By Kris Kelly
CBS62/CW50 Community Affairs Manager

I’m a real dance mom, not one of those dressed-to-the-nines divas who create drama on reality TV.

Don’t get me wrong, during my dance mom days, I dealt with more than my share of drama – juggling schedules, petty fights that get blown into major wars, injuries, lost costume pieces, costly mistakes in routines during competition, and so on. I put in 22 years as the behind-the-scenes support system for two dance-obsessed daughters, so I do know what it’s like.

But what you don’t see on TV are the real reasons to become a dance mom. I’ve seen dance turn an excruciatingly shy child into a confident young woman. I’ve seen how it builds pride in accomplishments, both little and large. I’ve seen it become a safety zone away from school problems, a release for overwhelming emotions, and a way to express one’s self without saying a word. I’ve seen it create forever friendships and give purpose to a life.

Although I’m no longer in the dance studio every day, it will always hold a special place in my heart. That’s why I love the idea of the Dance in the Mitten Festival which takes place this Friday and Saturday at the Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti. The festival was founded by People Dancing of Ann Arbor in partnership with the Eastern Michigan University Department of Music and Dance and Riverside Arts Center.

The festival includes master classes for ages 13 and older in a variety of dance styles. But for those of us who are beyond our dance class days, there will be two concerts including an exciting line-up of Michigan artists. One name in particular stood out to me – Rachael Ahn Harbet – who is scheduled to perform Friday night. I’m sure Rachael doesn’t remember me, but I know her from my days as a Wayne State University dance mom. She was pretty amazing then and I’m sure she’s grown so much more as a dancer/choreographer.

Dancer/Choreographer Rachael Ahn Harbet.  "I am Guilty"  Photo Courtesy of Scott Lipiec

Dancer/Choreographer Rachael Ahn Harbet. “I am Guilty” Photo Courtesy of Scott Lipiec

This would be a great weekend to expand your horizons and discover how dance is “Connecting Hearts through the Arts.” That’s the motto of People Dancing and it’s exactly what dance is all about. Forget everything you learned about dance on reality TV. This is the real world.

For more information on Dance in the Mitten, visit

Check out their trailer:

Dance in the Mitten Trailer from Christina Sears-Etter on Vimeo.


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