First Ballet Class

by Love 9 Comments

My little girl loves ballet.

And by loving ballet, I mean the idea of ballet. She’s never actually seen a real ballet (she’s only 3). But she’s seen her older friend and role model dress in leotards for ballet class. She may have even picked up a few “moves” from her friend. And of course, there’s the tutus — the sole reason I think most girls are first attracted to this elegant form of dance.

For more than a year, Cassie has donned her own little tutu and flitted about, singing, “Ballet, ballet, I’m gonna do ballet.” She even has the humble bow and “thank you, thank you” part down after her audience claps. It’s pretty cute.

So when I heard that her friend’s dance studio was starting up its preschooler/beginner class this fall, I knew we had to enroll Cassie. She seems destined for ballerina greatness (or at least, destined to enjoy taking classes — she doesn’t exactly come from a long line of graceful dancing folk).

Her first class was this Monday night. Cassie was all ready, with her little pink leotard (handed down from her friend), pink tights and pink ballet shoes. I even put her hair up so she’d look more “proper.” When we got there, I sat down with baby James in my arms and observed Cassie “warming up” by practicing her favorite moves in front of the mirror wall (which I do believe blew her freakin’ mind) and chatting up the other girls. The other parents were smiling and laughing at my cute kid.

Then the tall, thin lovely teacher, Miss Tatyana, started the class with some jump roping. Uh, jump roping? This should be interesting, I thought. Cassie went and got a jump rope, along with the other girls. When it came time to jump, the other girls knew what to do (they were older, ages 4 and 5, and had attended the first couple of classes while we were on vacation).

Cassie was clueless, poor thing. But she didn’t let that stop her. She just jumped and flung her rope around, acting like she owned the joint. Of course, she completely ignored Miss Tatyana, who was trying to show her how to really jump rope. I knew things would be downhill from there. You see, my kid “walks to the beat of her own drum.” In other words, she likes being in her own world and not conforming to what someone else tells her to do. Not terribly helpful in a classroom environment.

For the remainder of the class, she tried valiantly to keep up her positive attitude while doing her version of “ballet” and looking entranced by her reflection in the mirror. If only that darned teacher and other students would quit bugging her! There were a few minor breakdowns, as well as a complete retreat from the class (“I wanna go home!”)

I just sat there with innocent little James, encouraging Cassie to keep trying and listen to the teacher. In between, I was wringing my hands and wishing she could just be like the other girls, dutifully listening and dancing on command. At one point, when Cassie had come over to sit with me and sulk, the teacher explained, “This is why most teachers don’t let parents stay for class.” Ohhh. Gotcha.

So our first ballet class was kind of a bust. But we’re not giving up. I’m going to buy Cassie a jump rope and attempt to get her to use it properly (God help me). We’ll go through the moves and talk about proper ballet class etiquette. Next class, I’ll drop her off and go home, so I don’t cause any added distraction.

Maybe I’m crazy or stubborn to try to get a 3-year-old to stick to this — is she too young? But I guess I feel like she needs to learn now that this is how you learn a skill. It’s hard at first, but you have to pay attention and be tenacious until you taste a little success. I keep picturing how proud and happy she’ll be at her first recital. I hope I’m right!

Susan Wenner Jackson

Susan Wenner Jackson is the cofounder and editor of Working Moms Against Guilt. She lives in her hometown of West Chester, Ohio, with her husband, two children, and their dog.

9 Comments

  1. My daughter sounds similar to yours! Loved everything dance and was *so excited* to start classes … after several months she was sometimes in tears "not wanting to go." I think it was a bit too structured for her, so we decided to revisit it later and keep her love of dance alive just as part of playing, imagining, etc. Good news: She started dance classes again at 5yo and has continued with passion ever since. She's now 11yo and just joined junior company and absolutely LOVES it!

  2. Don't teach her how to jump rope. It will be the death of you!! This is what you pay Tatyana for and what I paid Tatyana for. It takes at LEAST a year of classes to get jump roping down. I can't wait to see her in the recital in May!!! She and my girl will be the two cutest girls up on stage! :~)

  3. Zoe did dance last year. The parents had to sit out in the lobby during class, which I think was good. But, I would peer in through the windows sometimes and see her not following along. I'd want to go in and encourage her, but I knew that would just bring more trouble. Then there was the big recital at the end of the year. There she was in her costumes that we paid over $100 for–and you couldn't even see her on stage. She'd get out place and end up behind someone during the dance. Ugh. Thankfully she didn't want to do dance again this year. Now, she's playing soccer which is less expensive, but still brings the same frustrations as any activity with young kids. Sometimes she's in to it, sometimes she's not. That's just the way it goes.

  4. Margaret still loves ballet, but she didn't love ballet classes. She started at three and took two years before she requested to quit. I resisted letting her until I heard her crying quietly in bed one night. She wanted to stop but didn't want to make me mad. I let her quit right then and there. I think the arts, sports and other activities are great training for kids in so many things – discipline, structure, learning that you don't always do your best unless you work hard and try. But I'm not going to force a small child into anything. We're going to try martial arts and piano now. Think that's more down her alley.

    But no fear – she still LOVES to dance and go to the ballet!

  5. Brady was the same way when he went to his first soccer class. It took him a few sessions but know his confidence is up and he's keeping up better with the big kids. The big thing is that she's three and there's a big attention span difference (at least with Brady) between 3 and 4.

    She'll get it. She's too cute in that outfit to not be a ballerina!

  6. She'll get used to it, just gove her some time. When my daughter started she wasn't really that interested, but I made her tough it out and anow (a year later) she can't wait until she gets to go to jazz class.
    I think it's important for her to learn the poise and grace that dancers have. If she's not interested after elementary school, then she can drop it.

  7. I don't think she's too young. . my 9 year old has been dancing since age 3. Any brave soul who takes on teaching a gaggle of 3 year olds to dance should be used to them getting distracted easily. Hopefully she'll want to stick with it and you'll make it to the recital . . watching girls that young perform in recital are just precious, hilarious moments you'll always remember. As long as she's having fun, that's the most important thing!!!

  8. I've seen with my daughter that if I just keep taking her, even if we just sit there for a few classes, eventually she'd get into it. I did make an exception with swimming lessons when she was three and I had a newborn. We went once and she got in and had fun. We went again and on the way out the door to go she said she didn't want to go. I said, let's just go and see. So we went. She wouldn't get in. I was trying to nurse and juggle the baby. So the next week when we were getting out to the car and she said she didn't want to go- I said- fine with me. It was a long drive and a ton of stress. We took a break for a month or two, then tried again on Saturday mornings when Daddy could take her in a more relaxed way- and she loved every second of it.

  9. my grandaughter will be 11 in dec,they live in mo, buffalo and there are no classes around the area, as one of her gifts,I would like to get her a beginners tape in ballet, which one would suggest, thanks Betty

Leave a Comment

Email (will not be published)

When Friends Disappear

When Friends Disappear

Returning from Maternity Leave as a Freelancer