Dear gymnastics/dance instructor,
I want you to know it is an hour’s drive round-trip from my house to your Big Performance auditorium. That’s four hours total when you add the drive time to your three hour recital. This figure doesn’t even include the dress-rehearsal earlier in the day so add another hour for my daughter. We’re talking about a five hour event to watch our little gymnast on stage for less than three minutes—not counting the fifteen minute awards program where she received a mini-chocolate bar. If you could just let this sink in for three hours I’m sure you’d see why I’m a little pissed off.
The thing about your show is that you sort of tricked us into thinking that you are a gymnastics teacher and not just some Elderly Show Girl who likes to shake her hips and shimmy around in shiny gaudy outfits in front of pretty much anybody who will sit there long enough to watch you. And let me be clear here, I have nothing against the elderly–I’m almost one of them now, and I certainly don’t have anything against shaking and shimmying or any kind of dancing at all–even a strip tease if you’ve got it in you.
Last night the people watching you were the parents and grandparents and siblings of your gymnastics students. These are people who would sit through a shitshow of any magnitude in order to see their little darling on stage doing a somersault, or even falling on her ass trying to do a back bend. You apparently knew this already and used it as an opportunity to create this Big Shindig you call a recital because you are—in your heart—a Show Girl. A Dancer.
You have this idea, it seems to me, that what you were doing last night was putting on some kind of big production, some kind of big Las Vegas Revue, with show girls kicking and dancing and singing and because there were excited mommies and daddies, and in my case, grandmas in the audience, you knew we would sit there for any amount of time and watch any amount of ridiculousness in order to see our princess on the stage for almost three minutes. I could add that our little gymnast was the only one who didn’t flub the routine but this note isn’t about that so I won’t.
The thing is, your THREE HOUR PRODUCTION was not the BIG SHOW you are thinking it is. There was no singing at all, only piped-in pop music, much of which is so culturally depraved that most of the lyrics had to be bleeped out, making the rhythm of the music somewhat discordant and then the remaining lyrics didn’t make sense, except they did because everybody knows what the missing lyrics are and what the songs are about and to be honest, seeing a six-year-old grinding her hips and bending over to point her ass at the audience while she wiggles and shimmies is a little disturbing.
By my way of thinking, your dance training offers them two or three very distinct opportunities for later in their lives: either they will become famous New York Show-Girl dancers, or, Pretty good Las Vegas dancers, or, they will be the Popular Girls at their high school dances when they shake those money makers for the entire school.
If they choose either of the first two opportunities, they will need some kind of formal dance training from an actual dance teacher. Either way, they’ll make very accomplished pole dancers with just the training you’ve provided them if they don’t bother with any higher education or a decent career path.
Surely somewhere along the way in your lengthy dance career you’ve learned and could therefore teach some actual dance steps? I mean besides hip jiggling—which really isn’t dancing so much as a mating call. I could have shown the whole lot of them that particular move for free.
I’d be surprised if there weren’t at least thirty or so dads in the audience who felt somewhat uncomfortable witnessing that level of sexual entendre from a bunch of six year old girls. That’s if you can call a dance entendre and I think you can in this instance. How else does one interpret the hip thrusting and butt wiggling of tiny little girls dressed in the shiny, neon, sequined outfits that practically scream out on their own, “Look at Me!!” all the while Iggy Azalea sings, “…you should wanna’ bad bitch like this…” I kept thinking last night at the big production how relieved I am that you don’t teach twerking. As far as I know, that is.
Anyway, the Big Show, as you probably like to call it, was one of the biggest displays of insulting inconsideration I’ve witnessed in a long time. I’m wondering in what universe you imagine that regular people enjoy driving for roughly an hour, to sit for three hours, including a fifteen minute intermission—which was my first clue that this thing was so far out of normal whack that I started to panic a bit—to watch approximately seventy girls dance and shimmy and wiggle and do a minimum number of hand-free cartwheels and flipperoozies when the truth is, among the one hundred or so people in the audience, each of them is familiar with exactly one girl in the dance troupe. The one they brought with them. The other sixty-nine girls are only vague acquaintances.
Not that we don’t wish them all the very best but just how many cartwheels and assisted flipperoozies much we watch before we get to see our own little dancer perform?
Forcing all the girls into the final performance—that is, sitting on stage waving to their parents while you hand out candy bar awards—was a tricky way to keep us all in our seats for the whole three hours (including intermission). What little gymnast/dancer wants to miss out on the long-awaited miniature candy bar award? Had we said, screw it, we’re leaving, well, naturally we’d have looked like absolute assholes. You put us in a tight spot last night and I think you are well aware of it. You seem smart in a marketing kind of way.
I’m still a little stunned, even after sleeping on it and thinking it over this morning. I will say that I was impressed, for sure, when you yourself came dancing out with the older girls, wriggling and doing hip shakes and a cartwheel.
Everyone gave you a round of astonished clapping, “Wow—look at her! She’s so old and still dancing!” Except me. I didn’t clap. Which is not to say I’m not astonished because I am, for sure. But, I didn’t drive an hour round-trip to watch a seventy year old dance instructor hump and grind and wiggle with teenaged dancers and then do a breathtaking cartwheel—not breathtaking because it was so fantastic a performance but because we all held our breath hoping you wouldn’t break your damn hip doing it—I came there to see my eight year old granddaughter doing hand-free cartwheels and flipperoozies.
The way I see it, a Big Production, a Big Show, a Big Dance Revue, is a culmination of the best of the best. Months of practice. The best dancers, the best choreography, the best outfits, the best music. What we saw last night was the culmination of everything; the half-way decent, the worst, the least practiced, the barely practiced, the sloppiest…just everything.
Chubby girls pulling leotard wedgies out of their butts, tiny boys lying on the mat staring into the audience after flopping around in what was probably supposed to be cartwheels, teen-aged, wanna-be-ballet-fairies stomping around the stage, waving their baby-fat arms in chiffon capes and sparkly tiaras and performing almost-aerial flips with crash-neck landings, confused, butt wriggling tots milling around the stage while Madonna crooned about Material Girl(s), rap songs so cut into pieces that the beat was impossible to dance to because the lyrics are so vile we couldn’t possibly let the grandmothers hear them…hours and hours of this muck.
And the Grand Finale, possibly the most maddening of all, the audience held hostage while you passed out candy bars to the dancers, calling each of them out by name, one-at-a-time. One by one. One girl after another. All seventy of them. After the mucky muck of a Three Hour Dance Recital, you held us up another thirty minutes, calling out each individual dancer.
Is this sinking in at all? It’s as if you are living in a dream. By the end of it I was so lock-jawed and my stomach in a knot so tight that all I could think was, “YOU. CANNOT. BE. FUCKING. SERIOUS.”
So, I’m writing to ask you to please remove the ‘gymnast’ moniker from your title, at the very least. As for the Big Production, please, please spare us in the future. Just have recitals. Small events in your studio where you showcase the little gymnasts or dancers by class or age group or by talent. Your studio is only fifteen minutes from the house. There are only twelve girls at most in each class. C’mon. Use your head.
Also, you might consider using classic show tunes—there are literally thousands that would lend themselves to the little dance routines. I guarantee you that no lyrics would include the words, “When she makes love, she’s a heart-attacker, my little darlin’ is a firecracker. “ Or, “Baby if you strip you can get a tip…” so there won’t be any stop and go beats and the girls won’t have to adjust their rhythm several times in each routine. Plus, who really wants their eight-year-old dancing to lyrics about making love—like a firecracker or otherwise? Seriously.
That’s all I have. Just a polite request that you separate the dancers from the gymnasts. They are not the same. And cut about two hours of the program. And stop with the cultural depravity. It’s hard enough raising kids. Stop sexualizing little girls. Stop fantasizing that what you are doing is putting on a Vegas Revue. It’s Small Town Kansas for God’s sake.
One of the Grannies.