Spring ballet recital, April 2012
Summer Intensive ballet recital, June 2015
Ballet has grown this girl in so many ways, and I'm thrilled to watch her embrace it, enjoy it, and excel in it. I've noted before how easy it would be to push this kid--she's a perfectionist, she's driven, and she adores approval. Wouldn't it be so temptingly easy to put her into competitions, to instruct her to practice for hours every day in order to reach perfection, to allow trophies and prizes to be the positive reinforcement for yet more competitions and more hours of daily practice?
And she'd love it, I suspect. She'd crave the feeling of winning, grow addicted to the possibility of actually achieving perfection, let losing hit her self-worth and spur her into greater effort.
I fear that. I actually fear the higher levels of dance, because I fear that she'll somehow hear and internalize those beliefs, internalize body standards and mold herself to them. I have a friend who dances, however, who assures me that in the world of ballet, that kind of thing is actually very rare. Instead, she tells me about self-confidence, about strong cores and excellent posture, about developing work ethic and focus, about the bravery that performance brings.
And as I sit in the university's large dance studio and watch the children from the Summer Intensive class perform their recital, half of which they choreographed themselves, see my child spinning in duet with a friend dizzily about the space as another child leaps with out-of-control abandon and three more march in circles in front of all the parents and grandparents, showing off this number that they "choreographed" themselves ("Think if it more as an improv," one of their instructors informed us in her introduction to the piece, "that expresses the joy of dance"), I don't see anything here about unhealthy standards or an unattainable drive for perfection.
I simply see a bunch of kids--all with excellent posture and a lot of self-confidence, to be sure--expressing the joy of dance, and I love it.