I’ve discovered a realm unlike most anything in the normal world. It’s an alternate universe one enters only by invitation, a place where things are not as they seem, minds are twisted, and the rules of ordinary society do not exist.
I’m talking, of course, about child dance recitals.
It could be worse, it could be child “beauty” pageants – where the winner is determined by how much she spends on fake hair, fake teeth, fake tans, fake photos, and clothes, not beauty by any stretch of the word.
I worked a dance recital over the weekend. I have a child in said recital, so working the event as staff gives me free access, and I earn back some of her tuition.
The first thing I learned is that being a dance parent severely limits your ability to read, at least during recital time. The teacher specifically says who is allowed in early: parents with advanced tickets only, and dance students. There are notes home for this. No, this does not include grandma, grandpa, and five brothers and sisters. Two parents and kid. Sorry, the rest of you can wait in the lobby for fifteen more minutes. Also; everyone but stage staff (lighting, sound, stage management, etc.) has to go in the front door. The signs on the doors SAY that. When the sign says “don’t knock on this door, go around front”, dance moms cannot read “don’t”. I think they see “Knock on this door OR go around front”.
Another odd thing about the general public – some prefer to stand. Why? I don’t know. 800 seats, and they want to stand behind the back rail at the farthest point from the stage, for an hour. Then they talk and lean over the rail, right over the heads of those in the back row. Its very disturbing and against the fire marshal’s rules. A typical conversation goes like this:
“Sir, you need to find a seat.” “Oh, I’m good.” “I mean, you can’t hang out here.” “Why not?” “Because you can’t, the fire marshal doesn’t like it.” “Why?” “Sir find a seat or leave.”
Excuses: I’m only going to be here a few minutes. I’m just waiting on my ____. Okay, I’ll sit down (makes no move to sit, but tries to hang out for five minutes). Fine, I’ll leave! (thank you, you paid already, as far as I’m concerned your duty here is done). I don’t like to sit. I’m trying to find my family (for twenty minutes? Liar.)
A candlelight ceremony.
Way back when I was young, my parents forced me into community torture sessions. It involved wasting half of a perfectly good weekend day, wearing uncomfortable clothes and driving round trip for an hour. The holder of the session would feed us lousy stale bread, make us drink day-old grape juice, read to us about a magician and threaten us with further torture after death. Some people call this “church”. Church had one or two redeeming qualities. Seeing grandparents, often eating at the seafood place afterwards, and singing by candle light on the celebration of the winter solstice (unless the celebration was on Christmas eve or Christmas day, then it really sucked because all you wanted to do was play with presents, and you were once again screwed into the above-mentioned uncomfortable clothes/driving ceremony).
When the dance recital started, several announcements were made, including “please turn off cell phones and electronic equipment out of respect for the dancers and those around you.” Lights go dim, and poof… candle light ceremony. At least that’s what it looked like. A hundred cell phones, nintendos, ipads, kindles, and nooks can really light up a theatre. Do you have any idea how BRIGHT an ipad on full brightness is, in the dark? You can really light up an area with one. I don’t see why the people sitting beside the ipad addicts didn’t roll up their programs and give the offensive parties a good thrashing, like a dog when he pees on the rug. I’m going to suggest that next year.
Look, I know the dances are long and you don’t give a rat’s ass about anyone except your “special darling”, but when the lights are out stop reading and tweeting for two seconds and at let the people beside you enjoy the show without the glow of a thousand suns in their eyes. Most of the show takes place in lighting good enough to walk around by, even bright light. Twice there is darkness. Maybe ten minutes each time. I suspect these are the same people that pay twelve bucks to get into a movie, and text the whole time. Maybe the rule should be NO cell phones, kindles, ipads, etc.
Cameras. Holy Crap. sometimes I long for the days when you had to know what an f-stop was for, and what an ISO setting means, and how they both relate to shutter speed. Also, film was expensive. 24 exposures plus processing might wind up costing you fifty cents per picture. Today’s digital cameras essentially cost nothing per photo, except the ones you print. If you’re putting images online, you can share your prints for zero cost. Because of that, momtographers have come out of the woodwork, insistent on capturing every moment of the kid’s life.
Don’t get me wrong, I like taking pictures of my kid and family and what have you, but I don’t think just because I have a nice camera, that I’m the dad equivalent of Anne Geddess, and I don’t feel the need to make a spectacle of myself in such a setting.
Its funny, the smaller the kids, the more cameras came up. I watched one woman take pictures of almost EVERY act. Someone should have sat her down front and put her on the payroll. Either she really likes kids, or she’s taking pictures for some child perv web site so the pedos don’t have to risk getting in trouble coming to the dance to watch little kids in stretch pants.
My favorite momtographers are the ones with the giant full frame DSLR cameras, with long lenses and the external flash units. I saw a couple with one; seriously I’ve seen pros with less kit at a wedding, and the only seats left were towards the back. The guy said “We won’t be able to do anything with a camera from back here!” I’m thinking, dude, you have a 200mm lens and a flash big enough to initiate nuclear fusion. You could fade paint with that flash. What do you want to do, sit on the front row and take pictures of the girls’ pores?
Of course, the other extreme are the iphone/android users. Sitting in the back row and using your iphone as your only camera, with its little LED light ‘flash’ just isnt going to cut it. Come early, sit close.
Then there were the parents who couldn’t hear. Some can’t read, some can’t hear… the latter ones pulled out their video recorders. Plain as day at the start of the show: “No video recording is allowed”. You might get away with it on your iPhone. You might get away with it on your point and shoot or even your DSLR camera, because it looks like you are framing a picture. But after thirty seconds or so and your screen doesn’t go black like it does when you take a pic, I’m going to catch you and chide you in front of those around you.
But did you really think you could even TRY and get away with it with a Handicam? Seriously?
“I’m just recording my daughter’s act!”
Well, yeah, of course you are. Who wants to buy the DVD and watch two hours of other people’s kids to get to their daughter’s three minute act? But that’s what it costs, and they warned you, so tough. And adults are funny. They use the same excuse a six year old will use: “But look at all those other people with cell phone cameras!” Really? The old, “They are getting away with it, why can’t I?” excuse… it didn’t work when you were in kindergarten, you’re thirty-five, it’s not going to work now.
I even saw someone using a Sharp Viewcam. I didn’t have a clue those things even worked any more. And where do you find the special ni-cad batteries and 8mm tapes? Really lady, upgrade your stuff.
Finally – it was time to go home. Look, you wanted to stand at the back of the theatre for three hours. When the house lights come up, don’t hang around. In the parlance of youth, GTFO! Go home. The staff will be here long after you leave, but they can’t even start to leave until you all leave. So go, and make sure you have your stuff. Because all those ipads, cameras and everything else you left behind cause arguments when the staff is trying to decide who gets to keep your abandoned property.
Of course, I’ll be back next year. Despite the human oddities and atavistic throwbacks that attend these things, overall they are fun.