Nurturing Young Dancers – Part 1
May 17, 2017
One beautiful morning this spring, I was riding the First Avenue bus uptown to BAE and gathering my thoughts about the class I had prepared for that day. A woman approached me and said that she recognized me from years ago when I was her daughter’s teacher at Ballet Academy East and that they still had a picture of our class framed at their home. It took me only a few moments to remember her daughter, a very musical five year old who had been in my Friday afternoon class six years ago. I remember that class well. They were an eager group of kindergarteners who always requested the same special skipping exercise. Yes, I remember her daughter.
That wasn’t the first time I had seen a parent or caregiver in the neighborhood who was eager to reminisce about their experience at BAE. They often say how special the time was when their child first stepped in the ballet studio and discovered a joy of movement, a passion for music, a creative mind, an ability to focus on detail, a comfort in repetition and so much more. Some share what their child is doing now, years after those early pre-ballet classes. Many are still dancing at BAE. Others have discovered a love of music or acting. Some are on soccer teams or have taken on leadership roles at middle school, but no matter what directions the lives of these students have taken, they still look back fondly at their first steps at BAE. And maybe an old photo from Parents’ Week still has a special place on their child’s bedroom shelf.
Of course, it’s not just parents who love recalling memories of tiny ballet slippers. It is just as joyful for the teachers!
As we approach a new year at BAE, the school where I discovered my passion for teaching over the past ten years, I often think of my most treasured moments as a teacher. For all of the teachers, each class is unique and special. We may not have photographs of every class, but the images still exist in our hearts. We delight in watching the young students become stronger, develop coordination, improve listening skills and (most importantly) learn that ballet class is a safe world where they can escape, one where the child can get lost in the music and imagery for 45 minutes each week.
One of the first classes that I taught at BAE consisted of 14 three-year-old girls who all eagerly skipped down Third Avenue after pre-school. Wednesdays at 1:15 in Studio 3 were a highlight of my week. These girls loved to tell me about their days at school and couldn’t wait until it was time for Miss Joan to play the “Little Mouse Song.” One day, one of the girls whispered to me that she would be at the beach next week for spring break. She then paused, leaned in and asked me, “Are you also afraid of the water?” I was touched how BAE had become a place where she learned to express herself. Not only had she learned how to skip that semester, this shy young girl also found her voice.