Confession Time: I love a good reality show. I'm obsessed with the Real Housewives franchise, and... wait for it... even loved Dance Moms when it first came out. I know, I cringe writing that, but it's the truth. I think for me, reality shows are a fascinating look into human behavior and psychology, but I hit my limit with Dance Moms when I felt it became little more than a vehicle for exploiting young dancer's talents and lives, a cliche of the 'stage mom' role, and don't even get me started on Abby Miller's antics. But, I will give the show credit for giving me an idea for a new blog series, The Real Dance Moms, which is starting today!
For each blog, I'll interview a parent who's had/has a child in dance. I'm just as curious as you are about what their experience as a parent has been, and to hear what they think the highs and lows, benefits, and long-term value of a dance life is. For this first post, I was thrilled to interview a longtime friend, Jocelyn Cuesta-Siu, who's daughter, Deneka, was one of my first students at Community Youth Center in Concord, Ca. Thank you Jocelyn, for taking the time to let me interview you, and for raising such a wonderful human! (I'm proud to report that Deneka is still dancing, and is already an amazing human being; I can't wait to see what her future holds!) So, without further ado, please enjoy the first installment of The Real Dance Moms!
1. What was your child’s first experience of dance?
Deneka’s very first experience in dance was at home just being silly. We come from a performing family-music and dance – so it came natural to her. In pre-school, she did rhymes and movement. Later In a formal setting, it was ballet and movement.
2. In your words, what does your daughter love most about dance?
Deneka is an artistic and social being. She loves being able to express emotion and tell a story through the art of dance. Deneka danced all through grade school and now is a double minor in dance and theatre.
3. What do you love about dance, and what dance has done for your daughter?
I have grown up around dance all of my life, though not through formal technique. Our culture (Filipino) is one that celebrates life through dance. We find any reason to dance, a gathering, party, special event – anything!
Dance has given so much to Deneka. As a child, we started out trying to figure out what she enjoyed most and found a connection to. Gymnastics, soccer, and then dance. She flourished in her connection to the art, made lifelong friends with other dances and coaches, something to call her own, and most of all, a strong sense of self-confidence.
4. What does she dislike (if anything) about it?
When Deneka began to dance, she enjoyed it. As she grew as a dancer (and an individual), she began to feel restricted. It wasn’t until she began to dance in college that she truly found her true love of dance and a full understanding that of her technical training. She began to explore different styles of dancing, primarily contemporary which she enjoys most.
5. What age did she start dancing, and is she still currently dancing?
Deneka formally began dancing around the age of 7. She still dances today and if she isn’t dancing, gets restless and feels out of shape. She enjoys learning different styles and loves choreography. Her love of dance has even extended an invitation to become the artistic director at the campus production. In addition, she is in the beginning stages of planning the choreography for the student production next Spring.
6. Favorite role she danced?
Deneka is still exploring her life in dance and has yet to discover her favorite. Her most memorable thus far has been the role of the Spanish lead in the Nutcracker and Ursula in the Little Mermaid. These roles allowed her to express her artistic and theatrical persona.
7. Did your dancer make any life-long friendships with any of her dance friends or teachers? (I’m not asking this to fish for answers, I promise!)
Life-long friends, definitely! Like sports, the arts allow you to spend many hours with your dance-mates and coaches. However, life does take everyone on different paths and interests, so those friends have grown apart and time spent together is not as often as they would like.
8. What’s your take on the Dance Moms show?
I enjoy watching the show for the dancers and talent, but not so much the Moms! I found them to be too catty; but I guess sometimes that is what gets ratings? We tried to stay away from while Deneka was a young dancer and were pretty successful as our program was family oriented. Thanks to her coach (Katrena!), we were in an environment that was family friendly, motivating, healthy, and non-competitive. Competition is great, but not for all children, sports, or arts. Deneka thrives on performing, sharing, building relationships, and learning technique versus the need to be number 1.
9. What do you think the most common misconception about dancers is?
Dancers are one size: 0, skinny, with curves in all the right places. Dancers (and athletes) come in all sizes. I’ve seen them all! It is amazing to see what the body can do when trained and using the proper technique, regardless your size. With practice, it’s beautiful!
10. What’s the one thing you would tell a fellow mom about dance if she was on the fence about enrolling her child in a class?
I have two kids – a dancer andan athlete. Both started in dance, but followed their own paths. Allow your child to find their passion. Allow them to be creative, adventurous, and to find themselves. Dance is not black and white, it is an art-form. It is about movement, storytelling, building relationships, confidence, strength, and finding beauty in all things. Though dance is not in everyone’s future, everyone can learn something from it, and it can aid in the development in whatever path they choose to pursue.