Dawn of the Dance Dads


There’s no denying the pull of the reality show “Dance Moms.”  With its young dancing divas and certifiably psychotic mothers, the show is loaded with epic PMS clashes and mama bear dust-ups.  But Dance Moms has a fatal flaw: It’s sorely lacking a masculine presence, a problem which my latest epiphany with rectify.

Yes indeedy, Dance Moms is an estrogen demolition derby.  Every mom is bound and determined to do what’s best for her daughter, and they’re not shy about shedding blood in the process. Many throats are slit so that ten-year old girls can crush the psyches of other ten-year old girls.  Really terrific fun for the whole family!

This show is not an over-exaggeration either.  I know.  I’ve seen Dance Moms in real life – at my daughter’s dance studio.  Just last week, for example, two mothers squared off in a kind of West Side Story knife-fight.  Fortunately, they were armed only with bobby pins, and endured only superficial wounds.  But it was an ugly thing to watch.

Which leads to the big question:  Why would I want to get involved with this mess?  Am I one of the those rabble rousers who seeks to smash through the glass floor in the name of gender equality?

Heck no.  I’m afraid of these ladies, as are all men.  A woman overly-juiced on maternal hormones has the ability to run a mental marathon; she’ll scowl and kvetch and make life miserable for all within a 100 mile radius until the end of time.

Men, on the other hand, like to get angry and throw an inanimate object or two, but then we find something to watch on TV and all is forgotten.

No, I can’t change the dance moms, nor would I dare to try.  My epiphany was instead focused on my daughter and our own relationship.

Like most dads, I’d like to talk more with my daughter.  And like most dads, I’ve tried.  Countless times I’ve tried to make conversation, touching on the shortcomings of the Green Bay Packers defensive line, or the merits of the Wisconsin Badgers swing offense.  For some reason, she never has anything to say.

So I decided the only way to reach her was to infiltrate the dance world.  I needed to learn  about what she’s doing, and hopefully, at the end of the day, it would open the lines of communication.

This wouldn’t be easy.  The world of dance has a glass floor constructed by both moms and daughters.  I would be hard-pressed to shatter it alone.  I needed a team; an elite squadron.  I decided to call them the Dance Dads.

Our epiphanal mission was to establish a new bond between dads and daughters, a model from which all men in the mandom kingdom can follow and solidify meaningful relationships.

And who knows?  Maybe in the process, we’d diffuse the tensions that exist between our own dance moms at the studio.  It might just prevent them from killing each other, and perhaps even kindle their interest in something more relevant to the human race.  Like the Packers defensive line.

Rounding Up the Crew

To infiltrate the studio, I got my old buddy Gen. David Petraeus on the phone and asked him if he’d coordinate the effort.  Petraeus has been known to spearhead an insurgency or two, and fortunately, he seems to have a great deal of spare time on his hands these days.  He agreed, and operation Dance Dads was underway.

For the first order of business, I recruited five Dance Dads, briefed them on the mission, and made them go through some sort of hazing ritual at Petraeus’s insistence.  It involved a spanking machine and a lot of feathers, but I won’t go into details.

Next, we gave the Dance Moms a night off from the studio.  To counter any protests, we offered gift cards to spas.  The spas were scattered all over town, so they couldn’t re-congregate and gossip anew.

The stage was set.  Operation Dance Dads was underway.

The mission got off to a rocky start.  Petraeus has specified that we each drive our respective daughters to the class, and to try and extract any dance-related intelligence on the way.

As we drove in, my daughter was tending to her hair, bunning it for prime-dance mode.  To assimilate, I too had bunned my hair prior to leaving, but she either didn’t notice or didn’t care.

“So what classes are you dancing tonight?”

“Ballet, lyrical, contemporary company, contemporary.”

“Oh, cool.  What, um, er, are you going to do?”

My daughter paused, no doubt wondering how in the world to reply to such idiocy.  “I don’t know.  It’s up to Donna.”

Donna is the dance instructor.  This I did know.

“Ah,” I replied.  “Are you going to work on your c’est la vie?”

“My what?” she growled.

“Your c’est la vie.  Isn’t that a dance move?”

“No,” she replied with enough ice to restock Antarctica.

I spent the rest of ride trying to remember the actual names for her dance moves.  After a while, I gave up, realizing 1. One had to be fluent in French to pronounce half the terms, and 2. My brain was already too packed with details relating to the Packers defensive line.

Eventually, we arrived at the scene.  The other Dance Dads disembarked, looking equally as beleaguered. General Petraeus had no time for self-pity, however.  From his remote position at Mission Control, he barked into our respective earpieces, “Meet outside the studio doors.  Let’s move in!”

Removing our winterly garb, I was proud to see that we were all in uniform.  The Wisconsin Badgers basketball team would be in action while the dance lesson was in session, and the Dance Dads all wore oversized red badger-ware to show our support.  Together, we constituted a red blob, a kind of 3D “You are here” dot, all of us pawing at our ESPN apps to get updates on the Badgers progress.

“Encourage your daughters!” Petraeus barked into our earpieces, and we looked up from our smart phones as the girls filed into the studio.

“Go kick some ass!” one of my cohorts yelled.

“Yeah, bring it!  You got this!” I joined in.

The girls looked at us as if we’d just clubbed a puppy to death.

“It’s parents night,” the dance instructor told the menfolk.  “You can watch if you’d like.”

“Move out,” Petraeus called out, and we marched into the studio, single file, calling out “left, left, left, right, left” as we marched in.  This was great fun and we topped it off with high-fives and belly bumps.  The girls were awash in disdain and revulsion.

“Tone it down!” Petraeus cried out.  At this point, the menfolk and I decided that the general’s voice in our ear was beginning to remind us of the other constant voices in our ears (which typically emanated from a certain population presently luxuriating at a number of area spas).  We thus decided to disengage our earpieces and go rogue.

The Screw-Ups Screw-up

The dance instructor asked us to sit on the floor and observe.  This produced a collective gulp from the Dance Dads.  Dance moms tend to be more flexible (at least physically) then the men.  For them, sitting lotus style for a half hour was a piece of cake.

For the dads, it was a journey into the world of contortion.  Due to our respective forty plus age demographic, we’d all lost the ability to bend our knees.  Men screamed in agony as they tried to sit down, weeping and crying for their mommies.  Hastily, we rigged up a makeshift pulley system using straps and sports bras, and lowered each other to the ground.

The dance rehearsal began, and the girls executed amazing high kicks and all types of fluttery, flowery movements.  We understood this to be warm-ups, and we waited patiently for things to really get hopping.

One of the dads raised his hand.  “Where is the scoreboard?”

Donna scowled.  “There is no score.  This is dancing, not a game.”

More death stares from the girls as we lapsed into silence.

The insurgency continued over the next two weeks.  We forked out a fortune in spa gift cards, and continued to infiltrate and observe.

Yet despite our best efforts, our mission was not going well.  Even though we were in the room, and all of our senses were functioning relatively well, not one of the men seemed to absorb a thing about dance.

We couldn’t remember any of the moves, didn’t seem to grasp the difference between jazz and lyrical, and ultimately didn’t get why it was a big deal if someone started out in the back row, even though during the dance they spent a lot of time in the front row, the middle row, and all rows in between.

But we tried.  Damn it, we tried with all our might.  But finally, it all came crashing down around us.  The implosion of the Dance Dads occurred at the girl’s first dance competition.

We were doomed from the get-go.  One of the Dance Dads thought it would rally our team if we showed up with faces painted.  It seemed a no-brainer.  We picked the pink and robin’s egg blue of the dance studio (painful compromise) and painted a ballet slipper on each cheek.
Faces adorned in team colors, we entered shouting, banging stuff, and waving placards emblazoned with a likeness of our daughters’ faces.

Opposing dance moms stared incredulously.  At the time, we assumed they were in awe of our creativity and pluck.  In truth, I believe they were aghast.

We took our seats in the front row, and tried valiantly to get the other dance moms to join us and get the wave going.  No dice.  We also weathered menacing scowls from the same bee-yotches when we offered them beer from the rolling cooler Mitch had appropriately stocked.  Strike two.

Things really went downhill when our girls didn’t get high scores, obviously the result of a LAME CALL on the part of one of the refs.  We chucked empty beer cans at the ump (or judge, or whatever they call her) until she scurried from the scene, and security forces arrived to drag us away.

Beer soaked, my face paint melted into a Heath Ledger grotesqueness, I endured a drive home with my daughter in the most deafening silence I’d ever experienced.  She didn’t speak to me for a week.

Finally, I met her at the breakfast table and told her the Dance Dads had decided to bow out.
“We’re bringing the moms back in,” I said.

“Thank God,” she replied.

“Aren’t you saddened?”

“No. Not at all.”

“Well, now that it’s over, I’m curious honey.  Can you tell me what we did wrong?”

For the next four hours, she unleashed, detailing every ridiculous, moronic thing the Dance Dads had done.  Halfway through, I moved over to the couch, popped a cold one, and smiled.  At least one objective had been accomplished.  At least she was talking to me.

Photo by GenXer


  1. Reminds me of this weekend, when I mis-identified a contemporary dance for a jazz dance. I think the ladies are just making this sh… stuff up and the joke is on us.

  2. Good job on the writing. And of course, in supporting your daughter.

    I’m pretty sure she won’t need more than a couple of years of therapy down the road as an adult. I did help coach my daughter in basketball once, but with the horse, and the violin, and even Indian Princess’, the experience was pretty much as you described (no other dad’s chose Water Ouzel as their Indian name).

    I do have this to say, however, about you.

    Bookmarking your blog now.

  3. Lol! Fabulous!!

  4. Very, very funny Greg. I do believe Dance Dads could meet their match with Gymnastic Grandmas. Only difference is geography.!
    BTW: I have seen your daughter dance and she is wonderful!

    • Greg Mischio says

      Hmm, Gymnastic Grandmas. You may be onto something there. Thank you for the compliment for my dancing daughter. I will pass it her way!

  5. Kelly Clark says

    This is hilarious and I thank Gina for sending me to your blog. Love the way you tell a story!

  6. LOL…..I loved reading this! Being a dance mom is hard work! I would love to see the dance dads crew at my local studio! Thanks Gina….I needed to laugh!

  7. You dads are awesome! At least you are trying to bridge the abyss with your daughters. You are a brilliant writer and I enjoyed the recounting of your tribulations in the dance world. I’m another of Gina’s referrals and thank you both for the much needed humor in my day. (Wonder if Gina, as a Shark mom, is a scary as the dance moms are….)

  8. I can cut a mean “c’est la vie,” myself! LOL

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