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Little Ballet Star 03/03/11

cover art

A year ago the local dance studio started offering in school classes at my daughter's school. Harriet was immediately smitten with the idea even though she had just barely turned three. I told her I would come to the free introductory class and see how she did. If she paid attention, had fun and was willing to put in the work to learn her dance routines, I would enroll her in the class. She agreed and I went to the class. She was the most focused child in the class. I think a lot of the other parents had pushed their kids into trying the class but Harriet was there willingly. She loved the class and so we enrolled her.

Six months ago we got a note in the folder where we sign her in and out of preschool saying the dance studio was putting together its annual dance recital. While it wasn't mandatory, participating was highly encouraged. I remembered with dread the recitals I had gone through at Harriet's age and thought about ignoring the invitation. It would mean extra work, extra expenses and possibly a bad experience for Harriet.

As tempting as that was, I didn't just ignore the invitation. Nor did I just flat out tell my daughter she couldn't participate. It wasn't exactly my decision to make. She'd be the one doing the work and putting on the performance, not me. So I told her all about the recital and read her the invitation and asked her if she was willing to do all the extra work including going to studio sometimes on the weekends if she was required. It didn't take her more than about a second to come to a decision. It was a "Yes!" with some added hops of enthusiasm.

HarrietTo prepare her for her experience, I checked out Little Ballet Star by Adèle Geras and Shelagh McNicholas. The book is about a young girl who is studying ballet and has an aunt who is dancing on stage for the ballet. It's Tilly's birthday and goes dressed up in her favorite tutu and is invited backstage with her aunt as she prepares for her performance.

The book shows all the work that goes into putting on a ballet and being a ballet dancer. Harriet listened to the book very seriously. I think she was taking mental notes. Later, at the end of the performance, Tilly's aunt invites her on stage to dance a brief encore together.

I don't know if the book helped or not but Harriet did every piece of her recital preparation, from learning her song, her dance routine, getting measured for her costume, having her photograph taken, going to the dress rehearsal to her actual performance with professionalism and enthusiasm. When it came to the day of the performance, we had to leave her backstage with her teacher and later she and her dance partner sat up in the balcony with the other performers (all of whom were older). You'd think she'd been performing all her life. Of her class of four only Harriet and her best friend participated on stage. They were the youngest duo on stage and were adorable.

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