for the grownups

Elena LaVictoire said...

Yea, I wonder that too!

In this case, I wonder how it benefits the dance teacher/studio owner to be perceived as such a witch!

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