Monday, June 14, 2010

Suburbs of Our Discontent

Lady: Madam, we'll dance.
Queen: My legs can keep no measure in delight,
When my poor heart no measure keeps in grief:
Therefore, no dancing, girl; some other sport. (Richard II 3.4.7-10)

This weekend I had the great pleasure of attending my first ever “tot ballet” recital (a.k.a. “The Annual Spring Concert").

Let me start by saying that ballet culture makes me deeply uncomfortable. Maybe I was just traumatized by watching The Turning Point when I was eight. Or maybe it’s because I don’t have the lithe body suitable for la danse, and I’m just really jealous.

Nothing could have prepared me for this event, and I was ready for the worst. After they made us attend two dress rehearsals. After they made my 3-year-old daughter and her little friend look like French poodles. After they scheduled the event to start at 7:00 pm on a Sunday night. After they charged us $18 a ticket. Even after all that, it got worse.

This was the kind of event where every single kid enrolled at the dance school participates. That includes the teenagers who gyrate to Ke$ha and a morose group of girls who reenacted a suicide-by-hanging as part of their dance number.

Then it was time for the tots to come out. For approximately six minutes they pranced around, each to their own beat. The teachers on stage unsuccessfully tried to herd them into formation, but alas it was not to be. Some kids lost shoes; others actually wandered off the stage. But it was OK because they were all in it together.

Until the “Li’l Rising Star Award,” that is.

Evidently there was a competition between the 3-year-old danseurs of which we, the parents, were unaware. The girls were told to sit on stage, and then the Director of the Dance Academy spent a couple of minutes explaining how ONE child had shined SO brightly, even more brightly than the other sparkly children, that she had won their annual award. As a result of this quality, “she is going to go FAR!” As the three year olds looked on (and picked their noses and sucked on their tutus), the Li’l Rising Star trophy was bestowed upon little Sophie who had no idea what the hell was going on, even after the Director said repeatedly “Sophie, it’s a trophy for you! Look, Sophie, look!” That's when another little girl started to cry.

How is this shit still happening in the world? Why is it that hundreds, maybe thousands, of people have written eloquent books about how children are being too competitive too soon, and yet no one has taken this Director (and others like her) aside and given her a good shake?

1 comment:

  1. Oy. Having danced seriously from about 7 to 18 (thank GOD I dislocated my kneecap two weeks before my high school graduation!), all I can say is that Sophie's parents should watch out for suggestions that she "firm up" a little, because - let's face it - that sway-backed, pot-bellied pre-school look will never fly with ABT, am I right?! I mean, how badly do you WANT THIS, SOPHIE?! This is the stuff that makes me grateful I had all boys.