My daughter is 4 years old and has been going to dance class every Saturday since she was 2 1/2. When I first took her to the trial class, I wasn't sure she would be ready or would enjoy it, but lo and behold, she did! Her dance teacher is a saint; this woman is so patient, loving, and great with the very little ones. In fact, when substitutes come in to teach for her, the girls are very sad to know she won't be there. Before my ex-husband and I separated, I got to take my daughter every Saturday, since he worked so it became our routine: "Dance Saturdays." We would go to dance class and afterward, I would grab a Starbucks chai, and she would get her chocolate milk. After that, we would be free to play the day away. But once her dad stopped working on Saturdays, I had to give up two of those days, and it's hard not having her every "Dance Saturday."
But despite the cherished one-on-one mommy-and-daughter time, I love taking my daughter to dance class for many reasons — some frivolous and others not so much:
Tap Shoes. Tutu. Leotards. Nothing Cuter.
Have you ever seen a little one in tap shoes and a tutu? There is nothing cuter. Maybe I'm just living vicariously through my kid (totally!), since I never got to tap, but the sight of all her little friends joyfully tap-tapping to the beat or not to the beat at all makes my heart melt every time!
And who can deny the adorable cuteness of a round baby belly protruding out as a little one wears a leotard? I might just die! It reminds me that even though my girl is getting older, she's still a baby . . . at least for a little while!
I am the only mom who sings the songs as the girls rehearse. A theater girl whose past is lined with television, radio, and stage gigs, I love a good tune you can bust out and sing. The music is great, and it's a fun way to start off my Saturdays. And no, none of the other moms give me dirty looks. They're used to my upbeat musical-theater self by now. Plus, I love that my daughter gets exposed to different types of music. To me, music and all of the art-related fields are so crucial to our lives. Thanks to music, dance, art, film, and literature, people get pleasure, stress relief, peace, and excitement as well as learn life lessons, grieve losses, and share joys through the sharing of these artistic endeavors. The arts are a place people can turn to for so many things, and it makes our world colorful — and I like that. I love that my daughter, who also loves to sing, gets a place each week to enjoy and sing out and proud while tapping or plié-ing away!
Learn While She's Having Fun
My daughter learns how to follow directions and work with other kids in order to create a performance, however silly or "undanced" it may be at the recital! Last year, she had her first recital, and I was impressed that 95 percent of the kids in my daughter's class (my child included in this number) were not afraid and followed to the music. They were young and in a big theater, so it was quite a feat for these kiddos.
Taking dance means my daughter learns sequencing (a math lesson!), musicality, fine and gross motor movements, spatial reasoning, expression and comprehension of language, and many more things. Let's add into that "a bit of French lessons," too! And kids learn best while they're playing: dance may not be play to you, but it is a play of sorts. It is joy!
You Don't Have to Be a Star to Enjoy Something
Something many people could stand to learn: even if you're not great at a skill, hobby, or talent but you enjoy it, that hobby is worth pursuing. Very few of us can be ballerinas, but if we enjoy the process and experience, that's all that matters. In our culture, our mentality is "Be the best or go home," and that's not always a very healthy way to live. My child may decide a year from now that she hates dance, and if she does, we won't go back. But if she loves to dance yet would never become a professional, it's worth doing for the pleasure.
Dance requires discipline. She may not pursue this later on in life, but if she does, it will teach her that in order to be good at something, you have to make sacrifices and commit. Self-discipline is an incredibly powerful trait to have and will take any child far.
Too many kids are stuck on their Leap Frogs and iPads, in my opinion. I am pretty strict about technology and television use, although I am also of the belief that sometimes you've got to pick your battles and use that television or tech tool wisely. Dance makes my kid move, and with the nation's childhood obesity rates, is that ever a bad thing? Even if your kid is a lean, mean muscle machine, movement is good for all of us, and we all could stand to get up and do something with our bodies!
I Didn't Go
I didn't take a dance class until I was 17, because my parents couldn't send me when I was little. So now as a mom, I gave my daughter the chance to try it. Sure, we have tried other classes and are looking into other activities, and she may quit at any point, but I am glad she has the chance to enjoy something I didn't get to until I was older.
In the words of the great Ru Paul, "Sashay, Shante!"
There's nothing more freeing than dancing like a fool or not so foolish when no one is watching. Sure, my daughter is doing it with a class full of kids, but perhaps she'll take her time in dance class wisely and learn the most important lesson: it doesn't matter how stupid you look while you're doing it — take a chance in life, have fun, and you never know where the possibilities will take you!