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    This dance is for Dad

    No distance is too great, no wait to long to see their little girls take the stage for a recital before Father's Day.

    By MELIA BOWIE, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 16, 2002


    TAMPA -- Sometimes, it seems as if Charles Jones has been waiting for his daughter, Briana, her entire life.

    When she was born four months premature, he stayed at the hospital, staring at the tubes helping her survive. She could fit into the palm of his hand then. Only 11/2 pounds.

    After a divorce, when his ex-wife moved Briana to Brandon, he spent the whole year in New Jersey waiting for summer, when he could take her back to Newark for vacations.

    So it was not unusual that the day before Father's Day was spent waiting for her.

    This time it was outside a dance recital at the Performing Arts Center in Tampa, where more than 200 students at Miss Victoria's School of Dance in Brandon performed before 900 friends and family members.

    Briana's performance lasted only a few minutes. Her dad stood inside the lobby for four hours, waiting for her moment to shine.

    "She's my world," said Jones, 40.

    Briana is 9 years old now. Every summer, when Jones flies down to pick her up, she is slightly changed. Bigger, smarter, "a little lady."

    Missing her growing up, he said, "that's tough."

    Jones flies to Florida for every recital. This year Briana was accepted into the dance school's elite Spectrum troupe. She is making straight A's.

    "Her mom's been a blessing," he said. "She's really great. With us being in different states, it's hard. But we're the best of friends; we have a common interest."

    At 6 p.m. the recital ended and scores of fathers with flowers crowded the lobby. Others flocked to the auditorium's side doors.

    The experienced parents hit the stairs where they could get a bird's-eye view.

    That's where grandfathers Tom Ewing of North Carolina and Arthur O'Connor of Atlanta waited for their granddaughter, Maegan Ewing, 11. Next to the grandparents stood their son and daughter, married with two children and living in Valrico.

    "Watching your children grow and have families of their own; it's rewarding," said Ewing, the father of two sons. "But there's a downside about having successful kids. They move away, get good jobs and don't come back to the nest."

    So the grandfathers traveled to Tampa on Saturday instead, unwilling to miss a round of recitals and reunions in their growing family.

    "That's all you've got in life is children," said O'Connor.

    For some dads, this Father's Day is reserved for golf, gifts or dinner. Charles Jones will be on a plane plane headed to New Jersey with his daughter.

    Computer consultant Ian Ware will be on another plane, headed away from his pregnant wife and 3-year-old daughter, Marissa, on business.

    That's okay, he said Saturday outside of the recital. He usually just sleeps in or has a big breakfast.

    Out of the corner of his eye, Ware watched his daughter dash by in a blur of silver glitter. A plush teddy bear named Princess of Genovia was clutched in one of her small hands, a cell phone with her grandfather on the line fixed in the other.

    This was the real Father's Day, he said as Marissa called out to him.

    He's a great dad, she said later, twisting from side to side in her pink tutu.

    The best thing about him: "He likes me."

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