For the past few weeks, I have been taking my granddaughter, Lizzie to her dance class while her mom is taking some paralegal classes. Lizzie, who is almost six years old – is learning ballet and tap dancing. So, every Tuesday, we have the same ritual – we walk into the studio waiting area, we look at the board to see which shoes she needs (which she is now reading all by herself!) , Lizzie puts on her shoes and then takes her dance bag and coat into the studio. As Lizzie walks into the studio, she always gives me a kiss and a hug, and I always tell her to dance with joy. Then Lizzie skips into class.
After class, we reverse the order of things and I start by asking her –
“Did you Dance with Joy?”
“Of course, Grandma!”
We then pack up and leave. This has gone on for a few weeks – and then it was time for her dance recital.
Dance recitals do funny things to people – I’m sure it is the pressure of performing in front of all of those people, the possibility of a misstep, the possibility that people will laugh – and I’m not talking about the kids! Parents are just plain nuts at dance recitals. They get all tense as their little one takes the stage. They make snarky remarks about the kid next to their kid who is out of step or doesn’t look ‘quite right’. They make rude remarks about the mothers of the children who don’t ‘measure up’. They clap at the end of the performance – but not for all of the children – usually just for their own darling dancer. When you talk trash about other parents and other children, you naturally assume that people are saying the same things about you and your abilities to parent the next dance genius – so the parents don’t really talk to each other at these events – they just glare at those they feel are ‘unworthy’. There are even mothers who cry when their children don’t perform up to their standards – and of course, you have the truly crazy ones who tell their children (in front of everyone) how disappointed they were in their performance.
So – it is no wonder that the children feel this inordinate pressure to do well on the stage. There is very little smiling or joy to be seen among the older dancers – and if you look real close, you may even see a hint of terror and fear of failure.
Somewhere along the line, parents have forgotten why children dance. They don’t need lessons or fancy costumes or bouquets of flowers. It’s something every child is born with and what every adult has lost somewhere along the way. It doesn’t matter how you dance or if you are in-step with everyone else or if you impress everyone in the crowd. When I see a group of children dancing, I watch for JOY. That’s what makes me smile and feel happy on the inside. I love seeing a little one dancing to her own tune in her head rather than the one the rest of the group is hearing – as long as I see JOY and RAPTURE on her face. Isn’t that what dancing is all about – sharing what you feel on the inside when you hear music?
I didn’t get to see Lizzie right before her recital, but I knew the question to ask as she stood on the stage with her bouquets –
“Lizzie – did you dance with JOY?”
“I did Grandma – I did!”
But I already knew that – because I saw her share it on stage.