18 March, 2013

Tiny Dancer

While the dancers at my daughter's ballet school completely dislike it, the parents love Observation Day. it is the one day, each semester, when we are invited into the classroom to watch.

In my house, this day is a mixed blessing. While I love going to watch and my daughter loves having me there, it is difficult for both of us as I struggle to identify which dancer is her and she works to accept the reality of my not being able to really see her in action. Sometimes I am able to find her through gestures; other years I have found her due to size. She usually tries to tell me where to sit and where she will be, but the past few times, she has been moved the day of the observation. For the last few years, this evening has ended in tears - hers and mine - as we work to come to terms with the situation.

This year she tried to make it work. They thought that they would be in the small studio; she had been moved to the front row; it was all going to work.

When I arrived, they changed the studio and they changed the line. I again found myself having to be the detective straining my limited vision to determine which dancer shared my heart out of a group of teen aged girls all about the same height, coloring, and weight.
When the class ended, I dreaded having to tell her that I tried to find her but wasn't sure that I did. But rather than focus on the girl in front of me, who I knew wasn't her, I focused on the wisp of a dancer in the front corner. I figured I had broken her heart once again. Another year where I would vow not to return to another observation as she wanted someone to "see" her with more than their heart.

She gave me the biggest hug - That was me!

She thought I would watch the girl directly in front of me as that girl was easiest to see - so she was surprised that it was the tiny one in the corner that had my attention.

"Why did you look at me?"

My daughter has seen herself dance in videos, but I don't think she understands the energy that draws the eye to her. When I scanned the dancers yesterday, she caught my attention because she looked so much wispier than the rest (She is actually one of the taller girls and has a dancer's body, through and through so there isn't much wispiness about her). I was drawn to her energy. i was drawn to her size. It was also that music seemed to, at point be a part of her rather than her dancing to it. For a child who, six months ago, was more "jerky" than not, there was a bit of grace and personal style to her yesterday evening that I had previously not seen.

I didn't, at any point, have certainty that she was my daughter. There were moments when I wondered, but I was never sure enough to say, even with any certainty, that is her. Is it possible that my lack of certainty as to it being her made her feel that much better because I "chose" to watch that dancer over the others?

Several of the dancers wear shirts that state, "If Football were any easier, it would be called Ballet." Ballet is not a contact sport. It like so many forms of art, is a continual lesson in self confidence and discovery as the dancers move through periods of confidence, insecurity, awareness, and finding a means of performing and expressing themselves. For the past 11 seasons, I have watched students learn to dance. Although I am not able to see the details of the positions, I have a sense of the dancer in a more "whole" way. It is the maturity that comes with time, the natural ability to perform, and the movement from rote repetition of movement to dancing with the infusion of personality.

Tears once filled my eyes when my daughter took the stage. "That's my little girl." Now I sit on pins and needles, energy flowing through my veins. "that dancer with the fast footwork and the huge smile - she's with me." "That dancer gaining a reputation as easy to lift and a confident partner... Yes, she's mine."

The dancers i watched yesterday, the wisp in the corner included, have come a long way in the last few months - they have a long way yet to go. My daughter, being the youngest in the class, is like most of the others, she doesn't know where dancing falls in her future - she is just loving it today. For her, the past few months have been about maturing in technique and in the knowledge of the movements of her body; but, she has also learned to be confident in her peers knowing that she is a student of ballet - a dancer. In a society that loves sending their little girls to wear pink tutus and encourages the idea of the ballerina as grace and beauty, I have always found it interesting that those who study the art often don't share this part of themselves with many of their peers. That is, however, likely another post! For now, this is about a tiny dancer who is working on her technique and who is delighting those who watch with her energy, her personal touch, and her amazing smile.


Lesley said...

Aw. I love it. Of course I don't know this completely, not being a parent yet, but I think it must just be a series of long-term and short-term investments, deciding which to pick when, what battles to fight and when. Sometimes a long-term payoff, sometimes short. How wonderful that on this day, you got both.

Wolf Pascoe said...

Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

W. B. Yeats, from "Among the Schoolchildren"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi TE .. so pleased you were able to feel her energy, and 'see' the radiance around her ...

I'm so pleased for you ... your words describe so much as you set the scene, and we can picture the tall elegant girl dancing her heart out for herself and her mother ..

Beautiful .. cheers Hilary

The Exception said...

Lesley - Yes it was a wonderful, win/win for that moment on that day. Precious moments to cherish.

Wolf - Love the poem - the last line was so fitting as there are times when she is the dance as there are times when she is the flight inspired by the butterflies. It is magic when that happens.

Hilary - I love being a parent in every sense of the word - even when the moments are tough. There are moments of magic... and when she realized that I was watching her, it was magic!