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"It gets confrontational and heated." Confessions of a competitive Dance Mum.

As told to Shona Hendley.

I’m a proud stage mum. This might sound even more contentious, but I’m a proud ‘dance mum’ and have been for six years now.

My ten-year-old daughter Meg* loves dancing and I love my daughter, so dancing is at the centre of both of our lives.

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Although I was never a dancer or performer myself, when Meg was four, she wanted to wear a pretty tutu and dance like Emma from The Wiggles, so I signed her up for Kindy Dance and neither of us has ever looked back.

We do whatever we can to succeed in a very tough industry. Some of my confessions might seem a bit controversial, but they are simply the reality of the performance world.

You have to be resilient, persistent and never give up.

The dance realm can be intimidating and competitive. It gets confrontational and heated. Although some performers or their parents don’t like these elements, my daughter and I thrive in them. They make us stronger, they motivate us and to be perfectly honest, they make us better – not just in dance, but as people.

Dance has taught Meg how to try her best and not give up, and that hard work pays off. She is undeniably dedicated to her craft and I am dedicated to supporting her. She rehearses for hours each week which is essential if you want to be the best.

When Meg isn’t in the competition season she will have lessons between five or six times per week in classical, jazz, contemporary dance, musical theatre, troupes and solos. Although most lessons are about 30 minutes, sometimes she can be at the dance school for four hours at a time and I am always with her.

On top of her lessons, she also practices at home several times per week. I help her run through her dances because I always want her to do her best at competitions. I video the dance right at the beginning of the process and we go through the video multiple times before she even starts dancing. Then at home rehearsals, I record her on my phone.

If she makes a mistake I stop the music and show her what she’s done wrong and then we start again.

When she dances her solos at competitions, I take each step with her. I know the routines inside out and I know when she has done something wrong.

If Meg does make a mistake or doesn’t place, I’ve told her that if she comes off stage and starts crying she won’t dance again, because you have to be resilient to make it.

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I have asked her dance teacher to change her routine more than once.

If Meg’s dance teacher gives her a solo dance and she isn’t winning with it in competitions, I ask the teacher to change it to another routine in order to give her the best shot. I want dances that my daughter can win with and if her teacher isn’t looking out for her or helping achieve her best, I will.

I believe my daughter is one of the most talented dancers and can make it all the way. I know Meg has the skills, drive and natural ability to make it into The Australian Ballet.

I tell Meg my opinions openly and share my thoughts with other parents too, because you learn from your mistakes and other people’s, so talking about them is beneficial.

We have pre-performance strategies and rituals.

Before Meg gets on stage we run through her dances in the passageway. She will put headphones on with the music she dances to, and watch the video on her phone so she can visualise what she is doing before she goes on to the stage. I make sure Meg doesn’t make eye contact with anyone else because it just gets her out of the zone.

We do this same ritual every time – it’s like a good luck charm.

Performance is a lifestyle.

To be the best you need to be strict, follow routines and make sacrifices. I ensure Meg understands this and that it isn’t just dancing practice that will take her to the top. For example we limit her social life so she can concentrate on what is important: dance and school.

We all want our kids to win.

Simply put, all performance mums or dads want our kids to win. If they say otherwise, they’re lying.

*Names have been changed.

This article is the view and opinions of one mum and is not meant to be a representation of all parents who have children in the performance area.

Shona Hendley, ‘Mother of Cats, Goats and Humans’ is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education, she is also a passionate animal advocate. You can follow her on Instagram.

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