Classes Archive

And On Mondays We Do Ballet

by Alison Friedman in Classes, Marvelous Madelyn, Mommy's Musings

Just after Madelyn turned one, she really chippered up around music. As soon as her body was ready, she started to move, bouncing her legs and flapping her arms. Soon the head bob played a big part in her dancing, and by the time she finished up two gigs as flower girl in two different weddings six months apart, she was essentially a baby version of Beyonce.

I knew I’d sign her up for dance lessons, but the local studios don’t start taking kids until they’re about three. Also, they’re really expensive and I really don’t think her intense ABT training needs to commence at two years old. I did a search in our local parks and rec and found a mommy & me ballet class. The price was right, the commitment was reasonable, and even I’d get to train like a pro make a fool out of myself, too. Plus, how hard could it be?

And come on, have you seen toddler ballet clothes? They are SO cute.

Mommy circa 1987 and Madelyn for-sure 2013 modeling pretty ballet clothes before going to class.

Mommy circa 1987 and Madelyn for-sure 2013 modeling pretty ballet clothes before going to class.

The week before class started, our sweet friend who’s a local dance teacher with the cutest daughters ever gave us several pairs of dance shoes, including ballet shoes in Madelyn’s current size. It was so perfect! I got her a leotard at Target and knew she could wear tights we already had.

I, on the other hand, lost sleep the night before the first class because I don’t have proper ballet shoes except for the old lady, knock-off Isotoner slippers my grandma gave me after she cleaned out her closet (“Here, Ali. For your dancing. These will help you with the steps.” Thanks?…). And I certainly don’t have any official ballet costumes (they didn’t have adult tutus at Target), and would I have to wear my hair in a bun? Because I really don’t look good without my hair down. Of course I wasn’t too afraid of the toddlers giving me the eye. And the teacher, I’m sure, would be very accepting and understanding of a mommy’s busy schedule and her ballet clothing inventory. It was the other moms, of course, that I was dressing for, and I didn’t want to be THAT mom; the one who went all-out with the ballet attire, but also not at all dialed in to the cause.

So I went with my regular mom uniform: black yoga pants, an everyday shirt, and hair half up. I felt it suggested movement and a familiarity with physical fitness without trying too hard. You know, totally a naturale.

I talked up ballet for 48 hours before the class so that by the time we had to be there, Madelyn would be stoked for the new environment.

The first thing I did was breathe a sigh of relief that some moms wore legit ballet shoes and some went barefoot. Most of them also wore my same mom uniform and one or two were in jeans and a top like they’d been out doing other things with, ya know, a life. (Oh you mean this isn’t an all day Broadway chorus workshop? Phew!). I did slip off the faux Isotoners once I saw the bare feet option. Sorry, Grandma.

Madelyn was shy, at first, not willing to do much. She sat on the sidelines and watched, but since it wasn’t Mommy & Me Watching Ballet and we were supposed to actually be doing what the teacher told us, I modeled the behavior I wanted her to have and she just sat back and watched me get my ballet on. So, me, and a bunch of moms and their cooperative daughters and the teacher; it mostly sucked when I had no partner to stretch and sway and do tippy-toe circles with.

Finally, Madelyn warmed up enough to leave her post, but instead of joining the group, she ran around the room like a banshee. She literally galloped across the floor, marking her territory in all four corners of the room with squeals and very loud “singing.” I tried to scoop her up, but she was like a puddle and would not cooperate.

I was really thrilled that I was paying for Madelyn to pretty much do the exact opposite of the class: It was all “mommy,” no “me,” and basically everything but pretty ballet movement. I could see it right then and there: The Toddler Marla Hooch, they’d call her. Ugh.

I’ll tell ya what. I got a sweet workout and my glutes were sore for days.

I spoke to the teacher after class, apologized profusely, and she told me not to worry and it was normal because it’s all completely new to the kids: the space, the structure, the movement. Apparently, a strong enjoyment for dancing to “Blurred Lines,” (or, “Hey Hey Hey” as Madelyn calls it) does not a ballerina make. At least, automatically.

But she told me not to quit, to come back, and eventually she’d get used to the environment.

So we came back.

Madelyn and Lovey perform lifts a la pas de deux. (yes, we speak French now).

Madelyn and Lovey perform lifts a la pas de deux. (yes, we speak French now).

Madelyn "chassés" across the floor... with Lovey.

Madelyn “chassés” across the floor… with Lovey.

How do you say "monkey in the middle" in French? Because we also play that in ballet in order to coerce the toddlers to stand on tippy toes.

How do you say “monkey in the middle” in French? Because we also play that in ballet in order to coerce the toddlers to stand on tippy toes.

Madelyn improvises eighth position.

Madelyn improvises eighth position.

And each week, Madelyn improved immensely. Her banshee portrayal only lasted that one class, and each class she participated more and more. The only problem is that halfway through the 50-minute class, she gets tired because it’s her nap time, but she’s been a real trooper and has been able to sleepily carry on, even if a little clumsy. She sometimes gets a little shy about participating, but the teacher said I should do whatever makes her feel comfortable, so Madelyn ends up doing a lot of partner dancing with her pink Lovey. And I feel like it’s the best deal ever at a 3-for-the-price-of-1 bargain.

I continue to wear my Lululemon pants and bare feet, the moms are super nice and their girls are all darling, and Madelyn makes huge steps, or, pas de marché, each week as her moves improve.

We practice at home — tippy toes, butterfly arms, sways, curtsy, chassé, pretty fingers, marching — and she really seems to enjoy it. I’ve also noticed that it’s strengthening her core and leg muscles, which her physical therapist has even noticed!

I hope Madelyn continues to want to dance, and while I won’t push her to do activities she doesn’t really feel, I think dance is a beautiful and important way to build confidence and have fun, two super important focuses I want for my daughter.

Our second session of classes begins next week and I didn’t hesitate to sign up again. These “mommy & me” type classes only last for so long and soon she’ll be going to school, so we have to enjoy them together as long as we can. I love watching her blossom in class and ya know, these old glutes of mine are looking pretty good.

It's really hard to pick our favorite ballet move.

It’s really hard to pick our favorite ballet move.