Every day Life
When my daughter was four, we put her into the local parks & recreation-run dance classes. She, along with the other preschool girls, were simply adorable. Each week we’d watch them run around, stretch, point their toes and tap them, and twirl. She loved it, and so did I. Who couldn’t appreciate a class of twirling tots?
The culmination of the year, of course, is the Recital. I got the bill for the costume, gulped, and handed over the money. Silently I calculated that this adorable outfit was costing me $27 for each minute it was worn on stage. And then the tickets went on sale, where I handed over $70 for tickets for me and my husband, our son, our beloved babysitter, my sister. Yet when my daughter got into her Dancing Poodle costume – complete with headdress and a little tail, it was worth every penny. And when she went on stage with her friends, it was absolutely priceless. The entire show was dazzling: costumes and kids of all ages, classical ballet to hip hop.
And after the oohs and aahs were over, the pictures taken, that costume went into the dressup box where it eventually got handed down to a younger cousin.
And the next year, the cycle started again. Another year of dance, another pricey costume, more money handed over for the dance recital tickets, and this time, we bought flowers too (something that as first-year parents, we neglected to think about). And after her three minutes of fame, another costume went into the dressup box.
And in the fall, every fall, we started the cycle again. One year, she switched studios to one that offered Irish step dance, which meant an additional $85 for the ghillies (on little girl size 8 shoes). But that year, the costume was worn to a St. Paddy’s day dance event for senior citizens, bringing joy outside the performance hall.
Another year, we realized midyear that she would not be able to make the recital. Sorry, we were told. You have to buy the costume anyway. It’s part of the contract. And after forking over $75 dollars, she got a paint-splattered t-shirt and a pair of unremarkable jean shorts, that were, in her words, ugly and therefore unworn. That costume went directly to Goodwill.
After our first recital those 11 years ago, I told a friend that I should start a dance outfit drive, to take these costumes to inner-city Boston studios for lower-income girls. But life got busy, and I didn’t take action. But I thought about it from time to time. How many costumes went into dress-up boxes or were packed away in attics? Dancing itself was the important thing – learning new moves to music, feeling strong and confident. Yet I know that my daughter felt like a princess or rock star on stage, and that made it all worthwhile.
So now that spring is here, I am once again writing checks for a costume. This year, it included a bill for $12 tights to wear under the recital pants that covered her legs. When I asked why, I was told it was to establish a uniform look of the legs. Mind you, there are girls from 4’8” to 5’10” in the class. Uniformity indeed. I wondered about the profit margins in that little pair of spandex and nylon.
But come May, when I see her on stage hip-hopping away, that it will make both of us happy. Dance recitals are a money-making machine, but sometimes, you can buy happiness. And now I think again, how can I take action to spread that happiness around to girls who may not have the resources for recitals. Dancing moms out there, what have you seen and done?