Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dancing Girls #1

No, not that kind of "dancing girls"! Give yourself a little smack on the head from me! It's just that in reading over my last few posts, I realized that I've inadvertently given you the wrong idea about Maggie -- that she's simply all brains. And nothing could be further from the truth. She is also blonde ponytail bouncing, and blue eyes, and terrific hugs, and, along with her three sisters, one of my dancing girls. (See?!)

When Arwen was a preschooler, lots of our friends were signing their kids up for gymnastics. It was a fun activity, and Arwen might have loved it, but as we looked at the older girls we knew who were involved, it became quite clear; this was not for us. The minute a kid was even slightly past the beginner stage, there were gymnanastics meets -- on Sunday. Sometimes every Sunday for weeks on end. And although we're not legalistic about Sunday (we might buy a few urgent school supplies, or go to a movie, or eat out), we believe that something that regularly comes before church and family stuff is probably not a good idea.

A couple of my husband's sisters had really enjoyed and benefited from ballet lessons when they were younger. One of them managed to avoid hip surgery that way! And I had gone through a period of reading ballet stories avidly; there was never a chance of my taking lessons, since there were no schools in the area while I was growing up. But there was a dancing school almost right around the corner from us now -- two blocks down and three over. So we signed Arwen up for beginner ballet. Rosie followed her the next year, and Maggie two years after that.

By this time, we were starting to learn that we had been lucky, or blessed, in our choice of a dancing school. Some schools, we found, focus heavily on technique. Some focus on competitive teams (more about that later). And some, like the one we found, center on learning some dance and having fun doing it. Our girls (Katie joined in when she was old enough) all thrived there.

I said that we signed Arwen up for ballet. There were lots of other options: tap (the old-fashioned chorus-line kind), jazz, lyrical, even jazznastics and baton twirling. But ballet is the basis for lots of the others, and we already knew that with the large family we were planning, budget was going to be a consideration. So we had a whole flock of baby ballerinas. (And we still have the costumes to prove it!)

Another thing that we learned about dancing schools is that (something like non-denominational churches), they are constantly in transition. An owner decides that she's tired of running the school, but she still wants to teach. Another owner buys the up-for-sale school, and discovers that the teachers at the new school don't like her style or focus. The aforesaid teachers pool their resources and buy out the new owner. The school grows, and has to move to bigger quarters. One of the co-owners gets a too-good-to-pass-up offer to teach at a rival school with a different focus, that wants to add her specialty. Two teachers with a different specialty leave THAT school and come to this one. And so forth. All of this, and more, actually happened in the 20 years we had girls in dance, from the time Arwen was four to the end of Katie's sophomore year in high school.

Arwen, Rosie, and Maggie were all very good at ballet. Katie, when she was smaller, not so much. She has a different approach to life, and after two years pleaded with us to switch her to jazznastics, which was bouncier. Meanwhile, Rosie and Arwen were growing and progressing, and with a sigh, we added pointe to the classes we would pay for. What mother doesn't want to see her daughter in toe shoes? We also broke down enough to suggest that they could take tap, if they managed to pay for it themselves.

At the end of Arwen's sophomore year in high school, she decided that ballet was lower on her priority totem pole than some of her other activities. This choice was encouraged by the fact that "our" dancing school was undergoing another of those changes. And we had already given in to Rosie's request that we let her take tap instead of ballet, a decision fueled by the fact that there were no other ballet students of her skill level in her age group. But Maggie wanted to dance!

Maggie was already taking ballet and pointe, and there was the "Junior Ballet Troupe" (really lyrical) that was free except for the costume if you were taking other lessons. (She had taught herself basic tap from watching other people's lessons while waiting around at the school during her sisters' lessons.) Somehow Rosie talked us into letting her have lyrical as well, since we weren't paying for pointe because she was no longer taking ballet. And suddenly this dance thing was growing out of hand.

So Rosie took two classes a year until she graduated from high school. Katie had switched to tap by this time. And Maggie, who had just finished her freshman year, wanted more. I believe she talked us into one extra class (tap?) because our total bill would be less than it was the year before, since Rosie was now off to college. Whichever class it was, she did really well. Well enough that at the end-of-year recital she was awarded the dancing school's yearly scholarship.

Once again I need to stop here, or nobody will get dinner! See you here tomorrow.


Jen said...

I always wish I took ballet when I was growing up! I moved too much to really stick with one activity. I am thinking about taking it as an adult. There is a ballet school near my house that offers an adult class.

Lindsay said...

Ballet is always something I wish I could have done. I could take it through my school, but I am so incredibly busy. I definitely do not have the time.