I was sitting in an airport recently, minding my own business, when two men sat down nearby and began to talk. They were clearly both businesspeople heading home to the United States and must have just met in the airport. They discussed typical domestic issues: where they lived, numbers of children and their ages, a mutual enjoyment for playing golf and their mutual need to go on diets!
I wasn't paying much attention until one of these suburban fathers mentioned that his oldest son studied ballet at a local dance school. The son seemed to be in junior high school and took dance class very seriously. The father remarked that he had wished his son played sports but that if he enjoyed dancing then his parents would support his interest.
My ears perked up.
The man then said that the dance school where his son studied had a tradition that at the end of year recital, the fathers of the dancers also performed! They came to the school for several weeks and learned a dance routine from a choreographer. He said the dance moves were not particularly difficult but that none of the fathers had dance training and this was a challenge. The fathers were also asked to make their own costumes; it seemed they bought costume elements at thrift stores and put outfits together to match the theme of the year. He had tried this once and had so much fun that he now participated every year.
He then went on a long disquisition about the music they performed to (typically rock and roll hits), the various costumes he had assembled to match each year's dance, and how the large audience applauded for the fathers far more than they did for the student performers. ("I think they were clapping for our guts to go out and do this more than for our performance.")
It was clear that these performances had become a highlight of each year for him and that he appreciated his son's passion for dance that much more because of his own attempts at moving to music. He had wanted his son to play football but this was much more fun.
I thought about the remarkable creativity of the leadership of the dance school; they engaged the interest of the entire family by involving the fathers in this manner. The fathers were clearly going to continue to support (in every way) their children's interest in dance.
This was one of the few times I resented that it was time to board my flight.
I wanted to hear more about this father's experience with dance.
It was so clear to me that he would never argue against the importance of the arts in his community, the need for arts funding, or that the arts were a luxury. The arts had become an integral part of his life and were something he and his son could share.
Perhaps instead of making speeches about the value of the arts we simply need to get more fathers dancing.