As we get closer to recital week so many things flood my thinking…firstly STRESS… are the kids ready to dance, do the costumes all still fit, have we communicated with parents, backdrops, programs, staffing, show t-shirts, medals, trophies, stage directions, music, props, rehearsals, tickets, seating…the list goes on and on! There are so many little things that go into the annual recital! At some points when the planning is overwhelming, we dance studio owners ask ourselves…WHY?!!! Why do we go through this enormous amount of effort for this once a year recital. It is certainly not about making money – as we in the industry know, most recitals end up costing our studios lots of money in the end. Auditoriums are so very expensive to rent, and between rental, staff, custodians, insurance, etc… there is, most often than not, nothing left over in the end. So we ask ourselves WHY???!!
When I find myself asking that question I have to breathe and remind myself that it is not really about this “performance” that happens on stage. That is a very small part of what recital time is about. It is about the growth and the experiences along the way.
Why??? Because we are celebrating the commitment to an entire year of learning. As you probably know, dance is not a 6 week commitment. We can’t do what we are doing with our students in 6 weeks. It takes all year long… for lots of different reasons. We are not simply making good dancers. We are helping to foster creativity, art, confidence, compassion and strength THROUGH dance. So, yes, the season is long, but it is so very worth it.
Why??? Because we are helping our students find that artistic voice inside of themselves that allows them to open up their feelings and express them in movement. Whether that dancer is 3 or 18 years old, finding the path from emotion to expression is priceless. Often, it can even be life changing. And in some, it can be life saving. I have seen this happen. I have seen young children who do not know how to “pretend” in September grow into little imagination maniacs by May. I have seen elementary aged students find a way to create movement that resembles feelings in a new way that they tell us “relaxes” them, helps them feel “less stressed”, makes them feel “beautiful”. Now, if that isn’t moving to hear from a 9 year old child, I don’t know what is. And, as these young people grow up, I watch as our teen dancers internalize music and improv dance in the most beautiful way at the end of a long day at 9:15pm because it helps them release the drama, stress and even tragedy of their day and helps them sleep better. This is the power of what we do in dance class every single day.
Why??? Because we have been teaching our students all year to build eachother up. We write eachother confidence building notes on the mirrors. We sit in a “compliment” circle and give our friends honest compliments until it is our turn to receive them – and then we receive them with complete acceptance. We present awards to eachother in class honoring what every student has done well. We support eachother. And on recital day, we will support eachother again!
Why??? Because I will sit back and watch as our youngest students arrive on show day with butterflies whipping in their bellies – only to be greeted by our teenaged assistants who share the excitement of their “first recital” with wonderful screetches of “I’m so excited for show day!” “It’s finally here!” “You are going to have so much fun!” “Do you want to peek on the stage?” And then I watch as those little 3 year olds confidently march backstage to add another accomplishment to their just beginning list.
Why??? Because I know some of the personal stories of these young dancers. The ones who struggle in school or feel like they don’t have any friends or just lost a loved one or parents are divorcing or are suffering with childhood anxiety. I know their stories and recital day is the biggest accomplishment for these children. Without a word, we all celebrate their strength to show up and express themselves on show day.
Why??? Because we see the excitement of backstage. We watch dancers of all ages helping with hair, makeup, costumes. We watch them manage their time, hit their marks, give themselves that last review of their routine. We watch them encourage those who are vervous. We see them hug and literally jump for joy when they are finished. We watch their dance teachers wipe nervous tears and then give them those last words of inspiration. We see the preschoolers watching the senior dancers in their pointe shoes and tutus with such admiration. We see those same senior dancers bend to give hugs and support to those young dancers and you would swear Cinderella herself just walked in the door. We feel the butterflies too – butterflies willing our students to do their best – we don’t wish for perfection, we just want them to be satisfied with their performance. There is a whole lifetime of moments to witness before those dancers even take the stage…and WE get to see it all! We are so blessed.
Why??? Because so many of these dancers grow up at the studio. Many many years of dancing with these young women every week. Watching them grow up from the first day of school to graduation. What a gift we have as dance teachers to spend so much time with so many dancers. Classes, performances, auditions, trips, events, parties! It’s a wonderful ride and while it is SO sad to say goodbye to our seniors – I love knowing that they are heading off into the world ready to tackle their lives and it’s exciting to watch that happen. So much of what we taught them will serve them forever. Hard work, how to relax, how to be creative, how to express yourself, how to find a dance class anywhere in the world and be able to jump right in and connect with what can bring you happiness and peace….no matter how old you are or where your life takes you. Go out and work for what you want ladies – you’re a dancer – you know how to work! Apply it to your life and you will be a success!
So yes, we know recital season is crazy. The emails, handouts, rehearsals, tickets, time, energy and money involved – we feel the same way. But we have a backstage inside view on the “other” part of the show. The great stuff that happened before recital week even arrived. The amazing inspiration that happens before your children even get on stage. The lessons that are learned and carried throughout life. We are lucky to have a backstage pass to all of these amazing moments! Recital day is simply the icing on the cake – the end of year celebration.
We hope everyone going to a dance recital takes a moment to honor those behind the scenes lessons. Watch that routine and keep in your heart the bravery, teamwork, confidence, and love it takes to get up there and perform. Open your heart and take that in. It is so much more than the steps. And then, thank your dance teacher 🙂