After a lifetime of being involved in the dance world - as a performer, teacher, backstage crew, photographer and parent - I have been to a lot of end-of-year shows.
Here are ten types of parents that can be spotted at nearly every performance.
1. Dance 'mom'
Just like the TV show, for these parents, it's all about them and their child.
They can be spotted wheeling in entire portable wardrobes, sporting a more professional make-up kit than the Kardashians and complaining loudly if their child is not front and centre in every dance. Some are lured into this role by their child's actual talent but, for many, it is their longing to be the star of the show that drives their over-the-top approach.
Thankfully, this type of parent is rare in Australia and almost non-existent many dance schools.
Where? When? What do you mean I have to buy a ticket? You can spot the wide-eyed newbies a mile away.
They are walking slowly when speed is required, or are a bundle of nervous uncertainty during those times when more experience dance parents have surrendered to the waiting. Chatting with a newbie (during rehearsals, not the performance!) can help others remember just how full on being a dance parent can be.
3. In my day
For those who danced as kids, seeing their own child on stage is a mixture of joy and nostalgia. The end-of-year show is a great prompt to reminisce about the "good old days" when eyeshadow was blue, tights were baggy, and hip-hop and lyrical were dance styles yet to be invented.
4. I've got this
These are the "been there, done that" parents that dance school teachers love.
They know the drill, tolerate inevitable delays, bring spare bobby pins, and they know how to prepare their child so that they are in top form (rather than full of sugar and empty of sleep). They are skilled at keeping a low profile unless needed and are valuable for helping share words of wisdom with Newbies.
5. Proud parent in the foyer
With stars in their eyes and joy in their heart, these parents are filled with love for their child.
The noise and hubbub of the foyer at the end of the show is irrelevant; they are waiting with open arms (and often a bunch of flowers) to let their child know just how proud they are. It doesn't matter if their little one was only on for five minutes and forgot all their steps, these parents are delighted.
6. Hanging in there - just
These are the parents I feel for most. For them, the dance concert is only one element of a life that is simply too full, or too hard.
They may be nursing a baby or wrangling a toddler (or both). They may have other kids whose cricket final and swimming try-outs are on the same day as the show – and in opposite directions. These parents deserve total congratulations for simply showing up.
Before I had children, I totally didn't understand why parents would be reduced to tears by their children's performances on stage. Now I do – and have shed many quiet tears while my children have been onstage to prove it. I therefore now make zero judgements about the emotional parents who are in every dance concert audience.
These parents deserve a medal. Not only have they got their own kid or kids to the theatre but they are mucking in wherever is needed – from helping backstage to running the candy bar or stepping in to do a spot of all-important ushering.
9. I didn't get the notice
There will always be the parent who didn't get the email, declined ot download the app, ignored the printed letter in the ballet bag and refused to listen to any message their child has tried to pass on. They are angry that the dance school director didn't personally add all the important dates to their calendar and hold their hand through the entire rehearsal process.
My confession is that there have been years when, as a dance parent, I have had to scramble at the last minute (though I know better than to blame anyone else for my lack of organisation).
10. Non-dance Dad
Though most dance schools worth their salt will be equally embracing of dads as well as mums, there will always be the dad who has never danced and never stepped foot into the dance world, yet now find themselves responsible for a dance-obsessed child. In time, they'll learn how to do a bun and how to help their child get into their tights but, in their first year or two, they'll be the ones with a constant bewildered expression as they get into the swing of being a dance parent.
The unifying element of all these dance parents is that they should be congratulated for giving their child the gifts of joy, friendship, focus, physicality and fabulousness that come with dance.
Whichever type of dance parent you are, thank you from the bottom of my tin of bobby-pins and can of glitter-filled hairspray.