I started taking Olivia to see dance concerts way too soon. I have no regrets about this, although it turns out that a handful of people don’t appreciate the presence of a 3-year-old at the Joyce (note to self: those free standing chairs on the loge are not, as I had hoped, better for young children. In fact, they invite disruptive behaviors and shall never again be occupied by the likes of us. Further note to self: ditto aisle seats. Conclusion: sit the kid smack in the middle of the theater where she may be influenced by the calm seatedness of neighboring patrons and where escape is not an option).
I have a lot of anecdotes.
There was this one Friday evening at a MAD museum works-in-progress showing. I wanted to see what Susan Marshall had been working on, and, knowing it has something to do with Beyoncé, I was pretty sure Olivia would dig it. She did! Also on the program, however, was a quiet solo for NYCB principal dancer Jared Angle in which he gamely attempted a decidedly post-modern score, fighting all the while his balletic tendency toward majestic presentation. I was already a little uncomfortable for him when Olivia started narrating in stage-y kid whispers, “And the prince went riding through the forest to get to the tower to save the Princess and they escaped the witch and bopped her on the head and sang weeweeweewee all the way home and then they got married and…happy ever after”. Then she started humming, encouragingly. It was as if she knew by the telltale signs in his body carriage that he would be more comfortable as a cavalier. I thought her narration gave the dance some much needed context. I also thought it was time to leave. And then, before we could make our discreet escape, Sara Du Jour came trouncing down the aisle as a fantastically bitchy Carmen Miranda. Du Jour performed much of her satiric and virtuosic gyrations in Olivia’s general direction, and the kid was entranced.
I do these things because I am a dancer. And, for reasons readily apparent to new parents everywhere, having a young child has severely limited my consumption of cultural happenings. Also I want my daughter to know all manner of performance art. Else why rear a kid in New York City? Also I am selfish. I had Olivia at 35 years old, late by the Midwestern standards of my Indiana upbringing, but normal or even early by New York dancer standards. (We who make the most fragile of livings in our leotards and who flourish during our best child-bearing years only to plunge into early mid-life crises as our fertility dries up concurrently with our performing careers must sacrifice just a little bit more than other ambitious and devoted career women when we meticulously calculate our family planning). Anyway, I express my selfishness - and my grown-up-ness - by taking my 5-year-old daughter to see Doug Varone and Dancers, not Dora and Friends. I despise Dora.
When she was born, I eschewed the company of new mommy friends who share only the accident of our childrens’ births, favoring instead the worn and comfortably vulgar company of my friends who dance. I was determined to integrate Olivia into my dancing life. I hope this teaches her the importance of valuing what you do for a living by standards other than financial (Lawd knows this career isn’t best measured by financial success).
This kid has grown up in the green room of the Metropolitan Opera house. Until about a year ago, she thought all adults went to work through the stage door. She can identify Mozart’s Queen of the Night aria within 1.2 notes. She was not scared of Luca Pizzarone in his furry Caliban costume. She did not like watching me fly up in the chandelier as a slightly demented showgirl in Fledermaus. She prefers watching “The Red Shoes” on a rainy day, and has been know to quip, “ Champagne cocktail please” with exactly Moira Shearer’s intonation. (This always cracks me up). She watched Eiko and Koma’s “Caravan” at MOMA last year until closing time. She sat facing Marina Abromovic with her big unblinking judgemental little kid eyes. She prefers ballet to most contemporary dance because of the costumes, but I am working on that.
If all of this sounds like bragging, it is because I am bragging.
Sorry Chucky Cheese and Sesame Place, we will never visit because I am too much of a snob. I haven’t spent my entire life in the study and practice of fine art to shell out $100 a ticket to see Frozen on Ice when I know Piña Bausch’s company is in Brooklyn and Mark Dendy is at
Abrons (never did get to see that since Mark messaged me that the show is not appropriate for kids).
I will curate my child’s artistic upbringing, dammit. Not just because I trust my own expertise after a lifetime in this field, but because this is something we do together and I insist that I find enjoyment in the experience too. My own mother always took me to the ballet - really to whatever dance company came to Indianapolis - and it was with her that my mind was blown by Batsheva circa 1986. So even though Olivia pronounced the end of Elke Rindfleisch’s evening-length solo, “a little boring,” (it was past her bedtime and the scene did reward quiet attention), I persevere because I am certain that any one of these experiences will similarly blow her mind.