Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sun-Warmed Studio Welcome

We climb up the long flight of wooden creaky stairs to the upstairs studio. Why are so many dance studios up flights of wooden stairs?

Three women and their children are clustered in the small lobby, wrestling small ballet slippers and and tights onto pint-sized feet and legs. They hail me cheerily, and I greet them back. When I notice the preponderance of white leotards and pink tights, skirts and slippers, I exclaim, "Oh! I didn't realize there was a dress code!" My remark serves as part question and part apology. It tells them "It's my first time - don't judge me!" In fact, I know that lots of dance studios have a dress code for their students, but I can't remember if this one does or not.

"Oh, there's no dress code," a woman laughingly informs me. "Some of us are just a little overly-excited about little girls dancing!" I giggle too, because really there is a lot of pink in the air. My little girl is dressed in various shades of purple. Today she has a colorful tree with a perched owl embroidered and appliqued onto her purple shirt. The pants are new purple leggings with a flower scatter print, (they of the purple pants song fame).

I peek in the door and see a small gaggle of little girls playing with shiny striped hula hoops. The teacher, a dark haired woman with a big smile catches me peeking in and tells me "I usually put something in the center of the room to start so the children can play while we wait for everyone to arrive." She herself is wearing a green knit top and loose black gauchos, and bare feet. Her small daughter is running around in everyday little girl clothes. Socks or bare feet are fine, I'm told. It seems to be a laid back atmosphere.

The little girl seems excited by the new scene. A floor-to-ceiling mirror along one long wall reflects everything back to us while wooden barres line the rest of the brick walls. Sunlight streams in the windows and makes pools of warmth on the cool floor. We step in and out and move the hoops around our waists and over our heads.

Another woman introduces herself and says, "Make yourself at home - don't mind us - these girls have known each other forever." One little girl comes over and says "What's your name?" Another little girl comes up and waves at TLG. The little girl doesn't know what to make of it, but she seems okay with the attention. Nothing like her run-and-hide shyness last year.

After a while, a few more children come in, and we begin. Make yourselves really really tall, then make yourselves very very small, now really tall again. We stretch and curl and smile. We end on the floor pretending to be seals stretching our backs and barking. We rest for a moment on the dusty floor, half blinded by sunshine. The little girl smiles at me. She likes it.

We take hands in a circle. I'm grateful and impressed that the little girl takes hands with the others. We make the circle stretched out and big, then bring it in to make it very small. The teacher's smiling eyes flit around the room observing and encouraging. The little girl follows along. I'm thinking this dance class thing might work out.

Then we progress to dancing around the room with the music, first "ice skating" then tip-toeing, then marching, and galloping and more. The little girl is grinning and dancing. The teacher reminds us to play "freeze" every time she shimmers the tambourine to transition to a new dance. I notice that I'm the only one in jeans instead of yoga pants. Next week I'll wear something more casual suitable for rolling around on the floor!

Later we play with scarves, read a book about moving different parts of our bodies, and play with a parachute. TLG is eager to get underneath, but we move on after a brief play. We finish with a few ballet arm moves, which most of the little girls quickly lose interest in. I'm surprised that my little girl isn't the only one uninterested in more formally structured activity, but relieved as well. This class is about right for her. She's still the tallest, but maybe not the oldest. My tall little girl fits right in.

Next week we'll bring the pink net skirt and leather-soled slippers.

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