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Girl Goes To A Ballet Class

With both a mommy and a grandma who were professional dancers, Maddie would have been hard-pressed to avoid exposure to dance in her life. But I’ve been very careful to not push her too much in any direction, just wanting to see if she’d be interested in ballet at all. A few months ago when she began her self-flagellation kick, she’d put on one of her tutus and mope around to Mozart, saying, “I’m not very good at ballet. I don’t know any steps. I don’t look like you do when you dance.”

I tried to explain to Maddie that no one is born knowing a skill, and that everyone has to study, and that Mommy worked very hard to look the way I do when I dance. I told her she wasn’t a bad dancer, just an untrained one, and there was still joy to be found in watching her dance. And I promised her that when she was old enough, she could take ballet class herself.

All summer she’s been counting down the days until ballet class started; last week we went to the studio and met her teacher, examining all the different practice rooms and checking out the dressing room. Since then she ran through a daily countdown to the Big Ballet Day, and finally yesterday, it arrived.

dsc04364.jpgWe’d warned Maddie that ballet class wouldn’t happen right after she got up, and she (barely) restrained herself through lunchtime. When I said it was time to get dressed, she flew up the stairs, holding miraculously still for her tights and leotard and cover-up. We arrived at the studio a full fifteen minutes early, and Maddie sat bouncing with impatience as she waited for her teacher to arrive.

This whole summer I’ve been worried ballet class would turn out to be another swim class; she’s built ballet class up in her head to be this amazing thing and I’ve been afraid she’d balk when the time came, crying or refusing to do it and regretting for a long time after. I needn’t have worried, though, because she lit up when she walked into the studio and didn’t stop smiling until class was over.

I think part of the reason she had so much fun was that there was only one other girl in her class, who freaked out and had to leave halfway through, thus giving Maddie a private lesson. But mostly that kid loves to dance, and loves music. Thanks to her swim lessons Maddie was ready to listen to a teacher and follow instruction, and I was astonished at how much she learned and was able to do in one class.

My favorite part of the class, I think (other than the two minutes she spent earnestly telling the teacher all about how she pees in the potty now) was at the end, when Maddie insisted on learning a bit more. The whole class she’d been casting a longing eye at the barre on the wall, but the teacher had kept her in the center doing creative things. Finally, Maddie said, “Are we going to use the barre? I need to practice my plies.”

Nonplussed, the teacher said, “Oh, um, ok, we can do that,” and walked over to show Maddie a couple things. She put Maddie through a few simple steps, showing her plie and releve and arabesque, helping arrange Maddie into the right position. Madeleine would nod solemnly and repeat the word after the teacher, clearly memorizing everything. Then she did her curtsey, and the class was over.

As Maddie got dressed, she begged me to let her go back to class the next day and I had to break the news to a three-year-old that she’ll only get to take once a week. Maddie accepted this, realizing she can use Mommy and Gamma as substitutes on the other days. So I was pretty sure that she’d had a good time, but I had to be certain as we got in the car.

“Honey, did you enjoy your ballet class?”

“Yes, I did. You know what mom? I learned a lot of steps today. So now I’m a very good dancer.” And Maddie sat back with a satisfied smile on her face.

Being a crazy mommy, I of course videotaped a bit of her class, so if you want first peek at a future prima ballerina, click below.


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