How A Reality Show Turned My Daughter Into A Dancer

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No, it’s not Dance Moms.

My daughter has been taking dance classes all year long. It’s her first year of lessons and I can admit that I was pretty excited for her to begin. As a former dancer, I’m still very in love with the dance world, even if I hate the picture portrayed by shows like Dance Moms. I love the confidence and body control it can teach young women. I love the artistic expression. And I love the years I spent competing in ballet, jazz, tap and lyrical.

So my daughter started dance this year. And she hasn’t been completely thrilled. She was in the beginning, but towards the end of the year there were a couple weeks where it was difficult to get her through the door for her half-hour lesson. I was pretty sure that she wouldn’t want to continue on next year.

Then, I started watching So You Think You Can Dance with my daughter. It’s the first time that I’ve allowed her to watch anything along those lines. Normally she gets a short cartoon before bed. The idea that she got to watch “grown-up” television was cool enough. But seeing dancers who are astonishingly talented has completely changed my daughter’s perspective.

After just a few short evenings of letting her watch the auditions, my little girl is in full on dancer-mode. And it’s not even the pretty little ballerina you would except from a four-year-old. Today, she wanted to wear black leggings and a black tank top to daycare. “This is what a dancer wears,” she explained to me.

Now, instead of playing Play-Doh, I’m holding mock auditions in my living room. And we have to follow the exact SYTYCD pattern. She walks up and I ask her name and where she’s from. She’s always from New York. I ask her how long she’s been dancing and what type of dance she’ll be performing today. There she switches it up some.

Then, I get to watch my serious little girl strike a serious pose and wait for me to call out, “Cue Music” before she jumps and spins around the room. Obviously, her technique could use a little work, but the girl has spirit. Once I hold up my hand to stop the music (and then press stop on the music myself), she walks up to be critiqued. She doesn’t even care if she always gets a Golden Ticket or not, just as long as we follow the protocol.

Little kids love mimicry and I’m sure that something else will catch her eye and we’ll get to play it out in the living room. But my little girl isn’t just excited about creating her own auditions, she’s suddenly much more invested in her dancing career. When she cuddles up on the couch with me, she sounds determined to become as good as the kids on the screen. “Mom,” she’ll say, “It’s gonna take a really long time, but I can do that.” I don’t doubt her one bit.

The excitement she gets from seeing talented dancers reminded me of something very important about getting children involved in the arts. It’s important to show them what top-notch performances look like. It’s important to give them goals to reach for and dreams to keep in their heads. We need to take out little ones to the philharmonic and the art museum. They need to see a professional ballet and a theatrical production. If we want them to understand and appreciate these amazing mediums, we need to show them just how good a person can get.

My daughter might only be tapping her toes now, but she needed to know that more was possible. She wanted to know that there was more to do and a goal to strive for. Who knew that helping her find that would be as simple as turning on a reality competition?

(Photo: frantab/Shutterstock)