So You Think You Can Dance?
I don’t know if I’ve told this before but I’m very interested in the arts. I like them all, fine art, music, dance, literature, all of them. When we first had children my wife and I had a strong desire to expose the kids to as much of the arts as possible. And, early on, we noticed that they always liked dance. What toddler doesn’t like to dance. So, when they were five, we signed the triplets up for ballet classes at Riverside Ballet Arts.
For all of the jokes I make about living in Riverside California, the one shocker is that it has an extremely good ballet school. It’s nationally recognized and many of their students go on to very successful careers in dance.
Joseph and Michael immediately got attention because, well, they’re boys. You don’t get a lot of boys in the ballet classes. The ratio is about 20:1. There are many reasons for this, the main one is that ballet is still considered pretty much a female thing to do. When they have productions it’s pretty much a slam dunk that if you are a boy you will get a part.
Last year, when they were just starting “the Nutcracker” for their 2010 Christmas season, I was standing around holding my 3 year old, Matthew. He had just finished a toddler dance class when the director passed by on his way into rehearsal.
He looked at me and said, “We are going to start now, bring him in. ”
“He isn’t in the show,” I said.
“What?!” was the reply.
Another teacher, Miss Alex, came quickly forward and said, “He’s in the toddler class, he’s just three years old.”
The director looked at her, then me, then Matthew and after a moment said, “But he’s too cute! No, no, no, bring him in.”
And that’s how Matthew started his first ballet production. Like I said, it’s a lot easier for boys.
Now Rose likes ballet. She likes to watch the DVDs we have and watches the whole spectacle in awe. But, she’s also shy, a perfectionist and a girl. When she does anything, she wants it to be perfect. If it isn’t she gets upset. There are a lot of girls at the school and many started before she did so they are much better than her. She’s still too young to understand that in time she can catch up.
Last year she didn’t even audition for “The Nutcracker” because she was scared, intimidated by the whole process and there were so many girls she was sure she wouldn’t make it. Then, she broke her collar bone and that was that. This year, as the auditions approached, her anxiety level increased to the point where she insisted that she no longer liked ballet and wanted to quit.
I knew she was scared and I also didn’t want to be one of those parents that lives vicariously through their children. I just wanted her to give it a fair shot and not give up without really knowing what she was capable of. So I told her that if she tried out for the show and didn’t make it she could drop ballet. If she did make it, then after the show was done, if she still wanted to, she could drop ballet. If she liked it, she could stay in.
So, the auditions came and went, days passed and then we finally got four letters in the mail from the production. I had all four kids sit on the living room couch to hear the letters. I asked Rose if she wanted her letter read first.
“I want mine read last”, she said.
I opened Matthew’s and read, “Dear student, we are very proud to tell you that you have been accepted into this year’s blah, blah, etc…”
Matthew was in, then came Joseph, then Michael. They all made it. They were very happy. Rose was looking around the room trying not look interested but every time a letter was read and it came to the part where they were accepted or not, she looked out of the corner of her eye with interest. Then it was her turn.
I told her to sit up straight and look at me. I told her I wanted her to pay attention. So she sat and waited. I opened the envelop and read, “Dear student, we are very proud to tell you that you have been accepted into this year’s blah, blah, etc…”
Her jaw dropped and her eyes bugged out! The boys all smiled and looked kind of surprised. Then I noticed that her eyes were starting to water up.
“What’s the matter?”, I asked.
“I don’t know!”
“Aren’t you happy?”
She vigorously shook her head yes.
“Then why are you upset?”
“I didn’t think I would get picked. I didn’t think I was as good as the other girls!”
I got close to her, looked her in the eyes and said, “I don’t want to hear you say that ever again, because right now, there are a lot of girls reading their letters and they didn’t make it.”
Then her look changed from shock to one of WOW! And I knew, then and there, that she really understood what I had just said.
The next day she had ballet class and I peaked in the classroom to see her totally engrossed in what her teacher was saying, standing beautifully erect and all smiles.
I don’t know if she’ll still do ballet after the show is over, but I do know that she knows she can do it.