Confessions of a Dance Mom

11 December 2014

Confessions of a Dance Mom
by Alison R. Montgomery
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$16.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-28-7

Saskatonian Alison R. Montgomery recently published Confessions of a Dance Mom, and simply put, I love this book. From the outside, it’s an honest, naturally-voiced retrospective of the author’s son’s journey from a child with an interest in dance to his employment with the prestigious Stuttgarter Ballett. But it’s much more. It’s a compelling story about family, and a strong treatise on dedication, pride, loss, and letting go.

Maternal love is at the heart of this beautifully designed and well-written testimony. Interesting, then, that my out-of-province daughter was visiting days before I began this book. She saw it on my desk, and said: “Alison was one of my high school teachers.”

Of course. I hadn’t made the connection, but then I also remembered Montgomery, and my daughter and I recalled the tragic loss of her elder son, who died at 24 while mountain-climbing in BC. This is important, because that early loss forms the bass-line in this story: a mother fully supports her now only child’s rise from Brenda’s School of Baton and Dance in Saskatoon to Canada’s Royal Ballet School in Winnipeg as a young teen, and then to Stuttgart. While technology like Skype makes the separation easier, Montgomery’s protective instinct is fierce for good reason, yet she selflessly accepts that for her son to be the best dancer he can be, she’ll have to “lose” him, too.

The book begins with a Foreword by Mongtomery’s son, Jesse Fraser, who continues to dance professionally in Germany. He writes: “My journey to Stuttgart was not a straight line,” and states that “the preparation part would not have been possible without the unwavering support and encouragement I received from my parents-especially my dance mom!”

Each short chapter that follows is framed as a numbered “Confession” by the author, and includes telling anecdotes. In “Confession #4: I only watch my kid,” Montgomery says that she had “no idea what was happening anywhere else on stage,” and “it took me years to begin to tell the girls apart” due to their similar hairstyles, make-up, and costumes, and their sheer numbers compared to the males.

The author loved to watch her son in class, rehearsals and performances, and often travelled to Winnipeg, and eventually to Europe, to continue supporting him in every way. At one point while Jesse was in Winnipeg-and eating solely at the school cafeteria-she noticed he’d lost weight, so she contacted the dean of residence about the quality of the food, which thankfully improved with a new chef. She was also so committed, when she learned he was moving to Europe-where “the arts in general, and ballet especially, were much more revered, respected and funded”-she began studying German!

The best writing here concerns the author’s acute and complimentary observations of Stuttgart. Although the book’s subjects “missed out on a lot of family time over the years,” this satisfying story demonstrates that passions should be acted upon, because life-as Montgomery well knows-is short, and as “Confession #30” affirms: “Family is everything.”


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