Not a Dance Mom

On this Mother’s Day weekend things are unusual.  Gina is away at school, Jill is in quarantine and its my first Mother’s Day without my Mom.  I don’t have my girls.  At this point, I am doing okay.  In the space this opens up I have a chance to ponder and share some stuff about Gina.  She is the human who made me into a mother.  She is currently spending hours and hours every day dancing, learning the craft of acting and developing her singing talents.  She is having a great experience at the Canadian College of Performing Arts.  

What you may or may not know about Gina, is that she never had a single dance lesson until she was in grade 9.  The summer before grade 9 she started talking about wanting to study dance.  We wanted to support her interest but wondered how you start such a disciplined area of learning at that late age.   She would never fit in with her peers.  We found our way to a half hour weekly class in Estevan at Drewitz School of Dance, there she studied Musical Theatre.  I can pretty vividly remember the day we went to registration, I felt completely and totally disoriented and maybe a little foolish, who did we think we were coming there green to all things dance?!?  We were very kindly received by the owner of the school and Gina was encouraged, it felt good.  I also remember holding my breath that day as our payment card was processed for the purchase of shoes Gina needed.  We were never very flush with cash, but back to school time was the worst.  This really was a big deal to commit to.   The card went through.  And we were off…….

Gina loved it.  By the end of the year she had earned an award for most improved dancer in her class of 30, she was part of the grandest recital I had ever seen, it took my breath away and she wanted more.  That is almost exactly when Oxbow Dance opened its doors, a school much closer to home, this was a blessing that likely changed the course of Gina’s life.  In a fledgling school she had access to much one on one teaching, she thrived, she grew, and she fell more and more in love with dance as she spent hours in training every week.  Fast forward to post secondary education decisions………there was no decision to be made, she knew what she wanted.   She took charge of every single aspect of researching and applying to various schools where she could study musical theatre.   She was accepted at the school which was her first choice and made the move this past September.  She is now half way through the two year program and is loving it.  It is unbelievably hard work, she is always tired, she is learning such interesting and valuable things.

More than once over the last year Gina has asked me, “Mom, how could you have missed it?”  She is not accusing me of anything, it is more of a curious question.  As her Mom, how could I have not seen that performer inside of her?  It’s a good question.  I am not sure of the whole answer but I know these two things.  I was limited by my ideas of what is normal.  This part of my answer is kind of sad.  I am a big woman, I know nothing about doing hair and make up, and I don’t really care about it.  “People like me don’t belong in the world of dance” is part of what rolled around in my head.  It never crossed my mind to encourage any of my kids to pursue dance.  Yet, now Jill too is finding her most joy in dance.   My own sense of limits shaped the options I considered for my kids.   The other part of my answer is what I am proud of.  We have always listened to our kids, we have tried to honor how it felt to be them, we have tried to stretch them but also create safety for them, an interesting tension.  I think the best thing is that as we listened to them we taught them to listen to themselves.  Gina was doing lots of sifting and sorting in grade 8.  She was doing well in cadets at that time, but it seemed that she just got honest with herself and said something like this, “I need to be more free to be expressive.”  How would a grade 8 student put that?  Definitely not those words but that same idea.  This is the point where for no apparent reason she choreographed and performed for us a number based on music from the musical “CHICAGO”.   Then she asked for those first dance lessons.  

So here I sit, my first born is a long way away, she is finishing up classes and practicing for the year end musical offered in a few weeks.  In hours this week when I was weary and nostalgic I spent time looking at photos and videos.  There were some where indeed, you might say, “Kathy, how could you have missed that?”  I and we just did.  But Gina didn’t, and that is what makes all the difference.  So as her proud and nostalgic Mama I invite you to share in the moments that might have added up to me getting it, but they didn’t!!

To my untrained eye this looks like pretty good form.
Gina was six and a very big fan of the musical “Hairspray.” Just how many times did we watch it?
The desk was a desk but it was also a stage, was that a clue?
She had some good dance instincts at age 8.
Age 8, why talk when you can sing?
Age 7, the hay bales make a great stage too.
Age 11, posing for pictures in a very graceful way.
Almost 15, Gina’s official photo for Drewitz Dance School, the Musical Theatre class performed “Singing in the Rain,”
Four years later at her first show at CCPA, Gina opened the show coming on stage dancing to “Singing in the Rain”, that feels like a full circle! 
The song was part of a medley, here she meets a chimney sweep and the number merged into Mary Poppins.
The medley continues and now its become a song from Hamilton the Musical. It was a number probing how tap dance might be more fully utilized in modern musical theatre. It was choreographed by a fellow student, Josie Schmalz and it was called “I’d Tap That.”
Love that red hair flying!
I wish this photo wasn’t blurry, but you get the passion and life in those eyes peeking above her mask!
A funny moment lately…..I was talking to Gina on the phone, she said, “I gotta study for my sword fighting final”…..I was thinking, “Gina those are words that I never ever imagined would come from my kids’ mouth!!!” Gina sent me this picture, its travelled too many internet highways to be clear but it gives a sense of this.
Gina was selected to be one of two students in a stage combat mentorship. She was surprised by how much she loved the work of merging combat and dance. It left her wanting more.
Looking to the future Gina feels stage combat will be part of the picture.
Back to 2003…….my first Mothers Day, Gina and I have had a lot of fun over the years!

Some further credits: The pictures of the show from Gina’s school were taken by Andrew Barrett, a designated photographer. Gina is on stage with Mackenzie Langdon, Dustyn Forbes, and Jaren Guerreiro at the Canadian College of Performing Arts. The event was called “The TD Festival of New Works”.