Most mothers of daughters look forward to their little girls' first ballet class, and I was no exception. At two and a half, my daughter Sydney was the perfect age to begin Mommy and Me Ballet at a local dance school. Though it was not an official ballet class, the children were still required to wear appropriate ballet attire. For the record, "appropriate attire" consists of pink tights, a pink or black leotard and pink ballet slippers. Ballet skirts are optional; poufy tutus are discouraged. I couldn't wait to see my Sydney dressed up in her costume with her curly hair pulled back in a bun.
Waiting for the first class to begin, I stood in the lobby of the school with the other moms, proudly taking pictures of my little ballerina. Visions of Sydney appearing in a production of The Nutcracker danced in my head. At 10am sharp, we were ushered into the dance studio by a very stern looking Miss Irina, who also happened to be a dead ringer for Ballerina Barbie, but without the smile.
Miss Irina began by setting out a few ground rules for the girls (and I think the moms): Put your listening ears on and keep your talking mouths closed. Then she instructed us to stand in a circle with our arms up overhead. Some of the girls, including my own, improvised by twirling and laughing. Miss Irina looked annoyed. "It is not time for giggles," she scolded. I tried to keep Sydney still by holding onto her shoulders. "But I want to spin, Mommy!" Sydney said.
Suddenly all eyes were upon us. Sydney had broken one of Miss Irina's sacred rules. "Sydney, please keep your talking mouth closed. Be still!" Miss Irina reprimanded. "But I want to spin in circles!" My daughter pleaded unhappily. "Sydney, listen to Miss Irina!" I exhorted. I could feel my face burn hot as I willed my child to behave.
Watching Sydney look miserable in her ballet costume, it dawned on me that two-year-old children should not be told to stand still in a dance class. They should never be miserable wearing ballet costumes. They should be encouraged to twirl if they want to and most of all laugh if they want to.
So I bent down and whispered in Sydney's ear: "You know what? How about if you and I go spin outside?"
Sydney's face lit up as I took my daughter by the hand and led her out of the door, leaving a dumbfounded Miss Irina in our wake. The next day, I signed Sydney up for a creative movement class, where she is free to twirl and giggle whenever she wants.