Reflections of a #DanceDad

This past weekend, my daughter’s ballet company completed their annual Nutcracker show at the Infinite Energy Center here in Gwinnett. It was a wonderful and busy weekend, with 2 shows on Friday, 3 shows on Saturday, 2 shows on Sunday, and 2 more school shows on Monday. Approximately 10 minutes after getting in the car yesterday, headed toward home, my daughter went silent, her head slumped against the window in happy exhaustion.

I was backstage for all of Saturday’s shows, as well as the school shows yesterday. I was able to catch the evening shows from the audience on both Friday and Sunday. I even carefully packed Ella’s lunchbox while Rachel fixed her hair and makeup, and then I took her to the theater before each performance. And despite how tired I am right now, I wouldn’t trade a second of the experience.

This weekend, my daughter took her first steps into the community of performance. And it was awesome. She was part of something that I remember fondly, and being by her side as she entered into this new world was both magic and meaningful to me.

I was a theater kid in high school, after my baseball career was cut short by the business end of a coach’s bat and my lack of a cup. Baseball had been my thing as a kid, and with the absolute guarantee that it would not be my thing in high school, I was stuck for an identity. I literally ended up trying out for theater because I didn’t know what else to do.

And theater changed my life.

In theater I found my community, a collection of disparate people who held few things in common. It made such an impression on my that I’ve spent much of my adult life seeking a similar bond. Because what the people in that theater held in common was powerful – a desire to entertain, to perform, to show the world a different view of itself, to bring to life truth and beauty and imagination. Sure, we goofed off a lot and enjoyed the applause, but I believe there was something much deeper at work than we could articulate at the time.

At least, that’s how it was for me. For a kid looking to find himself, theater offered me something I didn’t know I needed: a place and space to define who I wanted to be. I tried on the fictional roles of several characters and along the way began to figure out some of the key pieces to my own character.

That’s not to say I wasn’t a pretentious jerk during that time – I most assuredly was. And that’s not to say I went to college fully realized as a human being – I most assuredly wasn’t. But what I found onstage, backstage, and among my performing peers was a world that opened me up to my own potential and possibilities.

I never saw myself as a leading man. My theater teacher did. I never saw myself as valuable. My cast mates did. I never thought I made a difference. My classmates did – and voted me Most Talented Male among our Senior class; one of the biggest and most rewarding surprises of my life.

This past weekend, I had all of those feelings come rushing back as I worked and watched. Ella navigated the weekend without much help from me; she handled small conflicts, the demands of her various roles and costume changes, and the scheduling quirks that I might have otherwise missed. In short, my daughter blossomed this weekend in ways I can’t explain.

Being by her side as she entered into this new world was both magic and meaningful to me, and I am grateful to the staff and volunteers of the Northeast Atlanta Ballet who worked so hard to make this weekend possible. On this weekend of Thanksgiving, you reminded me of things for which I am eternally grateful and gave me new things to add to that list.

I am truly excited to be a #DanceDad, and share with my daughter the blessings of the performing arts.

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