It's that time of year again.
For 10 years, my kids have been dancing with the Canadian School of Dance, and at the end of each year the school puts on a grand recital that lets the parents see the skills that the kids have learned over the past year.
It's a big deal. The teachers put in a lot of creative work to choreograph dance numbers for all of the kids at the school. There are junior classes and senior classes, and therefore there are junior and senior shows, each of about 40 dance numbers. There are costumes to be made, props to be built, and rehearsals, all of which comes together over two evenings and one afternoon.
Last night was my youngest's dress rehearsal. She is in the junior show, which will run for real on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. Last evening, she was in her dress and makeup, and ran through her number as though she was performing for a full house. Only the teachers were in the audience.
The lighting and props also run as though it were an actual performance, though the choreographers are still figuring out what props will appear, such as balloons or flowers, and where they will be placed.
For the past four years, I have volunteered to be a prop dad, both at the year-end recital and for the dance competitions (although my daughters didn't compete this year, I did help out for a day when the teams were competing in Ottawa). I love working with the other dads—we have a great camaraderie—and feel good about doing my part to help the school. Plus, I get to watch my girls dance from the wings.
My youngest doesn't like me to watch her dance. Not this year, anyway. Last night, as she waited in the wings for one dance number to end and her dance number to start, I approached her and said she looked nice in her peacock-patterned dress.
"You're not going to watch me," she said.
"Of course I am," I said, "I always watch you."
"If you watch, I'm not going to smile. Go stand in a corner or something."
The lights faded to black. The sound of little feet were heard scampering toward the other side of the stage, where all dancers exited. Stage left. Five-dozen feet shuffled onto the stage: my daughter's number is a small group for ballet in this recital.
The lights came on. Five girls poised, in a circle, facing inward. One foot pointed inward. One arm, lowered, the outside arm, raised. The music started and the girls swept their arms and looked like a flower opening.
My daughter was smiling, as she always does during a show. She was in her zone. In the past, teachers were always concerned. She never smiled during practice. In competition, failing to smile would reduce the points that could be earned.
She smiled. And then she saw me.
I was afraid that when our eyes met, the smile would vanish. But it didn't. Instead, it grew wider, as though she were holding back a laugh, keeping it in with her teeth.
She spun around and her eyes caught mine again. And again. Her head would turn toward me. And then she mis-stepped. And again. A couple of the girls faltered.
As a prop dad, it's my job to make sure that the flowers, the balloons, the fake trees, the backdrops, the fake castles, and the steps get put into the correct place, and to make sure they are taken away, quietly, before the next number goes on.
It is not my job to distract and mess up the dancers.
It's a good thing that this was only a rehearsal and that no one was watching. But just to be safe, on Friday night, I think I'll go stand in a corner or something.