The Sporty Kid’s First Ballet Class

It continually amazes me that, despite both of her parents’ more cerebral tendencies, our mini-Artplorer has a natural inclination towards athletic pursuits. She loves the down and dirty, and she feels the need, the need for speed. That part of her personality has been apparent for as long as I can remember, and she didn’t get it from me!

For the past couple of years, her favorite activity has been a pre-school soccer class. It wasn’t at all unusual for her to be the only girl in her class, with a dozen or so boys, which never phased her for a moment. She thrives on the quick moving rough and tumble.

She seemed to be loving it, so you could have knocked me over when, a few months ago, she suddenly asked to take a dance class. And, she kept asking. For weeks. Not only did she want to dance, but she had her heart set on ballet, in particular. “Beautiful dancing,” she called it. As much as I appreciate and adore the arts – dance very much included – I never for a moment thought “dance mum” was in my future, at least not with this child!

As our weekly schedule and budget are pretty chock full of activities, we decided she’d have to choose between soccer and ballet. Every single time we asked, ballet won the day. So, I researched local pre-school ballet classes, found one that suited my preference for keeping it casual in terms of dress code and recital requirements, and signed up for a trial class.

Dancing Day finally arrived, and little miss soccer star gleefully picked her favorite tutu out of her dress up wardrobe, fancifully doing a few twirls to practice. We hopped on the bus, and when she suddenly got quiet and tipped her head into my shoulder, it became apparent to me that we were both feeling a bit nervous about this new adventure. For her, she wondered what her teacher and the other kids in her class would be like. For me … well, much of the same, plus genuine curiosity about how my sporty lass would fit into this seemingly much more delicate world of pliés and tulle.

With a hint of flourish, her new teacher guided the little girls into a circle. The moment the music began, both of our lingering doubts floated away. Using the same physical skills that have served her in sports, she quickly found her first position and demi plié. I was reminded how well her strength and agility would serve her in this pursuit.

She also delighted in the storytelling aspect of the class, embracing each new scenario the teacher described as if it were in front of her, with that particularly acute ability to suspend disbelief that only pre-schoolers have. And, just like in sports, she had to listen carefully to instructions, open herself up to new techniques, take turns, and work in collaboration with the rest of her class. As I watched, I thought about how these life lessons that both arts and sports teach children are actually quite complimentary.

As we left the trial lesson, my girl quietly beamed when her teacher complimented her effort and participation. I explained that this was a very new experience, coming from soccer, to which the teacher looked her in the eye and told her, “ballet is very good for building up skills you need for soccer, and soccer is good for the strength that you need for ballet!”

We enrolled the same day, and made room next to the soccer shoes for a brand new pair of pink ballet flats.

I’d be surprised if we’ve seen the last of sports in this girl’s life. I suspect it’s more likely that we may eventually make way for some combination of dance and sports. I plan to keep in mind how much one informs the other, and how much both can give to her life.

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