Why "Dancing in the Front Line of the Group" should not be a measure of your child's dancing.
Updated: Oct 4, 2021
Over the years, I've heard many stories of parents being upset that their child isn't in the "front row" of a group piece. For some reason(and this is not all cases) a parent is,
A: Assuming that the dance teacher who created the lines has not considered all their students abilities and placed them accordingly.
B: Equating their child's talent and ability with who is being seen front and center onstage. I empathize with the parent who's child comes home upset because they are in the "back row.
But here is the teacher in me steps in. Here's an example.
I recently choreographed a piece with a ground of wonderful dancers. I explained to them that when I choreograph I move dancers all over the stage, so it's important that you're able to shine regardless of where you are. When we finished for the day, the dancers thanked me, said "See you tomorrow" and went home.
The next morning, a mother of one of the dancers was waiting for me, but her child was nowhere in sight. She explained to me that she was upset because her daughter cried all the way home because was not in the front line of the dance, and asked me to reconsider changing my spacing to accommodate that one child out of a 25 member dance.
I was a visiting choreographer. The following was my conversation with this parent.
"Are you saying, in the case of my choreography, that because your daughter is sometimes not in the front line, she has less value?"
"No! I'm not saying that at all!!"
"Great, I just wanted to be clear that placement of a dancer, particularly a young dancer should not matter, if she is supported by her teacher, with clear explanation as to why they've been given the position assigned. However, if her whole family comes out to watch her dance, are they only going to be looking at the front line?"
"No, her family will obviously look at her."
" Since your daughter is a red head, do you think a red-headed judge won't see the red-headed girl in the back row that looks like her?"
"Well, I hadn't thought about that..."
" Also, what would harm your daughter more, being in the front row and not pulling off 4 turns like the rest of the dancers in the front, or being in the back row where she can safely keep practicing while here teammates in the front row pull those turns off"
"Well...I guess in that back would be better."
And finally, when your daughter goes to college, do you want her to go there with a strong sense of self? If the answer is "Yes" then explain to her that it's not important where you stand but how you do. Explain to her that the teacher wants to make sure you have the time to get the movements right for herself. Explain to her that she ALWAYS be front and center in your eyes. Explain to her that no matter where she stands on stage, the goal is for her to be her best. Standing in front is not always the best place to be your best."
- Adam Parson