"Dance Moms" Gives Me Painful Flashbacks
Be afraid. Be very afraid. I just caught a sneak peak of the new Lifetime TV reality series “Dance Moms” and all I can say is that I started having flashbacks to the days I began taking dancing lessons and how I never wanted to take a class with the toughest teacher who ran the school.
You see, back in the 1980’s (yes, I am dating myself), I had begun taking voice lessons because I wanted to fulfill my dreams of becoming a star on Broadway. The fact that I became a star in my own bathroom is a whole different story. Anyway, Gina Joyce was my voice coach and let me tell you - she was tough. I would go to her home every week for an hour lesson and she taught me how to breathe through my diaphragm using a metronome, sing like Billie Holliday (did I mention I was nine years old at the time), and perform 10 minute long medleys complete with choreography. And that’s where the dancing lessons came in.
After my first singing recital, Gina suggested to my parents that I needed to take dance lessons in order to have some rhythm while I was performing on stage. During that year, I actually had experienced an amazing metamorphosis. I had lost nearly 20 pounds and for the first time in my life, was actually comfortable enough to slip on a leotard in front of my peers and not feel like a laughing stock.
That first year at Miss Phyllis’ dance studio was a tough one. Everyone else in the class had been taking lessons for a few years so I had a lot of ground to cover. As a result, I wasn’t thrown into the advanced class where you could hear the sound of Miss Phylis’ voice booming from another room. If you were lucky enough to make it to her class, that meant you were an amazing dancer. Miss Phyllis didn’t stand for any nonsense. She worked the girls in her class like a drill sergeant, and they listened, learned and were some of the best dancers I have ever seen (this is pre-Dancing with the Stars days of course).
The difference with Miss Phyllis and “Dance Moms” is that she didn’t teach young kids. So I guess I fell into the young kids category (that’s what I tell myself) because I never had the fortune (or fear) of actually working with her. Every year, we’d get to wear these fancy costumes with sequins, feathers, boas and a headdress and then we’d perform in a recital for our parents. Out of the four years I attended Miss Phyllis’ dance studio, I remember two routines. One to “You Are” by Lionel Richie and the other to “Human Touch” by Rick Springfield. The rest of my experience is a complete blur - or maybe I just blocked it out. Embarrassing flashbacks will always do that to a kid.
Fast forward nearly three decades to my parents’ condo community in Boynton Beach, Florida and out of nowhere I heard that familiar booming voice again. You see, my dad, who is quite the thespian, was performing in a show with a group of senior citizens. I had been visiting for spring break and dad invited me to the rehearsal where the Palm Isle Players spent their mornings singing and dancing up a storm. While dad had already been there for a few hours, I slipped into the auditorium, grabbed a seat and began to watch the drama unfold.
In a matter of minutes, Miss Phyllis took the stage and barked out orders. And every single senior citizen stood up at attention and listened. A few of the dancers were even former Rockettes, so you can imagine the amazing legs on those sexy seniors. Though 30 years had passed, Miss Phyllis looked exactly the same - same haircut, same great dance outfit, complete with leg warmers and dance shoes and same loud voice that called you out on the carpet when you made a mistake.
“This rehearsal is unconscionable!” she wailed at one point when the dancers and chorus members were bumping into one another and missing the beat. I chuckled to myself remembering the days when she would be tough on the advanced dancers but I’m sure to this day, that everyone remembers her fondly as one of the best dance teachers they ever knew. The reason? Miss Phyllis cared. She cared about her dancers. She cared about the dance and she cared enough to not let anyone on her watch make a fool out of themselves. If that’s not a great dance teacher, then I don’t know what is.
So Miss Phyllis - even though I wasn’t lucky enough to be one of your students, I don’t think it’s bad to be tough on teenage girls who can take the heat and not be emotionally scarred by it.
Of course, if you’re a parent sending your child to that a nutty lady like the one on “Dance Moms,” well I think you’re going to have to watch and find out what happens to those poor little dancers and their doting moms.