Friday, September 21, 2012

Surprised by ballet

Pretty much since the day I knew I wanted to have babies with my adorable husband, I knew that no son of mine would ever play football. Except, I also knew that I don’t make all the decisions for our family (even though I do such an amazing job); also, I might change my mind or make exceptions (pee wee flag football sounds kind of adorable, as long as it is just a phase). But in general, I’m pretty anti-traumatic encephalitis and therefore football. To be fair, any risky sport would be suspect. But football is the most obvious.

What I didn’t know until just recently, is how I would feel about ballet. Hannah is suddenly very much into dancing. She loves wearing her tutu and twirling around like Angelina Ballerina. Her friend Lauren is (allegedly) taking a dance class (she also invokes Lauren’s name in some of the most random and obscure of scenarios, so one never knows exactly what Lauren truly does and does not do/wear/say). So I looked into dance classes for Hannah, thinking “cute.” Except, I suddenly found myself thinking, “gross.”
Many ballet classes have strict dress codes: pink, non-shiny tights; black leotards (no panties!); all leather pink ballet shoes; hair in a neat bun (no hair in your face!). They don’t seem to make any exceptions, even for kids who are barely potty trained. It just struck me as, the total opposite of what I’m looking for.
First: At this age, “extracurriculars” should be fun and exploration based. Like Hannah’s gymnastics class. You get some exercise, learn some basic stuff, get familiar with the equipment, and mostly just try new things. Hannah loves watching how she gets better at making a “table top” or doing a somersault. But it is very self-guided and she has never once had her form critiqued. If ballet classes are going to use the same dress code excuse for toddlers (to be able to correct their form), I’m going to throw up in my mouth. Have you seen toddlers do anything with good form? Please. They aren’t supposed to: myelination of the nervous system is a work in progress at that age. And then there is the whole increase in early-onset, over-use injuries in kids these days.
Second: Ballet classes also claim their dress code builds discipline. Hmm. Ok, I get it. Except I just find ballet a little suspect, right off the bat, because of their known association with eating disorders. Because you know what else takes discipline? Anorexia. Am I being unfair? Maybe so. But I’d rather my daughters learn about discipline in a way that is totally unrelated to how they are dressed or how their bodies look.
Third: In a word, recitals. Putting make up on little girls (to coordinate with her halter top and short skirt?) weirds me out. Kids are supposed to be kids. Not sexualized, mini-adults. And some of the dances kids do (I’m getting out of ballet-specific critiques here)? That also makes me uncomfortable. Generally, I would just rather my daughters learn skills that will help them in the future (I'm thinking skills they could use at home, school, a job; preferably, not in a strip club.)
I’m sure I could find a dance studio that fits the bill (relaxed, kid-appropriate, exploration-based). And if Hannah really pushes for dance lessons, I’ll try to find that studio. But if she doesn’t, I’d much rather find opportunities for Hannah that strike me as a little less….gross.

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