As I walked into the studio to assist a new teacher with a class, I noticed one of the students huddled beside the door—in tears with her mother. I decided to give them a few moments of privacy and went on in. The other students were busy removing coats and piling book bags haphazardly on the observation chairs, tossing their shoes underneath and chatting away as they changed into their ballet slippers. I set my own things down across the room beside the sound system, reached for the attendance book and worked my way back to the door.
I smiled at the mom and student, commending her good work in class so far this session. The daughter’s eyes glanced my way but she didn’t turn her head.
“We just got a divorce,” the mother said. “She doesn’t want to go with her father after class today.”
“Ah…..I understand…..I’ve been there too……” The young girl turned her face towards me then. “Do you want to be my assistant today? You can observe class. You learn a lot by watching others dance…..Want to help me take attendance?” She turned back to her mother for assurance.
“I’ll be here when you’re finished,” the mother responded, and then with a hug, I was relieved when her daughter entered the studio with me. Without yet realizing it, she was slipping into a place of safety and routine that would separate her, if just for an hour, from her troubles. She joined the flurry of last minute arrivals and I noticed her putting on her slippers as I called attendance.
When I closed the book, I leaned over and whispered, “Want to just give barre a try? I’ll do it with you.”
She shrugged, stretched a little and I was surprised when she stood up. Suddenly feeling like I had to catch up with her, and although she was still wearing her outer clothes, we went to the barre together. Miss Cari began class. The music of the introduction to plies filled the studio with its gentle 6/8 tempo. We listened and then bent our knees and ankles and hips first towards the floor, then away, methodically following the instructions we were given. This is when life’s problems begin to leave your mind—moving to the music, finding a structure to fit into when you feel you can’t fit into life.
“Can I go take off my warmup pants so I can do the splits?” She asked me when we finished barre.
“Yes, yes, of course, then take your place in the center. Okay?” She was already on her way.
Afterwards, her mother was at the door. When I told her, “She danced!” I was reminded in the best way, why we do what we do at Danceworks.
As I watched the child walk out the door, she suddenly stopped and turned back, her face now relaxed. I got to say the great words, “See you next week!” Then she was gone and I was left holding the picture of her smile.