This past Saturday, Sunny performed in her inaugural ballet recital.
And, man, I have so many FEELINGS on the subject.
We enrolled her in dance this fall as I have so many fond memories of a childhood, and later collegiate life, spent dancing. It was one of the first age-appropriate extracurriculars available to us, so we went for it. We adore dance, particularly ballet, in my family. Kimmy and I both grew up learning from Boston Ballet’s school and I remember long hours huddled backstage with friends, playing round after round of Quack-Diddly-Oso, standing in the wings, admiring the “big kid” ballerinas and wondering at the magic created on stage. While James was not a dancer, he too was a performer. Both of us in high school plays, he in the marching band and in church choir, then later in a college a capella group.
As we discussed our choice to enroll Sunny in class, James and I realized that, more than anything else, we want both of our daughters to know that unbelievable high that comes from performance. That rush of adrenaline, and confidence, and pride that happens when you stand before a crowd (even if that crowd is just your mommy, daddy, and Bitty Baby) and perform. When you take that risk and open yourself to the vulnerability and exposure, but also the joy and pleasure, that comes from performing. We cannot guarantee that our girls will find the same happiness that we did through performance, we can at least expose them to the possibility and see how they respond.
And so, hello Beginner Dance I. Sure, the class was akin to herding cats to the tunes of Raffi, but Sunny seemed to enjoy herself and so we obliged in signing her up for the end-of-year performance. One hundred dollars later (I know, right?!), our daughter was turned in to a bubble gum pink, sequin coated, tiara wearing “princess.” Every time I heard a parent or staff member refer to the gaggle of girls as the “little princesses,” I had to resist the urge to hang myself by one of Sunny’s pink satin gloves.
I hate it. I love it. I hate it. I love it.
They were so sweet and adorable and excited. And yet, I hate it, I love it, I hate it, I love it.
Every part of me cringed when I saw the costume, and then the make-up, and then the detailed directions for hair for a group of FOUR YEAR OLDS! And yet, I delighted in standing backstage, hours before showtime, French braiding hair and helping to direct “practices,” surrounded by fellow moms (because dads weren’t allowed backstage and OH MY GOD, the strongly worded letter coming from a one James Whaley Cart who took Sunny to the dress rehearsal and then was forbidden from going backstage with a then terrified and tantruming preschooler. Yeah, some things need to change before we continue with this particular dance school). The whole experience was an exercise in paradox.
I love it, I hate it, I love it, I hate it.
And then this troop of tutus pranced around the stage, and waved to their adoring families, and giggled, and wiggled and I wept like I was beholding a professional production of Swan Lake. I now understand exactly why my mother attended every single performance of every single show, play, ballet, or performance we were ever in, regardless of age or skill.
MY MATERNAL HEART CANNOT HANDLE THIS SHIT!
I stood with two moms while the girls had their pictures taken, and muttered out loud, I love it, I hate it, I love it.
And they both turned and looked at me and said, Exactly.
The three of us decided to also enroll the girls in a local karate class come fall, not necessarily as an antidote, but a compliment, to the frills and gender-norm adhering realities of our experience this year with dance. We want them to continue to dance, but have some balance and varied experiences. Sunny already did a preview day at the karate school and thought the whole thing was pretty dang exhilarating, especially getting to knock her teacher on his ass.
While I cannot deny my affinity for a tutu-wearing bun head, I want to be sure that my daughter knows she’s so much more than a pink princess.