Monday, July 18, 2016

Ella's First Dance Solo

I know I've taken a break from blogging and the reasons are multi-faceted.  First, my life is like groundhog day and blogging about the same things over and over again seemed boring and not entertaining to anyone (including myself).  Also my kids are older and there are less crafts, preschool programs and the like to post.  And seriously how many times can you read about my mediocre races?  Ha!  But there are still things I want to remember and so I'm here to blog about Ella's first dance nationals and first solo because it's a moment I don't want to forget.  This could be long.... you've been warned. 

Ella has been dancing since she was 4 years old.  We've never taken it too seriously.  I held her back from competitive dance for a long time (this year was her first year) because it was something I didn't want to do.  Looking back, it was unfair to her.  She's definitely at a disadvantage to the girls that have been doing competitive dance since they were 5 years old.  

I personally think Ella is a beautiful and entertaining performer, but her skills definitely need improvement.  She doesn't have a lot of "tricks" (think aerial) and she lacks flexibility.  Because of this, Ella doesn't dance in her technique classes with all her friends.  She's in a hodgepodge (my words) group of girls and she's the youngest dancing with some girls in high school.  When she was assigned to her group during registration in June for the 2016/2017 dance season, she was in the SAME group.  It created a lot of stress for me.  I wondered if Ella was good enough.  I spent days lamenting over the issue and even called and talked to the studio owner (hi Tina).  She assured me that Ella's group wasn't the misfits (as I had named them) but they're just a group of girls that learn differently.  She explained that the groups are based yes on abilities, but also on the dancer's learning style.  She (Tina) encouraged me to trust the process and know that she (and the other instructors) want Ella to succeed and they will put her on the path to do so.  I believed Tina, I really did, but it was still a tough pill to swallow.  It's hard when you're paying literally thousands of dollars a year for your daughter to dance to know she's behind or not quite as good as other girls her age.  Again, this is is what I BELIEVED and contradictory to what Ella's teachers had told me.  Even still the writing was on the wall for me and it made me feel sad for Ella. 

I had been asking one of Ella's instructors (Jamie) for privates since the first competition.  She is a VERY busy instructor and told me she would start after our last competition.  Long story short, Ella had her first private with Jamie after school was out in June.  During that first private, Jamie asked Ella if she wanted to do a solo at Nationals.  I honestly figured Ella must have heard her wrong.  How was Ella going to learn and perform a solo in a month's time?  Turns out Ella didn't hear wrong and Jamie did want her to do a solo and Ella was on board.

As everyone prepared for Nationals and Ella was on vacation with her friend in California, scheduling lessons with Jamie was very difficult.  Ella learned her solo in 3 1/2 hour private sessions and completed her dance less than 2 weeks before Nationals.  We were going out of town for the 4th of July and then again the week leading up to Nationals.  Ella wound up having 2 more privates with Jamie (a total of 5) for a solo she was to perform at nationals.

Once she knew the dance, I made her practice every day.  Not just once, not just twice but AT LEAST 20 minutes twice a day.  I loved her routine and she looked beautiful doing it.  It is a lyrical routine and there was a LOT of rolling around on the floor.  I joked with all my friends that's all she was doing was rolling around.  I was so nervous for the competition.  I didn't want Ella to feel embarrassed or not do well.  She loved her dance and despite feeling nervous she felt confident heading into competition.

I felt more confident after I learned Jamie had entered Ella as a beginner.  Not many girls from our studio are entered as beginners so I had no idea what would happen for Ella.  Of course, not many girls at our studio are beginners and Ella truly is a beginner.  I was relieved and happy with her placement.

When we got to the competition I felt like I would throw up.  Jamie, Tina and Sam (all of Ella's instructors) were there and they assured me it would be fine and not to worry at all.  I turned Ella over to Jamie and went and sat in the audience.  At this point I felt confident about Ella's ability to perform the dance.  I knew she could do it.  She wouldn't forget her choreography and she'd be able to do her dance.  I was still a nervous wreck.  I'm her mom, I'm also a type A perfectionist.  I wanted her to do well and not feel like she wasn't as good as the other girls.

The more and more routines I watched the more relaxed I became.  There were some really good routines but some were not impressive at all.  I mean yes to get out there at 12, 8, 10 years old is amazing and that in and of itself is an accomplishment.  I'm just saying I expected to see Ella's lack of experience become apparent by watching the other routines and that did NOT happen.  I knew her dance was going to fit in and I felt more relaxed.

When Ella came on stage and began to dance, I cried.  I don't know why.  It was a feeling that just overwhelmed me.  It was a sob and only lasted about 10 seconds and I composed myself.  I was in awe of her body and her movement.  She looked incredibly beautiful up there dancing and when she completed the dance I was overwhelmed with pride.

The girl that went on right before Ella was also in her category.  She was a incredibly flexible and her leaps were really good.  I thought she put on the best dance I had seen that day, but I did notice that her dance wasn't very fluid.  That was one thing Jamie had told me Ella needed to work on and what I kept talking to Ella about during her practice sessions.  I would remind her that the dance is one fluid act and not a bunch of little scenes pieced together.  I felt like her routine became very fluid and it didn't look as though she was thinking about each step-- it looked very natural.  In comparison to the immediate prior competitor, I could tell Ella had done better in the fluidity department.  However, this girl put her heel behind her head and I joked that she was "super bendy."

When Ella got off stage, I felt relieved and I was definitely proud of her.  Her good friend Eva had competed as well and as they waited for the awards ceremony to start they discussed the likelihood of winning an award.  They both "wanted to" but didn't think they would.  I really wanted Ella to be realistic with her expectations.  She had watched the dancer right before her.  I pointed out all that girl's strengths and told Ella it was likely that girl would beat her.  If that seems harsh I'm sorry, I just didn't want her to be disappointed.  She laughed and said, "Thanks a lot mom."

I talked to Jamie, Tina and Sam after the performances and before awards and they all told me Ella did well.  Tina looked me in the eye and said to me, "She did really good."  I was encouraged and happy that our studio owner seemed happy with her performance.  Jamie admitted how nervous she had been and that she was NOT ok before the performance (she had 3 girls she choreographed).  Thank God she didn't let on to that BEFORE.

Jamie and Ella 

Fast forward to awards.  I sat there in my seat in almost the last row mind you (so much for my confidence in Ella winning awards) and prayed Ella would score Elite High Gold.  (The rankings go:  Silver, Elite High Gold, Platinum).  The awards ceremony is very quick paced.  The announcer is announcing names and levels and being a new dance mom I never quite know exactly what's going on.  He's also announcing the category champion for each category (lyrical, jazz, tap, etc)  Ella's friend was called first and she scored Platinum.  I was so happy for and proud of her.  Now the pressure was on.  Please God, let Ella score Platinum. Then it happened.  Ella Tirch:  Platinum.  OMG I was relieved and happy.  Thank you God!  Life is good.  Then right after.... "And the category champion is Ella Tirch."  I almost fell out of my chair.  I had no idea what had just happened.

Next they announce each category (type of dance) in the order in which they ranked 10th to 1st.  I should have known Ella got 1st because she was announced as the category champion, but I honestly had no idea what was going on.  It was all confusing and too fast paced for me.  So they're announcing the category and I'm like la-la-la not even thinking Ella's name will be called and then she was announced as the first place winner.  I put my hands over my face and cried.  I was overwhelmed with emotions-- pride, relief.  It was so much emotion and a release of all the worry I had felt with her dance placement.

Next they moved on to announcing the overall winners. This is where the dancers are ranked according to how they scored without regard to their category.  So she's now competing against ALL dancers 12 and under no matter what type of dance you did.  Ella did lyrical but she was now being ranked against those that did tap, jazz, etc.  This was the BIG award.  I found myself sitting there with a glimmer of hope that she would be called.  I then put it aside and told myself it was pointless to get my hopes up.  Be happy with what she got, I told myself.  And I was.  I truly was so happy and proud and it was beyond my expectations for Ella.

They announce the 10th trough 4th place winners. Ella's friend had gotten 10th place and again I was so proud of and happy for her.  I was happy it had been such a great day for our girls.  They send the 6th through 4th place girls off and put out the 3rd through 1st trophies.  They announce the 3rd place overall winner and it was the super bendy girl Ella had beaten out for lyrical.  I was like holy $#*^ Ella's name is going to be called.  I knew if she had beaten that girl in the category she'd beaten her in the overall.  That's just math and I can do math.  Ha!  Sure enough Ella's name was called and she was the 2nd place winner in the overall.  Again, I cried.  I was so overwhelmed and to be honest. SHOCKED.

The lesson to be learned from all of this?  First:  I will no longer NOT trust the process.  I have to know that Ella's instructors know more than I do and they're doing what is best for her and won't put her in a position to fail.  Second:  I will no longer underestimate my daughter.  She's a hard worker and she'll go out there and give it her all.

The feeling of PRIDE, surprise and excitement that I had for Ella will forever go down as one of my best memories as a mother.  This is not because she went home with trophies but because all along this child believed in herself. She had confidence, she worked hard and she believed in herself and it paid off.  Of course, I can't thank Jamie enough for taking her under her wing and also believing that she could do it.  So thank you Miss Jamie for believing in my baby girl.

I'm looking forward to this crazy ride of dance with my amazing daughter.  It might not be "my thing" but it sure is hers!


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