I was in love with that show. My love for dance began when I was 2 years old. We were at a T-ball game at the park where my older brother played. My mom dragged me into the gym and that’s when I saw it: people with funny looking shoes that made
loud sounds. Happy hoofers taking tap class. I fell in love instantly. As family lore has it, I pointed to the people dancing and said to my mother, “I want that!” Yes, I was only two years old and spoke like a Neanderthal. My mother – ever the pragmatist – waited until I was able to use verbs and enrolled me in a tap class. And then a ballet class. And then a jazz class. And I’ve been hooked ever since. I joined a dance company in graduate school and performed locally. A highlight was performing in Toulouse, France. I never wanted to do it professionally, but I can’t imagine my life without dance.
When Margaret was born, I got a lot of, “So you’re going to put Margaret in dance class, aren’t you?” And the answer was always, “Not planning on it.” Which was true. The way I looked at it was that if she ended up wanting to dance, she’d dance. I wasn’t going to be one of those parents who pushed their kids into something just because I was crazy about it.
When Margaret was 3, I ended up putting her in a class at a studio nearby that had one of those jazz/ballet/tumbling combo classes for little kiddos.
She seemed to like it. When we went to see her in the studio’s annual recital, the wee ones couldn’t dance to save their lives but nonetheless stole the show by virtue of their sheer adorableness.
Margaret age 3
Unfortunately, the older kids weren’t very good. Which, in my experience, is almost always a sign that the instruction is not good (as opposed to the students lacking talent). That’s because students tend to rise to the expectation and skill level of the instructor. My husband whispered to me in the middle of the dance concert, “If Margaret wants to continue dancing, we’re yanking her out of this school!” Turns out we didn’t have to. When she turned 4, she announced that she was done. So that was that.
Fast forward a few years later and 7-year old Margaret is begging me to go back into dance class. I had no desire to put her back into dance and reminded her that she quit dance because she said she didn’t like it anymore. From time to time she’d revisit the topic but I’d always shut it down. Then, one day, I had to bring her to my weekly lyrical class. She was mimicking our warm up and was doing some of the piece while we took turns performing in groups. Afterwards, the instructor told me she is a natural. Feeling like maybe I was being too stubborn, I enrolled her in Anaheim Ballet, arguably the best ballet studio in Orange County.
The condition was that she could not take any other genre until she had three years of ballet there. When she didn’t complain, I figured she meant business. She performed in several dance recitals and seemed to really like it. Until she was moved up to the next level. Margaret did not connect well with her new instructor. And Margaret is all about the connection. So she asked me if she could call it quits.
I was so crushed. By then, I’d really gotten used to the notion that Margaret liked to dance…and I was surprised at how excited I was. I indulged visions of us taking class together, mother and daughter – and perhaps even performing together one day. Suddenly, to my disappointment, that was no longer even a prospect.
At first, I told her that she couldn’t quit. And then, after a month or so of seeing how miserable she was with this new instructor, who didn’t even bother to show up on time and wore her hair down when it should have been pinned neatly up (yes, I’m old school), I realized how ridiculous I was being. I was acting like a stage mom (gasp!). It was clear that Margaret was done with dance for good. And I would just have to accept that.
When Margaret was accepted into the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) in 2016, she had to choose an elective class from a wide variety of choices. The elective she chose was – virtual drum roll….. musical theater dance. Somehow I contained my excitement. I’d been let down before so I wasn’t holding my breath.
She ended up taking from a very talented albeit rigorous, almost militant, male instructor. Margaret was scared of him but his approach, passion, and style really moved Margaret (pun intended). She had her splits within weeks. Weeks! I couldn’t get her to practice them after hounding her for 3 years!
And, she was advancing quickly. Her three years of solid ballet technique really helped her core, as I knew they would. She’s now in her second year taking MT Dance. She was promoted to the intermediate
class but it was impacted, so she’s taking the same class again because she loves it so much. Before Christmas break, OCSA hosted a “step into the classroom” event for its elective classes. Margaret invited me to come to warmup with the class. To my surprise, she asked me to be up in front with her. When I asked her why, she said, “Because mom, you’re such a great dancer! And I want to show you off!” Margaret doesn’t hand out complements lightly – especially to me – so I was pretty darn happy.
I don’t know if Margaret’s passion for dance will last a lifetime as it has for me. But, she’s got dance fever for now. And I assure you, it’s not going away anytime soon.