KIDS OR PARENTS – WHOSE DREAM IS IT?

The impact of parents’ behaviour in the dancing scene is on on my mind every time I am watching kids dance at competitions. I do of course know that there are amazing parents out there and kudos to you all for the gallant efforts you put in to enable your child/children to dance. It has come to my attention though, as it has for others too I’m sure, that amidst trying to achieve the best possible results for a young child or couple, some parents, and dare I even say it, teachers, lose site of what is important.

No one would have been more obsessed with dancing as a child than I was. I loved everything about it, I thought about my lessons constantly,  I practiced everywhere you could imagine, dreamed of Blackpool finals, dancing congress, travelling the world and watched videos every free moment I had! The enthusiasm our young dancers demonstrate is to be encouraged and I think it is fantastic when I see a child utterly in love with the hobby of their choosing. Unfortunately, as with many strongly competitive hobbies, the child is potentially at risk of being pushed incredibly hard, to the point where the child no longer finds it enjoyable, or even more heart breaking, where they begin to identify with a self that is idealised and fictitious. One example of this is could be that a girl may grow up to think she has to be a certain weight to be liked or beautiful. There has been many a talented dancer, who has given up the art entirely, not because they lost the love to dance, but just because everything else gets too much.

A big concern of mine is when I see parents or teachers acting in quite frankly, a disgraceful way toward their child/student. Behaviour far from what we would consider respectful and encouraging. I understand different cultures have different values and ideas of what is acceptable, but it is hard for me to believe that some of the behaviour I have witnessed, regardless of culture, would not be having some negative effect on the child.

I’ll give you an example of something I saw at a competition recently. A teacher, which I also had good reason to believe was also the mother of the boy, was helping the young couple warm up. It was a juvenile couple, and I would have thought under the age 10. Within 5 minutes of the warm up, this child was being yelled out, subject to aggressive pokes and having his arms being pulled into position all because he apparently was not doing it well enough. Now personally I don’t think this behaviour is necessary under any circumstance, but imagine how this child felt walking onto the competition floor. Even if there were accolades and congratulations after the dancing was finished, what price did this little boy have to pay? The image of what I saw that day hasn’t left me, as it is just totally unnecessary and uncalled for. The boy was old enough to be spoken to, in a positive way, about how he could improve his dancing should this teacher have felt the need to do so that day. Who really wanted to achieve the results that day – the child or the parent/teacher?

Less traumatic examples, but equally as damaging, is with the impact of social media and the dance world. We have now embarked on a world that is completely different from previous generations growing up. Social media has the power to place huge pressures on kids and it’s something every parent needs to address. As adults we can also be victims of social media pressures and the feeling that we always need to be more – just imagine how this might affect young ones. Our industry is already very particular about body image and I think these demands together with social media could result in immense pressure. This is not restricted to body image either, as social media tends to highlight every amazing success, great result, fantastic experience and brilliant lesson. Kids must be made aware that what they read, is not the whole story!

I don’t say that social media doesn’t have it’s benefits in dancing, such include documenting your dance career, assistance with partner searches and sharing your experiences with others near and far, but bear in mind it is a powerful tool and could potentially be a big burden for kids. It cleverly and deceptively creates an ‘ideal’ of what their dance journey should be like, rather than just enjoying whatever their particular path looks like. And what happens when the results are not great, and the child just wants to move on? We as adults, face these issues too, so imagine how much kids can be affected. We do want to encourage young dancers to fulfil their potential, let them love what they do and know they are supported, appreciated and valued. I would never say otherwise. I Just believe it wouldn’t hurt to be a little mindful in how quickly we post everything and to think twice about what is shared. Talk to children if you see any signs that something may be affecting them. Reassure the kids that whoever they are, they are enough. I am comforted in the fact that despite any behaviour we may see, all parents and teachers are there just trying to do their best by their children.