Dozens of little girls in pink tights brought to mind the paintings of Edgar Degas.
The five weeks of summer class were level II ballet in one of the finest programs in the state.
I knew in the first few minutes of the first class that this would be an excellent opportunity for my four year-old. I took ballet in college and wasn’t happy with the dance class my daughter took elsewhere last summer.
I was struck by the uniformity of the leotards, tights and ballet slippers. Artistically inspirational. Easy to imagine the years of dance to come. Without the distraction of differences, the girls would be better able to concentrate on the serious nature of ballet. Excellence can shine in egalitarian environments.
Each week a dozen little ballet girls disappeared to a studio downstairs accompanied by a live piano player. Some evenings at home, we would practice the basic positions she was learning.
The day of the parent showcase came. We followed the students downstairs and crowded into the studio to watch the results of a month of instruction.
One child who appeared near tears the entire class sought the comfort of her parents for a moment. My daughter did that the first day –cried and insisted Daddy hold her hand. I was surprised to be relieved she wouldn’t be ‘that child,‘ on the last day.
In her own way, though, she was a standout in class.
Throughout the class, the eyes of more than her parents turned to watch her. Often when we feel embarrassed or become the focus of unwanted attention, in reality, other people hardly notice us at all. This was not the case in dance class. People did notice her. It was somewhere between charming and mortifying.
She interrupted the teacher, repeatedly. She was almost hyper-engaged– she had questions about every instruction. She clearly enjoyed every moment of the class. She listened to the teacher’s instructions, and then did what she wanted to do.She often did exactly the opposite of everyone else. Up, down. Open, closed. Here, there. Feet wide, feet close. Stand gracefully, flop on the floor.
She did better than others with some moves, but most of the time she hardly noticed the girls around her. She did or didn’t emulate the teacher’s demonstration, as she saw fit. She was doing things her way. She enjoyed every minute, never looking bored or disengaged, but like the pianist, improvising effortlessly from moment to moment.
My daughter did every instruction in her own, happy way. Right or wrong, she was enthusiastic. Dancing with joy and abandon.
Initially, I felt a need to apologize to the instructor. Then I realized that my daughter either was behaving this way because we were watching, or she had behaved this way during other classes and the teacher was used to it.
The teacher responded to every question, disruption or distraction with polished patience and ease. She was an amazing example of grace. Graceful in her moves and graceful towards the children in the way God is graceful to us.
God moves gracefully through our lives and offers grace when we don’t follow along, or when we wander off, or when we question everything.
Like an attentive mother, or a kindhearted dance instructor, God oversees and encourages each move we make. Some moves are correct and others are less so, but God remains to help us improve. God wants the best for us, and is there to comfort and guide us when we lose the rhythm and misstep. God gently offers us a way back.
God is there when we are confused or lost, and God is there when we chose to do what we want, regardless of what we’ve been told.
When we respond to life with pure joy, God is with us.
Perhaps God knows what we are capable of, but chooses to find joy in our joy.
When we approach life joyously, like a little girl in a dance class, the God of love joins us in our happiness and joy.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” ~ 1 John 4:7