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Earning Your Place in the Spotlight

Earning Your Place
By Sarah Beth Byrum

Owning a dance studio is tricky. Parenting a teenager is tricky. Parenting a teenager who dances at the studio you own is nearly impossible. I wear a lot of hats at the studio – director, choreographer, costume designer, music editor, cheerleader, janitor…the list goes on. Most of the time, I can switch them out at a moment’s notice, but the balance between the mom hat and the dance teacher hat takes some juggling that I have not yet mastered.

“Seriously, WALK OUT THE DOOR,” was the exacerbated order coming from my husband as I stood, in full labor with my daughter, and continued to make last minute adjustments to my dancers, holding a pillow to my contracting stomach.

He finally dragged me away to the hospital to refocus on the gift of life over the gift of dance. But it didn’t last long, because I drove from the hospital with my bundle of joy directly to a dance competition.

In other words, my daughter was literally born into the dance life.

As a daughter of a dance teacher, my little girl started class at age two and has been dancing ever since. She has graced the stage hundreds of times and progressed from a shy toddler to an artistic teenager. She has inherited my love for music and movement and is gifted in ways that I never was. However, through all of this, she has never been the “star” student. She will never be the dancer in the front center, as she is far more comfortable in the back row stage left corner. Despite the fact that she has talent for days, her confidence is lacking, and she would prefer a humble role in the chorus over a featured lead any day.

Each summer, our studio hosts a week long intensive. Each day of the intensive, teachers are asked to choose a “stand out” student who grabs their attention in class.

Standing out, or grabbing attention, would be the exact opposite of what my daughter strives for. Her powers of blending in are unparalleled. As a mom, I certainly could have made sure that my daughter was given more attention. I have the power to put her in the front of the line, give her the lead role, or ask teachers to pay her special attention. I never have, and never will. My mom taught me that anything worth having is worth working for, and you are not owed anything. So year after year has gone by with my daughter remaining comfortably below the radar and doing an excellent job of not standing out.

Flash forward to today, when I walked into the family room to see a discarded box with the remains of a school of Swedish Fish. This sweet treat is a favorite of my son, so I naturally assumed he had tossed it there. Before I could manage to chastise him about picking up his trash, my daughter casually mentioned that they were hers. “Where did you get the Swedish Fish?” I questioned. To which she replied that she earned them because she was a “Stand Out” dancer today at the intensive.

This is the first time in all the years she has attended that she was ever called up as a stand out. At age sixteen, my amazing daughter finally got noticed, and she did it herself.

There may have been a million opportunities for me to push her into the spotlight, but none of them would have felt as bright as watching her step into it for herself. And as for her, I bet that little candy fish never tasted as sweet as it did today.


New Real Food Adventures

Published in collaboration with All That! Dance Company
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All That Dance Company

Also by Sarah Beth Byrum:

Trust the Teacher: Be A Cheerleader, Not a Coach

Dance Class: The Do’s and Don’ts

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