Yesterday, my kids had their last dance recital at their studio. Next fall, they will move on to another studio. What an incredible journey it’s been.
Endings are hard, aren’t they? They feel so . . . final. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they are anticipated or unforeseen. It’s hard to see our way in the dark, wondering what the next step will be. Blindly, we grope our way through those first hours after the last curtain call, unsure whether we will ever make our way into the sunlight again.
I don’t deal well with change. I’m the sort of person who would be content to coast, keeping everything the same as it’s always been. The same city, the same friends, the same school, the same church, the same dance studio. I don’t like the feeling of free-fall that accompanies big changes.
My kids aren’t like that. My daughter has already made her peace with these circumstances. She is ready, as she always is, to begin something new. She sees change as exciting, a challenge. My son, too, has accepted that this is what happens in life. He spent an hour sobbing on Saturday, trying in his not-quite-nine-year-old way to make sense of everything. Yesterday, though mostly recovered, he was still having flashes of grief. But he offered these wise words: “Right now, I have a sadness. But soon my sadness will turn happy.” Even he is ready for whatever lies ahead.
I’m a hopeless sap, though. So I offer my tribute to the last six years, and my gratitude to everyone who made it possible.
This was my son’s first dance recital ever. He and his classmates tap danced their way through “You Are My Sunshine.” My blurry photo doesn’t do it justice. Nor does it capture the fact that my son was already a ham, even at age 3. The owner of the studio took a chance on him when most others wouldn’t. We had known since he was 15 months old that he was made to move to the music. But looking at dance studios, I discovered that most teachers considered boys “unteachable” until age 7. His very first dance teacher’s words to me were, “There’s not much difference between boys and girls at this age. They’re all a little squirrelly.”
Silly me, I assumed my kid would be all about the tap. After all, what little kid wouldn’t like a kind of dance where you get to make noise with your shoes on purpose? Apparently, not mine. He was all about the ballet. He still loves the more graceful styles.
Naturally, my daughter wanted to be just like her big brother. She was determined to participate in dance as well. Mostly what I remember from her first year is the number of times her teacher let me know that she sat on the mat because she was refusing to participate for some reason. She has certainly come a long way since then!
That was a particularly good year. Two kids, double the unbearable cuteness.
For the 2009-2010 year, Jack was in a class of two, which I think worked out well for everyone—except possibly his poor teacher, who had to cope with two kids who constantly fed off each other. Good thing she was patient. I would probably have lost it by the end of the first class.
For some reason, I didn’t take any pictures of the kids dancing at last year’s recital. I did take pictures of them backstage, though. Jack was missing his top front teeth at the time, which you might be able to see in the pictures. He was taking not only his regular classes but had also started recreational Irish dance. With two recitals, and a combined total of 4 dances, I was a little nervous about how he would fare. I shouldn’t have worried. I gave birth to the Energizer Bunny, so keeping up has never been a problem for him.
This was the first year that Jack was in class with the same kids more than one year in a row. His first year, none of the girls returned. His second year, he was the oldest student in his class. His third year, he was the youngest in class, so they “moved up” without him. His fourth year, he only had one classmate. He got to know the other students and they were able to connect as a class. I especially noticed the way they had emotionally gelled when they performed their final ballet.
Sarah, on the other hand, has been with these kids for most of her time dancing. She also had the same teacher all four years, which is unusual. For her, though, it was just right. I can’t imagine a teacher who would have been a better fit for her. Sarah has a strong personality and having a teacher who could be both gentle and direct was a plus. I have to admit, I was sure after her first year of dance that she would want to quit. I assumed she was dancing because her big brother was, and she loved to do whatever he did. I was wrong about her, though. She has enjoyed learning the art of dance and shows no sign of stopping. I believe that dance has built her inner strength and enabled her to become the confident girl she is today.
I can’t say enough about what a positive experience the kids have had. The last six years were the perfect storm for them. Who knew, way back when a friend introduced us to her kids’ studio, that it would all turn out so well? I am confident that the love of dance, the skills they’ve developed, and the creative fire will carry over to their new dance home. No matter where they go from here, their studio, their teachers, and their friends will always have a place in their hearts.
Many thanks to the staff and students of the kids’ dance studio for making the last six years an amazing ride. You rock! Keep dancing, keep smiling, and keep loving. It’s all worth it in the end.