Thursday, October 23, 2008

Everything Really Is Beautiful At The Ballet

I hated ballet.

My mother made me go until I finally begged her to let me stop.

I didn't like dressing up. I despised the tight shoes. I was a klutz when it came to leaping gracefully across the floor. And to this day I get first, second and third positions mixed up.

So it comes as a surprise that my daughter loves ballet.

It started with a book she found one day at Barnes and Noble. It was called, aptly enough, "I Love Ballet," and was chock full of photos of a real little girl going to ballet class.

We read the book again and again. It probably helped that on one page of the book, the mom sits and reads fairy stories to her daughter, and the daughter's pink striped floppy-eared bunny is cradled in her arms ... the very same pink striped floppy-eared bunny we have at home. But for whatever reason, it became a favorite, particularly at breakfast. (Some read at bedtime. My daughter prefers to read at breakfast.)

Next she requested a tutu. I told her we couldn't get her one unless she went to ballet class.

That was all it took.

For the past eight weeks, she has been ecstatically enrolled in a class at a local ballet school. The class itself isn't really ballet; my daughter is only three (well, nearly four). It's pre-ballet, and it's called "Expressercise." But it does teach a few preliminary ballet moves, in between learning how to prance around the room pretending you're a butterfly. Best of all, as far as my daughter is concerned, you are required to wear pink ballet shoes and a pink leotard/tutu combination.

Perhaps the most amazing thing to me is that I, forever a tomboy who got through much of my childhood in Danskins (remember them, with the matching shirts and pants?) -- am now the mother of a girl who wants to be, for lack of a better word, girlie.

After class, she watches other kids in other ballet classes -- the kids a bit older than her, and the big kids too, who are doing the real deal -- and she can't get enough. She keeps asking me questions: "What are they doing? Why do they have hair in pony tails?" (She means a bun but doesn't know the word for it.) "What's that music? Can we stay a little bit more?" She pays more attention to the other classes than she often does in her own, where her mind seems to wander a bit. (I get up every so often and watch her through the window to see how she's doing.)

I don't fool myself into thinking I've got a future NUTCRACKER cast member in the making here. But I'm happy that she's discovered something she likes, all on her own, with no pressure or prodding from me. For however long it lasts. And I know I get a thrill every time we go into the changing room before class and get her ready. All the girls look cute ... precious ... approaching angelic. But mine, well, to me, when she smiles in her ballet regalia, she looks simply and sweetly beautiful, and I realize that maybe I don't hate ballet after all.

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