Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Dancing Mum

on July 21, 2012

You may not be aware that I have a secret identity.  A few times a year I become…

Dancing Mum!

It’s not an exclusive persona – there are many Dancing Mums across the world and in fact you might even be one yourself – and it doesn’t involve any dancing for me personally.  Dancing Mum is the person who spends time washing, stitching, getting up early, driving, hairdressing, making-up and sitting (mostly sitting, actually) for the sole purpose of ensuring that a young dancer is able to be in the right place at the right time, wearing the right costume, be it for exams, a competition or a show.

The Bookworm and the Butterfly both go to dance lessons every weekend at Shelley Dobson School of Dance.  I don’t think either of them will pursue it into later life as they’ve inherited my sense of coordination, but for now they enjoy it and it helps keep them fit.  They also dance at school and, until recently, went to an after school club in Irish dancing.  We’re not as involved as many Dancing Families and rarely take part in competitions.  I’ve heard stories of being in the car on the way to York at 6am on a Saturday ready for an 8am start, or trying to find a venue in the wilds of Northumberland using only public transport.  Neither really appeals, and anyway, we’ve always been of the opinion that children shouldn’t have too many commitments as it limits their time to relax and be themselves.  I’m pleased with the fact that ours have chance to play or read for pleasure after school, as well as being involved in the Girl Guiding movement, doing homework and practising music (although the latter possibly needs more emphasis as they grow older – it doesn’t happen much!) and that’s one of the reasons why Shelley’s school suits us so well – the emphasis is as much on having fun and making friends as it is on the work and the achievements.

However, there are times when I’m called on to be more involved: two weeks ago I was shivering in the early morning air outside Dance City at 8.20am (on a Sunday!) ready for the Bookworm to take part in a competition with four of her school classmates as part of a sports initiative called Schools 500 (they won silver in their category – yay!).  This weekend, squeezed in between the end of the school year yesterday and the church Holiday Club beginning Monday, is the dance school Summer Show.  Compared to some years we’ve got off quite lightly – I have not been prevailed upon to source or create any costumes (a task I never take on with much relish as my imagination and crafting abilities are both in short supply), merely to send money for the requisite items to be purchased by the dance school.  I did have to get new dance tights for the Bookworm as she has grown out of hers and they’ve been passed down – and what a palaver that was!  The excellent dancewear suppliers, StageStruck, who have been a source of help to me on many occasions, have now closed their Newcastle store, so the choice is to order online or to go to Sunderland, which we rarely have time to do, so various deliberations and emailing of Shelley the principal had to take place before I could order with confidence!

Yesterday evening I had to take them to a local theatre for the dress rehearsal, which involved my getting up and out with them for school in the morning so I could take Southern Daddy to work and keep the car for the theatre run later!  When they came home from school there were no end of term celebrations, just a “Quick – have your tea and get washed and changed so we can go out!”  However, I can’t deny it was pleasant, for the first time in many, many years, to be able to collect SD from work and spontaneously stop in town for dinner on a warm and sunny evening.

The hustle and bustle began again once they got home – at 8.45pm, which resulted in a very bad-tempered Butterfly who is always in bed by 7.30! – because I needed to get their dancewear washed and dried (in two separate loads!) for the matinée today and also repair the Bookworm’s ballet shoes (again – I’ve no idea what she does to them but the elastic which helps keep them on comes unstitched about once a fortnight).  Then this morning it was French plaits, which the Butterfly hates with a passion, and make-up, of which I never put on enough because I’m not used to seeing them in any at all, so the slightest bit looks like loads!  After an application of hairspray so liberal they’ll need to steer clear of naked flames for the rest of the day, they’ve been despatched back to the theatre armed with bottles of water and hopefully enough fruit, cereal bars and Haribos to see them through the afternoon, as well as a tin of “Rosy Lips” Vaseline to keep their lipstick topped up after they’ve eaten, drunk and licked their lips for an hour before the show even starts!

When they come home there will be a couple of hours for them to rest and eat dinner and then back for the evening performance, which is the one we’ve bought tickets for.  Usually I help out backstage during whichever performance I’m not watching, but this year I haven’t volunteered because I needed the extra time to prepare for holiday club.  I’m disappointed in a way, because it’s something I absolutely love doing.  The back-stage environment is an exaggerated version of all the other Dancing Mum commitments.  It’s a strange experience – lots of sitting, as I’ve mentioned, interspersed with short periods of furious activity as the children come off-stage and need help wriggling in and out of costumes and changing shoes before they dash off again to be ready for their next entrance.  The atmosphere of nervous excitement, the puddles of discarded clothing, the dancers’ chatter as they discuss their performances, the smell of – well, whatever it is that all stages and backstage areas seem to smell of – makes you feel part of something thrilling and productive, and even though you’re as exhausted as the dancers by the end of it, it’s a wonderful occasion every time.  It always makes me think of Garnie and Nana in Ballet Shoes, accompanying the Fossil girls to auditions and performances, sitting quietly with a book or chatting to another parent or nurse that they got to know over the litany of occasions on which the same pairs of children and adults turned up to participate.  It’s part of my life, and a part which makes me feel closely involved in my children’s lives, at a time when they’re becoming ever more independent of me.

And that’s why I’m happy to be a costume-washing, shoe-mending, early-rising, dancewear-buying, snack-fixing, bottle-filling, hair-plaiting, make-upping Dancing Mum.

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2 responses to “Dancing Mum

  1. Fiona says:

    Lovely! Do you ever order from Dance Direct? They’re pretty good, although it’s obviously better to be able to try stuff on before you buy it. I loved Ballet Shoes too 🙂 xxx

  2. northmum says:

    No, I hadn’t heard of Dance Direct before but they look good – thank you! I went to StageStruck’s website sort of by default, because I was so distraught when they closed down here! I’ll definitely look at that one in future as they seem to have some bargains available 😀

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