The Real “Dance Moms” of Hancock County
By Elizabeth A. Phelps
Contrary to the questionable behavior depicted in reality “dance mom” television shows, REAL dance moms bring us…well, a loving and smart reality. These moms with kids who choose dance as an afterschool activity can set a parenting example that goes above and beyond the stereotypes and false portraits that sometimes entertain us on TV.
Angie Caliva, of Diamondhead, has two daughters. Both were introduced to dance at an early age. One daughter didn’t enjoy it, so Caliva helped her follow a love of art. The other daughter did love dance, and in supporting her youngest daughter, Caliva showed that REAL dance moms are actually tuned into their children, allowing them to rise to their individual talents and potential.
Dancing daughter, Casey May, just turned 14. She has been dancing since age two and competing in dance since age eight.
“Casey May is one of those girls that is totally in love with dance,” Caliva said. “We tried her in soccer, but she did pirouettes across the soccer field. The only thing she liked about soccer was that her uniform was pink.”
So Casey May’s mom kept taking her to dance class at The Studio of Classique Vibe in Waveland, where she happily spends two or three hours dancing after the school day is done.
“Each child is treated like family,” Caliva explained, “and we are fortunate to be in a good school where the moms know and enjoy each other.”
Another local dance mom, Betsy Harvill, sees the gifts of dance in her daughter, Danielle. Now age eight, Danielle and has been competing since she was five years old.
“Dance has stretched Danielle’s love, God-given gift of athleticism, and artistic expression to a pursuit for excellence,” Harvill said. “She has gained self-discipline, perseverance and confidence through her dance family, who has graciously poured benefits into her life daily.”
Clearly, according to these “regular” dance moms, it’s nothing like the pettiness and competitive friction shown on reality TV.
Youth dance competitions are set up so various levels of dancers can participate. Some dancers attend elite competitions while others compete recreationally. Dancers can also attend conventions during which students work from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. taking classes with various instructors. These competitions involve high level skills, and Caliva has watched her daughter develop all of them.
“A dancer has to work like a high level tennis pro to be one of the strongest, most athletic of performers,” she said.
“Not to mention, the life skills required,“ Caliva continued. “At age 10, Casey could walk up to an adult, shake hands, and introduce herself with confidence. One of the main things my daughter has gained from high level dance is how to perform under pressure. She has also developed the grace required to be a loyal team member and knows how to prioritize her life, and balance homework with dance.”
There are countless ways to expose children to quality experiences in life, with dance being just one of them. With so many television channels reflecting positive behaviors, why not turn off the shows that encourage conflict and just watch something that isn’t so negative? Or better yet, tune into real life instead, where most parents nurture and support their kids in their hobbies.
Come on. Let’s hear it for the REAL dance moms!
Elizabeth A. Phelps was raised on the Gulf Coast. She is a writer, speaker, teacher and youth program facilitator. She has won awards for writing and inspirational youth programming using the arts.