Monday, September 19, 2011


Diva began ballet at four. By five, she knew it was not for her. It's wasn't that she couldn't do it - she was no better or worse really than any other short legged, round-tummied ballerina. Nor did she (at four, anyway) object to pink. Ballet just isn’t her vocabulary. She's a kid who, very young, took to anything Bob Fosse - a detail we somehow missed when we signed her up for dance.

It was her brother who, upon watching a full ballet for the first time, sat rapt on the edge of his seat through the entire performance and came home with the bug. The same rigid structure and set repertoire of movements that Diva finds restrictive provide Wild Child with a kind of framework that he finds satisfying. So we traded in the pink slippers for white and enrolled him instead. Six years later, he’s still at it.

Ballet and video games - if they don’t exactly go together like chocolate and peanut butter, they are nevertheless the twin anchors in Wild Child’s life. The kid who fidgets, chews on everything he can fit into his mouth and emits a constant stream of noises, can stand focused at the barre for a good two hours, immersed in music and movement. That he’s good at it also gives him confidence - a nutrient frequently lacking in his diet.

As a ballerino, my son has come in for some not-so-friendly teasing. Let’s face it; preadolescent boys can be real buttheads. If ballet has done nothing else for him, it’s helped him learn to sort out the d**chebags from the worthy (his terminology, not mine). His friends - with their assortment of ADHD, SI, Aspergers and old-school nerdiness - take his dancing in stride. They are accustomed to accommodating one another’s quirks and seem to feel whatever...there’s something a little weird about all of us; this is just his thing.

Girls’ responses have been mixed. “Ohh, he better not let the boys here know he does ballet!” one neighborhood girl told me.
“No?” I said.
“No! Oh, they will tease him.”
“How come?”
Now she looks a little uncomfortable.
“Never mind,” I tell her. “I know what you’re getting at. Mercedes, who do you suppose plays the handsome prince? The brave general? The Greek god? Who lifts all those ballerinas? Anyway,” I say, turning back to my dishes, “have you ever seen one of those guys?”
She thinks for a minute. Then the penny drops: “Oooohhh! OOhh, yai yai! Oh,” she breathes, “he’s gonna’ be ripped! Man, the boys here gonna’ be so jealous...” And she scampers off, just a bit flushed.

Then there was the favorable response from a girl last week. “There’s a girl in my class who knows I take ballet.”
“Yeah? Someone you told?”
“No. She saw my show.”
“Really? That’s great. Did she like the show?”
“I don’t know. She just said she saw me dance and thought I was good. She thought it was really great that I do ballet.”
“And what did you say?”
(shrug) “Nuthin. She said she does ballet, too.”
“Really? Where does she take classes?”
“I don’t know.”
“You didn’t ask?”
(another shrug, sinking into his seat) “Mbffm.”
“Did you ask if she has a performance any time soon?”
(sinking still further) “Nmblm.”
(Sigh) ”Never mind. So anyway, what’s her name?”
“You don’t know.”
“Did you ask?”
“Did you say anything to her?”
“Well, no. What should I say?”

No comments: