Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Watch like no one is dancing

Note: This column appears in the 2/9 issue of The Glendale Star and the 2/10 issue of the Peoria Times.

Already having mastered soccer by age 2—and by “mastered” I mean “proven her lack of interest in”—our daughter recently began dance class.

I am, so far, the only dad who attends these weekly Saturday morning classes. (At her first class, while our family was still in town, we showed up with a party of six adults, and everyone was forced to leave the room after five minutes because our daughter, who has the attention the span of a spinning top, was too distracted.) I promised myself I was there only to observe, but last weekend I was pirouetting and bear crawling on the floor.

The reason I was doing this was to coerce our daughter to actually participate in the class. One of the most confounding aspects of parenthood has been, for me, the transition from the unabashed joy of home life expression to the reluctance of organized participation in those very same endeavors. Our daughter loves to dance. She dances all the time. At a wedding in October, we literally had to drag her off the dance floor kicking and screaming, and while that’s pretty much her standard transition from one thing to another, the point is that: she loves to dance.

When we informed her she was going to dance class, she screamed “Yea! Dance class!” and began dancing until she inevitably ran into something and fell down. (She is a great albeit aggressive dancer.) When we actually arrived at dance class, it was quite a different story.

When being prompted to participate in any aspect of the class, her reaction is one of three things: a) a blank, unmoving stare, as if she is watching a bale of hay sit on a pedestal in an open field, b) burying her head deep into my wife’s leg, as if she embarrassed or scared by the mere concept of happily moving body parts, or c) running over to me in the corner to tell me she is thirsty from doing nothing.

It’s awesome when, in the middle of a particular activity in which she is standing completely still, she is specifically addressed.

Teacher: Okay, great. Now we’re going to shake our shoulders like this, really fast! Who’s going to help us with this one? How about you (points at our daughter)?

Our daughter: Blank stare.

Wife: C’mon honey, like this! We just did this one yesterday!

Our daughter: Runs away.

Teacher: Okaaaay, how about (locates other child still in room) you?

Other child
: Executes move, smiles, hugs mother, everyone excitedly claps.

There’s only so much of this routine my wife can handle, and so it was last weekend that she tagged my hand and I entered the ring. There I was, spinning around the room with my hands above my head in an attempt to have our daughter mimic me. For my efforts, I instead received from her a stare that implied she had lost all respect for me, while the other moms were suddenly comforted to know their respective husbands were most likely somewhere unloading cargo from their F-350s.

She finally became active during the somersault segment. Granted, that involved her receiving assistance to execute one and then, when done, lying there like a pancake, waiting to get peeled off the mat.

After that class, we went outside and fed the ducks, which is, I think, what she took away from dance class, and what will serve as her motivation to return next week. It’s quite possible that she would dance her best in a duck-feeding class.

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Anonymous said...

Being one of the six family members who attended this dance class & having to hide behind an open door to observe our beauty participate brought back many wonderful memories of taking my daughter to dance classes. Loved it.