Monday, January 17, 2011

She's my tiny dancer

I can't write too much about this or I risk bawling my eyes out with pride, joy and all that stuff (my poor daughters do NOT understand why I cry when I am happy but I imagine they'll begin to understand after they get through puberty).

One of the reasons I hoped to have girls was the idea of taking Mommy-Daughter dance classes, after a dear friend of mine told me of her fond memories of taking dance with her mom. My mom would never have done such a thing with us, first because she tips over a lot (see a pattern?), second because she was too busy going to church to do a lot of activities with us, and lastly because it would have cost more money than she cared to spend. I did a few of these classes with Claire when I was on maternity leave with Hannah and then Claire was able to get dance classes at her day care, and now it seems the parent/child class options are limited to kids under age three or so. The Angel of PT recommended that I get Hannah into a dance class and I thought it would be a great fit because Hannah is really motivated by music, likes to dance when we play music or dance videos for her on YouTube, and I thought she'd pick up on how much I enjoyed it and that would help get her off to a great start. It may be a little harder to get her Dad to fill in for me as needed compared to sending him to parent/tot class at The Little Gym but I thought having a non-therapy based movement experience would be worth any hassles or price. It was a little harder to find a Saturday class with space and at a location that would work, but we signed up at the University of Utah's Virginia Tanner Creative Dance program. At first I was encouraged to sign up for the dancers with disabilities class (a wider age range of kids with all manner of disabilities for a reduced price of just $25!!!) but I was sure she'd benefit more from being in the regular class with all peers her own age. I struggle with putting her in situations where she might feel like the thing she is asked to do is out of her skill level, and I've seen that she just won't do what she is not comfortable with, such as using the bars at the Little Gym, but I thought dance would require less use of her right hand while providing more opportunities for other kinds of learning, since she loves music and dance so much already.

The tutu was my idea since modern dance only requires comfortable clothes but I suspected many other girls (and boys as it turned out) would have tutus. She has never willingly let me put it on before just for fun, and didn't before class, but once she got the idea of it she kept it on all day. We immediately liked the environment, and I was delighted that she showed no inclination to shyness or refusing to follow directions at the outset.

Huge success!

Checking out the studio

Each new activity involves the kids coming back to the carpet for a little circle time while the teacher introduces the next activity

Hannah volunteered ("ME!") to be the student to demonstrate the "snow blanket" moves

Why yes, I can stand on my right foot.

What's next? I'm ready.

The only bad experiences were that three times when all the kids were dancing (running) about, someone would either crash into her or come close to it and she easily toppled over but she just looked surprised and got up and kept going. When the kids were asked to go to the ballet barre and hang on like a monkey she wouldn't even try that, since I think she knows she can't hang from her weaker hand, and during some circuits of the room she would cut a few steps and jump in ahead of the leader. When we were flapping like a bird she didn't use her arms like wings but actually, I'm not sure all the other kids did either, I guess it takes experience to apply your imagination in the way you use your body. But mostly, she was willing to do follow the leader (a skill I didn't realize was included but which may come in handy), she could two hand the props we used like scarves, or pom-poms, she listened during the story at the end, and she actually volunteered two different times to be the student to model the next activity with the teacher. Holy cow did that do my heart good - to see that her confidence was right up there with all the other kids. Multiple kids had moments of crying or a case of the "I wanna" blues, but Hannah was cheerful and responsive and carefully observing everything around her. She is probably less verbal than most of her peers but since her receptive language is so awesome that when the teacher said "who wants to tiptoe around the bubble circle?" then Hannah could easily get in a "ME!" ahead of all the others. One unexpected bonus was all the clapping - that fisted hand doesn't really want to open for things like clapping, but it might - either to applaud another dancer or to keep time with the piano meant she used her right arm far more than I would have counted on and certainly enough to build muscle strength.  And thank all that is holy, not one person asked me about her gait or her hand taping or anything that would make me cry.  Win!  The one and only difficulty we had was getting her to leave the place, which required trickery, bribery, a distraction with a drink from the water fountain, and a pine cone offered to her by one of the dads from our class, who she'd been flirting with earlier.

I am ashamed to have to tell you that my efforts at the tiptoe steps, getting up and down off the floor repeatedly, and spinning left me with sore calf muscles.  If a toddler dance class makes you sore, you probably need to work on your fitness level yourself, but still . . . WIN!  She shoots, she scores!  We'll be back.


  1. That is SO wonderful. And the cutest pictures!

  2. It's funny how these "dreams" of ours never really turn out how we expected them, but here is a result of one of your dreams, sweet none the less even if the details are different from the original