Daughter, aged five, is in the ballet class that’s just about to make its entrance in the big annual performance of the ballet and dance school. And in a real theatre too, with an audience of a couple of hundred people. All the other Mums and Dads and a whole busload of grandparents have been rolled out for the occasion, clutching bunches of flowers and toting cameras. It’s an important day.
It’s time. There come the first children in her class. How sweet, all those little girls in the inevitable pink. One by one, they come on stage in a line. Daughter isn’t there yet, though her friend is. She struts onto the stage, clearly in her element. The line ends with the assistant teacher. The whole class is now hopping around on stage in the ‘bat dance’, which they’ve rehearsed so diligently over the past weeks. Except for their daughter. She hasn’t come on stage.
They don’t get it. Where is their little girl? They brought her to the theatre just a few hours ago in a state of total excitement. She was going to get changed and made up, and then they were going to rehearse on that big stage with that loud music. But where is she now? Did she stay behind in the wings? It’s true that after the class on Saturday morning she’d said a couple of times “I think the bat dance is stupid”. Did she refuse to go on then? Or has she fallen asleep while waiting?
Meanwhile, the class has finished. They parade across the stage once more, waving to an audience who are clapping politely, and then they’re gone. It’s time for number 18 on the programme: the Thursday evening jazz dance class. As if they could care less! But after the interval, there’s another chance. Her class has another number: the ladybird dance. That’s her favourite. And of course, there’s the Grand Finale, when all the dancers come on stage again. Surely, she’ll be taking part in that?
During the interval, they feel a bit lost. Other parents are smiling and showing each other the photos they’ve just taken. Could their daughter be sitting crying somewhere in a dressing room? There are still fifteen numbers to go. 15! Good God! They really don’t feel like watching all that floundering around. Burdened by the prospect of their inconsolable little ballerina, they return to their seats. It’s taking so long, all that silly waving and nonsense on the stage. Ballet is actually very ugly when it isn’t performed well. When it’s time for the ladybird dance, they hardly dare look. Surely they couldn’t have sat through this whole afternoon for nothing? But there she is! Yes, it’s her! And right at the front as well. With her chin sticking out proudly and a grin from ear to ear. Not a trace of stage fright or blotchy eyes. Doesn’t the ladybird costume suit her? And all the steps are going as planned. Arms wave to and fro with great abandon. One last bow, and she scurries off stage, waving enthusiastically. It’s done.
Now they can relax. The skinny legs of the teenagers are still awkward. The choreography is just as simple. But all the dances that pass before their eyes no longer irritate them. On the contrary. Because now they suddenly notice how much the dancers are enjoying themselves. What incredible dedication there is on that stage. Only now do they see how much love has actually been poured into this afternoon. All twenty-seven numbers have different costumes. Someone must have thought them up, arranged it all and done the sewing. Everyone is made up nicely. There’s lighting. There’s projection. That must all have been arranged by volunteers. The programme says that no fewer than twenty parents have helped organise the children backstage. And of course what happens on stage doesn’t always look great. But does that actually matter? What’s really most important about this annual school performance? Technical perfection? Of course not! What does it matter what it looks like? Today, it’s all about something else. It’s all about celebrating the deep human need to move; to express yourself to the music and connect with others. Today is about sharing the fact that just the pursuit of beauty in itself can create intense happiness. And that the dancing body can be your friend in doing so. All these happy and proud people in the audience and on stage prove – decisively and without pretension – that culture is a primary necessity of life. This is indeed an important day.
The Grand Finale. There she is, among all the other dancers. That’s what pride and joy looks like. Cheerful, rousing music blares from the speakers. All the dancers wave to the audience, who in turn clap along with rhythmic enthusiasm. Everyone is elated. A big fuss is made of the teacher and all the volunteers are thanked. There are hugs and kisses all round. And then the annual performance is over.
They wait for their daughter in the foyer. She’s received like a star. “And where were you for the bat dance?” they ask. They really want to know. But daughter looks at her parents in total disbelief. “Didn’t you see me then?”, she demands indignantly. “And the bat dance went so well!”
Next year, I expect she’ll be in the drama class.< blog archive