Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ballet Shoes

Geekygirl got the ballet bug from watching those oddly addictive antipodean entertainers "The Wiggles". The Wiggles were not actually doing ballet, that would be weird. In the scene on our DVD, "Dorothy the dinosaur" galumphs about in a tutu, some pretty ballerinas dance, and two of "The Wiggles", clad in feathered angel wings, accompany their dancing on violins. Which is pretty weird, I suppose, but at least they are not terrifying us in tutus!

Whenever we watch this DVD, Geekygirl rummages through her closet to find the closest approximation to a ballet tutu, leggings and a frilled T shirt, then pirouettes about the living room saying "Mummy, look at my ballet dancing".

I discovered from our wonderful neighbourhood email group that a local dance studio had started to do drop in "pre ballet" classes for 3-5 year olds. Until now, I had been ambivalent about organized activities for Geekygirl on the weekends. After all, weekends are our time to be together, since she is at preschool from 8-5 Monday to Friday while we work. Many of the classes one can take on weekends also require making an eight week commitment to be there every Saturday, and since we like to go up to the mountains on alternate weekends, this type of commitment doesn't really work for us. I was hoping we had a few years before our weekend schedule is dictated by the children's activities, though I fully expect that before long we will be slaves to soccer matches, ballet recitals, karate competitions and piano lessons. This will be true karma, a well deserved payback for my teen years, every other weekend of which my parents woke at the crack of dawn, hitched a tatty and extremely heavy horse trailer to our Peugeot estate car and dragged our recalcitrant ponies around the soggy Buckinghamshire countryside.

The convenience of this class, and Geekygirl's ballet obsession, trumped my excuses, and a few weeks back we set off for class. I had called in advance to find out what would be appropriate attire, since I knew that it wasn't one of these super formal affairs where the kids have to buy matching kit, and was told that most of the kids wore ballet leotards and ballet slippers, but that she would be fine in regular clothes and bare feet. I thought I had prepared Geekygirl for the fact that most of the other children would be in ballet outfits, but that she could wear one of the outfits she pretends to do ballet in at home, and that if she liked the class we would get her proper ballet clothes.

However when we arrived at the class the sight of all the other little girls in various types and colors of leotards (mainly pink!), she became distraught. "Where is my ballet outfit Mamma? Where are my ballet shoes?. This is not a proper ballet outfit". Confronted with this display of chiffon and sequins she tugged at her own outfit, chosen carefully and with delight just ten minutes earlier, and clung to me in tears. She seemed to expect that there was an outfit there for her somewhere, but when she realized that was not the case she would not stay at class.

I had planned for a nice grown up coffee and chat with another mum who's daughter was in the class, in fact reaquainting with other parents and kids in the nieghbourhood has been a pleasant side effect of the class, I made several friends on my maternity leaves but have since lost touch, and there they all were, babies magically turned into three year old ballerinas just like Geekygirl!

Instead, I brought Geekygirl along with us to Starbucks for a scone and a chocolate milk. We did at least get a nice mum daughter morning. I felt so sad for her, and was kicking myself for not realizing how she would feel, being one of the only kids without a ballet outfit. After all, one of the main points of ballet class when you are three is getting to wear an ballerina costume!

One lunchtime trip to target later Geekygirl was in possession of a sweet little pink ballet outfit. Class was canceled a couple of times, and trips to tahoe took us out of town, so by the time she actually wore it to class, it was already stained and well washed, having been worn almost every day and taken to every show and tell since it was gratifyingly and enthusiastically received. Appropriately attired, she skipped into class, and sat in the circle with the other kids, not giving me a second glance as I strode away for my coffee.

Parents are not supposed to stay, but we sneak up for the last few minutes and watch the kids through the window of the studio. Geekygirl looked so thrilled, skipping around to the music with a big smile on her face, and watching herself in the mirror, pleased with her own fairy like appearance. It seems odd to me that childhood ballet is such a rite of passage for little girls (and some boys, there was one in class today), since classical dance is a very specialized art form, and very few will end up taking it seriously. My sister and I did ballet, modern dance and tap when we were kids and I think I managed to fail every single one of the exams we we put in for, though we enjoyed the classes anyway. The modern parent in me wonders if we would be better off with martial arts, gymnastics, soccer or softball, but for want of energy and time to look into other sources of extracurricular enrichment, we will roll down the hill to ballet on Sundays, along with all the other little girls in the neighbourhood.

What about you, will you succumb to "gender stereotyping" and send your little girls to ballet? What about your little boys? (my son will certainly get the option to go when he is old enough, though I'm not sure if I will go so far as to dress him in sisters hand me down tutus!)


septembermom said...

My little girl wants to "do ballet". She is on the shy side so I need find just the right class for her. I was more of a tomboy so it's funny to have a girl wanting a tutu.

Adorable picture!

followthatdog said...

The boys have just started Karate. Interestingly enough, the class is split equally between girls and boys. I'm thrilled by this. They do not yet have the official karate outfits. At this school they have to earn them by coming to class and listening to the instructor. There has already been much discussion of how long it will take to earn them.
And I love that photo. She's a cutie.
For the record, if Django or Ansel wanted to do ballet, I'd let them. That goes for any class really. But like you, I did my best to hold off on weekend classes as long as possible. I like the flexibility of open weekends, looks that that is now gone for us too.

Iota said...

My daughter's interest in dancing was also sparked by The Wiggles, but it was one particular song ('Spin, Henry, Spin, Spin, You'll never spin alone' - I can hear it now in my head) and she used to change into stripey shorts to dance along to it, since that was what all the characters were wearing.

She has subsequently done ballet and gymnastics - kept the gymnastics up, but dropped ballet. Gymnastics is pretty girl-dominated too, though. My son tried it for a while, but there were only 2 boys in a class of a dozen or more girls.

A Modern Mother said...

Absolutely! We have a dress up box that has loads of ballet clothes (remember my girls are a bit older than your daughter). I did exactly what you did with our first, but sometimes I think the attraction of ballet is the little pink outfits.

erin said...

both my girls have been in ballet since they were 18 months. why? because mommy was a ballerina for some years (you know... before leotards stopped stretching over my hips!). my eldest also plays the viola-- why? because mommy played (and really, because i can help with the practicing). my girls also play tball and tennis and basketball and soccer. (btw, i'd love for fi to take a martial art, but they require SO MUCH commitment around here, and frankly, i'm a commitment phobe--don't tell my husband.)
as soon as the girls discover what they really love and want to focus on (including instruments), i am all for it. until then, i consider myself a guide.

erin said...

p.s. i can't stand how gorgeous geeky girl is. wow!

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