We swiftly weaved through the clusters of dancers in the hallways of our dance academy. It was week three, which meant it was our contemporary class’s turn in the large dance room. The eight of us, made up of mostly non-competitive dancers from the surrounding neighborhoods, were crammed in a small room weekly, unable to dance freely. Fortunately, a dance teacher who taught a competitive ballet class during the same hour, offered her larger room to us every third week. As we walked in to what we thought would be our space for the hour, we were faced with countless ballet shoes and leotards. The teacher was not willing to give up her room with a matter of weeks to the first competition. So we turned around and weaved our way back to our closet.
Without knowing the larger picture of how things work at this dance school, this scenario seems completely understandable. However, having been a dancer there for 5 years, I found it difficult to hide my feelings of discontent.
When I first started dancing at my dance school, I was a beginner. When I was offered a spot on the competitive team in my second year, I was ecstatic. My parents shared
the joy until they understood what it meant to be on the competitive team. At
many dance schools, the competitive team isn’t made up of their best dancers,
but of their most committed dancers. Or should I say, most committed parents. Competitive dancers are required to take at least three hours a week of mandatory classes which include ballet, jazz, and modern, and most choose additional classes such as acrobatics, tap, or hip hop. It should not be mistaken that my dance school
does not have brilliant dancers, but it should not be forgotten that it has
privileged dancers. Three hours or more of dance class, plus the cost of costumes,
makeup, and time, add up to a very hefty sum.
I spent a year in competitive dance before having enough of the fake eyelashes, Mac makeup, and diamond earrings. The next year, when asked to join four more classes, I
declined and decided to go back to recreational dance. The recreational dance
program is a noticeable step down from the competitive.
Like many other sports organizations, it is difficult to find a middle ground between
competitive and recreational. One may have the skill and passion to be a
competitive athlete but not the time. Competitive sports require a lot of
devotion, which is great for youth that are committed. However, for people like
me, who enjoy dancing very much but don’t want to spend all their time on it,
it is difficult to find the ideal situation. Today, with profit as a priority
for most organizations, kids are always being pushed to competitive levels so
parents will spend more money. This leaves the recreational programs to beginners
and the athletically disinclined. So, where do people like me, who dislike
competition but love the sport, belong? I would like to be able to dance for a moderate number of hours a week while still being challenged.
To find the ideal place, I have to search for it. I am surely not
alone in my quest for the “golden middle” of organized athletics.