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Even Ballerinas Need a Hug

The day my three-year-old daughter was asked to leave ballet class I thought I would die of embarrassment. Sure, she and her twin sister had stirred up some trouble in toddler soccer class. It seemed the "coach" didn't appreciate them turning the goal net into a spaceship, much to the delight of the other kids, but not to the other parents. However, ballet was supposed to be the thing my daughters would naturally gravitate towards. Not because they were innately graceful - they weren't - or in love with tutus and princesses - they didn't care - but because I had spent the vast majority of my childhood as a dancer.

The first time Ms. Audrey, the ballet teacher, brought my daughter into the waiting area, she very nicely explained that my daughter told her she didn’t really feel like participating. So the two of us just sat outside the class until she got bored enough to go back in. 

A week later at the second lesson, my daughter spent most of the class underneath the piano, feeling the vibrations that the strings were making, and told the teacher she wanted to figure out how the sound came out.  Needless to say, there wasn’t much dancing to be done that day.

The third class was an all out rebellion.  According to Ms. Audrey, my daughter danced when she felt like it, questioned the teacher’s choice in music, and created a veritable conga line at one point, upending the entire plan for the class. Hence the request to remove my daughter from ballet class altogether. 

All of the other little girls followed the teacher without hesitation – or at least they tried. They pointed and flexed their feet, made giant suns with their arms stretched overhead, and waited their turn to leap across the floor.  Was I proud of my daughter that she was such a non-conformist, literally marching to the beat of her own drum? I am ashamed to admit, I was not.

In that moment when the teacher brought my sullen daughter into the waiting area filled with the other moms and babysitters – all of whom had witnessed my daughters’ previous exiles  I was disappointed. I couldn’t wrap my head around why my daughter just wouldn’t do what was expected, just be like the other 3-year old little ballerinas, yet again. And, of course, I wondered where I had gone wrong.

My daughter climbed into my lap clad in her pastel pink leotard and tights with a giant pink tutu splayed out around her, and snuggled in deep as I wrapped my arms around her in a tulle-filled hug.

“Is there a reason you won’t listen to Ms. Audrey?” I asked her.

“That’s not how I like to dance,” she said.

“OK,” I responded, “but that’s what ballet is. You have to learn the real steps so you can put them together to make one long beautiful ballet.”

I could see her process this idea in her mind. 

She squeezed me tighter.

“I’d rather be out here with you,” she said. Then she looked up at me thoughtfully, “Maybe when I’m six I’ll try again.”

“Sounds like a plan.” I agreed.

Though secretly I hoped that no matter how old she got, she would keep dancing in her own unique way – and coming back to me for a reassuring hug.

Image : Getty

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