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(Photo: Annie as a new ballerina, 2006)

I spent the weekend at a dance competition.  Yes, I’m sort of a dance mom.  (Maybe not in the fake-eyelashes-hyper-competitive-brawling-with-other-dance-moms way, but we did recently acquire the costume travel duffel bag with the built-in hanging rack and mirror, so…draw your own conclusions.)

And the weekend away watching Annie dance (for 14 hours straight) made me realize that it’s only in the past year or so that I’ve gained a real appreciation for the hard work and athletic accomplishment that dance really is.

We are a multi-sport family, with no children who drive yet. So we are constantly on the run – just like so many of you – from ball field to gym and back again, eating dinners of Sonic and Chick fil a, mostly consumed while driving or in a parking lot waiting for a sweaty child to jump in the back seat and rush to a) the next practice or b) the shower.   Fall, winter, spring, summer – tennis, volleyball, basketball, more volleyball, baseball, golf – then repeat.

But overlaying all this very sporty activity is dance. For 10 years, it’s been a foundation of our 14-year-old’s life. She’s moved through the levels of ballet, jazz, tap, pointe and conditioning, working hard and developing a real passion.

But it goes (slightly) unnoticed in our house…because dance is quiet! It’s not loud and sweaty and competitive.  Competition and sports we just get: you practice, you play a game, someone wins or loses. We watch the practices and we cheer at the games. But with dance, there’s no winning, there’s no weekly game, no loud crowds… just quiet work, week after week. So for a long time we just didn’t give Annie’s passion the attention it deserved. Three nights a week, I dropped her at the studio (I rarely stayed to watch), rushed around with my other two kids, then picked her back up –  but never really noticed how hard she works. She conditions. She exercises – hard.  Those dancers spend hours learning new choreography. They stretch, leap and turn, repetitively, until the moves are mastered. Their muscles are sore. And wow, they are strong…conditioning and stretching and strengthening themselves, working both separately and together – until they’ve perfected a beautiful number.

So over the last year, I started paying more attention. Instead of just focusing on the constant shuttling back and forth and what I could get done in between, I started to notice and appreciate seeing my child love something that was slightly foreign to me. I started to see what Annie sees about dance – and what a difference this “non-sport” has had in her life. I started to really watch, appreciate and enjoy seeing her do something she so clearly loves.  The lessons she’s learned, the physical goals she’s mastered, the friendships she’s made… it’s quiet, but mighty.

Dance – it may be an art, but it’s as physically demanding as any sport and as rewarding as any winning game. There is work and growth as an individual and as a team.   There may not be a trophy or a winner, but there is practice, success, some falling down, teamwork and discipline and strength. I’m glad I finally took the time to appreciate it.

Annie then….

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And now…

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