Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Dance class

I promised a post about child number one's dance class. It is a Parks and Recreation Department sponsored pre-ballet class for 3-5 year olds. You sign up for it on a monthly basis. One afternoon a week for four weeks. The classes themselves are 45 minutes long. Standard dress (not explained to you beforehand however) is leotards, tights, and ballet shoes. To make my life easier, I've arranged a play-date for child number two to coincide with the class so I only have to deal with the four-year old and the baby at the dance class. Those are the technical details.

The first day of class we show up early and there is another class in session already. I had trouble convincing my daughter that it wasn't her class and that she had to wait. When it was time for her class a new teacher arrives and acts like the students know what they need to do at the start of class. I go to talk to the teacher, since I have a new student for her and realize that all the other little girls are dressed in dance clothes like they knew ahead of time what they were supposed to wear. I found out that this is actually a substitute for the regular teacher who is out sick and my daughter just needs to take off her shoes and dance in her socks for this class.

It seemed to go well at first considering that child number one was so hyped up she was literally bouncing everywhere. She kept forgetting to listen to the teacher because she was just so excited to be in a dance class. This however was fairly common among the girls (about 15 in number). One girl in particular was a more extreme case, and I probably would not have enrolled her in the class if she were my child. She was more interested in running around the room than participating in any of the class. But, maybe her parents are trying to teach her to focus better. The reason I mention her comes up later. They were practicing ballet moves to music with simple routines where they changed the activity about every five minutes. They also threw in some modern dance moves including the chicken dance of all things. It looked to me that about a two thirds of the girls knew what they were doing and a third knew it well enough that they looked like they had done it a lot. It dawned on me that I had assumed that the class was a beginning class and then they move on. In actuality, the students are signed up month after month so that this is actually a small segment of a long term class. The students move on after the teacher tells the parent that they are both the right age and are ready for the next level class.

My daughter's experience was marred on that first day when she was paired up with the little girl who just wanted to run wild. The other girl didn't want to hold hands like she was supposed to and broke free to run around. My daughter couldn't cope with this strange situation and was chasing the other little girl trying to get her back until she crumpled into tears and the teacher's assistants had to help her find me in the crowd of parents. She was horribly distraught that she had lost her partner. It took a while to calm her down and refocus her attention on the class, the fact that they were not doing partners anymore, and that she could still do the class. She went back to it and was doing OK until something happened between her and the other girl (her former partner) that made her cry again and have to come back to me. She calmed down and was finally able to finish the class. I noticed that the other girl's parents had taken their daughter home early. I had thought that my daughter had learned a few things and enjoyed the actual dancing, but the only thing she could talk about later was that she lost her partner.

The second dance class went better. This time my daughter was in the proper dance attire. The regular teacher was there. She started the class with introductions. She was much more take-charge and knew how to handle the loose cannon child (yes the other little girl was back, my daughter's nemesis). This time there was no partner time to upset things. But, my child did have to come for consoling at one point when she was told to get to the back of a line, when she thought she was next. Other than that there were no problems and she was practicing dance moves with the rest.

The third dance class has been the best so far. My daughter didn't need any consoling. She paid attention to the teacher more. She was distracted less. The teacher told me that she is improving each time (which I have seen). The teacher suggested work at pointing the toe more and a goal for my daughter is to learn to move gracefully. From my observation, my daughter tends to move quickly and with jerky motion. If she slowed down some, the motions could be smoothed out and made graceful.

The fourth class will be next Tuesday. I've begun to think that this class (which was a reward for improvement with potty times) is a good thing that needs to be continued--both because my daughter is showing definite interest in dance, and because it will help her learn not only dance but listening skills, focus, repetitive practice, balance, graceful motions, and exercise. However, I've been delaying rejoining my MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) group since it occurs on the same day of the week. Whereas dance class is good for my oldest daughter, MOPS is good for me and both daughters. It has age-appropriate christian preschool-style playtime which is good for them. But, since I am carting around a now six week old baby, one big event a day is hard enough to manage. I am going to rejoin the MOPS group after this fourth and final class, because I see a greater good in it. But, I am also considering doing the dance class some more when MOPS isn't in session. And once the baby is older I may consider two big events in a day as manageable again.

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