I am the blessed mom of three wonderful offspring: girl, boy, girl. This ballet- inspired epistle is mainly about my oldest daughter and her experiences in the wonderful world of dance.
From the time Chloe could walk, she danced. From the time she could talk, she talked about being a ballerina--much to my dismay. Not that I have anything against ballerinas, mind you, I just am SO not a stage mom and I had concerns about eating disorders, mangled toes and strange men in tights tossing my daughter into the air. As most of you experienced moms can attest, these battles, if not properly fought with skill and cunning, are soon lost. Before I knew what hit me, I found myself searching for a ballet studio for my 5-year-old prima ballerina.
We settled on a small studio in our area and once a week I dutifully took Chloe to ballet and peeked through the small window whilst juggling a baby on one hip and tossing cheerios to a bored toddler rolling around on the floor. As the year came to a close, the inevitable end-of-year program began to be practiced in the weekly class. I was clueless on many fronts. The first area of cluelessness involved my checkbook. Wait, HOW much are those itty bitty costumes? We have to also pay a performance fee? AND buy tickets?
Alright, so we pay with the knowledge that we will be able to go to a wonderful performance and see our adorable child prance about on stage in a costume that is smaller than the check that we wrote for it. Let’s call it a glorified bathing suit with tights. I feel a little bit unsettled, but this reaction is nothing compared to my husband’s when he realizes that not only will his daughter be on stage in her wonderful bathing-suit-masquarading-as-a-costume, but she is ALSO required to wear makeup and LOTS of it. Mascara, heavy eyeliner, bright red lipstick, foundation, blush….did I leave anything out?
So, against our better judgment, we go along. The grandparents are invited and the big day is here. At the college campus auditorium, we settle in for what is promised to be an adorable performance with tots exhibiting their little ballet moves and tiny tap routines.
I am telling you, I really should have known better and maybe unconsciously I suspected something, but that something was so elusive that I couldn’t quite grasp what was going to happen.
Out trot the differing classes of performers. The audience claps and laughs at their antics. It really was that cute. Then, we are REALLY in for a treat! The older classes are going to dazzle us with their much anticipated routines! The lights go down and the crowd hushes. Suddenly, loud pounding music echoes through the auditorium, flashing lights pulse on the stage and the older girls prance out.
I feel my jaw fall open and panic rises up within me as I realize that the three men that I’ve brought to this program--my son, my husband and my father--are all going to be treated to a raunchy, stripper-style dance by 16-year-old children.
The girls were dressed in bright red outfits that barely covered their rears. Fishnet stockings, high heeled boots and laced up corsets completed the look. As these children (for that is what they were) began to shimmy and run their hands up and down their bodies, I snatched up my young and impressionable son and hightailed it out of there. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my father shifting uncomfortably in his chair, staring at the floor and my husband looking up at the ceiling.
I remember standing in the lobby, so angry and dismayed that I was almost in tears. These were children in there! Children dancing like strippers in a roomful of fathers and brothers, friends and family. These girls had been taught this sexy routine and dressed in these incredibly revealing outfits for what purpose? For entertainment? For fun?
Needless to say, I wrote a letter to the proprietress of the dancing establishment. I expressed my deep disappointment and my disgust at the dance routines of the older girls. I challenged her to think seriously about what these dances are teaching these young and impressionable girls. Is this where their worth is? Showing off their bodies to older men? They were so young and they’re falling for this incredible lie that their worth is bound up in how provocatively they can dance and whip a crowd up. Is there not a way to practice the art of dance without making it into something sleazy?
I suppose everyone can guess what the answer I got was. If I didn’t like it, I could take my business elsewhere. After all, these parents knew what their girls were doing and her business certainly isn’t hurting. This woman also advised me to “go and watch Dancing With the Stars.” I guess she felt compelled to broaden my horizons.
I’m sorry, but I do not want to broaden my horizons if it means sacrificing my daughter’s morality to the wolves of lust. I took my daughter and my money elsewhere and you know what? She got accepted into the Raleigh School of Ballet. It is a phenomenal school, the girls wear modest leotards and at the end of the year performance, they get to earn a lovely skirt that goes with their leotard color. Last year Chloe performed on stage and I was so proud of her grace and beauty that it brought tears to my eyes. She has also has the opportunity to perform in the North Carolina Ballet’s Nutcracker and she did a phenomenal job.
So, be encouraged modesty moms. There are good programs out there. There are other people who care about the morals of their children. There are dads who would rather die than see their little girls dressed as hookers, performing blush- inducing routines.
Don’t be discouraged and never give in. The future rewards for your little girl are too great for us to lose steam now and the future consequences are too horrific if we weaken or lose our grip on what we know to be good and right and true.
As we all can attest, our heartfelt thanks will always be extended to the courageous ones like Wendy Shalit. Thanks, Wendy! We owe a lot to you.