When a Pink Tutu Provokes a Power Play: A Mom/Dancer Questions Her Legacy
By: Melissa Peterson
My twins started dancing when they were barely three years old. I couldn't wait to see them in their pink tutus. I grew up dancing - it's my passion. A professional dancer for much of my life, I now share my love of dance as an instructor at a local company.
But, when my girls first started dancing I wondered whether I should encourage them. After all, just because dancing was my passion, did it have to be theirs? Was I somehow, albeit inadvertently, pushing them to do something they weren't as excited about as I was? As excited as anyone should be when we land on the pursuit or hobby that uniquely speaks to us?
In my mind, I cited the health benefits associated with dance. The combination of stretching, strengthening, cardio conditioning, poise, and the confidence inspired by the overall artistry, made me think that this was the right choice for my tutu-clad twins. As a dancer myself, I had learned the importance of teamwork, the camaraderie that comes from collaborating as a troupe to overcome challenges and realize common goals - both on and off the stage.
Individually, I learned discipline - not only physical, but also mental. I knew how to behave in the studio, how to conduct myself in a classroom. Time management was another hurdle to soar over. I had to learn how to manage myself from a young age. After all, homework doesn't disappear just because you're a dancer.
I asked myself, What was wrong with wanting my girls to learn these same lessons?
But then I further challenged my thinking. Couldn't they learn these lessons as young musicians, soccer players, or debate team champs?
Fortunately, my over thinking was met with my girls' own headstrong inclinations. Every move I made to broaden their horizons and introduce them to other avenues of creativity and constructive challenge was met with demands for dance. As they grew, even my suggestions for time off - just for the sake of it - elicited cries for more time in the studio.
One thing I forgot during my maternal mental jockeying about what was “right” for my daughters was friendship. My most long lasting friendships were forged in dance - practice, recitals, in the studio, and on the stage. The same has proven true for my girls.
Now 11-years-old, they have made what I hope will prove to be lifelong friendships with their fellow dancers. Young students with whom they spend countless hours in the studio, pushing themselves as individuals and encouraging each other as a team with a shared desire to shine on stage.
In this digital age of cyber-bullying and skimpy selfies, I breathe an extended sigh of relief that my girls are confident. Truly confident. They believe they have what it takes to approach the stage and perform in front of hundreds of strangers on a regular basis. They believe it because they do, indeed, have it. Because they have worked for it.
Sure, there are always losses in any pursuit of greatness and my girls have suffered their share. But, with each failure, each misstep, they strengthen, work harder, and stay humble in the glow of their greatest successes.
Every day, I am so proud to be their dance teacher, but most importantly, their mom. They might not always dance, but they'll always be mine. Although I hope dance will always play a role in their lives, just as it has in mine, I know that even if they quit tomorrow, the lessons they've learned will stay with them in all their endeavors, every day.
And for that, I am grateful. Relieved to have the curtain close on my own misgivings as I watch my daughters twirl and take the stage.
Melissa Peterson has danced, taught and choreographed all over the world. She currently shares her love of dance through teaching young dancers of all ages and abilities throughout the Chicago-land area. Prior to getting married and starting a family, you may have seen her as “Ariel”, the Little Mermaid and a featured dancer for the live stage premier of “Pocahontas” in Boston, Massachusetts and Madrid, Spain. She was a dancer onboard Celebrity Cruise Line’s MV Mercury for its inaugural sailing including ports in Germany, Amsterdam, England, New York, Miami and throughout the Caribbean. Melissa was a featured dancer for the ABC televised New Year’s Special for “Millennium Philadelphia” as well as the breakthrough video for Ruben Gomez, formerly of Menudo. She has been a featured dancer and assistant choreographer in numerous industrials across the country including Ford Finance, Karastan, LensCrafters and Tupperware and Tokyo Disneyland Audition Tour. Melissa holds a B.A. in Sociology from The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.