Friday, January 26, 2007

The Ballet Dilemma

I will admit to certain prejudices concerning ballet. When I was a teenager, I had barn boots on my feet and horses on my mind. I neither understood nor appreciated the ballerina mindset. So now that I have this very pink, very glitter, very ballerina-obsessed girl child, can I swallow my preconceptions and put her in a leotard?

Sadie is three. She spent her Christmas vacation in Wisconsin doing this:

What's happening in this picture? That's Sadie, in the pink, and Sydney, her cousin, in the lavender. They're wearing their ballerina dress-up clothes, provided by Grammy, and they're dancing along with the videos of Sydney's mom (Sadie's Aunt Terri) doing her dance recitals when she was a teen. They did this for hours. Wearing gloriously impractical sparkly shoes and copying all the moves they saw the kids do on TV.

Since then, Sadie has spent so much time in her ballerina costume that the tulle actually wore off. For her birthday, she got several more princess/ballerina/dancing/fairy costumes, which are all her "ballerina clothes" and she wears them daily. Her favorite movies are "Barbie in The Twelve Dancing Prinesses" and "Barbie in The Nutcracker." Getting her out of her leotard produces a noise that makes you think she's being eviscerated.

Can I still argue that she doesn't really want to learn ballet?

In my mind, and I fully accept that I am ignorant and prejudiced, signing her up for ballet is as good as asking for her to be melancholy and body-obsessed. In my mind, and yes I remember that she is three and I am being neurotic, she takes ballet and she's off the road that leads her to be a senator, and astrophysicist, an admiral, a heart surgeon -- WHATEVER.

So, I went looking for a ballet school. Looking for a ballet school was like looking for a karate school. I wanted somewhere between serious and ridiculous. The ridiculous school is the one that turns out ballet students like McDonald's hamburgers. Where they only want to enroll students, collect fees, roll them through the recitals, and pass them on to more classes, even if their moves look like old ladies fighting off bees. Serious is where the children walk around looking like they're sucking in their stomachs, the teachers shriek, "What's wrong with you today!" and anyone whose hair comes out of her bun gets to scrub the bathroom.Okay, I'm exaggerating on both ends, maybe, but you get my point. I visited schools. I was uninfatuated.

Then I found Art of Dance Academy on the internet and learned that Miss Monique is the art director there. Miss Monique taught Benny's dance class when he was at Preschool for the Arts, over in Virginia Beach. I had a feeling that if I went and put Sadie in Miss Monique's hands, that nothing bad would happen to her. And after our school visit, I was convinced. The "Dance Discovery" class that Sadie has joined is so delightful! They do half ballet and half tap, and it is all very sweet, light, fun, positive, and dear.

I wanted a place where Sadie could put on "ballerina clothes" and prance around with other girls. Where she wouldn't be criticized but also wouldn't be ignored. I don't know whether she'll stick with ballet or whether this ballerina phase will be outgrown, but I do feel good taking her to the Art of Dance AcademyArt of Dance Academy -- after getting her first ballet shoes from Miss Monique, Sadie gave her a big hug and said, "We best friends." Nice! Sadie never hugs anyone but Dan. Here they are after Sadie's first class on Thursday -- I think it's a great connection!

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