I have two families: the family I was born into, and the family I danced into. And I know I’m not the only dancer who feels this way either. I’ve seen other dance schools at feisanna and the genuine love for each other that the dancers have. Recently at an event, I shared a thank you letter to my dance family. I’ve modified that letter here to share with you an experience that translates beyond my dance school to help parents of dancers understand how important the dance family is to the little ones you’ve enrolled and will help them grow.
In my original letter, I explained how my dance family rallied around me when I qualified for the World Championships in Dublin last fall. Congratulations came flooding in from everyone; dancers and parents, current dancers, and those who are no longer dancing at our studio. As we got closer to the competition, my dance school was very generous in fundraising to get me across the pond. And finally, on the big day, my phone was full of good luck wishes sent the night before so I would see them that morning before I got on stage. My dance family was with me even from across the Atlantic Ocean. It was so clear to me that my dance family is amazing and supportive.
But I’d like to explain why it meant so much to me even before I made it this far:
Looking back, I obviously liked Irish dancing when I first started, or I wouldn’t have returned after my beginner year. I don’t remember what 6-year-old me thought of the dance class itself, but I do remember really liking the other girls in my class, and I couldn’t wait to go back next year and see them all again.
Growing up I always knew I had my friends from school, and my friends from dance – these dance friends had a place in my life, even if at first I only saw them for an hour a week. The outside world could not penetrate the fortress that was the dance studio and the family I had there. Any unlucky cosmic karma or bad day I was having disappeared when I walked in for class and I saw my family chatting and laughing as they laced up their shoes.
One week at a time, my dance family helped me grow, taught me how to be an individual, and how to work well in a group. My dance family taught me what it is to be supportive, and genuinely caring. They taught me that you can be happy for someone else’s win even if it means your loss. My dance family showed me that competition comes in many different forms: friendly competition, self-competition, and competing to win.
Most importantly, without even knowing it, my dance family helped me overcome the most difficult year of my still-young life. I don’t want to think about where I would be now had I not had my fortress and its people. What I’m trying to say is, my dance family made me the person I am today.
So, dear reader, whether you’re a parent or a dancer, rest assured that you are in good hands.
To the dancers:
Your family is here for you, we’ve got your back (and your feet), and we will support you in the best way we know how because we know you’ll be there for us in the best way you know how. We’re all in this crazy dance journey together; stick close to your dance family like I did to mine.
To the parents:
Know that your dancer is loved, that their class will grow together and be guided by the older dancers, and that when the time comes, they can in turn guide the younger dancers. Know that as your dancer continues to show you what they’re made of, the dance family will support them and celebrate their achievements with you.
My dance family includes the most important people in my life. I hope one day all of you can say the same.
About the author: Claire Vezina is 21 years old, and has been dancing with her school for 15 years. When she’s not at the dance studio, she can be found outside enjoying life.