Common Ground: Recital is a girl’s chance to shine

My first dance tryout occurred in the girls’ bathroom in elementary school during my fifth-grade year.

A classmate stood in the middle of the restroom and demonstrated a perfectly choreographed routine with twirls, kicks, leaps and pivots.

I wondered if she really expected me to duplicate her. “Try that,” she told me. I looked at her wide-eyed, realizing I was probably doomed. The few steps I’d known were commercial moves, the bump and the robot, dances I’d learned from “Soul Train.”

I attempted her high stepper dance steps and failed miserably. My body stiffened and my legs were uncooperative. I was not on beat and my arms moved like a robot.

My classmate’s expression was similar to that of a judge from “American Idol” or “Dancing With the Stars” after they’re forced to give an obviously struggling performer the bad news.

My classmate wasn’t rude, but she made it clear that I did not make her team.

Nevertheless, though I still cannot do much more than a line dance and a few commercial steps, my two daughters, 10 and 6, are much more confident on the dance floor.

They have been practicing tap, ballet and lyrical routines that they will perform in a dance recital tomorrow. Dance recital is an experience like no other. Imagine standing in a huge dressing room with about a hundred other dancers and their parents. The noise, excitement and energy can be overwhelming, but dance moms have an important job backstage, helping their daughters change costumes between acts.

As many dance moms also know well, the days leading up to a dance recital are filled with weekend and nighttime dance practices and last-minute runs to the store for tights and accessories.

There are about 400 girls enrolled in Miss Machita and Company’s West Baton Rouge dance school. Hundreds of parents, including myself, depend on one particular woman who makes sure everything is running smoothly. “Nanny,” as she is affectionately called, helps keep the order. Last Saturday she called up dozens of parents to remind them to bring their daughters to the final dance practice.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into this; lots of late nights, phone calls and after-hours and before-hours work,” said Traci “Nanny” Dalfrey, office manager. “It’s almost 24 hours of work now. There is no day off and that’s OK. No matter how prepared you are, there are always last-minute things to do.”

Despite the chaos, I’m always amazed at how well she tends to our needs.

“Nanny” can practically pull from memory which class a particular child is scheduled in, though she often warns us that juggling 400 schedules requires more help than her memory.

If I walk into the dance studio with a frown on my face, “Nanny” will ask me if she can help me with something and usually, she can.

She joined Machita’s studio about 10 years ago when she enrolled her godchild into the studio.

“Recital is their day to shine and show their progress. It’s their special time and their special day always,” she said.

Dance recitals are a particularly special moment in every young dancer’s life. Though I never made it past a quick bathroom dance tryout, I’m happy my daughters are, in a sense, living out my dream.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.