This is rapidly becoming one of my favorite annual posts to write.
Each year, on the day after Aria’s big dance recital – I take to these pages to tell you all a little bit about it while sharing a few pics in a bid to shrink the miles and give you a sneak peek at her routines. Call it “delayed Skyping“.
Yesterday marked Aria’s 6th Dance Recital – having started dancing with the amazing Sally McDermott Dance Studio at the age of 3. It also marked my 3rd – having started dancing in their annual choreographed Dad’s Dance at the age of 40. It’s only taken me four decades to muster up the courage and do what she’s effortlessly been doing since mastering the art of the walk.
Why do I do it? Well – for starters – I’m a sucker for good Blog material and this little father-daughter bonding moment helps fit that bill; giving me at least one thing to write about each year.
This year marked Aria’s first in the competition circuit. In September 2013, she began her 6th year of dance (poised between the still tender ages of 8 & 9) – enrolling with the Intro to Company group; which saw her taking classes in Ballet, Jazz and Tap. While still a discipline that rewards fun and creative expression in young girls – moving into the Company classes represents a major turning point. This is where a pastime becomes a passion… or at least, where those seeds embed themselves a bit deeper as these talented girls tend to them knowing that with time, attention and care, they’ll produce wonderful fruit.
Last Summer, her Mom and I talked to Aria about the year ahead and it was clear that she was very much still enjoying dance – seeing it as something more than just a way to get out of the house and see some friends for a few hours each week. So – when it came time to sign up – it was an easy decision even if all of these choices carry a little bit larger of a price tag the older they get. That said – I don’t want a little extra cost to put up a barrier when it comes to nurturing creative expression. The way I see it – Aria has set foot on a wonderful path – one that could lead her to such sparkling sights, dizzying heights and beautiful destinations the further along she makes her way.
It helps that early on – through a suggestion from a local friend – we ended up finding the awesome Sally McDermott Dance Center. We chose their Charlton location because as Dudley residents, it’s an easy 15 minute drive up Rt. 31. to Rt. 20. They also have a second studio in Auburn, MA – a little further east down Route 20 – both a cinch to get to.
From the moment we signed up, we felt that one intangible every parent hopes for in any environment they introduce their children to.
It’s a family business. Sally Heaney aka Sally McDermott; started this studio over 30 years ago – giving her a venue in which she could funnel her core love and devotion to dance and share that with generations of students to come. Sally has 3 daughters – all of whom have had and continue to have – a vital, active presence in the studio. It’s truly a family affair.
You add to that familial foundation a supporting cast of teachers and office assistance who ALWAYS make every single person feel at home the second they step through those doors. That they all keep the family dynamic tied closely through a strong, supportive Facebook presence is just the icing on a pretty sweet cake.
We felt this on Day One. We’ve kept Aria enrolled and encouraged year after year because those bonds have only strengthened the more we’ve grown to know Sally and her “family”.
A few years ago – at Aria’s 4th recital (and my first) – I wrote the following:
“I remember a few years back, at her first recital, I settled in not knowing what to expect other than the show was likely to stretch three hours; given the sheer number of events listed in the playbook. The Sally McDermott Dance Center teaches kids from Ages 2 through Senior Year in High School – and as you settle in and let these dances wash over you – you can actually spy an imagined future where if your little girl sticks with it, poise and technique soon meets and marries the joy of performance. I was stunned by how entertaining the whole recital was. Run with military precision – it just flew. The song choices were eclectic – always perfect matches to the movements – and I was in complete awe by the time it was all done… equally stunned by the fact I never once checked my watch.
For a guy with a creative bent – it sent my mind wandering – and I envisioned where Aria’s feet might lead her.”
Here she is – having just completed her inaugural Intro to Company season – one that saw her group celebrated with High Gold honors at a recent Dance Competition; her first. This is but one stop on her lovely life’s journey.
We capped the year with her Dance Recital yesterday morning – staged in the state-of-the-art theater at the Worcester Technical High School (the same school that recently hosted President Barack Obama for their commencement ceremony). The Sally McDermott Dance Centers have used this locale these past few years and it really is the best place for the event – so spacious and accommodating.
This year’s theme was ‘A Color Symphony‘. For the Dance Company Concert – held Friday evening – Aria’s class performed three routines; Bad Bad Leroy Brown (Tap), Pink Cadillac (Jazz) and Coppellia Waltz (Ballet). They shared Bad Bad Leroy Brown and Coppellia Waltz with the recital crowd the next day as well.
Watching Aria this year has made me stop and take pause.
If you could have one super power, what would it be?
That’s the age old question (among 10-year old boys, I guess). But – it speaks to all of us too. My answer is always the same. Freeze time… or slow it to a nice Southern drawl. The bottom line is – time flies way too quickly when we’re having fun.
I was reminded of that once again, as I watched Aria over this past weekend. These days, the top of her head matches up just a smidge below my shoulder line; a far cry from the little girl who held tight to my leg when we first walked her through those doors. Who knows to what heights it will ascend when we get here again next year – 364 days from now – but what will likely feel like barely a moment has passed.
I see her up on stage – year after year – and my heart fills and breaks and refills over and over again. So full of pride and love. So wishing I could slow it all down. So not wanting to step in the way of a glorious growing life. So happy I have a front row seat from where I can take it all in – while assisting with a helping hand or loving word when the time calls for it.
So that’s why and how I found myself back on stage after 6 quick rehearsals in the annual choreographed Dad’s Dance. This was my third time doing it – although this year introduced a twist as we had some Moms who joined our forces.
The segment is always a crowd pleaser. They’ve been doing it for several years now and I first came on board back in 2012 (just after I turned 40) when we rocked ‘Born in the USA‘. The year before, I sat in the audience – watching a bunch of Dads cha-cha to Cheeseburger in Paradise and knew I wanted in.
Last year was a mash-up of Will Smith’s Wild, Wild West and Psy’s Gangnam Style. That segment alone made sure that each one of my fellow Dads would never be at a loss at weddings for the next decade or so.
This year – with Moms in the mix – we went for the be-all, end-all of crowdpleasers; performing to a medley of tunes from Grease.
It all began with The Pink Ladies screaming on stage to ‘We Go Together’ before my fellow T-Birds and I strutted in for ‘Greased Lightning’. By the end, the ladies had rejoined us as we proved once and for all that we were ‘Born to Hand Jive‘.
It was an awesome time. We got a great reception. The audience roared.
Looking down from the stage – spying all those daughters looking up at their parents with great, beaming smiles several sizes too large – that’s the reason we get up there. My rule of thumb – I’ll do anything to give my kids a smile or good memory to treasure. Silliness trumps good sense most days; certainly where it counts most.
And in return, yesterday’s recital paid me in the only real currency worth trading in – providing me with another precious memory in a life rapidly filling with so many near and dear moments.
It’s why she and I will be back again next year – and for years to come.
Just call us the Bald and Beautiful Bunheads.