If you’ve interacted with me personally in the last few months, you are probably already sick of hearing about ZOMG PAULO IS STARTING BALLET! But… ZOMG PAULO IS STARTING BALLET!
A two and a half year old girl starting ballet is seen as possibly a bit young, but completely normal. Ballet for a lot of girls is something of a rite of passage. “Ballerina” is the second most common aspiration after “princess” for the sort of mainstream feminized girls bedecked in pink sparkles. For boys? Is there even an equivalent? Ballerino? In any case, I have received a lot of enthusiastic support for starting him in ballet and a lot of questions as well.
I got the idea to start P in ballet after watching the Nutcracker last year – seeing a young man named Paulo in the lead was certainly inspiring, but mostly what sparked my interest was to see the little boys. Here were eight year old boys not only dancing beautifully, but *sitting still* when it was time to be acting as part of the background. I was so impressed with them and thought “This is what Paulo needs. This.” This boy with boundless energy needs an outlet, something to teach him to channel his energy… and then sit still.
Typically boys find this kind of discipline for movement and stillness in sports or martial arts. And perhaps when he’s older, that’s the road Paulo will take. But to start – we’re donning our leotards.
I learned last year when we tried a “Mommy and Me” art class that putting Paulo in something because *I* think it’s a great idea is actually a really shitty idea. He hated it and just tried to leave the whole time. Ok then. I thought about starting him in swim lessons as I was a swimmer myself, but I’m quite grateful I didn’t as he’s turned out to hate all forms of water that aren’t his bath. As with everyone, he’s his own man. 100%.
And he loves to dance. Loves it. Until recently, I’ve had trouble putting on music in the house as he would insist on my holding him and dancing. Now, he’s a little more independent – he creates intricate movements and routines. He dances with his shadow as a partner. He copies movements that he’s seen before – he does a pretty good Gangnam Style. When watching cartoons, he is a thousand times more likely to copy movement than sound. Especially if there’s dancing, he studies it and copies the motions. When he’s super excited, he pretty much does a jig. In his bath, he points his toe and gently traces it along the surface of the water in a very balletic move. Dance is in this boy’s blood.
As a test run, we did a “Mommy and Me” dance and music class this winter. He loved the dance bits and the music parts bored him. He would either dance for the whole thing or start throwing the instruments. In any case, it was a good test drive before plunking down the money for serious ballet. I was given any amount of well-meaning advice about more “creative” dance classes… but that’s not what I want.
Yes, I want Paulo to dance and to be creative and to have an outlet for expressing himself through movement. But I also want him to learn self-discipline. How to work hard and see yourself improving at a skill. How to channel his energy. How to be still. He can dance to his heart’s content at home and I will always join him and encourage him, but if we’re taking a class… I want him to have the opportunity to learn one of the most beautiful art forms in any medium.
So… we had our first class. And I can see both that this is going to be a challenge – namely keeping his interest when the class is more tailored to the little girls in the room and never have the differences between two year old boys and two year old girls been so clear as in a room of one of the former and six of the latter. Six are sitting shyly in their mother’s laps, perhaps venturing out a bit but mainly in one place even if they are not actively engaged in dancing. And one bouncing around the damn room like an electron, unable to be caught for more than a moment. Guess which one is mine. It will take a few weeks for ballet class to be routine and even then, I anticipate that there will be days when this is a struggle. I’m looking at the bigger picture of getting him started now in something that he can choose later to continue rather than thinking of this as just this one class.
And that difference between boys and girls – that’s a huge part of why we’re starting now. Right now, Paulo has no idea that he’s a boy and those are girls. Even if he has a clue about that, he doesn’t care. If we introduce ballet into his life right now, by the time he does get it he’s less likely to think that ballet is “for girls” since it will be part of his life already. I don’t think I would start a 2 1/2 year old daughter of mine in the Boston Ballet School – she would have plenty of time to get serious later. But my son? I feel a strong conviction that we need to start serious and allow him to decide where he takes it rather than dipping our feet in and have him never venture further out. It’s entirely up to him, of course, but my gut tells me that this little boy has dancing in his soul that could take him places if he wants to go.
So here we are, my little ballerino starting down boy-let road. Perhaps this will be the start of a longer journey, perhaps this will just be something we try that turns out to be better in theory. In any case, I’m really excited to be doing this and to be in a place where we have the opportunity to make this available to Paulo. Just walking into the Boston Ballet studios I’m blown away and to be able to have my son take classes with these amazing artists – wow, wow, WOW.
I promise more updates in the future and yes, photos. For the moment I don’t have any as my young electron would not hold still long enough. I am curating a Pinterest board for my own amusement that if it amuses you, you’re welcome to look at as well.