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The Changing Face of Dance: Dads With Daughters

In the new millennium we have ushered in a few socially relevant and significant changes. In Canada, same sex couples have the right to legally marry; Sex, in general, can now be a legal choice; Women are speaking loudly and clearly once again about gender-wage discrepancies in the labour force; And dads are taking their daughters to dance class. With these social changes in what constitutes marriage and gender status it is natural to see a shift both in family dynamics and division of labour within the family. Not only are husbands showing up at dance competitions and learning to do hair for dance recitals but single dads are grabbing life by the bun and carting their girls to dance class, dance exams, and the like. Certainly dads are also taking their sons to dance but this post is focused on those dads that are present for their daughters in ways they may not have had the social encouragement to do so in the past.

It was a few weeks ago that I met my dancer at the competition’s dressing room. The sign on the door read “no men beyond this point” but a studio’s costumes littered the door, covering the sign. My dancer arrived with her baby sister and single dad because it was his custodial weekend. He brought her to the dressing room and came in to unpack some things and get the low down from me: Are they on time? Can I sit anywhere? Do you need anything? Can I leave her? The usual questions parents have for their child’s dance teacher. A mom from another studio came barreling at us shouting: “You can’t be in here! Dancers are changing!” which wasn’t true at the time. The dance dad excused himself and left but I had a sour taste in my mouth. I looked for the dressing room designated for Dads With Daughters. Obviously, there wasn’t one - hence this post. So as a dance teacher, studio owner, sociologist, and kinesiologist I’m left to wonder: What about the dads with daughters? Why aren’t these men getting love in a female dominated artistic activity? Haven’t we been asking our husbands to step up and handle the bun making and competition attending? As a mom of two dancing daughters I WANT and NEED my husband to be facilitated by dance organizers to be successful at taking our daughters to dance activities. As programme coordinators we can value and appreciate the fathers who step up to handle dance participation by giving them a separate space to take their daughters to help them change and prepare for their performances.

I’ve run plenty of dance shows and I know dressing space can be limited. I know that we can’t possibly think of every social scenario that could occur at our events. But this post is to call dance organisers to adapt to the new reality: dads are bringing their daughters to dance activities. As a kinesiologist and sociologist, for me it’s a question of accessibility. If we choose facilities with automatic doors, ramps, accessible washrooms that also have baby change stations, we can endeavour to try to meet all of our participant’s needs. I have taught dancers who use wheelchairs and walkers, I’ve taught boys, and I currently teach a girl who’s dad brings her to her dance events without a female partner to take his daughter into a dressing room for him. One small dressing area for dads with daughters is not only necessary but warrants a loud applause for both the dads and the dance organizers who think outside the traditional box step. This is the kind of creative thinking we try to teach our dancers and children. Compassion and inclusivity are the themes for the new millennium. What better forum to reflect these themes than in the dance world?

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