MY NAME IS JASON KORFHAGE, AND I AM A DANCE DAD. When I was first indoctrinated into the world of competitive dance, I was like a lost and scared baby lamb thrown into the middle of a hangry cougar habitat. Things were different then. Dance dads, once extremely elusive, have slowly emerged from the shadows to become a driving force in the lives of their dancing progeny. Only a decade ago, a dance dad sighting at a competition or convention was akin to a grainy bigfoot video. It was not uncommon to see a shy and timid dance dad, rocking back and forth in a corner, confused and afraid, trying to make sense of the dance program schedule, genres, scoring systems and group categorizations as if he was being forced to digest the entirety of the space shuttle operations manual in 20 minutes. Thankfully though, times have changed. Thanks, largely, to pioneering dance dads like myself (poll of one), a sort of renaissance has occurred, leading to a renewed vigor amongst dads to erase the stigma and become consistent contributors to all aspects of their child’s dance journey.
So what constitutes a modern dance dad? Most importantly, being a consistently calming and supportive force. Just BE THERE. Be there when they succeed, be there when they fail and be there for everything in between. One of my four proven super powers is making a bad situation better at my own expense. I thrive on cheering my daughter up even if it means humiliating myself in the process. Failure is a given, but teaching your child how to deal with failure and how to grow from it, is one of the best parts of being a parent. TRIGGER ALERT: This may appear to directly conflict with modern parenting methods, where success is typically handed out like Skittles®, regardless of the outcome, and any failure is most definitely NOT the result of your child, but obviously someone or something else, because you’ll be damned if little Timmy or Suzy should ever believe for one second that they aren’t perfectly infallible. I digress. So, yeah, don’t do that. Let them own that failure like the little plié-ing bosses they are. They can take it, and they will be better little humans for it.
The daily dance dad grind varies greatly. Thankfully, your kid will do most of the real work, so more than anything it’s just showing up (preferably wearing a cape). With that, though, comes a variety of constants. Travel is certainly one of those, with regular driving (or even flying) to recitals, competitions and conventions. I am lucky to have a wife who handles the majority of the class/studio parental Uber-ing, but I’m always available in a pinch to pick up, drop off or rush forgotten decaying-carcass-smelling dance shoes to the studio. I can even manage a fairly decent bun or high ponytail, if I do say so myself. Get your hair game right, DADS.
At the competitions my duties could include helping out with stage props, using the second of my four super powers to locate the nearest Starbucks®, going on food runs during breaks, eavesdropping on dance mom conversations, keeping track of the dance order/ lineup and generally keeping my wife’s nerves from taking over. Watching your child dance is both one of the most rewarding experiences you can have AND one of the most anxiety riddled.
Once you begin to hone your dance dad skills, you will begin to notice the dads who don’t show up, OR show up for exactly 14 minutes each month and strut around as if they’ve satisfied some monumental daddy/hubby requirement, half expecting the judges to call THEIR names during the awards ceremony. Don’t be that dance dad. Be the dance dad who is fully engaged and sensitive to the needs of your dance family. Be the dance dad who can hang out with the dads AND the moms. It’s ok. They mostly don’t bite, despite what you might have seen on that popular reality TV show. THAT show has never been my reality.
So my advice to you young, naïve and aspiring dance dads? Whether you choose to fully embrace that role, and put as much energy into being a supportive dance dad as your wife does into being a dance mom and as your daughter does into being a dancer, is completely up to you. Just be keenly aware that your kids DO notice! I know my daughter, Riley, takes pride in the fact that I’ve never missed a competition. An inclusive approach will only enhance the feeling of community and make the experience all the more enjoyable. Childhood is fleeting, so why not go all in and squeeze every last drop out of the experience? Don’t quiver in a corner sucking on your dad thumb, and definitely don’t be scared of leotards and low buns. Be proud that you know what they are!