Monday, October 15, 2007

Ballet Lessons

We signed Charlotte up for ballet lessons through our local community
center. The class is half hour long, once a week, for 8 weeks, and cost
all of $24. That seems to be a really good deal, compared to the prices
for several local dance studios (that tend to run closer to $75-90/month
according to many websites I looked at). Charlotte loves to dance, and
I thought she'd enjoy the class-she took a toddler tumbling class about
a year ago and had fun (despite the class being poorly run by
alternating sets of teachers--which is why she hasn't gone back to

For her birthday, she got a ballet bag and cardigan sweatshirt from my
mother, as well as my baby's sister's first recital outfit (sequined
tutu and all) from when she was 3 or 4 and first taking dance lessons
(that same baby sister is big into dancing and even performs in a
semi-professional groups every Christmas). Charlotte was thrilled, and
loved to try on the outfit and play with the bag. I found her leotards
and tights at Walmart, and ballet shoes at Payless. She was excited
about all of it.

Her first class went wonderfully. However, she lined right up with the
other 3-year olds, also in their pink leotards and tights, and walked
off to the dance studio with the nice-looking instructor with barely a
backwards glance at me. The second class went just the same. She was
happy and enjoying her class, and practicing little twirls around the
house. Then came the third week. Trystan had surgery that week and I
was sleeping with him at the hospital, so my husband took her. She
threw a tantrum and would not go in the room with the instructor. The
4th week, Trystan and I were back home again, and dance class went

The last two weeks -5 and 6 of 8, have not gone well at all. Both
weeks, she's thrown screaming tantrums the moment we get dressed and
ready to line up, and will not go dance. The closest she would go is
outside the door to the room, watching the other girls through the
window, while holding desperately onto me. I have no idea what has
caused her trauma. She acts as if she's terrified of something, but she
can't (or won't) say what. She's never come back to find me missing
from the lobby, and except for a single fall the first week (for which
she earned an extra sticker and hugs from the teacher), she seems to
have enjoyed the classes.

The time is bad for me-5:30 on a Wednesday, which is a stretch when I
have to leave work, pick her up, driver her over, change her clothes,
and give her a snack and drink. I am also hauling Trystan along, and
he's usually hungry and fussy by the time we get there (I should have
plenty of time to sit and nurse him while she dances, if she'd just go
along into the room like she's supposed to). I don't know whether she's
just picking up on my stress, or what. I also don't know if she's just
having some sort of separation anxiety, though I'm not sure why. She
does go to daycare on Wednesdays, but is typically home with me on
Thursday and Friday (and the weekend), so she gets lots of Mommy time.
I have tried giving her lots of praise and positive attention for
dancing, and we've read Angelina Ballerina and played happily with her
dance costume at home. I have, admittedly, gotten rather irate with her
the last two weeks for her behavior--more for throwing loud temper
tantrums in public than for not wanting to go to class (she screams when
I suggest she go dance, and screams when I give up and head for the door
to leave..lather rinse repeat until we actually make it to the car).

I'm disappointed at her reaction to her dance class. I know some of my
reaction is because I took ballet and tap classes when I was little, and
remember them fondly. I enjoyed dancing a lot, in "pom-poms" in middle
school and the color guard in high school, and took a smattering of
dance classes in college. I was hoping that she would enjoy them too.
But the worst part is that I think she enjoys dancing, but is objecting
to the actual class. And I have no idea why. This reminds me of her
potty-training behavior (screaming fits whenever we suggest she go
potty, even though we *knew* that she had to go and knew that she knew
it also). This weekend, we had a playdate with one of her
classmates--the little girl and her baby brother are both within 2 weeks
of age with Charlotte and Trystan, and we all enjoyed their company.
Maybe that will help this week. And, maybe we're just out about $60 in
class fees and costumes and need to forget about dance classes for a
couple of months or maybe a year or two (or forever I guess).


Amanda said...

After my little girl broke her leg (unrelated to gym), she was more clingy at class than ever before. I think that when changes happen in a child's life they react. You could try letting her watch with you for a little and stay where she can see you for a while. I did that with little girl eventually she went back in by herself. You might try Little Gym. They don't have ballet, but they have glass so you can watch them and they can see you. I don't think you should give up forever though.

Kristi said...

I wish there were a spot where she could watch the class--there's just a tiny window in the door, and I'd have to stand there holding her, while she cranes her neck to see. If we do give up on dance classes for a while, we will probably try Little Gym. Swim lessons are also up for discussion--she's finally old enough for the non-parent classes, but though she loves to swim, I'm worried about how she'll react to those. I guess worst case there is that we pay the class fee and she plays in the baby pool instead. Realistically, we're not giving up forever, but if things don't improve, will definitely give it a rest so she can forget the bad association she has with the class.