It was their first ever dancing display. They were only four and five years old. My sister and I were dressing the two little girls backstage into their costumes of different styles for different genres of dance. Tutus for ballet, top hats and waist coats for tap and leotards with neon leg warmers for freestyle. We were in a run-down gym hall which was littered with gymnastics mats, every type of dance shoe under the sun, iPads and screaming, laughing little girls everywhere. The smell was awful. Hairspray clouded the hall so thickly that if someone lit a match we’d all be up in flames within seconds. The glitter spray was sprayed with no hesitation and it was everywhere! You were sure to be coughing the stuff up for at least a week afterwards. I sat quietly on a gymnastics mat that we had called home for that night’s display and the night before’s dress rehearsal, watching my two nieces, Kaelah aged five and Carys aged four run around the hall with their friends laughing and playing while I sorted their costumes. They were tiny. Teeny tiny tutus. Then I heard a mother,
‘You’re in my seat’ she sneered at a heavily pregnant mother who was in one of the only actual chairs in the hall. The pregnant mother just looked at her in bewilderment.
‘What?’ She said in reply. ‘I’m due in two weeks, can’t you let me sit here?’ The first mother just looked at her in disgust as if to say ‘How dare you question me?’. If looks could kill, the pregnant mother would have been in a rather large body bag by now.
‘No, I’m ALWAYS in this seat and at this spot in the hall every year. Move,’ The mother said coldly. The group of mothers who were sitting on the floor below the pregnant mother laughed as if this was all a big joke. I was disgusted. Clearly that woman can’t be sitting on silly gymnastics mats if she’s about to pop out a baby in two weeks! That’s when I realised how a children’s’ dance school is similar to that of high school. You have the mean girls. You have the cliques. This mum clearly thought she was Regina George and the other little mummies at her feet were just like the plastics and as dumb as them too. Dance mum social hierarchy was a real thing and I had just witnessed it for the first time. I felt sick to the pit of my stomach. These women were all in their late twenties and thirties, surely, they’d know better? Guess not. I put my feelings aside for the plastics and focuses on the pregnant mother. She looked as if she was heading for a nervous breakdown; attempting to get up from her chair when it looked like the baby was kicking her in the ribs, picking up her daughter’s costumes from the floor while having a beach ball for a belly while having all these mothers stare at her for not moving quick enough. I put down my teeny tutu and got up to help her out of her seat and along onto my mat. She explained to me that this was the third dance school she’s tried with her daughter and every dance school seems to be the same. Regina Georges and her plastics everywhere. The little girls hadn’t the fainted idea of what was going on, they played together happily not caring what their mothers got up to.
A skinny, beautiful girl with long blonde hair came into the hall to alert us that the show had begun and we would be notified when it was time for our girls to go up on stage. I got butterflies in my stomach. My two baby girls on the stage! I wonder how they would react? My sister, Carina and I got the girls into their first costume which was for ballet. We put on their little pink tights and leotards along with their tutus. Carys’ tutu was too big for her and her tutu was almost touching the ground but it made her look that much more adorable. The final touch was their tiaras as they were to play princesses, of course. We gave them the traditional spray with glitter and they were ready. Both of them were cute as button, twirling, giving us all a good view of their tutus. Carys then pulled me aside and said,
‘Auntie Claire? I’m scared’ in the tiniest voice I had to go onto my hands and knees to hear her.
‘Don’t be scared! I’m going to be right at the side of the stage with you the whole time,’ I told her, I looked into her big brown eyes as they filled with tears. I kissed my baby girl on the forehead and pulled her close to my chest, forgetting how much glitter she had on. Just then, the beautiful blonde girl came in and asked for the infant class to line up. Carys held my hand the entire way. Kaelah was just so pleased that she was doing something by herself as she waved off to my sister. The fifteen little girls marched on to the side of the stage where they were to go on. The dancing display was taking place in my old high school, it was strange being back here with what I term to be my own kids. I pointed out my name scribbled on the bathroom walls in the changing rooms to them and told them all about the endless P.E classes I took in the very gym hall that we were using as a dressing room, of course the girls didn’t give two cahoots but it made me feel so much more involved with them to share my past with their present.
We then all waited with bated breath for the current dance to end. It was the big girls on, the seniors. I lifted the two girls up above their class so they could see them. I could hear them both ‘Ooohing’ and ‘Aahhing’ in my ear every so often. I could tell Kaelah was amazed by them. She would take a sharp intake of breath anytime the senior performed a leap or a move she’d never seen before. It was almost magical to see this, it’s like seeing everything for the first time again.
Suddenly, the song finished, the lights went out, the curtain was drawn and my girls were running on stage. The dance teacher was putting all the girls into their positions with Carys just staring at me. I mouthed,
‘I’ll stay right here’ As I pointed to the spot I stood in the wings of the stage where she could see me but the audience couldn’t. All the other mothers were coming up behind me now waiting to see their little one perform. Their song came on, the lights came up and the curtains drawn back to reveal the cutest little dancers one ever did see. The crowd immediately applauded and awed at them as they copied their teacher’s steps from the wings. All the mothers were silent. No more Regina George, no more mean girls, no more ‘that’s my seat’. We were all here for this one moment. This one feeling. To see our girls on stage doing what they love. My heart was bursting with pride for them. Kaelah was in her element. She spotted her Granma and Father immediately and waved while still dancing away happily. Carys swayed uneasily for the first few bars of the song looking at me for reassurance, I gave her the thumbs up and blew her a kiss. Then, she got into it. She was smiling from ear to ear and even ran to the front of the stage to wave to daddy. I felt a silent tear roll down my cheek. I was just so terribly proud of them. Nothing can describe that feeling. Before we realised what was happening, their dance was over and we clapped so loudly that I thought my eardrums might burst. The little girls gave a last wave to their adoring fans then ran off the stage into our arms.
‘So, did you like it? How was it? Did you see me? I waved!’ Both chattered on excitedly as we made our way back to the hall to get changed into their second costume of the evening. This taught the girls that if it makes you happy, do it. If it pushes you out of your comfort zone, do it. Moral of the story is don’t let the mean girls stand in your way of your true happiness.