Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Year Without Dance

This year was the first in 10 years that my daughter didn't take  dance classes.  Ever since she was in kindergarten our lives had included the ritual of spending at least one night a week at the dance school. By the time she was in middle school she was taking classes 2 or 3 nights a week, sometimes more than one class a night. Usually her father picked her up at school,  fed her, then dropped her off at the dance school, while I headed out there after work and waited for her to finish.

The school she attended was one of the best in the state, with an excellent program geared to training professional dancers.  She seemed to enjoy her classes, and thrived under the rigorous instruction.  When her strict  but fair teacher gave her a rare compliment she bloomed all week.  She danced through the pain, and at the expense of a social life. She knew lessons were costly, so seldom asked for anything else.

As she approached the high school years though, it became clear she was having issues.  Most of the more casual dancers had dropped off long before, and the girls around her were committed to a professional career.  They were also members of the dance company that was attached to the school. These girls thought nothing of taking 8, 10 or even more classes a week. Many were home schooled to give them more time for classes.  Really topnotch students were taking pricey private lessons as well.  All of this was beyond both our financial and  time capacity. But she perservered as best she could.

What became clear last year however, was that dance was exceeding the Girl's physical level as well. 4 classes a week, including an hour of Pointe, were  wearing her out. More and more she was not just coming home sore at night (typical for dancers) she was sore for days after.  She actually took more than a month off from Pointe classes in the middle of the year, with Achilles issues--something she had never done before.

Also it was clear that as much as she loved dance, it was not her whole life, nor was it  something she wished to pursue to the detriment of everything else she loved: Choir, Orchestra, Girl Scouts, summer activities and vacations.  We had come to an impasse.

Then she auditioned for and was accepted into our school systems performing arts program.  She had tried and failed several times in the past to be admitted to the dance program. In a bittersweet irony, she now gained entrance through the orchestra program.  Clearly she would be having to devote increasing time to her music, since her continuance in the program depended on it.

This year, more than ever, the arrival of May and the end of the dance year came as a huge relief.  Usually by July she was hungry for dance to begin again but not this summer.  She went to one dance class at a different school, and although she had fun, she found she wasn't really missing it. So without our ever really discussing it, she came to her decision.  Early in August she came to me and said she wanted a year off to see how it felt.
High school started, and she did not resume dance. It felt strange to go home from work every night instead of heading to the dance school several evenings a week.  As a theatre person, I missed the atmosphere of the dance school, the moms I had come to be friends with.  I don't think the Girl has though.

She has been so busy with the demands of orchestra, several after school clubs and a full load of high school honors classes.  Although she no doubt misses it at times, a  whole new circle of friends and activities has taken precedence in her life.  About the only time discussion of dance came up was when she would critique what we saw on television.
And yet, I think there is a part of her that still thinks of herself as a dancer, just as I never stopped being a writer all through the years that i did nothing except write letters and occasionally scribble unrelated notes on scrap paper. Also.  although I don't think she wishes to pursue ballet seriously anymore, I think in a year or two she will take up jazz or hip hop or some other form of less stressful dance art that will be a better fit with all the other activities she is pursuing now.
Like most teenagers she evolves so quickly that one feels U-turn signals are called for, but  a part of her will always be our dancer.

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