Tot number, first practice, 5 weeks out: Everyone is there, everyone is happy, everyone skates. However, the designated choreographer for the group doesn't come. By default, I am now the head coach on this number.
Second practice, 4 weeks out: 3-year-old V falls and bumps his head. He gets off the ice, but now sister is also upset and doesn't want to skate without him. 3-yr-old G won't move. One of the dads manages to antagonze every coach in the rink.
Third practice, 3 weeks out. S has her own skates, but mom bought them 2 sizes too big, "so she can grow into them." This is a common phrase that strikes fear into a skating coach's heart. V is refusing to skate. L decides he's done. Forever! V finally gets on the ice, but only if he can sit in my lap and push the Play button on the CD player. G still can't move, but she doesn't want to hold anyone's hand. M is 5 times faster than everyone else, but can't stop and can't stay on her feet, although she doesn't seem to mind crashing periodically, so that's good.
Fourth practice, 2 weeks out. L has the mother of all temper tantrums, but does eventually get on the ice. V is at grandma's, so I only have to juggle one super-reluctant skater. Y is wearing a jacket at least 4 sizes too big for her and can't move.
Fifth practice, 1 week out. First time on the main rink. Only 3 kids show up. This does not bode well.
Preliminary run-through. L screams all the way across the ice.
Dress rehearsal. Soloist has managed to arrange being exactly where the kids are throughout the entire number, including a camel spin right at their entrance. Parents are freaking out. I have to yell at them, and then apologize while making it clear that they are in the wrong. It's like tightrope walking over the Grand Canyon. Tape has to be stopped, because there is no way this group is going to make it all the way across in the time allotted. Stopping the tape is the cardinal sin.
First performance, school matinee. V, who has barely tolerated rehearsal, takes off and does a happy little solo in the middle of the rink. Unfortunately, nobody else makes it past the first hockey circle, except M, who has skated straight into the soloist. Everyone still on the ice with the high freestyle group bearing down at warp speed. I race back out to pick up M, who turns out to be packed with lead, and is furthermore apparently glued to the ice.
Remaining performances. I have figured out to have the top freestyle girls come out onto the ice and literally scoop them up, so they get off in time. V, miraculously, is still doing his happy dance. L is carrying a stuffed dinosaur. Three girls make it all the way to the middle on their own and with the music, and get to do the actual choreography, which we had by this time forgotten we had. S gives me a flower. Group hugs all around.
For the spring show, I'm choreographing the adults.