This Mom Dances - Tumblr post # 11 / by Sarah Weber Gallo

THE NOT RECITAL

My kid just enthralled me with her poise during her very first flamenco recital. She is normally pretty wily, so it was sweet to watch her intense focus and her real love affair with that ruffled skirt, that shawl, that fan.

I am compelled to describe the recital because it was just so…Not Recital. Filling the program were numerous dances in the naturalistic tradition of Isadora Duncan. In many cases, the young dancers were credited as movement creators. Parents paid no recital fee. There were no age-inappropriate costumes or music selections. Everyone stayed until the end, when the performance culminated with a gentle waltz and a celebratory tossing of rose petals. All proceeds went to benefit the local homeless shelter.

To be clear, there is very little likelihood that any of the students will become professional dancers. But I don’t think the lack of discernible excellence is necessarily a bad thing. Because really, what is the point of putting children in dance classes? Work with me here:

Approximately 97% of the girl children in this town are currently or have previously been enrolled in some form of dance class - primarily ballet. I continue to question the primacy of ballet in early dance training for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I don’t think any rational parent offers dance classes to her young children because she hopes they will become excellent professional dancers. Sure, a handful of kids will show themselves to be gifted, love the practice, excel in the form, and insist on advanced training. But the majority of our children are present in these classes because we hope to instill in them a little physical discipline, a dash of grace, and hopefully an expressive outlet for their massive imaginations.

This last quality is what I witnessed in abundance during Olivia’s recital on Saturday night. Children draped in toga-like swaths of fabric flitted around the stage in undisciplined formations of glee. Nary a classical line in evidence. Every child in full agency of her experience.

Jaded Dancer Me knows that the whole experience was too freaking wholesome to be true. Mom Me thinks it was just fine.

Maybe in a few years I will consider a more vocational model of training for Olivia. If she discovers that she loves dancing. But for now, she’s getting exactly what she needs and I don’t feel like I’m whoring her out for some unattainable ideal. So flit around kid! Work your shawl! And turn 6. There’s time.

She says she wants to be a scientist anyway.