Take my hand come along

Benjamin’s preschool has something called “enrichments,” which is three kinds of awesome because it’s all these extra little classes that we might want to enroll him in, except the instructors come to the preschool and teach the class right there, thereby freeing us from having to haul their little tushies all over tarnation so that they can be enriched.  The instructors are independent contractors, but the preschool director collects the forms and checks and hands them over to the teachers.  The classes take place between the morning and afternoon sessions, so both groups of kids can partake.

We signed Benjamin up for music.  He gets to stay later on Wednesdays and play instruments and most probably drive the poor music teacher to distraction with twenty-seven-million questions about the timpani.  Whatever.  That’s what she gets for deciding to teach music to preschoolers.

After a trip to the local children’s museum, it became clear that there was one more class we should sign him up for.  You see, he spent a half an hour in the dance area, wearing a tutu and a pair of tap shoes, trying to imitate the actions being shown on a video.  Clearly, he is interested in taking dance. Which is all for the best, because it might help him a little with his coordination.  Or paying attention to his body.  Or whatever it takes to stop him from walking into walls.

Last Monday, I went into the preschool office to sign hand in the form for the class starting on Tuesday.  She paused when she saw what I was giving her.

“You might want to call the teacher,” she said.  “They haven’t had a boy in a long time.  They may have to change things.”  In other words, they may not want a boy in the class.

I smiled agreeably and began to get up.  Then, I thought the better of it.  Why the hell should I call them before registering my three-year-old for dance class?  It’s not like this is 1952.  We’ve been through all that bra-burning and marching and whatnot precisely to earn boys the right to take dance.  And for equal pay and quality childcare and the right to choose, of course.  But mostly so that boys could take dance class.

“You know what,” I told her.  “I think I’ll just register him.  If they have a problem with it, they can come talk to me.”  I did, however, think it wise to mention to Benjamin that it would be mostly girls in the class.  By mostly, I meant everyone except for him, of course.

On Tuesdays, he is in the afternoon class, so the dance class is before his preschool day.  As we drove to school, we were discussing the fact that in a few minutes, it would be his first day of dance class.  “But, Mommy,” he queried.  “Why do girls dance, too?”

“Because, babe, sometimes girls also like to dance.”  Clearly, he thinks that most preschool ballet classes are completely overrun with little boys, but every now and then they decide to let a girl or two in.

When we walked into the room, there was a young woman laying down tape.  “This dude is starting dance today,” I told her.

She looked up, saw who was standing with me, and panicked.  “I’m just the assistant.  Let me get you the teacher.  She can answer your questions.”

“Oh, I don’t have any questions.  Except about what shoes he should be wearing.”  She nodded and scurried off in search of her boss, who returned post haste with a large smile.

“Ben here is starting dance today,” I told her.  “Does he need special shoes?”

“Well, the girls all wear ballet shoes.  But you could probably get him some jazz shoes.”  I wasn’t sure what jazz shoes were, and Benjamin had no idea. I’m pretty sure what he really wanted were tap shoes.  But there is no way I am outfitting that child with a pair of shoes that allows him to make a great deal of noise.

She turned to leave, but she couldn’t stop herself.  She had to turn back.  “Just so you know, he’s the only boy.”

I smiled sweetly.  OK, maybe not sweetly, because I’m just basically not sweet.  But nicely.  I was definitely smiling nicely.  “He doesn’t care.  And I sure don’t, either.”

I left him, peeking back in a few minutes later to see him – a husky little Mack truck of a boy between a whole lot of pink-clad children – standing on the tape, waiting for his name to be called.  When I picked him up at the end of the preschool afternoon, I asked him how dance had gone.

“Good,” he told me.

“What did you do?”

“Arabesques.”  Right.  Of course.  Arabesques.

Can anyone tell me what the hell an arabesque is?

26 responses to “Take my hand come along

  1. No clue about dance, but I enjoyed this. I could totally see him in class. :-)

  2. Sigh, yes I could. Because my dance-mad mum had me in ballet classes from age five through twelve when I finally put my non-dance-talented foot down and declared mutiny. An arabesque is standing on one leg while shoving the other behind you (knee STRAIGHT dammit), beautifully turned out and toe pointed. Also you should sort of arrange your arms gracefully in front. Oh, and wobbling? Is bad. Trust me.

  3. Oh, wow, the song from that video brought me back. Major 70s flashbacks.

    I love that Benjamin is going to take dance classes. I really, really hope that it works out for him to continue.

    You know, I feel like enforcement of gender roles is even stronger now than it was when I was little. But maybe it’s just that I was living in a hippy-crunchy part of California in the 70s. (Again with the flashbacks.)

  4. Hobbes has been totally obsessed with dance since we went to see The Nutcracker at Christmas. I really want to get him lessons, and I know that the “serious” ballet schools around here are always happy to see a boy. As a former dancer, I’ll say that any real dance school would be happy to see a strong boy come along. And if he has a strong personality, so much the better around all those strong-willed girls.

  5. The response you got from the teachers is really weird. I find it difficult to believe they were that reluctant to accommodate him.

    Although…I take Lorenzo to gymnastics class at a co-ed gym. In the classes for 6 – 12 year olds, the girls outnumber the boys about 4 to 1. In the preschool classes, the girls outnumber the boys about 15 to 1. It doesn’t make sense – where are these older boys coming from? They’re certainly more of an age where peer pressure would affect them.

    Lorenzo’s only complaint is that the girls talk too much. He’d better get used to that!

  6. What in the name of tapdancing baby gophers? “I guess you could get him some jazz shoes?” Really? Who does this teacher think is showcasing the pas de deux with all those ballerinas – taller women in tights, all smuggling plums?

    Ridiculous.

    I’m glad you signed him up and I hope it forces her to think a little bit more.

  7. I am really surprised how weird they were about this!

  8. You would have never run into that at my daughter’s dance studio. The co-owners have boys and those boys have taken dance lessons. One of the boys is in Princess’s class along with two of his male friends. They wear ballet slippers like the girls but in black instead of pink.
    I hope Benjamin continues to love it!!

  9. I’m surprised that the teachers weren’t happier to have a boy in the dance class. Would they be reluctant to have a little girl in a basketball or karate class? Probably not. It’s not like there aren’t boy ballet dancers.

    Arabesques-I did them all the time as a little girl!

  10. Wow, I can’t believe that you got so much implied flack over this. Especially because you would NEVER hear that in the other direction. My 4-year-old daughter has taken swimming, dance, music, carpentry and sports lessons, and no one’s batted an eye. It’s such a shame that boys don’t seem to have the same freedom to pursue their interests as girls. :(

  11. Amazing. B doesn’t need this book, but some other people might: http://www.theonlyboyinballetclass.com/
    It’s charming, and it highlights the fact that dance is an intense SPORT requiring excellent athleticism.

  12. AWWWWW!! I love this so much. I might even “heart” this, and I find that a vaguely annoying expression. ;)

    If you haven’t bought shoes yet, black ballet shoes might be less expensive than jazz shoes.

    Man, I’m still “AWWWW”-ing, over here, other people’s freak-outs be damned. ;D

  13. Yes to black ballet slippers. That’s what I wore in the YMCA class. Black leotard/ black slippers/ white tights.

    But Mrs. Fortuzi was a ballet bun wearing humorless sadist. She liked RULES and whatever. not exactly my bag.

  14. I love this post – such great writing! I am surprised too at how weird they were with having a boy in the class…there are several boys in the classes at my daughter’s dance company.

  15. Good for Benjamin! My little brother got picked on a lot as a kid because he liked to dress up and play princess, and liked to play “house” in which he was the stay-at-home, single dad and I was his career-driven, newspaper-reporter roommate. He turned out to be a very well-rounded, well-adjusted guy.

    Oh, and THIS is an arabesque: http://www.dancehelp.com/photos/classic%20arabesque.jpg.

  16. At my children’s public school, we have clubs/enrichment built into the day. The kindergardeners get yoga, ballet, art and music. No one says anything about it… ?

  17. Way to go, Emily. This is what makes you a good mom, encouraging your kids in whatever they’re interested in and making it happen.

  18. dancing and free to be … perfect.

    and they do make ballet shoes for boys. golly.

  19. Henry is the only boy in tumbling here. We got a surprised look the first time we showed up, but that was all. He is very enthusiastic and throws his body down the mat with abandon. The women running the class are local volunteers, not trained instructors (from my observation). If they were they could have him doing cartwheels and backbends in no time. He’s so strong so flexible so fearless and willing to try.

  20. You’re kids have such a great mom.

  21. Pingback: The January Just Posts « collecting tokens

  22. Got here from the Just Posts.

    As someone who started dancing (albeit modern and post-modern dance, not ballet) at age 22, I have to say, it’s fantastic that he’s showing an interest so young, and I’m shocked the teachers freaked out. Every dance studio I’ve ever been to is thrilled whenever a man or boy walks in the door and wants to dance. [In fact, it can be mildly annoying how much lower the standards are for me than for women, due to the demographic imbalance.]

    As for footwear, he might be able to get away with socks. I would definitely ignore the jazz shoe suggestion! (But as this was posted weeks ago, I guess you’ve probably already decided one way or another about the shoes.)

  23. sorry… lower standards for men than for women, not lower standards for me!!!

  24. Arabesques are great! They’re doing them in figure skating in the olympics – good for balance and working the core :)