take a bow.

We are backstage.

Feathers and sequins are strewn about the halls.

Tap shoes clicking on the worn floors. Soft ballet slippers making small scuffing sounds as dancers run by.

Squeals and laughter echoing from dressing rooms. An occasional Disney princess stops to say hello.

Ava’s eyes grow big and she asks Belle, “Where is the Beast?” The teen who is portraying Belle is sweet and answers, “He is at home taking a nap.” Ava nods knowingly, as she agrees he should be home sleeping.

This Belle is wearing braces, but both Ava and Mia really believe she is the real thing.

This show is called “Wishes” and is heavily vested in a Disney theme.

Ava is wearing a Mickey Mouse costume. Red and white polka dot skirt, puffy with tulle. A red bow attached to a simple black bodice. Shiny black tap shoes with ribbon ties.

It’s show time and I am about to leave my little girl backstage with her teacher and fellow dancers.

Ava is excited and confident. Busy chatting with her peers.

She’s growing up, I think, and a sweet sadness washes over me.

I make my way back to my seat where my youngest daughter is waiting with her dad and grandparents.

She sits on my lap. I give her a squeeze. She clutches her blanket and I clutch her.

The curtain goes up, spotlights shine, and the show begins.

She only has one dance, but must be on stage for the opening and finale sets.

There are 52 numbers in this recital. Yes, 52.

Three and half hours of choreographed chaos.

Yet, I am thrilled to be here.

The opening number begins. The curtain rises and she walks out hand in hand with the other dancers.

Little girls blowing kisses to the crowd.

Ava gives a little wave, not because she can see us, but to let us know she’s happy we’re here.

They leave the stage and it’s time to wait. Time to watch all the other kids dance. Her performance is eighth on the playbill tonight.

So, I wait. Mia keeps me company by continually asking “Where’s Ava? Where’s Ava?”

Finally, it’s her turn and the stage goes dark. The spotlights click on and the crowd gives a simultaneous “AWWWWW!”

There are three little girls standing on an enormous stage, holding hands. I catch my breath.

The music queues up, and they just stand there for a few seconds. Overwhelmed by it all.

Quickly, they realize it’s time to dance and the girls jump into their routine with great enthusiasm. Looking slightly to right where they can see their teacher doing the choreography off stage.

They are a bit unsure about the steps, but remember enough to show off what they learned in class.

Mia keeps yelling “It’s Ava! It’s Ava! IT’S AVA!” Making sure everyone knows it’s her sister on stage. Giving all the support her two-year old voice can muster.

Tap, tap, tap. Focused concentration on getting the steps right. Simply, priceless.

The song ends and they march off stage.

The crowd erupts in applause, showing their support for the company’s tiniest dancers.

I leave my seat and return backstage to retrieve my daughter.

I am so proud of her.

She comes off stage and runs to me, exhilarated and smiling. She jumps into my arms, thrilled with her accomplishment.

Another tiny tap towards independence.

The show goes on for another three hours. Yes, three hours of tapping, twirling, ballet, leaping, and singing.

It’s 10:30 before she goes back on stage for the finale. Sleepy eyes and yawning. She has never been up this late before.

She has just enough energy to clap along with the closing song.

Ava takes a bow. A rush of dancers appear on stage and she disappears into the crowd.

The curtain falls.

Time for this tiny dancer to go to bed.

Photos are enclosed below.

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