19 April 2010 Ballet Class

WW School of Dance

“Mom, why is my name up there?!”

“Because they really want you to try out this ballet class?”

Sam did her first ballet class at the Wendy Whatling School of Dance today. I just love the name. The combination of alliteration and the way the English pronounce the short vowel A in the last name makes it sound so… proper. We viewed a class several weeks ago and Sam was invited to join in now that Easter Hols are over and a new term is beginning.

“Hello, Sam! Are you excited to try the ballet class?”

“No.”

Well, at least my girl is honest. We’d been talking about this class for the past two weeks. Sam had loved watching it. She wanted to re enact the entire class with me when we got home after that first observation, especially the activity where the girls pretended to be wiggly worms: they wiggle up out of the ground and then when the teacher calls out “There’s a bird!” they have to hide. Sam ran around our flat for 30 minutes calling out “There’s a bird!” with perfect English intonation and a softer-than-a-cloud R. It seemed like the class had really captured her.

But when I’d told her that in subsequent sessions I wouldn’t be there with her in the classroom, she emphatically stated that she did not want to do ballet. Ever.

That was her position for two weeks solid until last night when I said, “What if they let me stay in the studio for the class? Will you give a try then?”

She thought about it.

“Yes, though I might want to do just the beginning, or maybe to the middle, or maybe to all the way to the end.”

Aha, I thought. She’ll do it.

And she did, though I did have to listen to her expound at length on the way to the dance studio about how she already knows ballet. “How did you learn it?” I asked. “From my ballerina card game.”

Then while we were waiting for the class to start she demonstrated the ballet positions she learned from the cards. “But I do some of it differently. I like to do my own ballet.”

At last the instructor called the girls into the studio, and I led Sam, now very quiet, into the room. The students were wearing sky-blue uniforms and pink ballet slippers. Sam had on a pink skirt, black leggings, and a t-shirt. Class began with each girl selecting a “Teddy” (no that’s not clothing, that’s the generic term in the UK for any plushie animal, be it a bear or a monkey or a cat) and then running with it on tiptoes to the far end of the room and placing it near the bar to act as the audience. Sam went last and selected a Winnie the Pooh. I was surprised that she was ready to join in. Sam is “slow to warm up” to new people and new situations, and sometimes the warming up never happens. But I guess bears really do trump all for Sam, even anxiety. She refused to hold the instructor’s hand, but she joined the circle and got right into the first exercise. Within a few minutes I was back out in the hallway, where I read the various dance school newsletters and kept one ear near the door, anxiously wondering if I’d be called back in because Sam refused to participate or because she told the teacher she was doing ballet all wrong and that she really should study the ballerina card game.

But I was never called back in. The door opened once. I jumped up ready to receive a crying, defiant girl, but no, it was someone else’s little girl who needed to “wee.”

When the 45 minutes were up, Sam came out, smiling and happy. We got our coats on and I was laying it on thick– the “I’m so proud of you for doing something that you were scared to do and I knew you could do it and aren’t you glad you tried it and what was your favorite part of the class and did you thank the teacher?”

And Sam was having none of it. She wanted to talk about the “Sam” sign next to the dance school sign and why was it there and let’s race back to the bus stop and then she wanted to call out the numbers of the buses that were coming our way, and when I finally got her to say something about the ballet class again she said, “I didn’t like the wiggly worms part.”

“No?!” I said. “But you kept wanting to play that at home.”

“Well,” she said. “It wasn’t much fun.”

“What was fun?”

“The skipping,” she said. “C’mon, Mommy, let me show you how fast my scooter can go!”

And she was off. Ballet class was over. Why was I still there? I had to run to catch up with her and even then I did only because she slowed to wait for me.

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