Wednesday 21 August 2013

Ebony's First Dance Lesson

The other week, a friend suggested I take Ebony to the local dance school for their ‘mums and tots’ dance sessions. At the time, I tried politely to avoid heaving in her face, because the very thought of taking Ebony dancing made me want to die a bit. I used to go to youth theatre as a child, and I can remember the rows of dancing girls in their tight leotards, hair scraped back, full faces of makeup and vaselined teeth… it was a bit terrifying.

I certainly don’t want to be teaching Ebony to pout so I can apply her bright red lipstick any time soon. And she would only be mocked by the other toddlers for not having enough hair to even attempt a donut bun. No, I thought, dancing is not for us. 

Photo credit: Bina Sveda
But then we went to toddler yoga, and I saw a different side of Ebony. The baby who previously ignored instruction, didn’t listen to group leaders, and generally wanted to be doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, was now a little girl who joined in. As the yoga teacher sang the scarecrow song, Ebony lay flat on the ground and pretend to be asleep. As the yoga teacher shook her arms, so did Ebony.

We’ve only been to toddler yoga once, but it is now a daily occurrence at home that Ebony will lie down and pretend to sleep until I sing that bloody scarecrow song to her, at which point she will jump up (usually landing square on my faff) and start dancing (putting particular effort into stomping her feet, still on my faff).  

After a week of intense faff-bashing and the accompanying bruising, I decided perhaps it was worth taking her to a dance lesson.So yesterday, we headed down to the local dance school for our free taster session. The walls of the reception were adorned with photos of little girls with giant buns atop their overly made up faces.

Then the class started. Up until this point, I had imagined that Ebony would enjoy dancing in the same way she enjoyed yoga. I had vague visions of her mirroring the teacher’s movements, and excitedly showing off the moves she already knew.

The smiley, leotarded woman pressed play on the CD player, and said it was time to stretch. Ebony stared at her with disdain. The dance teacher sat on the floor and stretched out toward each toe. Ebony stared at her with contempt. The woman reached to the stars. Ebony stared at her in disbelief. The woman jumped up and began to lunge, Ebony stayed seated and smirked.

It’s important that at this point that I mention Ebony was the only child in the class. In the room there was me, my miserable child and the over smiley dance teacher. The teacher began to dance around the room. Ebony looked at me as if to say “Mummy, WTF?” Suddenly some more students arrived, a bit older than Ebony and clearly very keen.

The teacher announced that it was time to march around the room, and proceeded to do so. Suddenly she had Ebony’s attention. If there’s one thing Ebony can do, it’s a crazy wide-legged walk with a one-footed stomp, and so she followed the teacher around the room. Suddenly it was time to gallop, then skip, then tiptoe. Throughout all of this, as the teacher and the other pupils moved in unison around the dance floor, Ebony continued to march after them, occasionally stomping loudly with her right foot.

Then it was time to play sleeping bunnies. Another of Ebony’s top skills is the art of pretend sleeping. She thudded flat onto the floor, and proceeded to let out a wheezy snore. As the beat of the song picked up, the rest of the room leapt into the air and started to hop. Ebony, however, stayed quite still upon the floor, snoring loudly. Occasionally she would lift her head, glance around the room, and then continue with her performance. Ebony was still lying on the floor five minutes later, as all the other children were miming along to twinkle twinkle.

At this point I was worried that the teacher had lost Ebony for good, but like all good entertainers, she soon drew her back in. It was instrument time, and each child was asked to choose one instrument from the drawer and then go back to their place. The CD player started to play a shrill version of the music man as the children chose their desired instrument. Poor Ebony was unable to decide upon an item, and instead brought some over for me to inspect. By the end of the song, the drawer was empty, and I was being engulfed by a pile of brightly coloured cheap plastic musical toys.

As the dance teacher hastily moved all of her other drawers out of Ebony’s reach, all without missing a plie, Ebony noticed something glinting from the front of the room. By some miracle, a whole 20 minutes had passed without Ebony noticing that the entire wall was made of mirror.

For the final 20 minutes of the lesson, as the other children danced to their favourite nursery rhymes, Ebony stood alone at the front of the room. Occasionally she would glance back at the other children, then swing back to smile lovingly at her reflection. She laughed heartily, throwing her head back as she did, and even went in for the odd kiss.

She can't wait to go back next week.

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