The term "stage parent" carries some seriously bad energy in the dance world. We think of parents aggressively fighting for their children to get cast first, perform more and constantly be in the front of the studio.
A stage mom or dad can become so involved in their child's career that they develop a symbiotic state of nervousness and desire for perfection in every step.
But having a stage parent isn't all bad. There are major benefits to having your own cheerleader. In the competitive dance world, a loving, informed friend who is perpetually on your side is hard to come by and even harder to count on.
Some stage parents are the best: Daniil and Dmitrij Simkin.
When the relationship works, the child finds success doing what he or she truly loves to do as the proud parent looks on with genuine support. But when it doesn't, unexpressed emotions will lead to a massive level of resentment.
So what can you do?
Advice for Parents:
-Check in with your son or daughter and make sure they love what they are doing before you push them to do more of it.
-Give them space to learn for themselves. Mistakes make us all grow. You will probably be right in the end (parents often are) but give them room to figure that out for themselves.
-If your child discovers dance is not for them, but they have chosen to participate in a show or signed up for a certain number of classes, discuss the value of following through with their commitments.
-Once they have a job and are of age to do so, let them live on their own. When a child begins intensely training for a dance career, it is hard to develop the social skills necessary to make lasting friendships, especially if their parent is such a powerful lifeline. You can still be there for them, but they need peers to thrive.
-If you have sound advice to give, share it—but do so realizing that you are their parent and not their teacher, partner or artistic director. They know what life is like in the studio every day; you do not.
-Encourage your dancer to be as well-rounded as possible. A full life leads to fuller dancing, not to mention providing a necessary back-up plan.
-Know that with every step they take, you are the source of their beautiful life. Also know that the more you experience your own life, the more you will have to talk about together.
Advice for Dancers:
-Frequently assess whether or not you love what you do. If the only times you think about dancing are when you are in the studio or theater, it's possible that a career in the field is just not right for you.
-Be honest with your feelings. If you're no longer passionate about dancing, sit down to talk about it with your parents. Listen to their response and be honest and true to your feelings.
-Do not send your parents in to fight your battles for you with your director. Not only are you missing a valuable learning opportunity, but you are developing a dependency that could prove to be detrimental later on.
-Tell your parents you are grateful for the sacrifices they made for your career. Don't let your dancing represent your thanks. Speaking your thanks will free your dancing to exist on its own.
-As you get older, seek out the space you need to grow. These conversations are always hard. Perhaps you need to take a break from constant communication or limit the scope of information you share. Make time to talk about your parent's life, and keep your work to yourself for a while.
-Remember that love is behind every push and shove, and that parental love will always be there no matter what.