Dance Dad 101

**UPDATE**

Thanks for stopping by!  The positive feedback from this post lead me to start a new website, Dance Dad University.  Feel free to click on over when you get done reading this:

I’m a Dance Dad.  Have been for a couple years now.  Being a first time Dance Dad can be confusing and intimidating.  With that in mind I put together the following tips to help new Dance Dads out.

Lets get the money discussion out of the way first.  It’s best to let your wife handle all the dance finances.  Dance isn’t cheap. There’s lessons, costumes, entry fees, and travel, meal, and hotel expenses.  Trust me, you’ll enjoy it more if you don’t know the exact amount you’re spending.  I do know if my girls didn’t dance I’d drive a newer truck than the 1997 model I have now.

Get a Dream Duffel.  Think of it as a mobile closet on wheels. They are expensive but worth it and will help keep everything organized.  Everything your dancers will need can fit inside meaning you’ll only need to worry about one bag.  There’s even an insulated pouch to keep water and snacks cold. My girls have the large one and when it’s all set up it’s bigger than my closet.

Dream Duffel set up

 

This is our first season with a Dream Duffel and I can tell you it’s been our most stress free season.  Go with a plain black one so you won’t feel awkward pulling it around.  Your wife and daughters can “bling” out the patches.  One benefit to not going crazy on the customization is it will make it easier to sell when you no longer need it.

Print off a schedule of the dance weekend and keep it with you.  Also, be sure to enter the time your daughter dances into your smartphone… just in case you lose your hard copy.  Make sure you double and triple check everything.  One time I read the schedule wrong and was late for awards.  Big mistake.

Competitions can last all day and your eating schedule will be sporadic so make sure you get a good breakfast.  You’ll also want to have plenty of snacks packed.  Something your dancer can eat without the risk of getting their costume dirty.  We like to pack cheese and beef sticks, pretzels, dried fruit, beef jerky, yogurt tubes and squeezable applesauce pouches.

On dance day your job is to stay out of the way and do whatever is needed.  Don’t make suggestions unless asked.  Your job is to keep the stress level down.  Make sure your vehicle is gassed up and ready to go.

Never comment on a costume until you know how your dancer feels about it.  I made that mistake once.  My daughter was showing me a new costume she got that night at rehearsal.  I said it kind of looked liked a penguin.  Turns out my daughter wasn’t a big fan of the costume and my comment didn’t help.  Now, I’ve learned to say something like, “Nice. How does it fit? Do you like it?”  Based on the response I’ll then know what comments of mine would be best.

You might get a lump in your throat watching your daughter dance. Watching your daughter dance can be emotional… especially if you’re watching a lyrical routine. The right combination of costume, music, lyrics, and lack of sleep can make your eyes a little misty.

Stay for the awards even if they’re really late.  It’s part of the experience and a great bonding time for the team.

The awards will confuse you.  Once you have it figured out they’ll change it on you.  At one competition the top award might be a platinum.  Next competition it could be a diamond.  It’d be nice if they could all agree on a system.  Gold, silver, and bronze work for the Olympics and could work for dancing too.

You will be annoyed by the emcee of the awards.  They almost always think they’re super cool. What they fail to realize is that we could care less about them.  It’s the results on the paper they are holding that we want.

Get to know the other Dads.  You’ll have plenty of downtime between dances.  Chances are they are feeling the same way you are.

It’s also a good idea to invest in an extended battery for your smartphone.  That way you’ll have all the power you need to take pictures, post Facebook updates, and play Candy Crush.  The one I have makes it all day with plenty of juice left.

Give the dance instructor positive feedback on the choreography and costumes.  Ours has always had age appropriate costumes and dance moves. I’ve thanked her for that several times.  I’ve seen some dancers on other teams wearing things and dancing in a way that I wouldn’t want my daughters to dance like at their age.

Hopefully I haven’t scared you off from having your child take part in dance.  It might seem like a lot of work and stress but it really is a great activity for kids.  They learn teamwork and that hard work can pay off.  One of my daughter’s instructors has even gone over how math is used in planning choreography.  Dance will also help with their self confidence and self esteem.  It’s also a great physical activity.

If you are a new Dance Dad and have questions let me know.  If you’ve been a Dance Dad for years and have some tips of your own leave a comment.  Dance Moms you can chime in too.

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29 thoughts on “Dance Dad 101”

    1. From your daughter’s Math Teacher/Ballet Teacher: This was wonderful Tony! Your family should be so proud that their parents are so involved in everything that they do. You and your wife are ideal dance parents and greatly appreciated–believe me!

      This is a great over view for all parents living with today’s dancers. Also nice to hear from a man’s perspective.

      I’d like to add one note that I’d like to clear up for new Dance Dads/Moms: you mostly described “competition” dance life. There’s a difference.

      The words “team” and “awards” are all part of a new genre that is shaping today’s performing art scene. I find it a bit overwhelming to see 6-year-olds wearing eyelashes and heavy make-up AND I’m an ex-showgirl who performed in Vegas, Paris, Monaco and San Francisco (technically trained/BFA Dance, don’t confuse me with anything else). I support my dancers, I don’t support dancing just to compete. I’m a minority around here.

      Competition should come AFTER you’ve done your HOURS and YEARS of studio time. Not first or during young years (not before 12). That’s just my opinion and many other dance educators out there who don’t seem to have as loud of a voice anymore. It’s not an age thing either. I know plenty of young people starting out who feel the same so I won’t let the kids or “Dance Moms” label me “old school.” I am in continuing education for myself about dance/performing arts because I want to make sure that I’m not missing the boat. Our kids need to know that there is more than awards and eyelashes. (I admit, those are fun though!)

      I’m not blind, I see the benefits as well and I support them and I guess that’s my job here to remind them that the love of the art should come FIRST.

      Again, thank you for your insight and maybe competition dance would improve if all parents put their children first instead of pushing them to “get a better score.”

      1. PS—We do have a GREAT studio with GREAT instructors and dancers and supportive families. Never doubt that I believe that.

  1. Good job Tony! You’ve embraced the ‘dance dad’ experience 🙂 I agree with you and especially appreciate the dance studios that clothe their dancers in appropriate attire!

    1. Thanks. It doesn’t happen a lot but there have been times I’ve seen other dancers costumes and thought, “I’m glad it’s not my daughter wearing that.”

  2. You forgot to add that although this is particularly a girls bonding experience and truthfully your daughter will treat you as though you know absolutely nothing about dance, and dont think for a second that your opinion counts because it doesnt and nor is it really wanted, but your presence is expected regardless, if you dont believe this…just try and plan something on the same weekend, and see what happens…

  3. Good point about being there. I’ve only missed one competition because I was sick. Even though my daughter understood why I couldn’t make it I could tell that she wished I would have been there.

  4. Get involved with props of your studio uses them. Plenty of hands make light work. Help not only with the prop for your daughters dance but any that are used. Helps with parent bonding also. Also I find it best to treat solos like cross country running. It is not about winning top place every time but improving each dance until you reach top place. Also encourage your daughter to be a gracious winner by leading by example by always telling all the girls on the team what a great job they did!

    1. Mayor, you make a lot of great points. Our daughters haven’t done solos yet. That’s coming next year. I’ll be sure to remember your cross country running analogy. Thanks!

  5. Very well said! I love the part what you said about moms handling the money..my hubby stopped asking what costs and how much. We are a much happier dance family now, that and purchasing the Dream Duffel!

  6. I’ve found it helpful to also see what stores are near the competition so if youneed to run out and get something in an emergency, you’ll know where to go.

  7. Dance dad’s grill in between dances and dealing with props…it give the dads something to do and we all have a great time tailgating at competitions!

  8. I really wish more studios would deliver age appropriate costumes and dancing. Parents even allowing their child to be instructed in that manner is tasteless. Maybe when they are 16 or 17 but not 6. Our studio is very conservative and i love it. Our girls are always in tights and no midriffs are ever allowed to show.

  9. Nice Job, My daughters danced for 15 years and I never missed a competition. I’ve found joy in watching them grow, making friends and building confidence. Another comment to all the dads, be involved. They are your little ones for only a little while. If its important to them, make it important to you. Lastly, when your daughter’s teacher asks you to “do her a favor” and dance in the “father’s number” at recital. Go all in. You’ll never have more fun, and the look on your daughter’s face when you’re in costume is priceless. GREAT Essay!

  10. My three daughters danced for since they were five and I never missed a competition either. They are all now in college and aside from building confidence, their dancing laid the ground work for a busy high school activity that kept them focused and involved. My hot tip. GET A GREAT CAMERA! After a couple of seasons, I be came the “official” team photographer allowing me to provide memory moments for all of my daughters and their teammates on a team web site. Not to mention the cost savings in not having to buy the “pro” shots. Girls will never forget the support Dad showed as well as the true heroes, the “real” dance moms (not the reality tv stuff).

  11. Great post! My dance daughter (now teacher) pointed it out. It’s all so true! What a joy it was to support her all the way through dance in college.

    If you can arrange to be the dance taxi–do it! You can develop a special relationship if you drive your princess back and forth to dance several days per week for several years! You never know what it might do for you. One year I read the Bible through for the first time while the taxi idled. That was a life changer…

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