Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Notes from a Dancer Mom: My Son's First Ballet Class

He dances all the time at home.  Not emulating pop stars (although he did ask, "Who is Beyoncé?" on the way home from school the other day).

Interesting creative movement with level changes, awareness of his arms and back, and use of space.  Movement that you would expect from the son of a modern dancer and dance teacher.

When the local dance studio, owned by a neighbor and a good friend of mine, offered a class that met our schedule, I was thrilled to sign Mr. R up.  I'd have my Billy Elliot!  He'd start out as some gangly awkward boy and wind up in New York City Ballet, or Ailey, or Broadway.  I would satisfy my career ambitions through him.  I'd stretch his feet and hips daily.  I'd coach him until he was out of my league. He'd be a STAH! (Fanning open jazz hands here.)

In accordance with traditional male ballet attire bought him three pairs of black biker shorts to accompany a white undershirt. He'd have to be in white socks, however.  Though a dreamer, I was not a moron.  I refused to spend $20 on black or white ballet slippers for an activity  he might very well loathe, especially when his sister would insist upon PINK slippers.  

We prepared emotionally and physically.  We galloped, i.e. chasséed, in the house.  We practiced arabesque.  We had animal-move dance parties.  With an expression so animated so as to make a Disney performer look like a cadaver, I'd get all up in his face and cry, "You have dance class in (insert number here) days!"

He was ready!

I picked him up early from school.  In the car, I gave him a snack and some water - couldn't have my little dancer with low energy!  We changed clothes in the studio bathroom.  I had the camera ready.  I felt nervous and proud!

Miss Julie invited the students and parents, the latter of whom were permitted to observe the first class, into the studio.  The girls began happily improvising to a children's ballet CD.  I put our things in the observation area.  But instead of joining the other students, my son clung to me like The Donald to the birther argument.

A friend, a little girl who had taken the class during the school year, came over and took R's hand.  He shook her off angrily.

Dang it to heck!

"What's wrong?" I asked. "You were so excited!"

R sat on my lap stonily. 

"Come on, sweetie. Please." Class began.  Miss Julie came to try to coax R into the opening circle.

He shook his head furiously and made his 30 pounds feel like 80 on my lap.

It was a very girlie situation, I had to admit.  R was the only boy surrounded by a sea of girls in pink leotards, tights and slippers.  "Are you upset because there are no boys?" I asked.

"There aren't any boys!" R growled.  I knew I had just given him the reason he needed to refuse.

Class looked great.  Despite the undeniable pinkness of everything, it was a typical ballet-based creative movement class.  Ballet vocabulary interspersed with age-appropriate imagery-based movement.  The girls were smiling and moving, while my mule of a son tried to bury himself in my lap.  I was becoming enraged. It was like the gods were using me as their personal soccer ball and relishing my pain.  How was it that I -- a dancer mom-- had the son whose first ballet class was a no-go?

I must have said "please" thirty times.  Seething, I tried to shove him off my lap, to no avail. I tried effusive narration (Bear walks! Wow!  YOU LOVE THOSE!). I wanted to drag him into the space like that poor kid in Sixteen Candles at the school dance.  I began to empathize with those crazy sports dads who feel shame for their sons' poor performance on the field.  I began promising him things -- Thomas figures, ice cream.

A pony.

I fucking promised the child A PONY.   I was ready to promise him a castle in the sky if he would just DANCE!!!!!!!!!

The girls began galloping across the floor.  With the deft grace of an experienced preschool ballet teacher, Miss Julie grabbed R off my lap and led him into his turn.

Everyone applauded! O, bliss! O, rapture!  HE WAS TAKING CLASS!

That was at 4:25.  Class was over at 4:30.  

After class, I gushed over him as though he had just won the Youth Grand Prix.  He left class thrilled about the action figures.  Thankfully, not the pony.  

That night, before bed, he showed his dad movement from the entire class, just to torment me.  

The next week, J brought him to class. He held Miss Julie's hand the whole time, but he did participate.  

Will he keep dancing?  We'll see.  I'd love it if he did, but as a dancer mom, would I be able to step back?  To avoid being the hover dancer mom?  

Maybe he should try something I know nothing about.  

Like fencing.


  1. So cute! Reading this post brings back so many childcare memories.

    1. Did you have to take many kids to their activities? What were your strategies?

  2. That was hilarious! A pony!!!!!

    I have resorted to similar tactics myself :)

    Can't wait to hear how the fencing went!

    1. Have you read the article about American kids being the most spoiled in the world? I am so happy to be doing my part... :)

  3. I am so glad you put your son in ballet. You already know the discipline it teaches but also encourages so much creativity. How cute you had to bribe him into participating!

    1. I would love for him to stay and to love it, but really as long as he finds something - a sport, art form, academic pursuit - he loves I will be thrilled!

  4. LOL, well at least he eventually got into it. We have had similar experiences with our son in various things. He gets all pumped up about it, and then when we get there he just doesn't want to do it. But I am glad to hear your son gave it a try and hopefully he enjoys it more. We are still finding something for our son to enjoy that he will actually try instead of being so shy when we get there. haha. This year he is old enough for soccer which he has wanted to play for a year now so maybe this will be it. lol. Good luck to you also!

    1. Thank you, Tori. R did stick it out and came to like it. Most of my friends agree that not having any other boys there couldn't have helped. I think gymnastics is his thing. On to the next activity, until they find love, right? Sounds like dating!

  5. I had trouble convincing my son to attend his ballet lessons at first, and like what you did, I also promised him something in return and I’m glad he finally said yes. At least now, we can spend our weekend more fun and memorable, especially that I’m a mompreneur , time management is really a must!


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