Tucson Dance Mom, The Saga Continues!

September 05, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Leyla http://kccreativedesign.com/p666876526

 Dance team tryouts for 2012/2013 have come and gone and the results from the audition were posted the Thursday before Labor Day holiday weekend.   This year Leah, my middle child who recently turned seven, decided to try out for dance team.  My youngest, Alexandra is two years old, didn’t want to miss out on all the action so she turned in her diapers for a leotard and a pair of tights!!   Alexandra is having a blast every Saturday morning in a one hour combo ballet/tap class with Heather.  Who needs a vacation home, when you have three daughters whose home away from home is in the dance studio?  =) 



 I spent most of the summer focusing on our Photography and Videography Company; KC Creative Design. 


 The girls and I agreed that spending the summer focusing on dance technique, by taking more ballet classes, would be a good start to the new 2012/2013 dance season.  We found a nearby dance studio just 5 minutes away from the house in Civano.  We enjoyed meeting new people and working with the friendly professional staff at Ballet Rincon Academy of Dance.  The girls also took gymnastics once a week so they could work on getting some tricks.   The summer flew by and before we knew it we were back home at Dance Force One ready to start the new dance season.  Fall classes started at the beginning of August; two weeks before dance team auditions.  In past years auditions were held at the end of the year after the recital.  Dance Force One picked up some amazing new dance teachers and most of the talented teachers returned back to the studio.  The first weeks flew by and then we were getting ready for the Saturday team try outs.  Dancers started checking in between 7:00 and 730 A.M. Leyla had her childhood best friend, Ysa, spend the night.  Ysa was a big support for Leyla and for the entire family. She is an amazing person and is such a big help when it comes to dance team competitions and pretty much anything else in our life. We had the girls go to bed early so that they would be well rested.   Mommy cheerleader woke them up early to prepare for the day.  Charlie and I wanted to make sure the kids had enough strength to make it through the auditions so Charlie made eggs and I cut up some fresh fruit.  After breakfast the girls got dressed and spent at least 20 minutes stretching before we all piled in the car and made the trek to the dance studio.  This year the kids had to wear a leotard and tights, and have their hair pulled back in a bun.  All dancers had to have their right and left splits to make most of dances on dance team.  The ability to do both splits can make the difference between making the team or not.  This year the dancers were auditioning for individual dances, as compared to last year when the dancers tried out for a particular dance team. This year the instructors were able to choose who they wanted to perform in each of their dances vs. having one group of girls stay together for almost all their dances. 

 At the audition each child that registered was given a number which they displayed where the judges could identify the dancer and score them based on whatever they were looking for. This year I had two kids to be nervous for and when I found out Leah was trying out in the same room as her older sister I just about fainted.  All 7-11 years old tried out together; which I thought was crazy!!  Leah is so little and just turned 7 where as Leyla is a young lady who is tuning 12 next month. The difference in maturity and skill level is night and day.  I thought for sure that Leah was going to back out and not try out.  Heck, I would back out if I was her age!!  Parents were not allowed to watch so Ysa and I hung out together in the hallway and tried to peek through the cracks in the taped up windows…too bad April did a really good job this year and we couldn’t even see a shadow.  Leah stayed the whole time and even took her first 1.5 hr ballet class with Cory, who is an amazing dancer, and a fantastic but very stern, teacher.  My poor baby is used to taking three hours of dance classes a week and was now auditioning with the older girls and dancing over three hour in one day! Leyla, on the other hand, was having the time of her life and ended up staying until 3:00pm.  By the end of the day I was exhausted, which is ironic considering I wasn’t the one dancing.  Ha Ha. The older girls were so nice to Leah that I will be forever thankful to them all!!  Later that evening when little Leah got out of the car she said she could hardly feel her legs.   Leyla and I look at each other and started laughing.  I thought to myself “I hope she makes dance team or she will be devastated.”

Two weeks passed before the list was posted and every day Leah asked if she had made dance team.  I was starting to feel like we were never going to find out.
It was late Thursday evening before the list was posted and luckily for me I didn’t have to drive 40 minutes to the dance studio to find out :=)  One of the other dance moms took a picture of the list with her phone and sent it to me.  The girls waited anxiously as the list downloaded to my phone.  We waited and waited and waited…. what the hell was wrong with my phone???  You have got to be kidding me!!!!  As soon as we all had given up hope and were off to bed my phone beeped and the download was completed with the dance team list.  
 It probably would have been faster to drive the 40 min to the dance studio.  The only problem was that for some reason the pictures came through as a video so I was not able to enlarge the screen which meant that the list was too little to read.  I forwarded the text to Charlie’s phone and he had the same problem so he emailed it to our email address and printed it out.  I practically had to use a magnifying glass the make out everything.  Between me and Charlie we were able to see that Leah made four dance numbers on dance team with the younger girls. Leah was so excited and was very proud of her self.  I tucked Leah in bed while Charlie continued to look at the list for Leyla.  When I returned to the room Charlie said he didn’t see Leyla name on the list. What??  Give me that list I said as I snapped the paper out of his hand, and I thought I was blind!!   Leyla’s name was right under Leah’s name and she made 8 dance team numbers!  Her worried face turned into a big smiled and she was very happy!!  Before I could say another word Leyla had fallen asleep with a smile a mile wide on her face and was probably dreaming of the lights, action, Show Time!


August 03, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

The dance season came to an end with a little over a month off between seasons. Team try-outs will be here before you know it.  I have learned a lot this past year, and not only about bling, rhinestones, hair, or makeup, but also a lot about myself.  When this season first started I did not fully understand all the time and money that  parents need to invest when we have a daughter who is a dancer on a competitive dance team.  The commitment that is involved does not only come from the dancer but also from the dancer’s family. I should have known better since my mom did it when I was girl but it is not until you commit as a parent and family that it really hits home. 

There was many times this past season where weeks and months would go by and I never took the time to take care of myself or my health.  This past year I have been distant from friends and family while I concentrated on doing the best I could between my job, building a photography business, and six days a week at the dance studio.  I’ve been told I’m crazy!!  I won’t ever deny that I am in fact crazy and that I accept that about myself.  I take full responsibility for my actions and accept the consequences that come with my decision to support both my girls in dance.  I have to tell you that every tear shed, the late nights, the long drives, frustrations while rhinestoning, and even the way-over-the-top competition hair was worth it after seeing Leyla and her team dance their little butts off on stage.

This year I watched Leyla start the year quiet and reserved and blossom into a child with self-confidence and who believes in herself as much as I believe in her.  Dancing gave Leyla something to be excited about every day.   The friendships she made this year will always be remembered and be a part of her life as she becomes a young lady.   The long-distance drive to the dance studio that I complained about often in my blog was actually a blessing because it gave Leyla and I good mother-daughter bonding time.  The bonding time was way overdue and we became much closer this past year.   

As years pass and I get older more and more people I care deeply about have passed on.   This year, more than ever, I have a clear picture and understanding of how precious and wonderful life is.  My mom use to tell me when I was a child that the older you get the faster times goes by. I never really understood what she meant by that statement until now.  Days, weeks, months, and years seem to be on fast forward and I’m constantly asking for more time.  How much time as individuals are we willing to sacrifice away from the people we love for our jobs?  Since time doesn’t have a price tag and you never know when it will run out, I have decided not to waste another second trying to be everything and everywhere at the same time.  Through Leyla’s passion in dance I found my passion in photography; and found a career that makes me excited to wake up every morning. 

As of mid-July I am no longer an employee with Long Realty. I still work with them but as an independent contractor and have their support and blessing to pursue Photography full-time.   I have met some incredible people in the real estate industry and have enjoyed being able to offer career opportunities to individuals looking for more in their careers.  It is very rewarding to be a part of other people’s success and helping them build their dreams.  I love how it has worked out with Long because I am now able to make my own hours and will be able to make the time for my business and for everything else in my life. 

Watch a Slideshow/Video created by KCCreativedesign.com

July 10, 2012  •  Leave a Comment
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luyrrtth7FQ Watch a Slideshow/Video created by KCCreativedesign.com

Photography by KAR Media, KC Creative Design and Dance Force One members

Video by KAR Media, KC Creative Design

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KAR Dance National Finals in Las Vegas

July 09, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Photo taken by KAR Photographers

Leyla and I spent last week in Las Vegas with the other DF1 dance team dancers representing not only Dance Force 1 but all of Tucson dancers at the KAR Dance National Finals in Las Vegas. The event was held at the MGM Grand Sunday July 1st and ended Sunday July 7th.  I was a little worried about how Leyla and I were going to survive seven days in Vegas when the longest I ever stayed in Vegas was three days and I was barely alive when it was time to go home.  The majority of the dancers on team stayed at the MGM Grand for the week.  Leyla and I were anxious when arriving to Las Vegas and were filled with mixed emotions; we felt scared, nervous and excited all at the same time.  Rock Star, Super Star, Shining Star, Shooting Star, and Future Star teams had dances that were selected to compete in nationals based on how well the dances did throughout the year.

The first of six competitions started in January 2012 not counting the performance early in the year and the dance recital in June.  Shining Star dance team learned a total of 6 small group dances plus many of the girls also learned solo, duos, trios, and big group numbers. Large group numbers are mixed with different dancers from the different teams within the company.  The National competition was the last competition for season and dancers flew in from all over the U.S to compete with the best of the best!  The skill and talent at the National level is no joke and can be a little intimidating for dancers, especially if you’re not from one of the major big cities.

 Leyla is a part of the Shining Star dance team with a total of 8 girls in the group. Overall this year they were not consistently doing well enough to feel 100% confident about competing in the Nationals competition in Vegas.   Many of our concerns eased up when it was announced that only the dances that did well throughout the year were going to Las Vegas.
 Dance, like other sports (yes, I consider it a sport!), becomes very expensive the more competitive the dancer becomes.  Most dance competitions have entrance fees for each dance plus the cost of costumes, travel, room and board, and any miscellaneous costs while traveling.   Taking the dances that had a chance of placing was not only a smart decision but also lowers the cost of entrance fees.  :-)

The last KAR Artistic Revue competition was in Phoenix the first week of June. The Shining Star team’s jazz number Party Girls placed second overall and hip hop Who’s that Chick placed first overall for their age division.  You would think that based on the last competition that all the parents would feel good going into Nationals.  
You just never know what the judges are looking for and how the dances are going to do.  Although the dances took first and second at the Phoenix KAR competition they didn’t do well at the Rainbow Connection competition back in May.  This is why many of the parents had concerns about going to Nationals; we were not consistently placing in the top three.

The multiple elements of a dance competition can be very confusing.  It took me a whole year to understand it, and to be honest, I’m still not 100% confident how the whole thing works.

Each dance competition usually has three basic categories that the judges score on.  Depending on who is hosting the competition the names for the individual awards can change their meaning, sound very similar, or have completely different definitions for the same titles. This is the confusing part for me; right when I think I figured out what all the titles mean for one competition the same name will have a different meaning at the next competition.
The Las Vegas Nationals awards and categories were broken down differently.

Individual:  Each dance routine receives in individual title of Elite Top First, Top First, First, and High Second.  Elite Top First is the highest title a routine can receive followed by Top First, First, and then High Second (Which is in the famous words of Leyla means “thank you very much have a nice day now go home“).
Categories of Dance:  Dances only compete within their own dance/age categories.  Jazz competes with jazz, tap with tap and so on.

Winning first in your category may not always be as great as it sounds.  There are over 16 different categories so who a team competes against depends on the number of studios that register for the competition and where they put their dances in the categories.  A team may place first but may only have competed against two or three other teams and it’s possible that a team ends up competing against either another dance team from the same studio or even against themselves in another dance!  Another example is getting first place for the category but only receiving an individual High Second award.  This means you were the best of the worst.

Overall:  Each dance, regardless of dance categories, completes against each other in the same age range.  This is the award every team strives to place first, second or third in. What is most impressive is when many dances get an Elite Top First and also place first over all. 
Some of the DF1 solos performed on Sunday and the big group number Winter performed Wednesday. Winter, which has done well in the past, didn’t do well at Nationals. It received 1st in its category but did not place overall.
The older girl’s Elite Small Group for ages 15-19 placed 1st overall for the dance Fix You and won the showcase on Saturday.  Party Girl and Who’s that Chick from the Shining Star group and another big team group number, Dance, competed on Thursday.  Dance was the first of the three dances to compete on Thursday. The kids kicked butt and performed better in Nationals then they had all year. We all were expecting it to do well and were very disappointed when Dance only received a Top First and did not place overall. This was a discouraging start of the day.  Leyla and I, along with some of the other girls, were disappointed with the results and didn’t understand why Dance scored so low. I told Leyla to shake it off and not to let the results to Dance impact the other two small group dances that were next to compete.

Throughout the day there were times I couldn’t find Leyla and when I caught up with her she was on the side of the stage running over the dance moves and stretching without being told. I watched from the distance so she couldn’t see me.  I couldn’t believe my eyes; my child was in the zone and she was determined to do the best she could do and not let her team down!! The routine for Party Girl was filled with double and triple pirouettes, multiple turns in second, plus leaps and tricks.  April did a great job with the flow and the choreography with this dance but one mistake could ruin any chances of placing in Nationals. The girls ran their routine before going on stage and all the dance moms on the Shining Star team watched the girls run though Party Girl.  April did a great job utilizing the time to make the best of the last practice.  She was quick finding weaknesses in the routine and assisting the dancers in making the proper corrections. The kids listened and stayed focused.
Photo taken by KAR photographers

The girls were up against some very tough competition and were competing against 28 to 30 dances in their category and around 40 or more overall. When the girls went back stage me and a couple of the parents rushed to our seats to watch the dance up front and center stage. The girls walked on stage and all the parents went crazy cheering them on from the sidelines. The music started and my heart stopped; I knew that the outcome of the dance was completely out of my control. The girls’ faces lit up the room and they blew everyone away with their routine.  As I watched them dance I got a lump in my throat and it took every ounce of my will to hold back my tears. I was so proud of all of them. Today they were a team and danced as one. They showed the whole world how hard work pays off.  After the number was over the parents rushed back stage to help the girls to get into their next costume. As the girls walked to the dressing room the parents’ congratulated them for a job well done. The second dance was Who’s that Chick and the girls yet again bought on their A-game and we all were pleased with how well they did!! The girls did the best they could do and now it was all up to the judges.  I only hoped that the girls placed in the top five. It was hard to tell because we all thought Dance did well and it didn’t place at all.

 We celebrated how well the girls performed with pizza and then returned to the stage for the award ceremony. The room filled up quickly as the dancers made their way on stage to hear the results. One by one each dance received their individual title. Party Girls and Who’s that Chick both received Elite Top First, which is the highest title a routine can receive. KAR wasn’t giving out Elite Top First very often so receiving Elite Top First for both of our numbers was huge. I’m not sure of the exact numbers but my guess is that there were 8 teams out of the 35-40 who also received Elite Top First. When it was time to announce the overall winners we were pleased to hear that Who’s that Chick placed in the top 10 .  When it got down to the top five and Party Girl still hadn’t been called. The excitement of being in the top 5 seemed unreal and almost a dream. Forth overall was called, then third and still no Party Girl. Oh my goodness we got second I couldn’t believe it!!!!! Then when second overall was called and it wasn’t Party Girl the mom next to me said we did it! I thought to myself no way, she has to be wrong; we must have not placed at all maybe and were mistaken in the count down. The room was packed and the girls were getting more and more excited as the number one overall dance was announced and it was Party Girl! I had a hard time holding up the camera while recording all the action without losing it. The girls did it!! Wow they really did it!! This has been a crazy stressful year with ups and downs and at this very moment watching our girls jump up and down with excitement made every minute worth it. When April joined the girls on stage my eyes filled with tears for her and her accomplishments with this team. What a perfect ending for to the season.

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LA Dance Magic Convention & Competition

April 18, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

  Click to view more photos http://kccreativedesign.com/journeyoftucsondancemom#h219ff6d3
This past weekend Dance Force 1 dance team attended a two day dance workshop that included a Saturday night competition and a Sunday morning scholarship audition.   La Dance Magic held the event at the Radisson Fort McDowell Resort in Scottsdale.  I was very impressed with how well organized and how smooth everything ran throughout the whole weekend!!  LA Dance Magic gets a five star rating from me.

 Leyla begged to leave Friday night instead of Saturday at 5:30 A.M. and finally convinced me by offering to help pay for an extra night.  It didn’t take that much convincing since she offered to pay with her own money.  How could I say no?   Besides I would have had to wake up super early to get to Phoenix by 7:30am.   The drive went by very quickly as Leyla and I chatted the whole way and had some great mother/daughter bonding time. To my surprise once Leyla started talking she didn’t stop the entire way to Phoenix.   I guess she was taking advantage of the fact that both of her little sisters were not around to interrupt her.   So, needless to say I shut up and listened and let her have the floor.   Some of the things that came out of her mouth had me thinking about how fast my little girl is growing up.  I wished the drive would never end so I could enjoy that moment forever. 

 Each age group had their own ballroom with plenty of room to move around.  The choreographers taught the dancers from a small stage in the front of the room.  They also had four dance assistants moving throughout the room to help the children.  The first day of the workshop was jam packed with small breaks for the girls to have a snack, change shoes, and to eat lunch.  The dances taught were Jazz, Hip Hop, Ballet and Tap. There were taught by five different up-and-coming new choreographers that each brought a unique and different style to the classes.  

 One of the reasons I decided to watch the dancers was to see how our girls compared to the Phoenix dancers.  In general, Phoenix dance teams seem to do better in competition compared to the Tucsondance teams. Why is that??  Did they have better dancers or did they have better choreography?  I was hoping to be able to answer my questions by the end of the weekend.

 Most of Shining Star, Shooting Star, and Future Star were all in the junior workshop group together.   There were two girls who were in-between ages and decided to move up to the next age group. I am very proud of the girls who moved up because they had to step out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves =)

 Overall our girls did ok in the first two dance classes.  As the day continued many of the girls started to standout and were amongst the best in the class.  In fact, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of them!!  They were dancing full on and had great facial expressions.  Their poor little faces must have been sore by the end of the day from smiling so much. The Shining Star dance team mostly stayed in the first two rows in front of the stage.  The girls were told to stay up front and not to slip to the back; which is exactly what they did.  I would also like to add that they were very polite to the other dancers. We had a couple of dancers who really seemed to struggle.  BUT not one child gave up or quit no matter how difficult the routines were.  =)

 Saturday night Competition

Saturday’s workshop ended around 2:30 -3:00 PM and the girls had a hour and half to get ready for the competition.  Leyla, Sarah, RL and I ran up to room to start on their makeup and hair.  I am happy to report that Leyla and I didn’t kill each other; in fact everything went great between the two of us!!  Perhaps I should mention that the other reason we did so well was that RL did Leyla’s hair. =)

  The ballroom was used as the dressing rooms; which was great because there was plenty of room for everyone.  Leyla’s hip hop team dance was one of the first dances to go out.  The girls did great!!   Party Girl was next and is the dance I said would go all the way this year.  That dance didn’t do as well as I hoped it would have in this competition.  The Shooting Star dance team group number did well and so did some of the older team’s dances.  Overall it’s safe to say that we all wish we did better in the competition part this past weekend.  Once the numbers are posted I will know exactly where we placed for each of the dances. The night came to an end around 10pm and Leyla and I were ready to go to bed.

 Scholarship auditions

I don’t remember getting into bed or closing my eyes; all I remember is waking up to a very loud alarm at 6am in the morning.  It was Sunday, the last day of the workshop, and Scholarship auditions were at 8am.  My body felt like I was in college again after a night of dancing and having one to many drinks.  Except I only had one drink and all I did was sit on my butt all day and watch other people dance!!  So embarrassing!   Lucky for me RL came up to the room and took Leyla and Sarah down for auditions while I finished getting myself ready and checked out of the room. 

 By the time I got downstairs the auditions were almost over.  Some of the mothers from the other teams that I met at the Saturday workshop filled me it on what I missed. As the moms filled me in there were girls exiting the ball room who were cut. When one of the moms told me that they started with ballet across the floor I was surprised that Leyla hadn’t come out yet.   Leyla is starting her third year of dance and just doesn’t have the same level of experience that some of the other girls on Shining Star have had.  I had a talk with Leyla before the workshop began about not having high expectations about receiving a scholarship.  I explained to her that she has come a long way in a short amount of time and will be going up against girls that may have had double the experience and that she should just concentrate on doing the best she can do.   Leyla did well in the Saturday workshop but when it comes to auditions there is a lot of pressure and no room for mistakes.  There are many good dancers that don’t do well under pressure or make one mistake and get cut in auditions.  Aside from trying out for dance team this is really Leyla’s first audition. I wasn’t sure how she would perform under the pressure.  Some of the parents took turns looking though the peep holes in the door. I have really bad eyesight so I couldn’t trust what I was seeing.  It looked like all of our girls were sitting together and that they were cut from the auditions. The door opened and the dancers made their way out of the ballroom.  When the crowd thinned out parents started to make their way into the room.  I heard one of the mothers say that six of the girls made it to the finals.  Leyla was one of the six that made it to the finals.  I was so happy for her; what an accomplishmentWait a minute, what the heck was wrong with me?  Oh my goodness, Leyla made it to the finals!  I wanted to run and give her a hug and congratulate all the girls who were going to the finals.  My guess is that there were over a hundred dancers who tried out and only 22 of them made it to the finals.  I held myself back from showing too much excitement. Some of the girls that didn’t make it were in tears and I remember how that felt from when I was a little girl.  Most of these kids worked very hard during the workshop and to see their little faces and feel their disappointment broke my heart.   I only wish I was able to take the hurt away when things go badly; but that is part of growing up.  I waited about 10 minutes before walking over to Leyla and the rest of the girls.

 The morning flew by and before I knew it the finals were starting.  All the dancers from the different age groups went on stage for a dance off.  As the final tryouts were being held on the big stage the room filled up quickly with eager parents and other dancers to watch the tryouts.  The dancers were grouped by number and asked to dance. Once the group dances were completed they were asked to stand in line while the judges took a final look at each of the dancers. The older kids had an opportunity to dance a short solo in front of the crowd after their group auditions.  These kids kicked some BUTT!!  Since all the kids did very well, I had no idea how the judges were going to narrow it down to four or five dancers in each age group.


The day was over and everyone gathered to meet on the big stage. Selected dances were picked to perform in front of everyone.  A tap number was picked from Dance Force 1.  After the performances the scholarship winners were announced. I apologize that I don’t know all the dancers names from Dance Force 1 that received a scholarship. In the junior group the winners were Allison, Ashton, and Rebecca. Congratulations girls!!!

 By the time the winners were announced Leyla and I were ready to go home.   I could tell from her face that she was disappointed that her name wasn’t called.  Even though I expressed to her how proud I was of her, I could tell she was still upset.  On the way home she fell asleep exhausted from the fun, but long, weekend.  I enjoyed meeting the other moms from the different dance teams and hope we will stay in contact with each other. After all, we might be at the next competition together!

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